You’re Not That Body


I’ve been sitting here for hours. It’s a funeral; my friend died.

At uncertain intervals people get off their plastic chairs, fine tune their careful solemnity, and walk slowly to the coffin. The coffin perplexes me.

See, this is my first funeral and I’m still trying to figure things out. My friend is gone—and what does this long box represent?

I thought it was empty. They said he was gone.

I get up and walk forward slowly… I stare at carpet out of duty… I reach the coffin, and take a curious look …

It shocked me so bad…

Bill’s right here!! He’s right here!! They told me Bill was gone — but here he is — right here in the coffin. Same eyes, same hair, same brain, same DNA.

I blurt, “Hey Billy! Man, you’re too wild, man! What kinda stunt is this!?” I wheel around to face the people. “Hey, it’s a practical joke or something, right? Bill’s not gone. He’s right here!”

Needless to say, I was escorted out. They stare at me in disbelief—“Are you from some other planet or something? Can’t you understand? That’s not Bill in the coffin. Bill’s gone, he’s gone.”

How can Bill be “gone” when his entire body is right there? Simple: he’s not the body.

All of Bill’s body is there in the coffin—even all his brain cells, his heredity, and his DNA—but Bill is gone. The body’s there, but the person is gone.

The person is not the body.

You can understand this form another angle if you’re willing to try a simple experiment. Go dig up your old baby pictures (Cute? I hope so). Anyway, find a mirror. Look at your body in the mirror. Look at your body in the pictures. Two very different bodies you got there—but both are somehow considered yours.

From a chubby little baby body to a “cool” adolescent body… and someday to a wrinkled-up old body. The body constantly changes, but you remain. Same person, changing body.

You are different from the body.

Doubt: You say that my body has been changing throughout my life, while I have remained the same person, and therefore I’m different from my body. I don’t agree. I think I have changed with my body. I am a different person now then I was ten years ago.

Answer: True. Not only does my physical body change, my mental body is also in a constant state of flux. Likes and dislikes change, goals and plans change, I even subtly change my concept of identity. This shows that the real me is neither the body nor the mind.

I remember being totally into dinosaurs and Little League, with my self-concept wrapped around a five-year old body and mind. I also remember being into Twisted Sister and leather jackets in junior high. But behind all my changing identifications is the changeless I. Otherwise, who went through all those changes and remembers them all?

Beyond the body and the mind is the real me.

Doubt: You say the body is always changing, and we remain through all the changes—so we must be different from the body. But the body isn’t totally changing. There are similarities between the body in the baby pictures and the body in the mirror. Brown eyes then, brown eyes now, etc. And the navy-anchor tattoo I just got will still be there when I’m 70.

Answer: If you study it closely you’ll see that the body really is always changing. Similarities in growth appear because cell structures like eyes and hair replicate themselves in specific patterns determined by DNA and stuff like that. Although the cells are constantly changing, there appear to be similarities, because they change within regular patterns.

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