We are composite creatures, akin on one side to the angels, on the other to tom-cats.
It is a bad thing not to be able to take a joke. Worse, not to be able to take a divine joke; made, I grant you, at our expense, but also (who doubts it?) for our endless benefit.
Man has held three views of his body. First there is that of those ascetic Pagans who called it the prison or the “tomb” of the soul, and of the Christians like Fisher to whom it was “a sack of dung,” food for worms, filthy, shameful, a source of nothing but temptations to bad men and humiliation to good ones. Then there are the Neo-Pagans (they seldom know Greek), the nudists and the sufferers from Dark Gods, to whom the body is glorious. But thirdly we have the view which St. Francis expressed by calling his body “Brother Ass”. All three may be–I am not sure–defensible; but give me St. Francis for my money.
Ass is exquisitely right because no one is his senses can either revere or hate a donkey. It is a useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful.
So the body.
There is no living with it till we recognize that one of its functions in our lives is to play the part of the buffoon.
The fact that we have bodies is the oldest joke there is.
CS Lewis, in The Four Loves
Isn’t it a relief to have a proper view of oneself? And to laugh at oneself? It is akin to the times when the children and I are sitting around the living room, watching TV, and little Seth says, “Wait for it, wait for it….” and before I am properly aware of what’s happening so I can stop it, out comes a giant toot from Seth’s bottom and loud laughter from his siblings. I try to pretend to be affronted, but I too am laughing and have to admit that the laughter is good.
We have inner treasure (our souls) in an outer jar of clay (our body). Our outward self is dying (our bodies), but our inward self (our soul) is being renewed day by day. We are like both angels (our soul) and tom-cats (our body).
I have spent lots of time over-valuing my body; my appearance, my health. These griefs are “common to man” and will never go away completely. But reading Lewis’ thoughts released me from some of the pressure, pressure that I put on myself as an at times, vain woman.
With Lewis’s wisdom in mind, I have a choice; I can sometimes laugh.
(St. Francis himself took a much harsher view. Although he referred to his body as Brother Ass, he treated it (his body) cruelly in an attempt to punish and/or “tame the beast”, so to speak. He grieved the “ass”, and had a hard time tending his body with compassion, much less with actual laughter.)
WHO CARES about appearances and perfection? Well, we all do to a certain extent. But if we “go further up and further in”, we realize that yes indeed it is true; beauty is in the soul, and not in the body. It may be that our body is beautiful for a time, but not if you hang around it for very long. It will most certainly “toot”, produce strange smells, do strange things, & drive you crazy.
Doesn’t it feel good to laugh about it?
From now on I want to teasingly say to myself when I get caught in a depressing reminder that thing are going downhill bodily speaking despite my best feeding and nurturing, “Oh brother Ass, you donkey, you” and put it on a lower level of seriousness and higher level of comedic relief.
If I hear a loud sound coming from one of my children, I would like to say, “Brother Ass is in the room, I see.” But alas, I am not comfortable saying “ass” as it is mainly used as a curse word these days. I tried it with my oldest son Jacob the other day and he turned around and said in confusion, “What?” Frankly, I don’t need little Seth running around saying “brother ass” at school …… so I guess I will use the other word, which is Donkey.
Take good care of your Donkey self today, with a healthy dose of laughter, and remember your soul, which is everlasting and renewed day by day by the grace of Jesus.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 2 Corinthians 4:16
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7