Cancer and other diseases make us painfully aware of our bodies. They are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made,” even when they malfunction. What should astound us daily is how much goes right with such complex mechanisms!
We have only to go skin deep to begin being overwhelmed. The epidermis is our largest organ, covering an average area of 25 square feet and containing 45 miles of nerves. Every square inch is nourished by 20 feet of blood vessels and populated with 32 million bacteria.
We shed and re-grow about 1.5 pounds of skin a year, which means a new set of clothes for the emperor once every 27 days and almost 1,000 new outfits in a lifetime.
The skin conceals over 200 bones—a quarter of which are in our feet—more than 600 muscles—about 40% of our weight—and 60,000 miles of blood vessels that are kept humming by a heart that beats around 2.5 billion times between cradle and grave, which, not coincidentally, is about the number of seconds we live.
Running the show is the brain, an aquatic organ comprised of 85% water, leaving about five ounces of solid tissue to do all the work. This spongy mass accounts for 2% of our weight yet consumes 20% of our intake of calories and oxygen.
But far and away the most interesting aspect of the body is that it houses the soul; the essence of who we are but whose essence we cannot locate or measure. Experiments to weigh the soul at the time of death have proven inconclusive, but even a child can tell when it has departed.
The soul (aka person, mind, self, spirit) is to physiology what the Higgs boson (aka the God Particle) is to physics. We see the effects of both everywhere but can’t isolate either one. The Higgs is presumed to give mass to matter while the soul is what gives meaning to the body. It endows this life with purpose and the next with hope.
“You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”
C. S. Lewis