Thank you, Adam, for the intro, and T&S for the guest-spot. It’s a sacrifice for my other little blog, but I can really use the extra income.
Today i’m thinking about my job and what it’s doing to me. I work on the tenth floor of a not very big building in downtown Salt Lake. My office is small but comfortable, and in the back corner of the building, where no one ever wanders by. Some days I have meetings and phone calls, but most days are characterized by a long, dry, quiet solitude. I have nice views out of two big windows, but I don’t spend much time looking out of them. Instead, I look at my computer and various piles of documents hanging around my floor and desk. The nature of my work and the structure of my office seem intentionally calculated to cut me off from all human contact. Even my phone is hard to use.
Besides the isolation from others, though, there’s another kind of distance. Where I sit, I’m roughly 70 yards from the earth, and two or three minutes from the nearest door to the outside world. This means that from eight to six I rarely feel the outside air. I am psychologically very far from the world out there. In fact, for all intents and purposes, when i’m at work in my office, I really have no ‘location’ at all. I’m somewhere above the earth, but nowhere in psychological or spiritual relation to it. I have a suspicion that this situation is shared by many readers here.
These two phenomena, alienation from others and dislocation in the physical world, seem to be increasingly prevalent facets of today’s working life. Most of the time, jobs that require a lot of lonely desk time are thought of as good things, but sometimes I’m tempted to challenge that notion. And I think there might be a real doctrinal basis for such a challenge.
What is the purpose of our bodies? We are told that recieving a body is central to the plan of salvation. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons we’ve been sent to earth. But remember, getting to earth isn’t the test– it’s fulfilling the measure of our creation while we’re here. Given that commandment, what is the fulfillment of the measure of the creation of my body? What am I to be doing with my body in order to fulfill its potential and satisfy the stewarship I’ve been given over it? I’ve always thought of the doctrine of physical bodies as a basically incomplete one. Yes, we know that flesh will help us be happy in the eternities, but outside of reproductive purposes, we don’t really know why or how.
We fool ourselves into believing that God commanded Adam to work for his bread, as if billing time to legal consumers is the same as ploughing a field. He didn’t say that. He said that Adam would eat his bread by the sweat of his face. It’s a gritty reference to Adam’s body, suggesting that real work involves a) your body, and b) physical exertion. When I’m in my office, I may call it work, but it’s not a sweaty undertaking. Does the Lord care that I’m earning my bread by the synapse of my brain instead?
In other words, have we missed the point of the physicality of this world? The fact that my body is only good to me as a means of controlling a computer for my brain is somewhat disconcerting. I wonder if I’m wasting a valuable gift. As I understand it, I am two component parts- spirit and body, acting in unison. However, it strikes me that neither of these is being employed during my workday. While I’m at work I turn off my body and turn off my spirit, and use only my mind– perhaps a small component of both, perhaps something entirely different. What does that mean for me? Am I going to get to heaven and find that the parts of me that matter, the spirit and body, or the marriage between the two, have atrophied, and that my mind has overgrown them both? The prospect is alarming to me.
King Benjamin tells us that Jesus would come down to earth to inhabit a “tabernacle of clay.” I think this language provides a beautiful image for the purposes of the body- the body is at once holy and dirty, exaltable and primordial. And yet somehow, at the behest of a strangely abstractifying [sic] society, I’ve carved out a place that is located between those two extremes, and partakes in neither of them: I’ve found a world that is not physical, and it’s not spiritual. It’s mental. And here, my body and spirit don’t do me much good.
What am I supposed to be doing with my own tabernacle, and does it matter? What are the doctrines concerning our bodies, and what does our spirit need them for? Finally, is there something wrong with how we’re spending our time with this, the one physical gift we get to take with us? (Please, no suggestions that I just exercise more. This need not devolve into a weight loss clinic. Although, have you guys heard about this new 24 hour diet? Wow, sounds fantastic!).