In Comparative World Religions (REL 151) my freshman year I was taught that the word “Holy” is derived, or related to the word “Whole.” The basic idea being that part of being a perfect Divine being is the state of being complete, whole, or finished. I’ve wondered in the past just what perfect really means for individual people. Especially as it relates to our ideas of resurrection, as outlined in Alma, “The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame.”
Reading this account of a woman’s efforts to get a leg amputation brought those same thoughts back to my mind. The woman has Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID), or an overwhelming urge to remove healthy limbs, or otherwise alter his/her bodily integrity. This woman, on the second attempt, managed to freeze her leg enough to damage the tissue and require amputation. Others who suffer from BIID will take similarly drastic and life-threatening measures to damage their limbs since no doctor would willingly remove a healthy limb. Little is known about BIID, it’s causes, or prevalence.
After her amputation the woman states:
I already feel more complete now that one leg is off. I have always been an outgoing kind of person, but my confidence is much higher now as my body is more like I want it to be. For the first time I feel able to move on and lead the life I have always wanted. In many ways I am starting again.
Part of me is reluctant to write this sort of thing off as just plain crazy. One major reason is this woman’s insistence that her life as an amputee is just as normal as she wants it to be; she still does everything she wants to do, with all the independence she needs, only now she looks the way she wants to. If we declare her life as an amputee to be abnormal and her happiness with her body to be a delusion, how would that reflect on our ability to think of unwilling amputees, or those born with birth defects as normal, happy, contributing members of society?
I’ve made no secret of my discomfort with the prevalent notion that modern beauty ideals equal health and perfection. How many of us just sort of assume that everyone will be svelte, young, and attractive after the resurrection? How many of us see our resurrected selves being just exactly how God made us instead of how we wish we looked? How many men see themselves as resurrected beings with beards? How many women see themselves with un-plucked eyebrows and facial hair? How is the desire of the person with BIID to be without limbs qualitatively different than my desire to be without a uni-brow, or love handles?