The quality of healthcare nowadays, has progressed to a level that specialists are able to fix every fracture, they can reconnect nerves, and they are able to connect a new heart, liver, or kidney in to your body. Concentrating for years on a single body part has allowed for impressive feats in their specific area. The problem is however, that the body itself does not reason with body parts or medical specialization.
Was it not for thousands of years of research, cutting into corpses (both dead and alive), and drawing the results on to paper, or we would not have known what we know now. As things go, our body did not come into being with names on all of it’s parts as we have defined them today.
Researchers have found papyrus from ancient Egypt, dating back to 1600BC. They showed that the Egyptians had identified certain organs and hormonal glands. Later on the Greek did their part naming for example the Achilles Tendon after a greek hero who was the fastest runner. As a baby his mother made him invulnerable by dipping him by his achilles into the Styx river. Later in war, he was killed by a poisonous arrow. It struck him in the only vulnerable place in his body, his achilles.
Over the course of history a variety of people from ancient Greece, to Leonardi da Vinci, to a belgian man named Andreas Vesalius have made significant contributions to human anatomy.
The history of anatomy and the naming of our body is very intriguing, however it still is a model based on observation. Over time every muscle, bone, ligament, nerve, organ, and layer of skin has been described with a function and name. Just like we have divided the world by countries, and we have given random groups of stars names. These models are great facilitators when it comes to communicating about these subjects with regard to where and when.
Nevertheless, the world itself does not think of itself as a collection of countries. There is not a part of nature that decides to create an earthquake in Haiti, rather the earthquake happens in a place we call Haiti. The same goes for the body. The body itself does not purposefully create pain in
it’s knee, rather it expresses symptoms in a location that we call the knee.
In the case of countries we have given governments authority to make decisions in “their” parts of the earth, where in the case of the body there is a specialist who helps you govern a specific a body area. These divisions are such an inherent part of our society, that we have based our entire thought structure around it.
Divisions and models are great tools to understand. At the same time though, it is easy to mistake them for reality. As a consequence, for example, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is often received with skepticism in the west. TCM is a holistic approach that sees health and disease on a continuum. Our organism is seen as a system of balance. It has a vital energy called “qi”, that needs to circulate freely along lines called “meridians”.
The idea the Chinese have developed of the body over the previous 5000 years might seem weird, when compared to what was developed in Europe. Nevertheless, upon itself it makes total sense. Still, just like in western medicine it is a way of modeling the body. Neither body parts nor meridians were formed by the body itself.
Regardless if we model the body or not, I believe it does respond in predictable ways. A punch in your stomach will provoke pain, and a fall on your elbow will result in a bruise. At the same time sitting for long times, while feeling stressed, and drinking little water might provoke back pain and digestion issues.
When I think of the body as a collection of parts these logical responses can be confusing. However, when I perceive the body as a unity responding in a predictable way, a lot of everyday worries can be put to rest.
When I perceive the body as a unity responding in a predictable way, a lot of everyday worries can be put to rest.
We tend to experience the biggest discomfort when we do not understand what we are feeling. However, when you understand that your nose and toe are just as much your body, as your stomach and liver. As well as that the body responds in a logical manner, you can stop pretending that stressing and bad food is not affecting you. Where on the contrary, your newly initiated habit of working out two times a week, will positively affect a lot more than the size of your muscles.