The Sum of All Parts



Well, if you’re coming here for a pep rally and a cheery go get ’em for Monday morning, sorry to disappoint. I’m nothing if not unpredictable, at least in my writing. 

I guess I’m tapping this one out because of a few different things. First, it’s the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a three day battle on July 1-3, 1863, that has been called the High-Water Mark of the Confederacy by many.

I’m a medical doctor by training. When I have visited that battlefield, or any other, I have often wondered what it must have been like to see young boys and men come rearward, minus an arm, a leg, or their sanity. What it must have felt like to see so many able-bodied men start across a field toward a copse of trees, only to come back on stretchers, their lives changed forever, their ability to shoot a gun or ride a horse or tend a field gone with the limb that was shattered by grape shot and canister from the murderous muzzle of a roaring cannon. 

I also saw a woman driving a car the other day, window open to the warm summer breeze, right hand on the wheel, left arm hanging out the window-no, wait. There was no left arm, only a stump. She had lost the arm, I know not how of course, but drive and feel the breeze she did anyway.

You know about the emotional amputees I see, of course, if you’ve been here or other places that I haunt and scribble. The depressed, the psychotic, the grieving. They have lost something that others cannot see, unless they share. They have lost a child, a devastating loss, surgically clean and final, that leads to phantom pain where the beloved was for the rest of their lives. They have lost the ability to see things as they are, instead living in worlds where flapping curtains become monstrous Death with hood and scythe, simple tasks like bathing and eating become two of Hercules’s Twelve Labors, and voices drive them to suicide.

Now, before you pity me, or these people I write about, stop. 

This is not a Monday morning post about war and madness and death.

This is a post about healing.

We all want one thing, at least. 

We want to be whole. 

We want to go home when the smell of cordite is gone from our nostrils and the fog of war has lifted from our brains. We want to experience the joy of a prosthesis, or at least learn about the redundancy of the human body and its ability to compensate for loss. We want to see things as they are. We want to experience a normal day. 

We want to live.

We want to be complete.

What part of you is missing on this Monday morning?

How will you begin the journey to make yourself whole again?

3 thoughts on “The Sum of All Parts

  1. As Father Fain said in his sermon yesterday, it is only through God that we can become whole. He was in agreement with the NY Times Article “The Gospel According to ‘Me'”, which said that many versions of ‘spirituality’ today rely so heavily on what we can do for ourselves, rather than what we can do for others. It is through loving others, giving to others, and helping others that we are able to become whole. This is something that I believe, however it seems to contradict the saying that you can’t help/love others until you help/love yourself, which makes sense too. *Sigh*


  2. Blake

    You’re on to something with both of these thoughts.

    I’m reading a book called Happy Money. One if the premises of the book is that by giving money away, spending it in thoughtful ways on making others happy, we feel richer and more emotionally stable ourselves. Spending the money on ourselves, making ourselves “whole” as it were, doesn’t work in the same way.

    I do believe that your self esteem and basic foundation have to be strong before you can venture out and help anyone else. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens ME, then leads to my being able to more fully help others.

    I’m trying to relearn that lesson myself every day.



  3. Jesus puts it in a nutshell when He says, You must lose your life to find it. One of many paradoxes in scripture (gaining through losing; exaltation through humility; strength through weakness; receiving through giving) Not to joust with you two, but I do not think it matters much if we love ourselves, in the sense it is often used. It’s in thinking about ourselves less in all matters (not thinking less about ourselves, but thinking about ourselves less, as CS Lewis says it), including what we think and feel about ourselves or anyone else, and thinking more about God, more having His mind on everything. To see ourselves, others and our purpose for living the way God sees them. “Long ago, God planned that we should live these lives helping others,” Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10. It’s all from God anyhow. And in this giving up of ourselves, taking our minds off how we feel and what we want, we find purpose deeper than anything the world has to offer.


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