Inside/Outside: Part Three

Having previously looked at some of the elements of the relationship between inside and outside, I would like to look at some of the fundamentals of what makes a body. This may seem to be random and tangential, but there are some common elements in any sort of body, be it our own physical bodies or metaphorical bodies like churches and nations and other groups as well, and even the individual cells of our own body. All of these bodies share certain characteristics, and that is something that ought to be explored in some detail, as we find the same sort of approaches to dealing with the same sorts of problems. In order for a body to exist, there must be some sort of interior space that has a semi-permeable boundary with the outside world. Let’s think about these elements a bit.

Let us take our own physical bodies. Inside our bodies are vital organs that are also somewhat delicate, like the brain, the heart, the lungs, the kidneys, the liver, and so on. There are various structural elements that provide for movement (muscles), structure (bones), the transfer of blood and air throughout the body, as well as the movement of waste and information. This inside, which has a lot going on inside of it that is generally not accessible to the outside world, is protected by the skin. There are, it might be recognized, only a few access points in or out and each of these vulnerable points has clear purposes for sensory recognition as well as for the movements of information and material in and out of the body. The body is not entirely sealed from the outside world, because that would be ultimately destructive both because it could not take in nutrients or pass out waste, but access in and out of the body is very limited and often under some control by the person themselves as to what they eat, what they see, and so on.

This is true if we look further down at the level of individual cells, which must similarly take in nutrients and remove waste, and which have their own barriers that have access controlled by various gates. And, if we are alert, we can see the same sorts of issues wherever we look at groups of people together. Churches have clergy who enforce standards of orthodoxy and orthopraxy (right doctrine and right practice, respectively). Nations have borders and border controls, sometimes more loose and sometimes more strict depending on how they feel about those on the outside. Subdivisions have gated communities and often some sort of irritating HOA to enforce standards on the inside. Communities and cultures have formal or informal gatekeepers that help determine standards of what is shared with the outside world and what kind of access people have to knowledge about what is on the inside of the group. As someone who has a fondness for the Levite gatekeepers of the temple and tabernacle system, I do not see a problem either with a healthy respect for gatekeepers (or a proper desire to be one) or with the fond appreciation of the culture of others and its selective adaption and transformation according to the tastes of the appropriating culture. That said, groups have their own goals as far as seeking to preserve their distinction from the outside world and not all groups make the same decisions.

There is always a dilemma and a trade-off when it comes to bodies in terms of what they take in and what they let out. A body that is too permeable cannot defend itself from the many threats that exist in the outside world, but a body that is not good enough at taking in nutrients and putting out waste finds itself greatly harmed, if not killed, by lacking in nutrients or drowning in waste products that cannot be properly secreted. As someone who frequently has to deal with the painful consequences of kidneys that do not do a good enough job of ridding my body of excess uric acid, this is not something to be taken lightly. While each individual body has different things on the inside and outside, and different standards as to what is allowed inside and what is allowed to get outside, there are at least broad similarities because these bodies all have to accomplish the same sorts of tasks in a world that is at least potentially threatening. And while there may be disagreement as to how skillfully various bodies are accomplishing this task of protecting the inside from the outside and of communicating what is inside to the outside world, it is best to view such matters with a sense of charity because of our realization about how difficult such tasks are to accomplish.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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