Bodyswapping and having a soul

So, let’s talk about Bodyswapping.

It’s a pretty common storyline in Sci-Fi. The basic premise is that a person’s conciousness can be transferred into another body. In “Dollhouse” people signed up to allow new psyche’s into their bodies. In “Gamer” people got paid to let someone else control their bodies. Heck, in Red Dwarf, one character loaned his body away so that another one could exercise it and get it fit. Lots of shows harp on this as a terrible thing, a loss of identity. But, all morality plays aside, let’s think about how we’re doing it right now.

C.S. Lewis once said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Certainly, Mr. Lewis wasn’t privy to modern Sci-Fi storylines, but even with the distance of science and time, he realized a fundamental truth. We are each hitchhiking on the back of a flesh-covered organ bag. We have so much control over the organs that we tend to act as though we were one with the body. Some people forget that there is a distinction at all. But the first time our organs fail on us, we realize (often painfully) that we are not the true masters of the flesh. The mind is not the brain, the heart is not the life.

Even with that belief, though, the practial philosopher has to ask, “So what?” What does it matter whether we are one with our bodies. After all, we can’t jump into other bodies. We are only as alive as the flesh that holds us. So what practical benefit comes from thinking of ourselves as souls? Philosophers spend a lot of time thinking about the nature of nature, but unless it helps us make a change in the world, what good is it?

This is what I take from it: I take care of my car, make sure it has oil and gas and all that. I make sure to keep up with it’s maintenance, and I try to keep it clean. I don’t particularly like the car, but I do some basic work to keep it in line. If it were someone else’s car, I would take even BETTER care of it, because I would want to be polite to the owner. I’m totally paranoid about that kind of thing. I always re-wound the video tapes from Blockbuster. I always clean the sink after I wash my hands. Polite to the point of being obsequious. It’s just how I roll.

So, applying that to the bodyswapping idea, what if I were borrowing a body? I guarantee you that, if I were borrowing your body, I would return it in pristine condition, nails trimmed, hair neatly groomed, exercised and fed (though not too much). That’s just the way I work. I take care of other people’s stuff more than I do my own. I guarantee you that, if I were in charge of your body, I would return it in the same shape or better.

So, why don’t I do that with my own body? Actors always say that their bodies are their tools. Why don’t we all think of it that way? Imagine again that you are not tied to your body. Imagine that it was just something you are attached to, something you control. If that’s the case, isn’t it the most important tool you have? I mean, hell, your eyes are in that thing. Your mouth, your hands . . . It’s the most important tool you’ve got.

Now I’m not trying to get all “the body is a temple” on this, because I don’t really like going overboard on that. However, I do like the idea that I am just holding on to this body for a friend. I’m borrowing it for about seventy years or so. Because, when I think that I’m taking care of other people’s stuff, I’m going to be even more careful about it. I’m in control of a body that is capable of amazing things, and if I don’t do general maintenance, it’s gonna fall apart. I looked in the mirror this afternoon and found myself thinking, “There’s this guy, Brand. I’m borrowing his body. If I can’t keep it exercised and healthy, I’m just letting him down. He may not ever let me borrow anything again!” For some reason, that really motivated me.

So yeah, it’s not a new idea, but it did strike me as a new angle. I have to take care of this body, because I don’t have the right to let it just fall apart. If I think of my body, not as a part of my soul, but as a thing that my soul is using for a while, it’s abhorant to think that I would just let it wither.

Does that make it a good philosophy? Or does it just mean I’m going schizo?

I’d like to remind you that I am a professional fiction writer, and each post I write takes time away from my fiction writing. So please, if you’re getting something out of the blog, help fund my blogging habit. Thanks so much.

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