Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lin Yutang: "Earthbound" conclusion

"The situation then is this: man wants to live, but he still must live upon the earth.

. . . .

"Any good practical philosophy must start out with the recognition of our having a body. It is high time that some among us made the straight admission that we are animals, an admission which is inevitable since the establishment of the basic truth of the Darwinian theory and the great progress of biology, especially bio-chemistry. It was very unfortunate that our teachers and philosophers belong to the so-called intellectual class, with a characteristic professional pride of intellect. The men of the spirit were as proud of the spirit as the shoemaker is proud of leather. Sometimes even the spirit was not sufficiently remote and abstract and they had to use the words, 'essence' or 'soul' or 'idea,' writing the with capital letters to frighten us. The human body was distilled in this scholastic machine into a spirit, and the spirit was further concentrated into a kind of essence, forgetting that even alcoholic drinks must have a 'body'--mixed with plain water--if they are to be palatable at all. And we poor laymen were supposed to drink that concentrated quintessence of spirit. The over-emphasis on the spirit was fatal. It made us war with our natural instincts, and my chief criticism is that it made a whole and rounded view of human nature impossible. It proceeded also from an inadequate knowledge of biology and psychology, and of the place of the senses, emotions and, above all, instincts in our life. Man is made of flesh and spirit both, and it should be philosophy's business to see that the mind and body live harmoniously together, that there be a reconciliation between the two."

-- Lin Yutang --
from The Importance of Living

We are not ghosts in the machine, a soul trapped in a sinful or evil body, as so many religious traditions insist. We are both body and soul (whatever that term may mean to you) and we should accept this. As long as we cannot accept this, any sort of true lasting harmony will be impossible.


  1. You wrote:

    "We are not ghosts in the machine, a soul trapped in a sinful or evil body, as so many religious traditions insist. "

    Not ALL religious traditions say this. Perhaps some fringe elements out there do, but not all. I have never heard this in my church, for example. I don't think the Christians I know vilify the body. They are concerned with the needs of the body as well as the needs of the soul. If you have encountered Christians who acted that way, I apologize for them.

  2. Cheryl,

    There's no need for you to apologize for others unless they work for you. (g)

    Many Christians are hung up on the sins of the flesh. Major religious traditions ban alcohol, pork, beef, and various other foodstuffs. All Christian sects consider sex, unless churchly regulated, to be sinful and the sure path to damnation. Sex, as a simple physical pleasure and activity, is frowned upon.