(Dialogue between Body and Soul)

   Olga S. Hardman

SPIRIT: Iíve lived with you now well over half a century. Why should we have existed all this time as soloists performing our own strident melodies when we could have been producing harmonious duets? Wasnít it St. Francis who dubbed you "Brother Ass?" How appropriate! You are indeed stubborn. So relentlessly you plague me with desire for excess food, drink, comfort, and pleasure.

As I look at you, I am reminded of the seed from which I came. I see my fatherís face when I look in the mirror, my motherís hands as I look at my own.

I am only now becoming aware of your mortality as my step slows, as I see digital arthritic nodes and graying hair. When I was younger, it didnít occur to me that you would one day show signs of wear.

BODY: But you really havenít taken very good care of me. Remember when you used to say youíd rather wear out than rust out. Sometimes I think you deliberately tried to wear me out. Youíd charge full steam ahead carrying heavy loads of laundry and babies up 3 flights of stairs. You thought old bodies were a "thing apart," not a continuum of younger beings. But now you can see with eyes unveiled and you can feel my pain as I struggle with a degenerative disease.

SPIRIT: Thatís an awful word -- degenerative. It comes from degenerate that means "passing from a good to a bad state" -- a kind of coming apart. Itís a terrible thing to think about. But then I am a member of the only species who CAN contemplate his own end.

You know, there has always been this dichotomy between us. Iíve never been able to accept your limitations nor your demands. Maybe it is the biblical quotation, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," that has always made me feel that we were at war -- you and I.

And yet, I am very much aware of a bond between us. Sometimes it is as light and gossamer as a spiderís web -- this thing that connects us. Sometimes it is as strong as a cable of steel. Else how could I sometimes make such firm resolutions only to later abandon them to the urgency of your promptings?

This has been a dreadful week. Many of my friends and neighbors have lost all of their material possessions in an awful deluge -- the terrible flood of November, 1985. Some have even lost family members and close friends. I am somehow feeling guilty that I have been spared this awful devastation. Because of this bond between us, you show dark circles beneath your eyes from my concern and lack of sleep.

You have taught me much -- but I have indeed been a slow learner. When all is well, you are like a sailboat and I am the wind filling your sails. Tonight, though, you are like an empty vessel because the horror of the past week has drained me completely. There is no wind.

It is only recently that I have quit struggling with you. I have finally called a truce. Iíve just come to realize that I love you. You are not an antagonist, but a precious vehicle that allows me to be. Iím filled with remorse as I contemplate the times I have treated you badly. The times I have filled you with junk food, worked you to total exhaustion, and considered you inferior and of little worth all the while.

BODY: But you really should have known. For isnít it through me that the greatest things have come to you: making love; conceiving and bearing the fruit of that conception; the exquisite and painful thrill of giving birth; the joy of caring for those you love; the delight of making music; the all-consuming pleasure of drawing me through cool water, first vigorously and then languidly, and then finally putting me out in the warm sun to dry? Here on this earth in this material plane, none of these things could you have experienced without me. Iím relieved that you have finally decided to quit the struggle and have accepted me at last.

© 1985 Olga S. Hardman