If the body is a machine, then its diseases can be healed by a sort of mechanical tinkering, without reference to anything outside the body itself.

Wendell Berry


If you think the body is like a machine, you’re right. If you think the body is not like a machine, you’re right.

Like Berry says in the same essay, a few pages earlier:

A girl is only in some respects like a red rose; a heart is only in some respects like a pump. This means that a metaphor must be controlled by a sort of humorous intelligence, always mindful of the exact limits within which the comparison is meaningful. When a metaphor begins to control intelligence… then we must look for costly distortions and absurdities.

If you skipped these lines it’d be easy to think that Berry is arguing that the human body is NEVER like a machine, but that’s not what he’s doing. He’s responding to the century long domination of our understanding of the body by this metaphor. This is key. The difference between making a statement in response to another statement and making a statement unprovoked may seem insignificant, but it isn’t. At all. The former has plenty of context, referencing other statements, other people and probably lots of information. All of this helps readers make a judgement on the meaning of the statement and respond appropriately. The latter is a space debris. We have no idea where it came from, or how it was used in the past. We can only judge it as we find it.

On social networks most anything can be plucked from the air, so to speak, and used as fodder for criticism or affirmation without reference or acknowledgment. Every thing has a context, but for some reason we often don’t care to acknowledge it. Maybe it’s out of fear. An idea separated from context may be safer because it can only be attacked in a vacuum. We don’t have to worry about being vulnerable or appearing weak. Another possibility is that context is not appealing to the “me” generation and it has died along with the phone book, leaders and the doghouse.

I like to end my entries with solutions, but I never have any good ones so I offer suggestions instead. To myself, and to you dear reader. Maximize the context. If you have references, include them. If something prodded you to make a statement, critical or affirmative, acknowledge the source.


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