The Gospel Truth

Skin Deep | August 15, 2012

How important is our skin to us?

It is the coating that holds our bodies together.

Without it we would be oozing fluids and other human parts all over the place.

Skin of itself is often not very attractive.

Just ask any dermatologist.

Wrinkles, pimples, cysts, even the dreaded melanoma, all mar the pristine beauty of nature as we age and experience life in the flesh.

More than skin deep

I was told as a young man that even the nude women of Playboy Magazine had to have their perfect bodies airbrushed to hide their imperfections.

I remember an old Jerry Lewis movie where the subject of skin came up and with all the lustful yuk-yuks he could muster he said it was the upholstery that gave meaning to one’s skin.

In talking about skin in the philosophical sense, the term flesh or upholstered skin is really what is important.

Liked female upholstery

Pulcritudinous flesh was an evil for several religious groups many centuries ago.

The Gnostics, Cathars, Jansenists and Manchians all believed that the flesh was sinful and allured man to commit all form of sexual acts.

Many old word attitudes, like Puritanism which came to Massachusetts Bay in 1630, and even the Medieval Church regarded the human body as a dangerous source of temptation that had to be covered and almost hidden from public view.

Some of those archaic view still exist today.

John Paul II and his revolutionary Theology of the Body firmly established the true understanding of our bodies, both men and women, as being made in the image and likeness of God.

I have mentioned several times that the values of massage therapy as a form of, not only physical therapy, but also well-being, joy and even bliss resonate with his TOB.

Fosters well-being

Lena, my therapist has told me that in Russia they instruct new parents to massage their newborns regularly because the sense of touch is so important to their early development and can create a stronger emotional bond.

I once asked her how she got into her profession.

She learned her craft early from her mother, now a retired medical doctor, still living in Ukraine.

She did massages to put herself through medical school.

When Lena came to this country one of her first jobs was at a dentist office.

The dentist’s sister was a massage therapist.

She began moonlighting with her and after a while she advised Lena to pursue a professional license because the state had made it a requirement.

Because of her extraordinary skills, I call Lena the Natural, an allusion to the character, Roy Hobbes in Bernard Malamud’s book, the Natural.

In the movie Robert Redford played an aging baseball players who is trying to re-enter a game he left as a young man after a deranged and suicidal woman shot him in her hotel room.

Lena’s namesake

The event was inspired by the real-life shooting of Philadelphia Phillies first base man, Eddie Waikus, who in 1950 was nearly killed by a mentally ill woman in Chicago.

Late in the movie, Hobbs admits that his goal in life was to be such a great ball player that when he walked down any city street in America, people would point to him and say.:

That’s Roy Hobbes…he was the BEST there ever was!

I am convinced that if enough people had regular massages from Lena people would say there goes Lena…she’s the BEST RMT there ever was!

I once told her that for her massages to have lasting value to me, I had to find some root or connection with my religious faith.

I just didn’t want these glorious feelings to be ephemeral or fleeting.

She helped me to recognize the integral link between body and soul that religions sometime distort into what they call the Cartesian dichotomy.

Our souls are the repository of everything we are.

All or emotions, feelings and thoughts are there.

They make up the core of our personality.

Americans often call this center of our being–heart.

The musical Damn Yankees and the wonderful song, You gotta have heart…miles and miles of heart illustrated the importance of heart.

In Japan they call it Wa.

The soul cannot be in harmony unless our bodies are.

And conversely if our souls are troubled or at war with themselves in the case of moral vices and personal troubles, the body will suffer as a result.

When my mind is troubled my flowglow vanishes immediately.

They had to have heart

Since the soul is where we live, it is akin to the Owen Wilson movie, You, Me and Dupree, where a single man with few prospects, finally develops his personal talents as a motivational speaker.

The movie concludes with his telling thousands of people, especially his best friend, Carl to get in touch with his inner being–his Carlness–those things that make them who they are.

What Dupre means is essentially the positive benefits I derive from a regular massage.

There is also a kind of spiritual and metal bonding that goes with regular massage therapy.

It has led me to think hard about the eschatology of human life,  that is the things that really mean something.

I recently finished a book, The Holy Longing: The Search for Christian Spirituality, by Ronald Rolheiser O. M. I.

In it he describes the Incarnation in language that I have never heard before.

The Incarnation is nothing less than the central teaching of the Catholic and many Christian faiths.

The Holy Longing

Simply stated it is the mystery of God taking a human body and dealing with humans in a visible and tangible way.

The word comes from the Latin phrase in carnus, which means in physical flesh.

This is human flesh in its raw, brute, physically tangible and unplatonic humanity.

In other words God assumed the human nature of man to go along with his divine nature and spent 33 years living as one of us but with a much more significant destiny.

It is arguably the most important event in the history of the world.

With his mystical union, coupled with his suffering and death, he raised mankind to a new level of hope and redemption.

According to Rolheiser, God assumed human flesh so that every human could become a church, a sacrament and every child would become Christ-like.

Most people do not have trouble thinking of Jesus’ body as needing nourishment,  having a sexual body that was subject to pain, sickness and death.

The problem arises from the fact that we cannot attribute the same physical reality to the whole Body of Christ that he left behind, namely the Eucharist and his Church.

Most important Christian teaching

Most people think the Incarnation stopped when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.

Rolheiser believes that the importance of the Incarnation continues in history.

The God of the Incarnation has real flesh on earth–our flesh–and speaks to us in the bread and butter of our daily lives, through things that have skin–historical circumstances, our families, our neighbors, our churches and that borderline-pyschotic friend who painfully reminds us that we are not God.

But the direction and power is always with God.

As part of his plan God has chosen to work through us and metaphorically through our skin to give reality to his power.

When Lena does one of her massages, she is as Rolheiser believes giving skin to God—both hers and the one she is working on.

Her powerful fingers and arms are doing God’s work to unleash her people’s bodies from their pains, suffering and deterioration.

In doing so she gives fly to their imaginations, spirits and souls so that they can soar to deeper understanding of what life is supposed to mean.

As a result the body is free to find a rebirth in a deeper union with its soul so that the whole person can re-emerge in a harmonious union that will be pleasing to God.

I admit that on the surface this appears as something out of a New Age manual but I firmly believe it is all founded in my Catholic faith, which I think I have taken to a higher plateau.

As she has proven to me time and time again, her hands are working much more than skin deep.

She has taken my being to a much higher level as she can with anyone who will surrender to her touch.

Researchers are learning how massage soothes aching muscles.

Giving skin to God

As Rolheiser says the baton has been passed on to each one of his followers to continue his work of loving one’s neighbor and doing random acts of charity and forgiveness.

It is Christ alive in our lives and in Lena’s hands that works through us to achieve this.

The term skin deep takes on a whole new meaning.

It has become clear to me that skin during a massage has a message much deeper than the surface of the human body.

I primarily owe my understanding of this to the lady with the heavenly touch.

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2 Comments »

  1. I don’t know much firsthand about massage therapy but think it has some health benefits from what you write. Recently a friend who was diagnosed with
    fybromyalgia decided to go to an Acupuncture Doctor.
    He is doing a lot better – Mainstream medicine fills us
    full of chemicals with dangerous side affects. Vaccines
    are mandated for our kids and most do not know the
    risks involved or side affects of them. They are really
    just about making big bucks.

    When we know the dangerous side affects of the
    “pill” which is FDA approved WHY on earth are many
    so eager to trust other FDA approved medical
    treatments such as vaccines and other drugs?

    People don’t think – they should become educated
    consumers of medical services.

    MF

    Comment by MaryF — August 16, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

  2. Wish I could find a massage therapist like yours here in sunny hot Alexandria, Louisiana. Does your therapist know anyone she would recommend down here? I need one. Pax.

    Comment by Mary B. Lachney — August 16, 2012 @ 7:54 pm


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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