Vehicle of the Soul

Some years ago I did a few days of meditation at the Zen Center in Cumberland, (a scary town full of trees and deer ticks), and they had a kind of in-joke. When the monks and nuns got sick they would call it ‘car trouble’.

Around that time I studied martial arts with a young and athletic doctor. She said that when she had to visit a mechanic she felt empathy for what her patients went through when they were not firing on all their cylinders. It’s tough to have to trust your wheels to a disdainful guy who may not like your kind. (You girls know what I’m talking about).

Well, we’ve progressed. Bob at D’Ambra’s Service Station on Hope St. has taken very good care of my cars. Having spent more time searching for an honest mechanic than true love I have a high respect for mechanic’s skills. After all, you have to trust them to keep your car prepped for the high speed lane.

As for that other vehicle–

Andrew Sullivan
makes a good comparison when talking about the free market approach to health insurance, explaining why health insurance is different from car insurance…

To continue with the car insurance analogy, pretend that everyone has one car that cannot be sold. Some people have lemon cars whose brakes fail every week, or have continuous oil leaks, etc. In other words, the insurance company knows that it will have to pay out on the people with lemon cars, not just occasionally, but continuously. There’s absolutely no incentive to insure these people at all. We could, as a society, say well, that’s tough. Only, eventually, we all end up with lemon cars – we’re all going to die one day, and the large majority of us will be sick for some time before that.

This is a brilliant insight. Your soul has one vehicle in this world. Is your value as a human being defined by your ability to go from zero to sixty in under 10 minutes? Can your worth to society be measured in your yearly income?

Sullivan touches on the question of what we are. A society that cares for its own, or one that holds profit as the supreme value. Right now Steven Hawking is sick. His contribution would have been lost to us if we discarded all our citizens who need care to get by.

One thought on “Vehicle of the Soul

  1. Ninjanurse asks: …Can your worth to society be measured in your yearly income?…

    The correct response to this question in certain conservative circles is “yes.”

    We need to keep in mind the Calivinist foundation of our country.

    In New England, they were the Puritans. In the south, they were Presbyterians. Both shared the Calvinist mind-set; both left England/Ireland because they didn’t share many of the official Anglican attitudes and doctrines.

    Calvinists believed that one was elect, or one was reprobate, and nothing the individual could do could change this. That is, you were saved, or you were damned. How could you tell who was which? They took the biblical injunction “by their fruits ye shall know them.” The practical upshot of this was that God’s favor was demonstrated by being wealthy (cf Job).

    That is, for this mindset, wealth has a moral characteristic. It is the outward manifestation of inner morality.

    The New England Puritans were some of the early commercial/capitalist success stories in this country. New Englanders also effectively colonized the northern half of the US, taking this attitude, which was so deep in the DNA that it few were even consciously aware of it, so almost no one thought to question it.

    The northern half of the country produced the great commercial successes of the 19th & 20th centuries, so the belief continued, unquestioned.

    It is still part of the DNA. This why conservatives refuse to spend a few bucks to help a young kid, but will spend unlimited amounts of money to incarcerate that same kid when he turns 18.

    Both of these are moral decisions. There are no–indeed there cannot be–deserving poor.

    In the meantime the Scots-Irish who settled in the south were not commercially successful, so they latched onto the Bible, taking it completely literally. They chose the godly life as their badge of salvation, which is why they reject evolution and gays and anything that doesn’t seem “godly” to them. That the poor are often a product of single-mothers indicates their lack of moral worth. Becase they fornicate, they are punished by being poor.

    So no help should be given to the poor. They’re poor because it’s God’s will.

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