One Body, Many Lonely Parts

Is my life of abnormality,
merely a simulation of solitude,
simply for the sake of familiarity?


The paradox of individualistic fellowship
of some indiscernible flexibility of existence,
In which everybody-
      Several bodies,
Is somebody-
      Are one body.

A duality whose strongest implication is oneness,
by which the individual exists as such, though not for itself,
      but for the whole of individuals-
Which unbeknownst to them,
compose that of the one body which the individual is not,
      for a purpose unbeknownst to all-
except that of the body with the faculty of knowing such things:
The Head

By faith,
Even the eye is blind to the purpose of its insights,
      though it does not cease to see.
and the feet do not know what is of greater import,
      the body which they support, or the footprints they continue to create.

By faith,
Though this body be plagued with some malevolent cancer,
      my body as that in which I am a part-
Though my awareness of things eternal be but folly,
      and the entirety lacks in awareness even of itself-
Though neither the means nor the end are foreseen,
      and the purpose for existing as one or one of many is ever sought though never found,
I am not an appendix.


This poem is inspired by the “One Body but Many Parts” passage in 1st Corinthians.

There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.

Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.

You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

I’ve always felt a certain lonliness when I think of myself. I’ve always been weird enough that I struggle to think of myself as belonging among others. Even in the decades wince this poem was written (during high school, 2001 perhaps), I still can’t really say I’ve found my people. Nonetheless this poem discusses the duality we find ourselves in, identifying as both individuals and members of society. I think the ideas in the poem work whether or not you concede the Christian concept that we share an identity in The Body of Christ, which Paul is discussing in 1 Corinthians. I think this passage speaks to all humans with a great bit of classic wisdom. Just because you aren’t like someone else, doesn’t mean you don’t belong in society or that you are somehow less useful, any more than an eye is of poor usefulness at being a hand or an ear. For those of us who have a hard time using the labels of society to describe ourselves we are tempted to decide that we are useless. The punchline of the whole poem - perhaps the excuse for the poem existing at all - is that no one is an appendix! I believe that the body of society doesn’t have useless members. To use the musical analogy, if you can’t figure out what instrument you are in the great symphony of humanity, then perhaps you are in the choir! No one is without a musical instrument because we each are a musical instrument.

In addition to the appendix joke, the other point I make in the poem is that the body parts don’t actually know the service they are providing. “The eye is blind to the purpose of its insights” is I think my second favorite line in the poem. We as humans cannot know our role in the greater body of humanity and history. Perhaps at times we are so arrogant as to suppose we know our role, but this poem didn’t come from the mind of a kid who knew his place in the universe. This was a lonely speculation on why I feel alone building towards a declaration of belonging. That declaration doesn’t come from evidence, but from faith in a purpose beyond my own knowledge. “The purpose for existing as on or one of many is ever sought, though never found.” Regardless, I declare that, though I feel alone, I am not alone, and though I feel useless, I am not an appendix.