My wounds are corruption and decay
because of my foolishness.
I am bowed down and bent,
bent under grief all day long.
For a fire burns up my loins,
and there is no health in my body.
I am afflicted, utterly cast down,
I cry out from the sadness of my heart.
Lord, all that I desire is known to you;
my sighs are not hidden from you.
My heart grows weak, my strength leaves me,
and the light of my eyes – even that has gone.
My friends and my neighbours
keep far from my wounds.
Those closest to me keep far away,
while those who would kill me set traps,
those who would harm me make their plots:
they plan mischief all through the day.
In a world in which it is assumed we share no goods in common, medicine cannot help but seem to be but another impersonal institution that delivers services to consumers. Ironically, a medicine so determined cannot acknowledge that the body, which allegedly is the subject of the medical arts, is a storied body. For a storied body is not the body of “anyone,” but the body determined by a particular history of a particular community.
If the body is appropriately understood as a storied body, Berry argues that no hard and fast distinction can be drawn between the physical and the spiritual. That we currently make that distinction, according to (Wendell) Berry, only reflects how an understanding of the body as a machine has come to dominate our lives and, in particular, medical care. As a result Berry describes the contemporary hospital as a place where the world of love meets the world of efficiency, that is, the world of specialization, machinery, and abstract procedures, in a manner that those worlds are relegated to separate spheres. At best love can be expressed in such a context primarily as the attempt to get the “best medical care available” – but the “best medical care available” is not determined by a community of love.
Stanley Hauerwas, “The body of medicine and the Christian body”
[ABC Religion & Ethics, March 2012. Full text here]
Healing of the Leper, Chapel of St. Sylvester, Ueberlingen (986-1000)