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always in the blood

always in the blood

I don't like John Mayer. It's not his fault - he's a great guitar player and he's very funny on Twitter  and as time goes on I am realizing he might be growing up to be a great songwriter. But I used to have a friend who was obsessed with him (we are no longer friends, for other reasons) and so I've steered clear. Furthermore, while his voice is in a register I typically enjoy, there's something weird and nasal about it that doesn't appeal to me... and then I heard "In the Blood". It's being pitched as a country song, which is hilarious. Putting claps on a John Mayer song doesn't make it country. But you can listen in the sidebar and tell me what you think. 

How much of my mother has my mother left in me?
How much of my love will be insane to some degree?
And what about this feeling that I'm never good enough?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?

I think about blood a lot. Just going to leave that there. It's life, part of it anyway, and I manage to hurt myself regularly doing innocuous things like chopping vegetables, tossing firewood, and squeezing laundry baskets through too-narrow doorways. On any given day, I have a fresh scrape or cut and several scars in various stages of healing on my hands, feet, arms, and legs. Our lives are sanitized. Blood is always hidden, whisked away, our meat delivered to us bled dry and encased in plastic, while some of us still paint our lips and nails in that color because it still means life and health and we recognize that on some level. Other humans respond to this sign of vitality. Other than a few deferrals for various reasons, I have been giving blood every 8 weeks for almost 10 years. The pang as the needle hits the vein is soon soothed by the warmth of the tubes running across your wrist into the bag—your own blood is so warm, it always surprises me. And even here it's sterile. They keep you lying down so the bags are hidden from you, they clean up your arm as much as they can, and your involvement is to be admonished to drink some water and keep an eye on the bruise that blooms where they yank the needle out after draining a pint of your life. 

How much of my father am I destined to become?
Will I dim the lights inside me just to satisfy someone?
Will I let this woman kill me, or do away with jealous love?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?

Sundays I drag myself to the altar where I receive Christ's body and blood, which become part of my body and blood. I think about my blood going to strangers. I am thankful to not be a Jehovah's Witness. I am thankful that despite my other physical, mental, and emotional issues, my blood is still sufficient to serve someone else, someone I otherwise probably couldn't do anything for. 

I can feel love the I want, I can feel the love I need
But it's never gonna come the way I am
Could I change it if I wanted, can I rise above the flood?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?

I am still fascinated by "humorism", the ancient theory (held until medieval times) that the "four fluids" in the body (blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile) corresponded with the four temperaments (sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, choleric): that the health of the body could be regulated by manipulating these fluids. (Ever done a four temperaments personality test? I'm melancholic-choleric, by the way. Hopefully, that explains a lot of this.)

Any imbalance in mind, body, or soul meant your humors were out of whack—which is why we still say "ill-humored." Blood-letting by knife or leech remained a common cure-all until the late 19th century. Sometimes it worked (dropping blood pressure, subduing those who were violent, kick-starting a sluggish body into survival mode), sometimes it didn't (people died all the time and it was always a TOTAL MYSTERY).  

I am still fascinated by the fact that the garden of Eden was bloodless until after the fall, when God killed animals to provide skins for Adam and Eve (presumably right in front of them, the first two people in the world, who had never seen death before), beginning a pattern of sacrifice by death (and blood) that was required by God up until Christ hung on the cross. In fact, a thorough reading of the Old Testament makes you think they were a people obsessed with blood because it's omnipresent. It was present in circumcision, in the law for personal health and hygiene, in the way food was prepared, in the temple, on the doorposts. [Pagans also put blood on their doorposts, but the reason was to stop demons coming in the door by slaking their blood-lust at the threshold.] 

I am still fascinated by the blood and water that gushed from Christ's side, as he was stabbed with a spear while hanging on the cross. Blood and water in His death, in the same way, blood and water are present at a normal birth: new life. The blood we take on Sunday mornings, the water we go under in baptism. Death to sin, birth to life in Christ's family. Romans 6, anyone?

How much like my brothers, do my brothers wanna be?
Does a broken home become another broken family?
Or will we be there for each other, like nobody ever could?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?

The ancient Greeks believed the gods had "ichor" flowing in their veins—a bluish-clear substance (this is where we get "blue-blooded" from), as opposed to mankind, the color of whose blood we still refer to when someone is a "manly man"—we say "he's a real red-blooded man" when we're referring to someone who's Ron Swanson-esque. The Greeks would have loved Ron Swanson.

Anyway, while we now know the science behind the blood and water present at the crucifixion, Greeks present must have seen this happening and suddenly thought ... Christ actually WAS God and man in one. This has still got to be a sticking point for those who want to argue (from a Gnostic standpoint) that Christ was all divine substance and not human flesh and blood. This is a line of thought I was unable to shake during Advent (and so I wrote about it): while other religions or sects of Christianity attempt to divorce the spiritual from the physical, God eternally cuts through all of that in Jesus, the God-man, as the Athanasian Creed states:

"Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His Humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ; one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God; one altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ"

I have been going through, to put it politely, some real crap. I haven't slept well in years and it's gotten a lot worse in the past few months. I lie awake at night with a ridiculous amount of anxiety and think about life and death and the reasons I have to get out of bed in the morning. There isn't always a lot of them. But the one I keep coming back to is Sunday mornings and the body and blood there for me, and the body and blood I inhabit that are—in so many ways—not my own to do with what I please. Maybe it washes out in the water, maybe it's always in the blood. But I have been sacrificed for...and so I am given the strength to keep sacrificing my self. It's enough.

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