Clay is older than man. Moulded through the ages by the wind and waters, each minute grain has seen countless lives come and go; has seen dynasties rise and fall. Has seen suffering, and joy. And hate, and love.
In the beginning,
after light was separated from darkness;
after the sky was lifted up from the sea;
after the ground sprouted seeds and fruits;
after a greater light and a lesser light were formed to govern day and night;
After creatures in the sea swam and creatures in the sky took flight;
after creatures that moved on the ground laid their first steps;
after all that,
God created mankind in His own image; male and female He created them. From the dust on the ground, the first man was formed. The breath of life entered into this clay body and the man became a living person. He fell into a deep slumber; and God made a woman from the rib taken out of this man. Bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.
On the 7th day, God rested as He saw that all is good.
Literal or metaphorical, science or poetry, it does not matter that much to me. We will never know, until the day it is revealed, and then we will all know anyway. And by then, it would not matter the slightest whether we had been right or wrong all along, would it?
So, the Bible tells us that we are literally or metaphorically, clay bodies with a breath of life. And it is this precious breath of life that makes all the difference to our existence in this world, that gives us thought and imagination, that makes us look up at the sky in wonder. But there are people who disagree, who believe with much observable evidence that we are just “clay bodies” with neurons firing this way and that, reacting to external and internal stimuli, and giving these “clay bodies” the illusion of a soul.
Thinking about this reminds me of a famous quote by CS Lewis:
Again, no one really knows, do they? But believing one way or the other makes a huge difference to how we live out our lives. Often, we cling so tightly to our physical bodies and our physical possessions, when we know for a fact that all of it will one day crumble into dust. But I believe, like C. S. Lewis, that we are much more than our bodies. We are souls, and souls can go where the body cannot. Souls can traverse time and space effortlessly; souls can love; souls can dream; souls can live. For eternity.
Like porcelain pots lovingly molded, glazed and fired into existence from dull lumps of clay, our souls are the real substance of our being. But what about our bodies, these transient lumps of clay that take form, and grow, and then inevitably collapse and disintegrate? Aren’t they also immortal, in a sense? Aren’t they made up of atoms and molecules that have seen the deepest reaches of our universe before our Earth was even formed? Haven’t they once been part of other bodies, vessels within which other souls once resided? Won’t they continue to do so, long after they have given up our souls to the wind?
And aren’t we all, ultimately, made by those same loving hands that gave rise to our entire universe?
Each time my hands touch a piece of clay, I will remember those hands that made me, and I will remember to take care of the soul that I am, and the body I reside in.