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I ran across an old issue of the” Smithsonian” in which they reported that just about every body part could either be replaced or would be available soon.

At my stage, and considering some pains in areas I’ve never had before, I thought it was an excellent idea. I could use a new left knee and a finger or two. My friends have had hip, knee and thumbs repaired. Why shouldn’t I just get new parts before they are completely worn out?

I can’t have a brain transplant but it’s possible to have the skull replaced, along with the face. I suppose that robots could be considered a brain transplant, but I don’t want mine transplanted there. I couldn’t even control my children; how could I program a robot? On the other hand, it might be less expensive to build a robot than it is to replace all one’s body parts.

Replacing human parts, however, worries me. We could replace every body part and still not be human. The “parts” that make us human are intangible. We cannot replace honesty, love, compassion, respect, kindness any more than we can create a mechanical device for brutality, crudeness, consideration, dishonesty.

In my imagination, I envision chasing down the deadly qualities and injecting their opposites, but they are hard to catch. I’m sure that the dark qualities can be replaced by light with ones with mechanical devices. Those qualities have always been there and only the individual can give priority to either the light or the dark selves. Centuries ago, they called them humours, and they had such names as yellow and black bile, phlem and blood, and were believed to determine our physical and mental qualities.

With the growth of scientific knowledge about the body and mind, we ridiculed such a view of the human condition, but lately I’m not sure that there wasn’t some truth to the idea that four fluids in our bodies are determining our behavior.

How else can we explain why some people look at other human beings as disgusting, alien worms? How do we explain why bullying overwhelms kindness, and selfishness drowns out generosity?

Can we really believe that we have tapped our better, mature selves when we call each other names? It has to be the humours or something else that we simply can’t control that runs amok in our bodies without our knowledge and without our will.

How many parts can be substituted before we are not humans, but robots? How many black humours can take over our “being” before we are indistinguishable from other forms of life?

There’s got to be a limit to what is replaceable, and I draw the line at the mind. Scientific or not, all the good stuff like generosity, kindness, honesty, faithfulness, comes from the mind. Sure, the brain sometimes malfunctions and allows the biles to take over, but we can’t let uncontrollable things like “humours” manage us.

If we can’t go around injecting people with desirable “parts” that enable them to live peacefully and in harmony, then what are we to do to calm the chaos in this world? Maybe it would help if we recognized that we are complex bundles of contradictions, and that the good and the bad do not exist outside ourselves, but within. Only then might it be possible to respect that all human beings have the same struggles we have to cultivate our better selves…

Science can create parts that replace things like kidneys, joints, hands, legs, but we’re the only ones who can recreate the esoteric “parts” called love, compassion, generosity, respect, thoughtfulness. These are not mechanical additions to our skeletal frames, they are miracle elements our maker freely gave us to use as we will.

We can choose between the black and the light “humours”: hate or love, cruelty or kindness, tolerance or bigotry. It’s an easier choice if we recognize that others have the same options, the same struggles and the same desires.

Religious celebrations, like Christmas, remind us that we were given not only bones and other parts, but irreplaceable “elements” that enhance or debase the mysterious spark called spirit.

Audrey Cotherman lives in Casper.


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