I first saw an umbilical cord in 1965 when the doctor called me into the delivery room moments after my second daughter was born. She was a bundle of angry red flesh, kicking and waaahing in protest of bright lights and cold air her mother’s womb had protected her from. As the doctor severed the cord and tied his knot, I wondered if my daughter would have a pretty little belly button. Five years later I witnessed birth’s miracle myself as I saw my third daughter transformed from a dull blue lump of lifeless clay into this marvelous pink, kicking and screaming baby girl. This time when I saw the cord cut, I also saw the glistening tangle of afterbirth unceremoniously tossed into a plastic bag marked “Biological Waste.” Cut from the newborn, removed from the womb and tossed aside to wither and decay, I wondered if this remnant of the umbilical cord was merely leftovers from the birthing process. Was this special life support device no longer a part of life? This particular matter was a physical tie to the biological mother, but as all matter is also spiritual, it must be a spiritual tie too.
From our first moment of mortality we begin the process of death. The very root of the word mortality means death. The cord is what connected my child to her mother. Her navel is a permanent scar and constant reminder of her physical connection to her mother. This is part of the meaning of life or the constancy of the process of living, generation after generation. It is similar to seeing a giant Redwood tree, and knowing that it has been standing there since before Christ was born. There is a sense of permanency to the tree’s existence. The navel is a clue to our connectivity. The navel and the spiritual essence of the severed cord become physical and spiritual links to the rest of humanity.
To resolve the issues about life and death pertaining to severed umbilical cords and navels, as they relate to spirit, I had to go to a dark place where I wasn’t very comfortable. I had to think about the people that I had seen die or dying during my life. Watching someone die is not a pleasant thing. I thought of people living and dead, and how different they look. What was it that made them look different?
I was with my father-in-law when he died. I remember, as I stood looking into the casket viewing his body, hearing one of his friends say, “He looks so natural, just as if he might wake up any moment and ask for supper.” I didn’t see that. I was at his side as he breathed his last. He looked up into my eyes, pleading silently with me to look after his widow, the next moment gone. When I saw his dead body there in the casket, I knew he would not be getting up for supper. I watched him pass from this life to the next. I saw the change brought on by his death. His spirit left him, almost as if the light was turned off.
Scientists have conducted before and after weighing of individuals at the moment of death. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with trying to determine if the animating essence that gives life to a body weighs anything. The results are inconclusive but scientists do agree that something is missing. Scientists can detect this missing element; they call it electrochemical impulses. The physical transmitting system for this life-giving force or energy is diagramed in detail in physiology books. The presence of this force is only detectable with scientific instruments. No one knows what this energy looks like; it is invisible like electricity. The instruments can only tell if the spirit is present, or not.
As I thought of the spiritual and physical properties of matter, I began to think that when the umbilical cord, like any other appendage, is severed from the body, the spiritual essence of it must still be there. If you don’t believe the spiritual appendage is still there, try telling an amputee he can no longer feel his missing body part. Scientists and doctors will explain this away as neurological phenomena. We may not be able to see or touch it, but that missing part is still spiritually present.
I discovered this when I had a heated altercation with my father-in-law a few years before he died. He was a hardheaded, hard-fisted heavy-equipment operator, and even though a steel cable on a crane gobbled up four fingers, part of his palm and over half of the thumb on his right hand, serious disagreements with him could only be settled with a fistfight. When things began getting ugly I tried to leave. He came at me with his fists flying. As I blocked his blows, I felt the stub of his right thumb break when it connected with my forearm. He backed away gripping his injured hand. If it had been the physical fist he still thought he had, I’m sure it would have left a serious bruise on my arm, but I was not hurt. I knew he wasn’t hurt too badly either, and we would still be friends after he cooled down. The way he engaged in the fistfight that night, I knew he could feel his spiritual fist’s presence.
When in a primitive state of mind, if humans can go forth to do battle with severed fists or other appendages that are still felt spiritually, then why can’t the life support system that made a vital connection to the mother before birth, still be there spiritually? It makes perfect sense to me. All humans feel some sort of connectivity to parents even after parents have departed. During times of stress we are drawn to our mothers. The need for our mother’s love and nurturing is deeply felt, even if we do not know who our biological mother is. Adopted children almost always feel the need to find their birth mother, and they wonder who their biological father is. These deep feelings or the need for our parents support or approval during times of stress, or loneliness, are felt more strongly because of the missing ties that forever connect us spiritually. This is the epiphany that led me to know that our spiritual umbilical cord is still present. We just don’t feel its presence, because we never felt it after we left the womb. The only evidence we have of its existence is the navel scar.
The navel is a spiritual bond between a mother and child. This tie is so strong it can never really be broken. We can make a break physically and emotionally, but we never can break the spiritual tie. This is one of the ties that bind us together into one great spiritual family called humanity.
As a curious little child discovering the world around me I hardly noticed my navel. As I became fascinated with various body parts and their functions, I seldom considered the tiny depression in the center of my tummy with no apparent function at all. Sometimes grownups would tickle me there, and I learned to call it my belly button. As time passed I scarcely gave it another thought.
However, some people, as they pass through various stages of maturity, develop a fixation with navels. In some circles of fashion ornaments may adorn the navel. Some cultures teach their women to belly dance. Some women think it is attractive to bare their navel to the world. Some men consider this very alluring. These fixations are because the navel along with the severed umbilical cord is the tie that binds. The navel is visual evidence of our connection to the womb, and our spiritual connectivity to all humanity.
As I look at my navel and think of the birth process, I revisit the births of my children, newborn and emerging into the world. I see the umbilical cord connecting them to their mother. In the first few seconds of life outside the womb the cord is cut. No one, I know of, remembers feeling the physical presence of the umbilical cord or any pain from this cutting, but for the rest of our lives the spiritual connection of the severed umbilical cord is part of our psyche. The inherent fixations on navels that are part of human nature convince me of this.
Then I look beyond birth. My mother is connected by the spiritual remnant of her umbilical cord to her mother, as my father is to his mother. Similarly my mother’s mother is connected to her mother and on back to the first human mother. But my tie to my mother through the spiritual umbilical cord is not the only tie that binds. My mother and father were bound in the spiritual ties of love, and marriage, and physically bound through sexual union. Sex was not a permanent connection, but this tie remained as an unbreakable spiritual tie when they had me. This is just as valid a spiritual connection as the umbilical cord that binds me to my mother. Thus a child has a spiritual tie that connects it to its mother, and also a spiritual tie to the father, by way of the mother.
I imagine all these spiritual ties holding us, connecting us to our parents and the rest of humanity despite time, distance, and the other geographical, political, intellectual, and ethnic boundaries that separate humans. But just as important, we are all made of the same elements, and in the same general configuration. This spiritual and physical connectivity or uniformity gives all of us a common bond with the rest of the human family. No matter where or when we were born, or to what culture, race, or what subjective information we were taught we all share these same general spiritual attributes. Because of human genetics, we may look different. We may have different pigmentation, hair and eye color, and different physical attributes, and because of environment, experience, and education we may think or believe differently, but we cannot deny we all belong to the same human family and came from the same source of material, spirit, and the intelligence, which caused our existence. We may not agree about what to attribute the cause to, but it is difficult to deny our common connectivity to it. We all come from the same source.
Consider your navel. Everybody has one.