Hating Our Bodies

On the surface, horror moves seem some so rebellious.

There is all the violence, rebelling against expectations that entertainment be docile and tame.  And the subject matter itself: explorations of evil, refusing to be swept under the rug.  And also lots of boring old people telling us not to watch.

I think I was almost disappointed when I first encountered critical looks at horror.  When I think about the slasher movies of my misspent youth, it is hard to deny the subtext of the formula: kids go away from the safe world of adults.  Some of them do drugs or have sex.  Inevitably, the young lady who does those things wanders off alone, and she is killed for her troubles.   Despite the gloss, it is the most boring kind of morality play.

As I watched the conclusion of last season’s Walking Dead, I came to a similiar conclusion about the zombie genre: despite all appearances, it is also a lot of old fashioned ethics masquerading as something counter-cultural.

More specifically, the whole idea of a zombie is nothing more than a potrayal of what we think of our flesh.  The antagonists of these films (and books and comics) are an object lesson in everything we fear about our bodies.  The monsters, by definition, have been stripped off mind and spirit and soul.  A body with out these things is nothing but appetite, a harbinger of doom.

There is a long history of villyfying the body.  It is easy to notice the pains we locate here.  It is understandable how we blame our physicality for our weakness.  But this is such a one-sided view.  Ectasy lives here in the body, too.  And so many of the negative things we project onto our bodies don’t belong here at all.

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Where The Ocean Meets the Shore

What words, you ocean

Have these waves been speaking

To this shore?

 

And this wind…

Does it spring from the land?

Is it a reply to the sometimes gentle

And other times thunderous?

 

These are lovers,

This give-and-take.

The tide following the moon.

The land giving himself up in little pieces at a time.

 

After these thousands of thousands

Of moments, hours, months, centuries

What does your love look like today?

 

The same.  

A changing thing.

 

Last Words

Removed, as they were from the garden…

They thought the names arbitrary things.

He laughs at them

Gently.

He shakes a little,

In his body.

In his voice.

 

“Each new thing.”

He says it again.

“Each New Thing.

It reached… within.”

 

He sees in their eyes that they do not understand.  

He stirs the coals in the fire.

His thoughts are a little disobedient, now.  Sometimes.

He tries to line them up again.  

The others all watch respectfully.  Patiently.

He hates that.  A little bit.

 

“That great naming.

It was an act of listening.

It was an act of listening for a name

Which had already been said.

In the Time Before.”

 

Recognition in those beautiful brown eyes?  

Perhaps it was recognition.

Seth was always the sharpest among them.

 

“We have so many words now.

So many that you might lose one for a moment.

That feeling…  When you have lost a word.  

When you are so close that you can taste a word,

But still not find it’s sound…”

 

“That is what it was like.

To look upon The Creations.

And name them.”

 

It is not only Seth who nods now.

The old man knows what he knows.

He knows that this is not sympathy, here.  Now.

He is thankful for that.

 

It inspires him to continue.

He wishes them to know so much.

His time.  After so long.  Is running short now.

He continues.

 

“There was something within me.”

“A name that wished to burst forth from my lips.”

“I tried it on so many things, in my mind.

But it was never time.  Never time.

Never time to say it out loud.”

 

“And so other names erupted out and around it.

I held that name in my heart unsaid.

Until she came.  Your mother came.

But then came our dying time.  Our casting out.

After our time of mourning was through.

I remembered that name within me.

I said it out loud.

And it was her name.”

 

He is lost for a moment.

They are lost for a moment.

Looking in the flames.

Ignoring the smoke.

He does not care about the tear that slides down his dry cheek.

When did he stop caring about things such as this?

 

“It was good to name her Eve.

I would have thought that was the end.

But it was not.

That garden is gone, now.

That time is is gone, now.

It will never return.”

 

A spit-crackle.

They watch him so closely.

This is the thing he hasn’t wanted to tell them for so long.

He does not know what any of this means.

 

“There is still a name.

A single last name within me.

But the time of the naming is done.

Somewhere.

There is a something,

With out a name.  

And there is me.  

With one word extra.”

 

A time.  A timeless time.

Later.

He died in his sleep with a single last gasp.

 

A tender hand.

Reached within him,

Even as he returned to the dust.

It took that unspoken word out of him.

 

And a time.  A timeless time.

Later.

That word?

That word was made flesh.

Hoping To Hear From You…

I am interested in hearing about your tranistions into and out of faith communities. When did you know it was time to leave? How did you know it was time to leave? What are some things that surprised you? What are the positives or the negatives? I am going to try and assemble observations about these stories into an upcoming blog post. If you have pithy comments that you would care to share with others, post them in the comments below. If you would rather a level of anonymity, or would like to run longer, email me at thecontemplace@gmail.com

A Bumbling, Stumbling Attempt at a Theology of Gender.

Lots of smart people have said lots of smart things about the ways in which our views of ourselves mirror our views on God.  I am thinking, today, about gender.

My own developing views about God’s gender are not that different from my view of gender in people.  I think I am not alone in this.  And also, I am still figuring it all out.  As I try to explain where I am at, and where I am headed, I am sure I am going to say things in a way that might be offensive or incorrect.  I hope that you, reader, can chalk this up to ignorance on my part, and not malice.  I would very much appreciate corrections, suggestions, and counterpoints in the comments below.

The most literalistic readings of scripture within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, are that God is male.  So is the first person he makes.  Femaleness comes next.  It is the single alternative to maleness, a revision on that basic theme.

This parallels the world view I grew up in about gender in general.  Maleness is better.  Femaleness is the alternative.  I am trying to stay away from using the words ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ because it seems like part of the whole idea was that our physical bodies always mirrored how we identified within.

And this was one of the first ironies I noticed in this whole affair, as I tried to work it out for myself.  The Christian world normally wanted to proclaim the existence of a soul, and the idea that there is more than just materialistic existence.  The non-Christian/secular world was generally more reductionistic-materialistic.  Yet suddenly, the Christians were saying, “No, the physical aspects of the body is all that there is.  If you have a penis you are fully and totally male.  If you have a vagina you are female.  All the way through.”  Meanwhile, the secular world was proclaiming that their is this non-material part of us, that might identify in a way that is not consistent with our biology.

This irony was only the first thing for me.  I think what happened next was the recognition that I and so many others had, as we began to recognize that literalistic understandings fall apart pretty quickly.  God, is of course, not physically male.  God is not embodied.

People can try and suggest that it is not about the physical.  They can try and suggest that there are differences in personality between men and women.  But here we return to the irony listed above.  Because now, the question to be answered becomes, “Well, what happens when that personality doesn’t match up with the biology of a person?”

Just as the first thoughts might seem pretty simple, “God is male.”  The first pages of the bible seem pretty straight forward to.  Because at first, as suggested above, God seems to make Adam first, in his image, and then Eve from Adam’s rib.  But a couple pages in, there is a director’s cut on the creation account.  And it seems that both Adam and Eve are made in God’s image.   God, it seems, has a feminine side.

Countless images in the bible build this case, comparing the creator to all manner of feminine images.  And this only stands to reason.  He is able to be everything good, all at once.   It seems like most people, most of the time, want to find themselves somewhere along the spectrum between 100% masculine and 100% feminine.  Some people move to different places over time.   But maybe this is the fundamental difference between God and humans.  God is everywhere on that spectrum at once.  Us little people, we, at any given time, are only occupying one little spot.

 

Ludwig and Jacob, at the Wreckage of the Tower of Babble

“My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)”

-Ludwig Wittgenstien

 

The hubris, of course, was aimed  upward,

And therefore was an easy thing to pull out of their tower and into His grasp.

Those great calloused sculptor-hands reshaped it into something new.

 

Ambition had been the organizing principle and the support structure of that project

Cracks spiderwebbed through the bricks.

Mortar, which held the promise of changing everything, dried

And released the blocks from its embrace.

 

There was a terrible, timeless time of silence.

A gentle swaying in a soft breeze, at first.

But the tower never returned to its baseline.

The noise came, then.  It was all noise, then.

 

Broken dreams and shattered bricks littered the ground.

They looked at each other with haunted eyes.

Unable to string together words of comfort,

They resorted to pantomime which was unequal to the task.

 

They left then,

In ones and twos and flocks.

They left then,

On foot and horse back and wagon.

 

It took a day and a second and a week.

The length of time it takes

To relive a life,

Flashing before the eyes.

 

Only two remained

In the wreckage of the tower of babylon.

Only two remained:

Ludwig, one was named.  Jacob, the other was named.

 

God looked down on them.

The hubris had grown warm in his hands.

The hubris had grown new in his hands.

 

Ludwig and Jacob built a ladder.

Each man built his own ladder.

Each man, worked together on the same ladder.

That ladder was a wave and a particle.

 

It stretched itself up, and up, and up to heaven itself.

But it had come with an invitation.

The angels began to run up and down.

Ludwig began to climb around them, and planned to kick it down when he reached the first cloud.