Sex: Is It Really Narcissary?
Everyone seems to agree that his Theology of the Body is his most important written work, although it is apparently too difficult for most lay people to understand (I've only just begun it), and its message may take decades to filter down into common understanding (if indeed it ever does). It is the perfect example -- America's founders being another -- of how the most conservative doctrine is the most revolutionary, and vice versa.
Indeed, the whole Judeo-Christian stream is an ongoing revolution, a declaration of independence from physics, chemistry, and necessity.
Of course, the doctrine will first have to seep into the priesthood before the laity, and this may pose its own barrier, because I don't see how someone could appreciate the doctrine in all its fullness if one isn't entirely secure both in one's celibacy and one's sexuality.
For variety of reasons, this is a tall order. It's one thing for a priest to discuss sexuality if it is considered a vaguely negative thing, or some kind of compromise with one's animal nature. It is quite another to regard it not only as an unambiguous good, but the most important human icon of the interior of ultimate reality.
Again, in order for a priest to appreciate the latter, he must simultaneously become more aware of the "sacrifice" entailed in his own celibacy, and this requires a level of psychological and spiritual maturity that seems almost unreasonable. Which I suppose is the point. No one could accomplish it if, first, they didn't have the vocation to do so, and second, without the enlistment of the Holy Spirit.
It reminds me of a more general principle of maturity, and one that can be determinative in the evolution of a culture. I refer to the envy barrier, a subject I have posted about on more than one occasion.
In short, in order for a modern free economy to succeed, individuals must tolerate their "natural" envy of the successful, of those people who acquire more. In psychospiritually primitive cultures -- in which I would include the left -- envy is not tolerated, but instead, indulged, which by no means results in the betterment of the envier in any material sense.
Rather, by appropriating from the envied, it diminishes the psychological pain of envying the successful or more affluent person. This is why, as I mentioned in Sunday's post, leftism is similar to Islamism, in the sense that both are "fantasy ideologies" unconsciously built for emotional comfort, not economic speed.
It doesn't matter that class warfare can only result in less wealth and affluence for everyone. That is not its purpose. Rather, the purpose is again peace of mind, i.e., freedom from persecutory envy. Hence the obsession with "equality," which is just a euphemism for the appeasement of envy.
And importantly, the same principle applies to wealthy leftists, those "limousine liberals" who cannot tolerate being the object of envy. By appeasing envy in the manner of, say, the worthless Ted Kennedy, they are "off the hook," cleansed of the guilt produced by their projection of envy into the anonymous masses, the "little people." They are then free to be as greedy and selfish as usual, in an unconflicted manner. (The same applies to all those big-time polluters such as Al Gore or Thomas Friedman, who champion the dangers of "global warming.")
A fellow at NRO describes well the counterproductivity of indulging in envy in order to legitimize rasing taxes on high-income earners:
"As a result of lower tax rates on the top income earners, not only do they pay a much larger share of all taxes, but they pay much more taxes total -- and revenue to the government has increased. This is because lowering taxes on the rich creates more rich people and richer rich people. The federal government gets much more revenue if you impose a 40 percent tax on a large number of very wealthy millionaires than if you impose a 70 percent tax on a small number of less wealthy millionaires."
Common sense, really, but fantasy ideologies do not truck in common sense. Note that the church has a long history of being as ambivalent about capitalism as it was toward sexuality. No doubt both activities can give rise to dangerous and destructive vices, greed on the one hand, ungoverned lust on the other. But the point is not to deal with the impulse behind these through repression and denial, but to transcend them through integration at a higher level.
I would be the last person to apologize for capitalism stripped of any spiritual context. One of the more bizarre myths of the left is that corporations are somehow "conservative," when this is manifestly untrue. Indeed, there are more wealthy donors to the Democratic than Republican parties, and more small donors to the GOP.
Rather, corporations are motivated by profits. And one of the best ways to increase profits is to be seen by the public as "liberal," i.e., pro-racial quotas, pro-redefinition of marriage, pro-environmental dogma, and all the rest. If they thought the latter hurt profits, then they would change their PR. Capitalism in itself is always "revolutionary," in that it never ceases its "creative destruction." This is where the conservative liberal parts ways with the libertarian, in that we firmly reject the Randian idealization of Capitalist Man -- just as we reject the capitalist idealization of the randy man.
Now, one of the things I grappled with in the spiritual journey compressed into the pages of the bʘʘk was this ambivalence toward sexuality, not just in Christianity, but really, in every spiritual tradition. The so-called "sexual revolution" was an attempt to remove sexuality from any traditional spiritual context, which only resulted in an even bigger disaster(s) -- disease, promiscuity, an epidemic of out-of-wedlock births, abortion as birth control, devaluation of marriage and the family, the undermining of both masculine and feminine ideals, etc.
Are male-female relations any happier than they were fifty years ago? Please. The sexual revolution was a typical leftist attempt to solve an existential problem -- one that is intrinsic to the human condition -- by either pretending that it isn't a problem, or by regressing to a lower stage of psychological maturity in which it becomes a non-issue.
After all, animals are not conflicted about sex. But all human beings are. All normal men, for example, struggle with their heterosexual identity. I believe Muddy Waters speaks for us all in singing that:
My eyes keep me in trouble
Wants every woman I see
My eyes keep me in trouble
Wants every woman I see
You pretty women kill me
Just come on and get poor me....
I want women on my left, women on my right
Women all day, women all night
I want to love pretty women
That is a natural fact
It is indeed a "natural fact." And no different from the celibate priest, it requires supernatural assistance to transcend this state of nature. Obviously celibacy is "unnatural," as is male monogamy. The purpose of the institution of marriage is, on the one hand, to protect women from male sexual nature, and on the other, to protect men from male sexual nature.
Most of the victims of the mass de-civilizing of male sexual nature have been women, children, and Maureen Dowd. But when these children grow to adulthood, they continue to either auto-victimize or to victimize others (for example, most most social pathologies are directly linked to fatherlessness, and the majority of violent criminals grow up in fatherless homes).
So the civilizing of our sexual nature isn't just a personal issue, but one that touches on the very survival of culture. This is something that all cultures prior to ours recognized, often in some pretty kooky ways. But the kookiness is just a measure of the urgency and universality of the problem. When your house is on fire, you don't spend time meditating on the nature of fire.
Again, in my immersion in the various spiritual traditions, I repeatedly discovered less-than-satisfactory -- indeed, what I would call immature -- doctrines of sexuality. More to the point, they all conflicted with my psychoanalytic understanding of the subject, which I was not prepared to abandon. Therefore, someone was wrong.
The psychoanalytic understanding of sexuality is embedded in a developmental model. Various models differ in their details, but all versions center on what is called the separation-individuation process, or the move from immature dependence to mature dependence and autonomy (notice the oxymoron i.e., dependence and autonomy).
Virtually all human capacities can be located along this developmental spectrum, from cognition, to morality, to sexuality, and to to self-control and self-image. In their gut, most people recognize that, say, pedophilia is "wrong," but why is it wrong? NAMBLA members obviously don't believe it is wrong; indeed, a bunch of homosexual activists managed to publish a paper a few year ago in a prestigious journal, arguing that sex with children isn't necessarily such a bad thing.
A quick google search reveals that there is a book that lays out the argument that "sex is not harmful to children," and that it is only the ignorance of the "religious right" that unjustly denies them the opportunity to have sex with adults. (She has apparently since qualified some of her weirder statements, but it is clear that her overall ideology is rotten to the core and not susceptible to redemption; in any event, this book was picked at random -- there are others.)
Although a five year-old is no less human than a 40 year-old, the modes of their humanness differ. Indeed, the five year old would not be an occasion for "natural" hope and joy if we didn't know that he embodied a developmental telos that will guide him to mature manhood.
Think of the mentally retarded person who has the developmental maturity of a child. They are still human, of course, but something is missing. What is missing is the attainment of a certain "end" of development, not fundamentally different than any other organ that fails to achieve its purpose.
Now, in my view, the attainment of human maturity is not culturally conditioned, but real. It is not something we invent, but something that is given. And clearly, it is not, and could never be, given by "nature." As John Hiatt sang, this crazy thing called love Don't come from you and me / It comes from up above. He continues:
Before the laws of God and the laws of man
I take you for my wife,
To love, honour, cherish and obey,
Now, I didn't have no plans to live
This kind of life, no
It just worked out that way
I too shall continue. Tomorrow.
Well worth your time. Whittle understands trollkind's predictable playbook, even if they don't. Indeed, one of our most persistent and dogmatic wieners is an unapologetic Frankfurter: