My Unitarian Universalist bloggers group invited us to write about sex in observance of Valentine’s Day. Recently separated and still tumbling along through that black hole, it didn’t strike me personally as a capital idea. Too much potential for sounding desperate, dark and demented, the kind of thing I’d come across a few years hence and cry out, “My God, what could I have been thinking?”
But then I climbed on my bike.
That’s not a metaphor for some random carnal encounter—it really was my wholly inanimate bike I was climbing on, made of cold aluminum alloys and the like. But it was Friday mid-afternoon, and I had ditched work early as the temp hit close to 80 degrees on Valentine’s Eve, the sky a lovely cobalt blue, the leaves through the shady park paths still musty from last week’s rains. Ah, this world…
I don’t believe in God, but I believe in this bike, this body, this breath.
And I believe in sex.
Sex as worship, affirmation, communication, recreation, exploration, devotion, religion.
Sex as touching the very Face of God, whom I don’t believe in except pertaining to Her manifestation in sex, and my breath, and my bike and my lover and the pillow-soft clouds on this sensual late winter afternoon.
I believe in the sacramentality of things, the very objects of this world that God, whom I don’t believe in except pertaining to the countless gifts He has placed before us and inside us for our intrigue, feasting and delight.
One of those things being skin and its millions of sensational sensate receptors and oh my God the miracle that that is!
I believe that sex, among all the other things it is, is ultimately and triumphally about sanctity and worship, veneration, devotion and adoration. All those things we usually profess to an external God-as-Being, but which actually live within us as manifestations of a God whom I don’t believe in except pertaining to the wonder and bliss of union with a wonderful and blissful partner.
When I enter fully into the eyes and flesh and heart of an other, her otherness dissolves, as does mine. Union commences, the myth of the separate scared self shattered.
From scared to sacred, two letters switched, just like that. No man or woman is an island in the throes of sex.
One approaches the body of an other as a sacred object—or sacred “subject,” if you will, so we may avoid any notion of detachment and objectification. But it is sacred indeed—which is not to say eternal, in the sense that God is supposed to be eternal.
This world of death and decay (and miracle and wonder) is the world that the Gods have made, whom I don’t believe in, except pertaining to the pain of separation and suffering with which They teach me about the preciousness of this world and the persons whom I love within it, in all the ways that I do.
No, our sexual partners are not God, but they are godly, animated by a spirit singular unto themselves, breathed into by a God whom I believe in with all my body and heart and might and passion and love, and always will.
A live version of this surpassingly beautiful-tender ballad with Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor and The Chieftains tempted me here, but you can go find it on You Tube after enjoying this classic version by Van the Man himself.
For periodic and brief posts of inspiring words from the world’s great thinkers and artists, accompanied by the usual lovely photography as exemplified here, see my public Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/TraversingBlog
Deep appreciation as always to the photographers:
Rotating banner photos (except the books) at top of page and photo of dunes courtesy of Elizabeth Haslam, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/
Library books by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: email@example.com
Photo of rose at top of page by Serena, somewhere in Europe, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/people/zenera/
For more posts on sexuality from the UU blogger’s group, see #sexUUality
Aw, love and sex. It’s good to keep in mind that they are mutually exclusive. You can have great sex and no love, and you can have great love and no sex. In my years of working with criminal sex offenders I have discovered that sex can come from some of life’s most extreme opposites. It can be found in the tender first touch of two young lovers, and it can be sex prompted by a cacophony of some of the most disturbed sirens found in the deep and dark regions of the psyche. But I think Robert Johnson, Ph.D., said it succinctly in his book on the first romantic myth, written around 1200 AD, a time when romance was beginning to emerge in Western Culture. He states that,
“Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness, and ecstasy.”
To my mind, one of the great problems with sex in our culture, maybe the world, is the failure to see its connection to our soul. Soul must become either conscious or left to the alternative of disassociation. It’s the latter which pulls its victims into the darkest regions of the primitive psyche. To disassociate from the soul causes all kinds of pathology, especially mood disorders. For some people the discovery that sex can create even a moment of ecstasy that will bring relief to their suffering is enough to prompt them to dare to mix the elixir of pain, violence, and domination/submission.
There may be 50 shades of grey, but the only way to approach sex is with consciousness and the wholeness it brings. When I learn from the media that another sexual atrocity has occurred I’m reminded of how long ago we lost soul in the West. As a Christian minister I feel obligated to say that the loss of soul is in large part due to the development of evangelistic and fundamentalist beliefs whose roots can be found in the New Testament itself. The road to creating a society of sexually whole individuals needs our attention now. If we don’t find a way to correct some of the mistakes made and perpetuated by Christianity I see chaotic violence and sex in the future. And we must look to our own individuality for the answers. Obviously, the Church can’t even help itself.
Thanks for the depth of this response, Robert. Two questions: I’m wondering if you meant that love and sex are always mutually exclusive, or merely that they “can” be. I’d agree with the latter, but not the former. Second, I’m hoping you can say a bit more about your understanding of “soul,” and its splitting off from sex & the bodiliness it reflects. There are so many dimensions of that word, so many different understandings—way more than 50 shades of meaning!—that it would be good to hear more about your context and use of it here.
Regarding sex and love being mutually exclusive. Absolutely, there can be love and sex. But, in my view, it doesn’t just happen. In order to love or share love during sex there must be consciousness of both self and the beloved. Even among loving couples it is fairly common in this culture for sex to be a source of many kinds of satisfactions and distractions, but not love. Therefore, the inner awareness of self is a critical first step to engaging in any expression of love. If it sounds like I’m saying any sex without soul or love is wrong, I’m not. I have found that many couples are sexual out of feelings of obligation, neediness, lust, boredom, etc. etc… These states of mind are not necessarily bad or wrong, they’re human, and if no one is injured it simply becomes sex—not love. But a soulful consciousness of love during sex is not typical in this culture, and it can lead to some very inhumane behavior and abuse of others.
I think that for the most part our culture practices sex without love. Not that this sex is anti-love, but simply indifferent to it. This sex may not ever be violent or abusive, but does represent a great deal of confusion and unconsciousness about what sex really is and what love really is. They’re not the same until two conscious individuals enter into a sexual relationship for the purpose of sharing their love.
I realize that my response may still leave some questions. But to get into the subjects of soul and sex would take more time and space than would be appropriate here. Maybe, if you would like, I could say more later. If you have any more questions, please let me know.
Robert, true story: I became so absorbed during my morning ablutions in thinking about what you’d written here that I proceeded to put shaving cream on top of my head rather than on my face. Made for an interesting shampoo! I like to think it was because I was lost in thought, rather than my thoughts being hopelessly lost, but in any case, I’m inclined to perhaps carry this matter of self-and-other consciousness, sharing, vulnerability, soul & sex forward a little bit more in another post. We all tend to want to read about sex a lot more than we want to talk about it, but that is par for the course with the delicate subject it is in most human cultures. But that means someone needs to write about it, so for the moment, it may as well be you and me…Thanks again for your willingness to engage in this, and for the unique background you bring to the subject.
I made a mistake in the way I stated that love and sex are “mutually exclusive.” What I’ve said in the past is that “love and sex are coincidental.” The one doesn’t necessarily imply the other. My apologies. Sometimes at around 70 years old things begin to get transmuted in the brain and what comes out is not always what you intended. Anyhow, that’s my pathetic excuse.
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You just wrote tomorrow’s sermon for me. Beautiful writing, and just what I think about god(s) and sex too.
So glad to be of service, Amy! Anytime you’d like something else, just send me a note by, oh, Tuesday and I’ll have something whipped up by the morn! :-)
In truth, thank you for your gracious comment. It is always good to actually hear that someone gets something out of these words we labor over, these “raids on the inarticulate.” (How great do I think T.S. Eliot is? Very, very great…) I hope you post your sermon tomorrow online—it’s a bit of a long drive for me on Sunday morning!