Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Chastity and Nature's Abhorrance of a Vacuum (No, Not What You Think)

 The great Robertson Davies defined chastity, more than once in his marvelous novels, as "having the body in the soul's keeping."

It is hard getting people who think celibacy is either a joke, a psychosis, or a crime to understand that chastity is not celibacy, and that we are all,  even the married and fecund, called to chastity.
And when we strike down genuine values, deformed one replace them.
For the true Christian, the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our lives, our values, and there is a hole in our lives, in our souls without it.
What do those without the -- what metaphor? the "anchor" of faith? the "rudder" of faith?
How do they endure? How can they endure?
What is their Source and Summit?

I think of all the sensible/ugly/compassionate/horrifying/smarmy/self-righteous/cruel/sad/overthetop/thoughtful commentary flooding the internet on the subject of  Santa Barbara killings, Ross Douthat's in the New York Times ... is the best, the one that speaks the most directly to life as we know it and what we have forgotten and must recover. You should read the whole thing.
In an ideal world, perhaps, the testimony left by the young man who killed six people in Santa Barbara would have perished with its author: ...
Spree killers seek the immortality of infamy, and their imitators are inspired by how easily they win it. ...
But this is not an ideal world, and so instead of media restraint we’ve had a splendid little culture war over the significance of the Santa Barbara killer’s distinctive stew of lust, misogyny and rage. Twitter movements have been created, think pieces written, and all kinds of cultural phenomena — from Judd Apatow movies to “pickup artists” and Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret” — have been invoked, analyzed and blamed.
And in fairness to the think pieces — I have to be fair, because I’m writing one — in this particular tragedy, the killer’s motives really do seem to have a larger cultural significance. ...
[The] killer’s pulsing antipathy toward women, his shame and fury over sexual inexperience — these were amplified horribly by mental illness, yes, but visit the angrier corners of the Internet, wander in comment threads and chat rooms, and you’ll recognize them as extreme versions of an all-too-commonplace misogyny.
I’ve written before, in the context of the abuse that female writers take online, about this poisoned stream’s potential origins. The Santa Barbara case hints at one such source — the tension between our culture’s official attitude toward sex on the one hand and our actual patterns of sexual and romantic life on the other.
The culture’s attitude is Hefnerism, basically, if less baldly chauvinistic than the original Playboy philosophy. Sexual fulfillment is treated as the source and summit of a life well lived, the thing without which nobody (from a carefree college student to a Cialis-taking senior) can be truly happy, enviable or free.
Meanwhile, social alternatives to sexual partnerships are disfavored or in decline: Virginity is for weirdos and losers, celibate life is either a form of unhealthy repression or a smoke screen for deviancy, the kind of intense friendships celebrated by past civilizations are associated with closeted homosexuality, and the steady shrinking of extended families has reduced many people’s access to the familial forms of platonic intimacy.
This tension between sexual expectations and social reality is a potential problem for both sexes....
Contemporary feminism is very good — better than my fellow conservatives often acknowledge — at critiquing these pathologies. But feminism, too, is often a prisoner of Hefnerism, in the sense that it tends to prescribe more and more “sex positivity,” insisting that the only problem with contemporary sexual culture is that it’s imperfectly egalitarian, insufficiently celebratory of female agency and desire....
The feminist prescription doesn’t supply what men ...need: not lectures on how they need to respect women as sexual beings, but reasons, despite their lack of sexual experience, to first respect themselves as men.
Such reasons, and the models of intimacy and community that vindicate them, might have done little to prevent the Santa Barbara killer’s deadly spree. But they might drain some of the swamps that are forming, slowly, because our society has lost sight of a basic human truth: A culture that too tightly binds sex and self-respect is likely, in the long run, to end up with less and less of both.

No comments: