Sunday, September 5, 2010

An Invitation to Live

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

I have a theory about sex.  

The experience of a sex drive, sexual arousal and attraction, is not entirely dissimilar to other experiences of passion: The passion for justice, for example, or the passion to make a difference in the world, the passion to know and be known, to feel significant or have a sense of belonging, even a passion for good food, service, purpose.  We can become passionate about many different needs or causes or callings, and the fact that we can experience passion in whatever form seems significant.  

Passion moves us.  

It inspires and motivates us to action, to live, to thrive, to master or assert or fight.  While passion is not enough for satisfaction and contentment or life-fulfillment by itself, a people without passion perish (if I may reinterpret an Old Testament verse).  In other words, to live without passion would mean to live in apathy, a place of not caring vehemently about anything really, not enough to do something, to change, learn, grow, try, persevere.  As people, we have to care, and we have to care enough to exert the effort of living, of making a living, of loving and struggling for survival.  This is the danger of anhedonia, losing our capacity to enjoy, to care, to experience love or pain to such a capacity as to develop true passion; without it, we give up.  We become distracted, empty, compulsive, hopeless, despondent, purposeless.  We die.  It may be a little at a time, but slowly and distinctly, we die simply because nothing is really worth living for.  And if we still do the things necessary to live, we live almost heartlessly, in a state of numb or constricted experience or, worse yet, a state of silent misery that we can only pray gets bad enough to make us desperate.

Back to the sex part: The point is, sexuality moves us.  It is designed to move us.  We are designed to experience passion and beauty and joy and longing and even sadness and grief and loss because we are designed for life, and that is what life and truly living is - feeling, caring, fighting, hurting, and continuing to do all these things even when we are faced with and ultimately must accept the very real and solid fact that we are not all-powerful, we are not the ultimate authority, we will die and must integrate our mortality into our experience of life, coming to grips with the idea of some sort of accountability.

The other point is that sex, like food, isn't the point.  Sex and sexuality are things that God has wrapped up in the human experience (collectively if not individually) for the purpose of making us desire and look for the point.  It's a reminder to seek, to reach, to ask, to want more in life, in relationship, in existence, and in relationship with God.  As hunger is the reminder to eat, sexuality is a reminder - one of many, but probably the most innately physical - to reach.  

Sexuality is a reminder to reach.

It is a reminder of both our aloneness in the world and our desperate need to be connected.  

In this way, sexuality is intrinsically intertwined with attachment, the need for human touch and caring, for fellowship, companionship and all the things that we associate with being a social being - all the things that we will die without, just like we will die without food.  

Disclaimer:  Some people feel that sex is a basic need like the need for food, water, and shelter.  Sex is not a basic need.  You will not die from a lack of sex.  You will die without touch (usually within the first couple months or weeks of life).  You will die without relationship, first emotionally, psychologically, and t hen, eventually, physically.  You will die without food or water.  You will not die from a lack of sex.  You will not go crazy.  You will be just fine, fully human, fully alive.

That said, what if, instead of viewing our sexuality as an indication of our right to gratification and release, we embraced our sexuality as the drive and longing for connection and relationship and for doing what is necessary to have healthy, meaningful intimacy?  It's what keeps us coming back for more when, frankly, people are hard to get along with and relationship is frustrating and often, ironically, lonely.

This is why masturbation, pornography, and casual sex is so dangerous to us physiologically, psychologically, and relationally.  It's confuses the point and in so doing becomes a drug, a release or a high for a moment, that isn't actually the thing that we need.  It's like watching tv when you're hungry; you might get distracted for a while, but you'll starve to death in the process.  It's also why splitting off our sexuality - or other forms checking or numbing out - is equally dangerous.  To tie into the post that started this series, the labyrinth we must navigate is a narrow middle road of remembering the point, the real story, our purpose.

Sexuality can be a reminder on that journey, an invitation to live.  That is my theory.  And when I am tempted by that invitation to withdraw for my own personal gratification, I turn my thoughts instead to life, to the things that create life, however hard they may be, things like initiating and investing in relationship, things like taking risks and trying new things even if it means making a mistake or feeling uncomfortable, things like dreaming and fighting for what can be, what I hope for, things like giving back, loving, and being honest and vulnerable.

What will you do with your invitation to live?

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