Why do we desire touch so much yet put rigid limitations around it? We categorize it into a hierarchy of interactions ranging from a handshake that is open to almost anyone, to more intimate connections like a hug that is limited to close friends (but maybe not even all), to that most intimate of all connections the whole naked body which we tend to restrict to only a mate or lover. Further complicating the situation, as a species we’ve tended to create a number of philosophies and theologies to justify our behaviours at limiting that which nature desires. Marriage, for example, is seen by some to be the only arena in which sensual body contact can be allowed. Some ideologies would make even further restrictions by allowing such intercourse solely for the purpose of procreation. What a fine fix we’ve gotten ourselves into!
I often find myself wondering about this convoluted state of affairs. It’s a conundrum. Our bodies, or nature if you will, push us in one direction yet the myths we live by push back resisting what nature intends. And, not only resisting but condemning those of us who either defy or simply ignore convention. I have always wondered why it is that so many people follow the dictates of religion when their bodies tell them otherwise. Am I missing something? How is it that the stories we live by are often so far from what our DNA is directing us to do? Can DNA be all that wrong?
That is a big question, and one I can answer only for myself. When I was just entering my teenage years, one of my most vivid memories was of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Much of the story I do not remember, but there was one image that seared itself into my then young mind and remains as vibrant today as it did then. It was at the end of the protagonist’s, Stephen Daedalus’s, journey in which he watches a naked woman walking into the sea. It was at precisely that moment that he knew he had to make a choice in his life, a choice between the hell-fire condemnations of the flesh that he had suffered through from the Church and way of the sensual pleasures of the earth. But what he knew in that very moment was that his choice was made for mother earth over mother church.
The path and choice of Daedalus paralleled mine at the time I read the book. I was awakening to my sensual-sexual self in the midst of a strict Catholic milieu. Like Daedalus, I too chose mother earth differing only that my inspiration was in the form of the male body. Every pore of my body yearned for contact with other men, and I found it! With raging hormones in my tender early teenage years, it was not possible for me to think of these experiences as spiritual – nor was it even necessary. I was a horny kid who enjoyed having sex with the other boys my age – thank you Boy Scouts of America for blessing me with a troop that had other boys my age thinking along the same lines. If it hadn’t been for sex, I would never have become a member of the Order of the Arrow or just one merit badge shy of Eagle Scout. All those outings in the woods gave us boys the opportunity to give nature her due and to let us be boys enjoying boys. And all this in a Catholic Boy Scout Troop! If there had been a merit badge for sex, I am sure I would have earned one – maybe even two!!
While these nature romps were bliss, the cruel reality of the church was always there to try to instill in us the notion that we were sinners and that our acts were evil. Fortunately, I had the strength of will to say bollocks to all that! I was a strong willed kid and left the church in my early teenage years – outwardly, I continued to attend services as there was no other choice in my family, but inwardly I had erected a wall to protect myself from its damaging influence.
Now that I am many years older and wiser, when I think back to those times I smile with pride at having followed the wisdom of mother earth. Touch could very well be the most powerful experience we have. Through Sacred Intimacy, we can enter again into a realm where wonderment and joy refresh and renew our whole beings – our bodies and souls, if you will. It may not quite be a font of youth, but definitely one of renewal and revitalization.