Commusings: An Act of GodAug 07, 2021
Hello Commune Community,
This week’s missive is an exploration of two thoroughly uncontroversial topics: sex and religion.
Aside from delivering three consecutive X chromosomes, I will admit that my fluency with these subjects is derived more from arduous study than direct experience ;-). Nevertheless, I hope you get both a laugh and a head scratch on this sultry summer Sunday.
Reach out anytime at [email protected] and follow my rantings on IG @jeffkrasno.
In love, include me,
• • •
An Act of God
We absconded to the woods. Not just Schuyler, the girls and me, but the cousins, too. I brood over a brood of women. Sky and I have three daughters and her brother, Jason, has two. And, of course, there were friends in tow. Heaven forbid they spend any concentrated time with their parents. We planted our estrogen footprint at a spacious Hipcamp tucked into a redwood grove near Laytonville.
This wasn’t exactly a Thoreauvian retreat into nature for solipsistic woolgathering. Minding and feeding eight teenage girls is hardly a meditative pursuit. It was delightful, though. Sultry summer days, lounging languorously by the river bank, sprawling dinner spreads and cantankerous duels of Texas Hold’em. We won each other’s pennies as we gooed up the cards with marshmallow ooze.
All the dishes washed and embers snuffed, it was time to retire for the night, but I decided to swig a final nip of stargazing. I had barely located Cassiopeia when the clutch of girls returned from carousing the woods, undoubtedly with a pilfered bottle of cheap chardonnay furtively slipped into a backpack. They jammed into a large multi-peaked tent too close to where I was sitting. The vinyl walls undulated with cackles and giggles as they taunted each other playfully. And, quickly, I became unintentionally privy to a lively discussion on sex.
The girls were split into two distinct camps, like the Jets and the Sharks of sexual prowess. Granted, the age range spanned from 11 – 18, so a disparity in experience would be expected. Still, there was an “Ewww, gross” faction and what I might dub a more seasoned clique whose braggadocio was on full display. I lingered for more than a moment and then, as details became salacious, beat a hasty retreat to my van. Eavesdropping, despite lack of intent, is bad form and, honestly, I am not sure how much I truly wanted to know. And I am certain I want you to know even less.
As I drifted off, I smiled inwardly, reminiscing about the anxious fidgeting and fumbling associated with the removal of Jen Moran’s brassiere in 7th grade, my first rounding of 2nd base. The novel and forbidden is exciting in any era. But circumstances have changed since my youth, a period that was titillated by analog pornography purloined from under your father’s bed. At their beck and call, my children can instantaneously summon in the palm of their hand every sordid kink imaginable. I shudder at the thought.
Western society is a schizophrenic blend of Puritan and Libertine, prudish and prurient. Our sexual repression has in many ways led to our licentiousness. The extreme begets extremes. And while graphic sexuality pervades our culture like never before, so persists the tiresome dichotomous depiction of women as either virtuous gentleladies or impious harlots, as either Mary or Jezebel.
What is the ideological substrate that underwrites our sexual derangement?
The Abrahamic traditions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – purport that the universe was created by an omniscient, omnipresent and merciful God. As part of this cosmic handiwork, this Lord blew life into the nostril of a ceramic figurine animating a species known as Homo Sapiens.
Almost as soon as Adam and Eve began to bicker over fruits, this King of kings seemed to take keen interest in the behaviors his creations exemplified while naked. This preoccupation may seem odd given the myriad responsibilities of this simultaneously invisible yet bearded Holy Father. After all, there are 200 billion galaxies to attend to. However, despite the existence of 8 million earthly species, God seemed quite fixated on the carnal proclivities of one particular sect of primates. And He left us with a glorious book that resembles, in large part, a sexual regulatory manual.
“Living in sin” might suggest myriad iniquitous acts, but it doesn’t. Someone “living in sin” is not considered to be engaged in ethnic cleansing, slavery or plundering the earth’s resources. No, “living in sin” is understood as sexually aberrant behavior that may include homosexuality, sex before marriage (if you are a woman), adultery and even being the victim of non-consensual sex.
And from His perch in the cosmic panopticon, God monitors this deviant comportment. He hovers above us, maintaining 8 billion moral abaci registering our sundry sexual transgressions such that one day they will be consulted in determining the terminus of our respective afterlives.
In Catholicism, thankfully, you may be absolved of these moral lapses once you enter a booth and confess them to a man in a collar who, by decree, cannot have any direct experience with the sin he is expiating.
Not only are homosexuals, non-virgins and adulterers more than likely doomed to eternal blazes, but God appears quite clear in prescribing punitive measures for such offenses during our lifespans.
• • •
Jeff’s Bible Study
Hurray! Public Stonings!
(cue: trumpet sounds)
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13).
If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, “I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,” then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. And the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, “I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her. Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, ‘I found your daughter was not a virgin’” and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.” And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him; and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So, you shall put away the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:13–21)
If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto a husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbor’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:23–24)
• • •
Thankfully, the world – or most of it – has evolved since the scrawling of this parchment. My daughters are susceptible to getting stoned in quite a different manner. Still, the patriarchal hierarchy propped up by scripture persists and religion’s tolerance for sex exclusively for the purpose of pro-creation shrouds sensuality in a shadowy shamefulness. The taboos of sex reach far into the corners of every society and deep into the psychic recesses of each of us individually. The result is our inability to discuss sex honestly, show each other nuanced affection, understand pleasure, and know how to ask for it. One only needs look to the odious legacy of the Catholic clergy to witness how sexual repression can precipitate the abhorrent abuse of children.
We are left to agonize – even in the 21st century – over issues like contraception and family planning despite the depletion of global resources due to over-population. We debate medical innovation, like stem cell research, that has the potential to alleviate real suffering. We squabble over who can marry whom and what rights people should be granted based on sexual orientation.
But, more, we shroud sex in ignominy such that many of our daughters (and sons) end up skulking about the Internet to figure it out. Our societal repression has birthed a pornography industry that amasses 97 billion dollars in global annual revenue. Many of these sites leverage sophisticated behavioral algorithms like the ones used by Facebook or YouTube. In essence, pornography, which glorifies kink over sensuality, is shaping our children’s sexual aspirations and behaviors. Extreme, sensationalized content garners longer watch times and more watch time generates more ad revenue. Good old-fashioned love-making has lost its eroticism in the same way real journalism has been supplanted by YouTube “experts.”
Of course, science offers religion regular doses of embarrassment. Evolutionary biology cannot be debunked on its merits, but it is side-eyed by the laity because it undermines the Judeo-Christian creation story that puts God in charge of nature. And it sullies the mythology of the Virgin Mary, the immaculate exemplar of female morality, who birthed the son of God without even a snuggle from hapless Joseph.
The portrayal of sex as sinful and indecent is not exclusively a product of the Abrahamic books. There is a broader pan-spiritual dimension to unpack. The iniquitous reputation of sex emerges from the perceived duality between spirit and body. Aside from gorging on a Cracker Barrel brunch buffet, there is little that is more carnal, more of the body, than fornication.
We are told that our corporeal self is of dust and to dust it will return. It’s quite literally dirty. Any object that takes form is ephemeral and subject to decay. Hence, we lift ourselves up and out of our impermanence and into the eternal spiritual realm. We sublimate the libido to grasp the infinite and find enlightenment. This is why monks, from the Trappists to the Tibetans, adopt abstinence, to purge the body of heretic impurity. One must stretch far to the fringes of all the major religious traditions to find sub-sects that celebrate sex as anything other than a procreative imperative: Tantra in Hinduism, Paganism as an offshoot of ancient Christianity, and to some extent Unitarianism from the modern Protestant wing.
Yes, sexual pleasure is a transient sensation that arises and subsides. It may ensnare us into a state of craving. At times, we chase the evanescent sensations of carnality to assuage feelings of emptiness but discover that as soon as pleasure appears, it disappears.
Indeed, our corporeal lives are fleeting. But there is a supreme vitality in a life that is always falling apart. Impermanence is beauty. Youth would hold no attraction without age as up cannot exist without down. A triumph is empty in the absence of failures. Life lacks purpose without death.
An awakened human recognizes this impermanence and lives her life of good work and action, chopping wood, carrying water and, when the moment is just right, making love. We bushwhack a middle path between life and death, wins and losses, asceticism and hedonism.
Sex should not exist at the extremes. It should be neither the provenance of the Vatican nor the San Fernando Valley. It ought to be on the table for discussion. But not too much. Everything in moderation including moderation, for the mini-skirt leaves too little to the imagination and the ankle-length frock too much.
Of course, sex and love may be as unrelated as Stalin and Gandhi. Sex may be cheap, tawdry and abusive. However, in its highest vibration, sex is the sacrament of love.
In the tenderness and ebullience of it, we recover sacred presence. We lose our selves in the finding of connection. One becomes truly invested in the other. We remember the oneness of the womb, prior to the individuated ego. We liberate ourselves from the conceptual mind to become engulfed in the now. (Though, admittedly, I have occasionally tried to prolong the pleasure of the moment through contemplating my stock portfolio). Far from impious, the act of love may be among life’s most transcendent moments irrespective of sexual orientation, virginity or marital status.
If life’s “miracle” cannot spring forth in the absence of this most basic visceral connection, then why is sex not seen as the most exalted enactment of our mutual interdependence?
And, if there is a God, I believe He is more interested in us loving each other, than loving Him. For in loving each other, we are loving Him.
Here’s a truly immaculate conception of sex. Union in love is an act of God.
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