Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chance or the Dance? Excerpts from Ch. 7 (Sex) Part 2

"Oddly, the rite of life, this most common and most mysterious thing, describable both by plumbing and mystic terms, appearing as both ridiculous and noble, slimy and sublime--this was not only the rite of life, but of knowledge. That is, the act which generated life was at the same time the act which signaled the high point of knowledge between two beings. It suggested that the nature of that knowledge between the one mode and the other was fruitful. The old term was 'know'. Adam knew his wife. "

"Then, finally, it finds its perfect form in the enactment by the two unveiled images, the images of male and female, of the energy that strains toward total union. That is, the thing that I want passionately to know, while I am aware that it appears only under this fleshly image and is itself more than that image, I can only know via the greatest possible experience of that image.

Here the distinction between spirit and matter disappears, as it does in the Sacraments. For here I experience the oddity that flesh is the mode under which I apprehend the truth of the thing. It is the epiphany of the thing. There is, in the sexual rite, a sense of struggle. It is the mad straining of the two images to get through to the very center of the thing (and this is not merely a pun; according to the view being put here, the anatomical placing of things would be itself a perfect image of what is at work in the situation, so that the fact that the final rite occurs at the 'center' of the bodies is to be expected.) There is, ironically, in this most soaring of all satisfactions a radical sense of incompleteness. The ecstasy accompanies the exploration, an exploration that never quite finds that ultimate elysium where the union is unimaginable to us, but toward which union we strain again and again, and which very attempt we find to be ecstatic."

"...the human body is available for any number of activities (sports, medical inspection, work), but when it is taken into the service of the sexual rite, a univrse of significance comes upon it, like God into the Mass, and immediately the participants are less than the thing in which they are participating, and it is theres to oserve the rubric with awe. The equipment is no longer merely object; it is image. Taken into the rite, it is transformed. As in poetry, courtesy, ceremony, or any of the ritual ways in which we shape our experience, so here the imposing of a form upon mere function paradoxically elicits the true significance of that function from the raw material. ... A doctor may probe it strictly as a complex of organs and tissue; a gymnastics coach may maniuplate it as a pattern of muscles. But the sexual exploration of this mass of tissue and muscle puts the bread and wine on the altar: the real presence of the person must now be reckoned with."