Thursday, 23 October 2008

I wonder why....

I have been very quiet for a while. Medusa at Gorgon Resurfacing has referred to it as a period of introspection. She is right. There has been a lot of work to do on myself - a period of detoxing from both physical poisons and unhelpful mental patterns. Quiet, sitting, meditation has been invaluable. It has not, hitherto, been a major part of my life. What it has done is to help me see that my thoughts seem to be random and not really part of me. They float into my mind and, unless I grab them and hold onto them, they float out again. And I have also begun to see how many of my thoughts are really rehearsals for speech and writing in which I can gratify and stroke my ego by trying to appear clever.

Which is not to say that I have not been thinking. Nor that I have left my ego behind. No, it is still very present as I type this - then go back and delete what I have already said. I still want to appear clever and am very pleased when people tell me that I am. I have been wondering, in fact, how much of my desire to write is just a grown-up way of saying, "Look at me, mummy!"

And, of course, much of it is. Furthermore, I have the definite suspicion that much male endeavour - whether it be in the arts, sport or business - is simply refined primate display behaviour - to gain access to sexual partners.

Perhaps. But I do not believe it matters and it certainly is not the whole story. Freud's major insight was that many of our drives are unconscious and that sexuality was an important part of this. He was wrong, however, in his dismissal of spirituality - although he is certainly not alone in this as many modern prosyletisers of scientism such as Richard Dawkins also claim that human behaviour is largely determined by the need to reproduce.

Such materialism, however, whether it be freudian theory or evolutionary biology, seems to me to miss a major point. Whatever the mechanism, life itself and the self -awareness to observe it is fundamentally inexplicable in scientific terms. We can measure, perhaps, the "how" but the "why" remains mystery. We can be told that "why?" is a meaningless question but it nevertheless remains and is ineradicable. We seem programmed to ask questions, "why?" being foremost among them, as most parents will testify - I know that I have at times, in sheer frustration, found myself repeating the authoritarian line I swore I would never use - "Because I said so!".

And I wonder why we as a culture seek to impose standards of sexual behaviour on others and condemn those who do not conform to a perceived ideal. Perhaps it is because sexuality and spirituality are not, as we have been taught, adversarial but are inextricably intertwined. Things that are taboo are things that are, or were, regarded as sacred. And nothing is more tabooed than sexual expression, particularly those forms of sexual expression that deviate from the norms sanctioned by those in positions of power who have all, by and large, inherited their sexual attitudes from the last five millennia of patriarchal thinking. This is unavoidable for we cannot think completely "outside the box" - all we can do is imagine.

And here I will quote Louis MacNeice, who in January 1939, as he saw Europe sliding towards inevitable tragedy, wrote

...of a possible land, not of sleepwalkers, not of angry puppets
But where both heart and brain can understand the movements of our fellows
Where life is a choice of instruments and none is debarred his natural music
Where the waters of life are free of the ice blockade of hunger
And thought is as free as the sun.

What is our natural music? How many people can in honesty say they are playing it? I know that most of the time i do not play it but try to dance to other people's tunes. And at the heart of this is shame - that deep within I am ashamed of my own desire. Of my own sexuality. And this means that I have to hide who I am and try to express myself within a set of parameters chosen by others - and at which I constantly fail. And, as spirituality and sexuality are both expressions of the will to be and become, then in denying one, I deny the other.

Which is not to advocate a free-for-all. Central to this is the question of consent for without full and informed consent by all parties it is impossible for each "to play their natural music".

In all the debates about contemporary sexual mores one thing is certain and that is that there are multitudes for whom free and joyful sex is a meaningless set of words. Our sexuality and thus our spirituality are deeply ill and this disease could be terminal. As an old hippie, I remember chanting, "Make love, not war!" I still hold by that ideal.


edmund said...

"And at the heart of this is shame - that deep within I am ashamed of my own desire. Of my own sexuality. And this means that I have to hide who I am and try to express myself within a set of parameters chosen by others - and at which I constantly fail."

Spot on, Brian !

Reg said...

Brian, I was moved to respond to the same sentence of your exxcellent post as the comment above. In my case, the repression of "Who I truly am" is such that I'm not sure who I truly am sexually. Heterosexual - certainly well to that end of the continuum. But how I would express myself if I weren't constrained by self-consciousness and worrying about what my partner needs, and all that other stuff, is far from clear to me. I will look to another to help me open the shutters on this, if I haven't irrevocably damaged my chances.

Thank you Brian


The Gorgon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sometimesfaithsometimesnot said...


Great post for all the reasons stated by the first two commenters and for acknowledging the usefulness of "detox" from physical poisons and unhelpful mental patterns. How many times do we get stuck in the same mental ruts without realizing what we are doing? I think also you provide a fascinating view of blogging as an "attention getter" and an appeal to be validated in some way. Isn't that why most of us share ourselves on the internet for public consumption? Isn't that why anyone puts themselves out there to be scrutinized? I like your comparison of sexuality and spirituality and how we cannot separate the two (trying to proves to be to our detriment most times). Excellent points.

And to Reg. Nothing is irrevocable. There is always a path to healing somewhere. :-)

Brian Charles said...

Thanks, everyone, for what you have said. I feel good that my words have been so well received.

Edmund- are you Edmund from Bristol? I tried to follow the link back but was denied access, so I am not sure. Anyway, if you are, it is good to hear from you and, if you are not, it is still good.

Reg - I echo what was said above - nothing is irrevocable ( apart from death). For me, it has been a series of small epiphanies and I am nowhere yet near the end of the unfolding. I think that it starts from a deep inner - albeit largely formless - knowledge that there is something inauthentic about life as it is being lived. There is then a choice between continuing to live within the inauthenticity or starting a journey into the hidden parts of oneself - with little idea of where one is going.

LM - Of course I want to be noticed - and it is really good to see that I have been. I do not think that I am alone in this and do not think that it matters. All that really matters is that I speak to what I see to be true and utter that "truth" as clearly and, I hope, undogmatically as possible