22 April 2010

Sex and Atoms

The terms in the title of this post have very little to do with one another, and the article to which I’d like to draw your attention doesn’t link them much more meaningfully than using one as an adjective for another.  Whether by that I mean “sexual atoms” or “atomic sex” must be discovered on your own.

A recent discovery of Front Porch Republic has proved to be a site thick with reflective offerings, the first of which situates the recent clerical scandals in the cultural context of our day.  The result is a chewy piece of writing that comes off like a speech in a Dostoyevsky novel.  The pacing is infectious; phrase builds upon phrase, the edifice rises, and crowds begin to gather.  Turgid fragments clamber over one another only to resolve, of a sudden, into peaceful vistas of clarity:
Of all the worldly empires that sought after power and wealth, surely none appears so pathetic as ours: we do not require great monuments or a grand historical narrative of man overcoming weakness and desire to establish something greater than himself.  We require only constant, super-saturating reminders that everybody is just a body that likes sex.
Anyone who has visited Italy would immediately recognize this shift, effected over centuries.  There, the monuments constructed half a millennium ago—many of which have ever been surpassed—seem transparent at times, like reflections in a lingerie-shop window.  They have not been defeated, but ignored as irrelevant.  More than once, the thought struck me: we are incapable of sustaining such projects. 

But as bad as things may seem, as overwhelming as the cultural forces arrayed against human flourishing may be, the author finds one, indefectible handhold: the goodness of creation.
Most of us live as isolated individuals whose daily life affirms the inconsequence of our actions, the meaninglessness of our role in any larger dramatic form, the blandness of our condition.  And yet, within that individuated loneliness, before which all social institutions, from the family to the city, to the nation and the Church wither as mere “subjective” and inessential extensions of the Cartesian bedrock of our selves—within that atomic certitude, I say, we sense some ineradicable spark of consequence and meaning.  While most of us root out and extinguish that spark as much as possible, it cannot be thoroughly dimmed so long as we retain a nervous system and therefore remain capable of the crude but inexplicable mystery, the ecstatic and superhuman but manipulable event, of sexual desire and satisfaction.
You may regard his optimism as naive.  Well, read the rest to see why he’s convinced sex can save the world.

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