Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Scarlet Seven (Skin and Lies and Bones)

As a lover of erotic love (in fact a Christian because of erotic love) I nonetheless often find our culture's simultaneous naive worship and cynical usage of sex highly disturbing. Below is a lyric of sorts which (like so many of mine) may be mock-worthy. It was inspired by some thoughts about human eros trying to live in the midst of such a thanatos-loving culture. And since I don't have Resurrection Band to fob this sort of stuff on any more, I'm hoping to further diminish my vast audience by inflicting it on you.


My Scarlet Seven (Skin and Lies and Bones)
(c) Jon Trott

Struck desire in my deepest places
Mined my gold and took my pearl
We twins of erotic beauty
Wove so tight who’s boy, who’s girl?
Empty locket where you used to be
Hole in pocket, lost my scarlet seven
I yearn for you, or it, or me when we
Pretended we’d discovered heaven

And our jealous friends all sang
Bow the knee to love’s royalty
She is him and he is she…
And our hopeful hearts soft sang…
Eternity lies so close, so close;
but love was changing, hope was dying
We’re skin and lies and bones
We’re skin and lies and bones

With my seed fresh-spilled inside you
And our dreams so warm and new
I couldn’t stop with touching
Because of gladness bleeding through
But our poor bodies could not carry
The burdens of our sickened minds
It is not true that I blame you
Love dies in a world without crimes

And our friends all mocking sang
Bow the knee to love’s royalty
She is him and he is she…
And our broken hearts sad sang
Little death won’t keep Death down
You fled and quietly I drown
We’re skin and lies and bones
We’re skin and lies and bones

We promised we would not become
Our broken mothers, cruel fathers
We said we would not beat that drum
And then like all the others
We fell and fell and fell, still falling
Our arms outstretched but neither calling
Where is love, or hope, or faith tonight?
Here in the dark with one insight…

We’re skin and lies and bones.


Anonymous said...

Can you clarify what you mean by "in fact a Christian because of erotic love" ?

Jon Trott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon Trott said...

Anonymous has asked:

Can you clarify what you mean by "in fact a Christian because of erotic love" ?

First, a very long introduction to a shorter answer...

The Introduction

Erotic love is a complex mix of hunger (sexual), hunger (relational), and various other needs, including being one answer to existential loneliness and lack of meaning. Remember, this is only me, who speaks non-authoritatively (or at least with a sense of the silliness of claiming to "know thyself" -- sorry Socrates) even when speaking of myself.

Erotic love is also, like everything human, laced with human failure and selfishnes. Yet, simultaneously, erotic love is the greatest experience of union, ecstasy, and the doorway to caring about another as deeply as one's self (and potentially moreso).

Erotic love is not merely sex. One can have sex of sorts with an inflatable doll (bleah!) or victimize someone by forcefully (either violently or via manipulation) taking it. That is not erotic love, nor even animal sex, since (as someone noted) the animals do not rape.

Erotic love is, by definition, the meaning we humans find in what to a reductionist researcher appears only as the biological act of coitus. Erotic love is not as much about what goes on between penis and vagina (or tongue, fingers, and so on), but rather what goes on in the minds of the two participants in that act and relationship.

The Answer to "what I mean by saying I'm a Christian because of erotic love"

I was (and fairly often still am) haunted by what I see as the lone credible alternative to Christian faith. That alternative is that, as novelist Walker Percy once wrote, "In America, everything is true. Which is the same as saying that nothing is true." Or perhaps he said it more like this: "Americans believe everything, which is the same as believing nothing."

I believed as a younger man that nothing was true, that all religions and also all atheistic / agnostic attempts at morality were useless. If we were in the midst of an impersonal, unfriendly, and accidental universe, then both Billy Graham and Richard Dawkins were simply white noise generators.

Yet, erotic love -- the desire for it in my case, rather than the reality of it -- led me to realize what the above meant. No such thing as erotic love could, as my feeble brain and heart perceived reality, exist. Everything changes, I thought. Nothing is certain, nothing is reliable, nothing can be said to have a real (as in existent outside my incredibly short and transitory life) meaning.

The post-moderns today would say that Erotic love was a human construction, and that hits at part of it. For me, erotic love was worse if my nihilistic hunch was correct; Eros was mere delusion.

Yet I looked at my father and mother, whose love burned bright and always had through my childhood, and their love was concrete evidence that something lacked in my worldview. My own hunger -- an insatiable one not at all eased by masturbatory expression or occasional disappointing forays into porn -- cried out for love, not merely sex. I wanted not only to be held by another and loved (and allowed to love in return)... I wanted to kiss in a world with meaning, rather than a world without it.

All religions worth the name hint broadly at a world in which something is very wrong, yet also in which beauty, delight, passion, and celebration hold aspects of a divine meaning outside mere human constructions / delusions. Christianity then and now seems to me to bear the most profound answers to the terrible anxieties of meaninglessness, hopelessness, faithlessness, and therefore lovelessness I experienced.

And just so it doesn't remain still a bit abstract...

When I surrendered to God it was in a state of complete despair. My literal expressed feeling was this: "God, I'm so tired of the struggle to understand, to believe. Whether you exist or not, I do not know. And I cannot find out. If you are there, I will give you everything. But if you do not answer me, I just don't have the strength to continue in this. I will live the life, perhaps, of a gentle hedonist, until that too wears thin. And then I will cease living."

Sounds a bit melodramatic, doesn't it? It was. But it was also heartfelt.

On Huffman's farmhouse floor, the Spirit did in fact fall upon me, fact because if I know anything at all worth knowing, it came to me at the moment Agape penetrated me to the core of my being with absolute joy and certitude that I was God's beloved.

Eros was Agape's handmaiden (or handservant, if one wishes), and though I at times have not remembered which goes first, when I do remember Eros has continued to bless, instruct, and lead me toward Agape. Agape in turn has made every moment with my dearling, whether in bed or merely watching her tend her flower-box outside our Chicago alley-way window, a literal embodiment of God's own Presence.

So not only did Eros play a large role in leading me to Christ's love, Eros continues to play a huge role for me in remaining in belief. Thomas may have needed the wound in Christ's side, but all I need is my dear one next to me. I need not touch her, though prefer to touch. If I can or cannot, I can see her. And Eros and Agape tell me what the meaning of this strange, transitory, often sorrowful life is. It is to love another, even more than one loves oneself. It is to be faithful and true to another (and Another). It is to be pure in all relationships so that in one relationship love burns up like a fire, or lies quiet as two lovers after their crisis has passed.

Christ is the significance. And because He is all in all, everything else -- every breath, every kiss, every embrace -- has meaning. The Universe according to Eros is not empty, but is instead unbearably full of light and sensuality and excessive beauty of all and every kind.

So, to say that I am in fact a Christian because of Erotic Love is only to give proper praise to Erotic Love as a lesser love. In being lesser, however, it is more than it ever could be in our paltry human imaginations. We can imagine all sorts of positions and techniques -- nothing wrong with that. But what is harder to imagine is loving one's beloved not only with the powerful, even possessive, strength of Eros, but also with the Agape Love reminding us that we are -- before anything else -- to love one another "as we love ourselves."

Erotic love unbound from Agape becomes either a dictator or (more likely in our culture these days) a shallow mimicry of itself. We mistake mere sexual attraction for erotic love, failing to understand that Eros' flames fluctuate, that it cannot be depended on when changing our child's diapers, having a nasty argument over money or who will do household chores, or (heaven forbid) differing sexual appetites. These matters need "neighbor-love," need Agape.

So. In the end, Eros drove me to find meaning for its existence, a meaning others may not find convincing. Eros also drove and continues driving me toward Christ as I see my complete inability on my own to love my wife as I love myself. As passion overflows its banks, I often think of Christ and His Hedonistic creation. Every nerve ending is there for a reason, every molecule of skin upon skin merging.

He, not it, is the meaning. This I believe, while also believing that it has meaning because He is.


Jon Trott said...

One minor historical blunder on my part: Obviously, Richard Dawkins was not preaching atheism when I was a kid. I used his name merely as a referent more folks nowadays would resonate with.