Friday, June 20, 2008

The body as a piece of Samsonite

This was quite good, I thought:

But there are more profound reasons why the pill is so disruptive of marital happiness. It has to do with the nature of sexuality itself. Sex, we tell our audience, is a mystery which can never be reduced to biology. It has a meaning far beyond the physical act of love. You recall the scene in The Graduate when Mr. Robinson confronts young Benjamin Braddock about his adultery with Mrs. Robinson. Benjamin defends himself by saying that it was no big deal: "Mrs. Robinson and I might just as well have been shaking hands." Mr. Robinson gets even more upset, and rightly so; because behind Benjamin’s statement is a gnostic separation of spirit and flesh, of heart and body, which even the dimmest of cuckolds can sense is utterly wrong.

The problem goes back to Descartes, or maybe even Plato. Our culture has been able to turn sex into a casual activity because it has separated personhood from the human body. Most people have the idea that their real self is somewhere inside—the proverbial ghost in the machine—and that what they do with their bodies doesn’t make much difference. But this has never been the view of the Church, which teaches that the body is not a mere appendage, but is as much a part of us as our soul. After all, in the Nicene Creed we don’t say that we believe in the immortality of the soul, but in the resurrection of the body. In a very significant way, we are what we do with our bodies.