Writing I Loved

A few links to writing that I’ve read and enjoyed in recent days. No commentary, just love:

1. Calah Alexander, “It’s not the standards, it’s that we believe them”:

“I’m the one who wishes my husband could be with me, but that I could have someone else’s body, and someone else’s face, and let’s be honest, someone else’s personality, too. I’m the one who is so sure that he must be repulsed by me, and so sure that he must be thinking of someone else, that in the end I’m the one wishing myself right out of his arms.”

2. Building on Alexander’s post, Betty Duffy asks, “What Are Women For?”:

When I decide to be thin, I become a very boring person, a stressed out person, someone who only thinks about food and mentally scourges herself for mistakes made when eating.

You don’t usually get to have it both ways–you don’t get to be a skinny woman, and at the same times, a woman who’s happy to sit at a bar and drink pints with her husband. You don’t get to be someone who is fully invested in being thin, and at the same time finds herself interesting enough in her own right to forget occasionally her body and its tendency to grow fat when it’s having fun.

And:

The body is not just for one thing. It’s to teach, to exercise, and yes, to have fun with your kids. The body is for experiencing a wide range of experiences. It’s for climbing dunes and playing frisbee, and lying in the sun with the sand sticking to your shins. The body is for working, bearing children, nursing and feeling pain. It’s for eating, drinking, laughing with your husband, and eventually, finding your way to bed. It’s also for suffering, growing wrinkled, and eventually, for dying.

The body is for communion. It’s the vessel in which our souls are sanctified. It is not just for the pleasure of others.

3. At Mockingbird, David Zahl highlights Mary Gaitskill’s essay “Revelation” (ht Andrew Sullivan). Gaitskill writes:

When I look at Revelation now, it still seems frightening and impenetrable, and it still suggests a fearful, inexorable order that is unknowable by us, in which our earthly concerns matter very little. However, it no longer reads to me like a chronicle of arbitrarily inflicted cruelty. It reads like a terrible abstract of how we violate ourselves and others and thus bring down endless suffering on earth. When I read “And they blasphemed God of heaven because of their pain and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds,” I think of myself and dozens of other people I’ve known or know who blaspheme life itself by failing to have the courage to be honest and kind. And how we then rage around and lash out because we hurt. When I read “fornication,” I no longer read it as a description of sex outside marriage: I read it as sex done in a state of psychic disintegration, with no awareness of one’s self or one’s partner, let along any sense of honor or even real playfulness. I still don’t know what to make of the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, among other things, but I’m now inclined to read it as a writer’s primitive attempt to give form to his moral urgency, to create a structure that could contain and give ballast to the most desperate human confusion.

[Gaitskill’s whole essay can be found in The Anchor Essay Annual: The Best of 1997.]

4. Finally, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes “Against Platitudes”:

At any given point in time, the texts of the Magisterium will provide a very big arsenal for someone who wants to go through life saying and believing nothing but platitudes. But this is not the life Christ calls on us to lead.

 

I think this is important because I think the Church has a big problem. I think the Sexual Revolution and its various consequences have created a confusion in the minds of many people who believe themselves to be “traditional” Christians, which is to associate the sexual morality of the pre-Sexual Revolution era with the sexual morality of the Gospel; consequently to see anything that has happened between, say, 1968, as consisting only of decline and apostasy, and to look at the pre-1968 world through rose-colored glasses; consequently to believe that the mission of the Church is to return the world to this Golden Age.

 

It shouldn’t need saying that this point of view is, from the standpoint of Catholic Tradition, erroneous and even idolatrous. First of all because, for the reasons I have explained, there is no Golden Age. Second of all because the sexual morality of any given society or era is going to come drastically short of the Gospel. If you doubt me, read the Magisterium of John Paul II, who clearly embraced the good of what came post-1968.

 

This is an absolutely key thing, because fidelity to “prelapsarian” sexual morality is not fidelity to the Gospel. It is fidelity to an idol. It is the lack of this distinction which hobbles so much of the Church’s commentary on current events, and which leads the Church to lack credibility in the public square. And for people who hold these views, sexual morality is, indeed, summed up by a bunch of platitudes.

And:

Common sense, like platitudes, can be good, it can be bad. But it is never the Gospel.

 

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