"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oedipus and Seeking the Truth

In one of the classes I teach we are currently reading the trilogy of plays by Sophocles which feature the tragic character Oedipus. His story is fairly well-known. His parents abandoned him in infancy, hoping to avoid the prophecy which had predicted the boy would kill his father, King Laius, and marry his mother. Through a series of fated events, the prophecy comes true, but unbeknownst to all. It is not until the city of Thebes, which was ruled by Oedipus and his wife/mother Jocasta, comes under a serious curse does anyone begin to suspect anything. The prophet Tireseias tells Oedipus what he had done-but Oedipus thinks he is crazy. However, through a series of conversations, the Theban king becomes steadily convinced that he indeed may have killed his father, and in turn married his mother. While it is becoming clearer to Oedipus what he had done, it is also becoming equally clear to Jocasta. Their actiions in response to these revelations, revelations which may well show the king to be guilty of patricide and incest, are worth considering.

"O be persuaded by me, I entreat you; do not do this." Jocasta
"I will not be persuaded to let be the chance of finding out the whole thing clearly." Oedipus

In the moment of truth, the queen suggests a cover-up and the king, transparency.
When everything comes fully into light, Oedipus gouges out his eyes and exiles himself. A cruel punishment, yes. But Oedipus teaches us that the truth is always worth seeking. Yes, it can be painful. Think of the Roman Catholic Church. It would have been painful to bring to light the stories of abuse...but it would have been better if there had not originally been a cover-up. But while you're at it, think of yourself. Are you willing to seek the truth, despite the pain it will cause you? The Truth himself desires for us to seek him. But Jesus never says it won't hurt a little when we find him. There are things we will have to give up when we discover God and come into communion with him. But it is better to be in the Truth feeling pain, than experiencing comfort in lies.

Oedipus went into exile a blind man, but one who could see better than he had ever had because of the light of truth. As Christians, we ought to bring what is dark and sinful within ourselves to the Lord. It will hurt some...being burned with fire always does. But the fire of the Lord doesn't have to destroy...it can refine. Oedipus stands as an example that, despite the consequences, we are genuinely happier when Truth reigns in our hearts.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trivialized Sexuality

"How do they do it? The ones who make love without love?"-Sharon Olds

Who knows what it is that makes something stick with you. Yet we all have this capability to remember things that to anyone else might be just as easily forgettable. In my sophmore year of college I read a poem for literature appreciation that began with the line cited above.

I hadn't thought about it in years...until tonight. I was watching one of my favorite tv shows and became disgusted with two of the main characters. After sleeping together, the one said "I love you" and the woman refused to respond in kind. It was slightly clever; usually it is the uncommitted male who is put in this role with the inability to say "I love you." But how, if I may be blunt, can you have sex without love? How is it that sex has gone from the prized gift of God, to the 97 billion dollar/year porn industry?

I would like to suggest a couple of the big stepping stones:

1.) Overall rejection of Christ, the Bridegroom. It is not possible to understand the full importance of sexuality outside an understanding that Jesus Christ is married to his Church. The figure of marriage is used in Matthew's Gospel, St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, and the beautiful prophecy of Hosea, to describe how Jesus would redeem humanity. It would be through a marriage, quite literally made in heaven.

2.) Acceptance of contraception. Is there any bigger reason for the trvialization of sexuality? Not sure. What I am sure of is that contraception creates the possibility for sex without responsibility. That will only encourage sexuality divorced from its ultimate purpose-the creation of life.

2b.) If sex is all about what pleasure I can get, even to people in the Church, how can we ever say with any authority that homosexuality or beastiality is wrong? Is it not forbidden because it is sex separated from the purpose God intended? When Christians, en masse, began seeing contraception as acceptable, it lost its opportunity to witness effectively against the trivialized position of sex in our culture.

3.) Desensitization. You can blame your media of choice. The tv, the computer, billboards, whatever your pleasure. The point it, we don't have to look. But the blood of Lot's wife runs through our own veins. It is in our nature to look at the filth that surrounds us. And all too often, we reach the point where looking doesn't seem so bad anymore. This may be where the rubber meets the road for so many of us: can we turn it off of our tv? Catholic Christians, if they are living faithfully, do not fall under the condemnation of the first two "stepping stones", but I think we all suffer from some degree of desensitization.

We need to look away now. We need to ask God for a restoration of innocence. I'm sure there are other problems that have led to untold millions "making love without love." Anybody else have thoughts that might help us recover sex's true meaning?