Listening to our Passions (Pt 1)


I like watching patterns and then commenting on them. One pattern I noticed in sexual relationship is that they flare up and pass into embers. This passing into embers is of great concern to modern culture who seem to want to imagine that the great flare up is normal, is “real love” and that the passing away is, in fact, the death of love. “Forever young” is our credo in this regard and Viagra is our sacrament. Cougars and plastic surgery are our female counterpoint. But some writers suggest it is the hormonal flare-up that drives young love, that makes sexual reproduction fun, that creates a family that then needs the stability created by the embers… for no one wants to stand in the middle of the raging fire forever.

This is the way we have evolved. No one can go on acting like a love struck teenager, horny enough to have sex at the drop of a hat – and then again. This is our primate ancestors speaking, our mammalian heritage: breed early and often then hang around and watching ‘em grow up as you grow old and die.

The ironic proof is that this happens even when there are no kids present. Our bodies run through the paces on schedule and all passes away after about three years. But we don’t listen to our bodies. We make up excuses or we break up relationships. Women have “lesbian bed death” and gay men joke about it – saying this or that male couple have Lesbian Bed Death, too. But when I tried to explain this to a friend, one day, he got offended. Despite the fact that everyone experiences it, he said his hormones had not “tricked” him into having sex and now that the passion was gone it was time to find a new lover. That was in the mid-1980s when finding a new lover was a minefield of health issues. Denying the body’s messages can paint us into odd corners.

I don’t right know where this goes and i think it has more to do with human (male?) sexuality than with “Gay” as such. It is a “how” more than a “why”. It may have something more to do with Gay because we have the freedom to jump out of bed and even most gay “marriages” I know are open, non-monogamous arrangements which are “marriages” only on paper. When LBD strikes, men strike out on their own freely and easily.

Mtr Kallisto spoke of the Passions recently when I heard him at the SF Orthodox Institute, and he hit on something I’ve always missed: “passion” from the Latin passio as in “passive.” The Passions are something that happen to you, something that sits on you, that blocks or destroys your freedom. It was at that moment, all at once, that I got it for the first time ever, this idea of the “The Passions” and I heard Screwtape laughing at me.

Gnothi Seauton, Know Thyself. This commandment is so ironic because no human can know himself from the inside out. I am only knowable from the outside in. I am only knowable to myself in relation to the other: I can only see myself reflected in another set of eyes. Relation is what makes us who we are, as Father Schmemann says, “To be and to be in communion are the same thing.” Or as Mtr Kallistos said, unus homo nullus homo, one human is no human.

How do I know who I am? Our culture suggests many options: Follow your Bliss. Do what you love and the money will follow. Be yourself. Play your own kind of music. March to your own drum. Do your own thing. Do what thou wilt. Think for yourself. Be a Self-made man. I built that. Find your personal truth. Rights. Personal space. Elbow room. But our seemingly many options are in reality only one: in the first person, no one is the boss of me. But who is me?

This is not an American issue, per se, for even my Canadian and European friends with their “socialist” healthcare and weeks of paid vacation time get all hung up on “personal” rights. It is tempting, thus, to make this a “western” issue as versus the “holy Orthodox East”, if only because there is a direct an westward movement from the Filioque to Martin Luther to Depak Chopra. The Anabaptist heresy of “individual soul liberty” easily becomes Aleister Crowley’s “Do waht thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”. The heresies of Calvin and Henry VIII lead right to Oprah and Dr Phil. But it is not as simple as that: for both Christian east and Christian west have the same roots in Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. Byzantium birthed icons and iconoclasts. It was the latter that were the first Protestants and their gnostic and anti-incarnational heresy, with its Greek and Semitic roots is ironically called “Incarnation Theology” today, but it is still Gnostic and still Greek and Semitic.

At root I think this is exactly a human problem. Eve thought she was only going to try out a tasty new cobbler when she was being tempted by the evil one. Nothing Satan said to Eve was irrefutable, but Eve had to make choices to listen, to agree, to act. Ditto Adam. Ditto us.

I “know” what my body wants. You “know” how to give it to me. We “know” together the confirmation of “ourselves together and our love”. But we can only mirror ourselves back to each other weakly and the only relationship we can ever enter together that might tell us the truth is the only voice that says “No” to this. Thus, hearing ourselves, over and over, rejecting the no over and over until we have stopped our ears and cannot even hear it to reject it, we inject our self-confirmations into our bloodstreams like a drug until we become addicted. And anything that says no to us hurts and so must be wrong, must be evil. I had a wonderful, loving, heterosexual male pastor worry about my internalized homophobia when I began questioning accepted norms in the liberal protestant world. The Divine “no” gets trumped by our bodily “yes”. Since when to we get to write the Owner’s Manual?

However if it is only a human other that lets me know myself, it is then only through a glass darkly, for we are both of us fallen and broken in ways that we may never discern or imagine. The other human can only reflect a doubly-broken image back to me. If I turn to you to learn about myself or to teach you about yourself, what happens if we are broken in exactly the same way? I “listen” to my body and do what it “wants” and you give me in return the answer to my “wants” and, naming it Love, we claim it as a great confirmation of what God has made. But God said otherwise, no? So we have to ignore that and move on. We confirm to each other a new normal, reporting that God made us this way and we celebrate our brokenness unchallenged. Certainly Eve really was hungry?

To fully know myself the only place turn to is the only perfect mirror: to God’s love for me, to Christ the God-Man, to that relationship where I can only be told what is really, finally true about me because it is a relationship with Truth, himself.

I should be clear: I don’t think same-sex-attraction is a passion, as such. Eve was honestly hungry. Her hunger was directed to the wrong object. I don’t think anything that we can point at objectively is “really” a passion in and of itself. Passions are only subjectively so. What is a passion for me is a temptation for you, but a non-issue for a third party. Same-sex-attraction is not a passion, indeed, all sexual attraction is not a passion. Lust is only a temptation. Giving way to it… same- or opposite-sex-wise can be a passion f it gets to the point where the body can’t say no, where the heart’s no is no longer heard, where the head’s no never arises and where God’s no is shut out.

SSA maybe a product of broken DNA, of misfiring neurons, of bad psychology or even wonky hormones. It may just be a part of normal (fallen) biology. But it is not a part of the revealed order so how do we proceed?

Huw Richardson wroted this on February 24th, 2013

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Category: metanoia, orthoparadoxy

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