Friday, August 10, 2012

Taming the Beast Within: Moment of Truth

Win Blevins.  Stone Song: A Novel About the Life of Crazy Horse.  New York: Forge, 1995.  ISBN: 0812533690.

Part the third of my ongoing exploration of how I came of age.

When I finally came face to face with sex in real life, it was not what I thought it would be.  I was expecting something very profound and even solemn -- a serious ritual whose performance would naturally make or break the lives of those who dared to come forward and participate in it.  This fear of sex took a while to dissipate.  (My wife still teases me about our first year of marriage, "back when I had to pester you all the time for sex!")  But even if my deluded misperception of sex did not die all at once overnight, it did suffer a major setback when my wife and I finally made it to the country hotel where we celebrated our honeymoon.  That experience shattered a lot of barriers inside my soul: I went in expecting something like "The Phantom of the Opera" (a dark, tortured dance that would try my soul) -- instead, what I got was more like "The Producers" (a farce in which nothing comes off quite as planned, and the pervading atmosphere is one of irresistable, obscene hilarity).  It was really troubling to me to think that I put myself and Hawk through hell for that.  Very troubling.

The more I looked at history, my own and the LDS church's, the more troubling this experience became.  Even as my inner life settled down to a level of peace and contentment that I had scarcely enjoyed since childhood, something about my whole adolescent experience in the church rubbed me the wrong way, and the more I thought about it, the more wrong it appeared.  The more I looked at history, my own and that of other people, the more distant and impersonal God seemed.  Different people saw him differently, and fanatics of all stripes were equally convinced that they saw him rightly while others were wrong (or deceived by devils).  As I looked at my own experience with God, I identified more and more with the young Joseph Smith, who (in the canonical version of his First Vision narrative) goes into the Sacred Grove completely confused about the nature of deity.  The only difference was that God never manifested himself to me as clearly or directly as he was supposed to have done to Joseph Smith.  Did I matter less to him?  What about all the people suffering terrible things in foreign countries?  Why didn't he do something clear to end religious bickering (like a lot of the "proselytizing" I did as an LDS missionary) and get real aid to these people (basic food, medicine, hygiene, water)?  Why was he more concerned about my boners than about resolving conflicts in (say) the Middle East, where his name is invoked almost daily as justification for bad behavior (including some outright atrocities)?  These were tough questions for me to deal with, intellectually.  Even if I had not been weakened by my (misguided) emotional struggles to suppress my animal spirit, I would have been shaken by them (and my faith would have evolved to meet the challenge, as it has).

I made three important discoveries shortly after getting married.  (1) Hawk is not evil.  (2) Sex is not solemn or frightening (unless you go out of your way to make it so, as I did for more than a decade).  (3) God is a mystery: people who invoke him as though he speaks clearly and directly are usually trying to use him as a cover to manipulate other people.  That they do this with good intentions does not make their behavior ethically defensible (in my view), which brings me to a crucial turning point in my story. 

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