Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Polite Conversation

We're talking about the human body and how it connects us to the creation, and to the Creator, and humbles us by holding us within our limits, no matter our strengths. There is one other thing that I want to say about the human body, one more point to make in the grand scheme of important things. 

And that is that our human bodies seem to have taught us a lot, for some reason, about what we consider is "polite conversation." That is, most of the things that we don't talk about are things somehow related to our bodies. 

Despite the way it is portrayed in the popular media, and despite a push for more "openness" on the subject, there is still quite a bit of taboo about sex. A polite person does not talk about sex in mixed company, or at all, really, except with one's medical providers. (And our shame has kept us from talking about this, often, even with them.) 

The reason is actually not what we think it is. Certainly, there's something about it involving our "private" parts, the parts of our bodies that we have been told that we ought to keep covered (and God Himself told us to cover them - such as when He said there should not be stairs leading to the altar, lest someone might accidentally see up your tunic). Our sexual parts expose the nature of our shame, but that shame is not just about sin or dirtiness; it is also about a sanctity for life. 

We understand that sex is life-giving, life-producing. That it is designed for the living, to make more life and life abundant. And there's something in us that recognizes this, no matter what we proclaim to think or believe, and so we whisper about sex because we realize its power. We realize our weakness in front of it. There is nothing we can do to produce life...except sex, and there's something powerful about that that keeps us humbled in awe of it..and quiet. 

We don't talk, either, about our waste. Our bodies are designed to remove toxins from our systems, to purify our beings constantly, to always be working out the things that aren't supposed to be in us. And yet, we don't talk about our waste (or our waste-producing systems) in mixed company. It's not "polite." 

And it's because we know it's contaminated. It makes us feel the dirtiness of a broken world. We know that when we go out into this creation, we're supposed to cover our excrement. If you use the woods as a toilet, you better have a shovel to bury it. (And yet, can we talk about the number of persons who can't seem to flush a public toilet? But I digress....) We know that everything that comes out of us, liquid or solid, is something that is incompatible with our life, something that would poison us if it were to stay in our body, so we don't talk about it. Because it's death. (Or, we say, it's "gross.")

Finally, we do not talk about our brokenness. We do not talk about the things in our bodies that are not working the way they're supposed to. These things would reveal our frailness, our fragility, perhaps even our failures, and we aren't supposed to tell others our weaknesses. This is survival at its core - you don't reveal the places where you're prone to break because there is someone or something out there that will break them. 

So here we are with bodies that are beautiful, that are fearfully and wonderfully made, and somehow, we have decided that there are certain things about them that we just don't talk about, things that are not "polite" - like life, death, and limitation, even though these things are all built into us for a holy reason. These things, perhaps like no other, show the amazingness of God. 

God who, we must say, designed these very things in His great wisdom. 

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