Excuse the crudeness of the following comments but let’s face it, Easter is not exactly the family festival Hallmark makes it out to be. Check out a crucifixion flick sometime. Bloody awful (literally)! As religious festivals go, it is about as gory and gruesome as it gets. So this is a fitting time for some street-level religious discussion. Here goes: A friend talks of needing a fuck-buddy.
OK. This is a little weird. The concept is entirely foreign to me. I don't dare ask for clarification, I just clear out in case the comment was meant for me.
At a safe distance, I reflect further. Could it be that what she really needs is a snuggle-buddy? My guess is that when people don’t have someone with whom to share that regular, nurturing skin-to-skin contact, they have to make up for lost time and cram a week’s worth of contact into an hour or two. My experience, being in the enviable position of having a snuggle-buddy, is that full-body, skin-to-skin, nightly spooning is far more sustaining and nurturing than remedial sex.
Mind you, when my snuggle-buddy abandons me, which is NOW, while I am writing this piece, (she being in Palm Springs for Easter while I am shovelling snow in Edmonton!), I go into shock and withdrawal and start grasping for any available substitute reality, like numbing out with alcohol, or vegging on TV or imagining having my own fuck-buddy. The options aren't pretty or particularly satisfying and I am generally successful at avoiding falling into any of those traps.
But I am still left to deal with the inescapable sensation:
My skin hurts!
Actually my entire psyche hurts. It has learned to rely on the calming, nurturing, restorative effect of being in the warm, sensual glow of of the body of someone I love.
I do have more socially appropriate alternatives to the ones suggested above. Tango is certainly a fall-back. Dancing close embrace is not entirely a substitute for skin-to-skin, but it is a socially approrpiate and nurturing alternative nonetheless.
But it being a holiday season, everything is cancelled. So here I sit, alone and skinless. Which suggests a very ironic twist:
Easter is precisely the time of year when skin is in-your-face.
To use a poker expression, Easter is the time of year when God puts skin in the game. Think about it: Maundy Thursday; washing feet, eating flesh, drinking blood, Good Friday; whippings, crucifixions, Easter Sunday; stigmata, resurrection.
Skin is in.
It is inescapable. We can no longer envision this God-human encounter as something other-worldly, non-fleshy, ascetic, platonic. From here on the rule is: we connect with Spirit in the physical, sensual, sexual, pleasurable and painful. To experience the divine, we have to go through the body. We too, have to put skin the game.
The problem is ...who is comfortable in their own skin? We are all too busy getting botoxed or tummy-tucked or butt implanted.
And it is worse in Church. Certainly I was not comfortable wth anything fleshly, as a Christian and pastor. I probably gave close to a 1,000 sermons. Never once did I mention sensuality or sex or the importance of skin-to-skin contact. Not even in marital counseling, for God’s sake!
My religious training was intended to instill a suspicion or aversion to all things physical and sensual. Sex was OK in marriage as long as one didn't enjoy it too much. Certainly never talk about it. We couldn’t dance, couldn’t enjoy a good glass of wine or whisky, couldn’t risk physical contact with anyone outside of matrimony, wouldn't even risk a massage.
If I wanted to be really religious or spiritual, I would deny myself the pleasures of the flesh, fast, go sit for hours in prayer or meditation. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that. In fact, in moderation they are very good practices. But they are no more spiritual than flesh-indulging practices.
And for my money, the more skin in the game, the more engaging and spiritual it is. I would put up a good evening dancing or sharing a bottle of wine with friends or a quiet intimate night at home with my beloved against butt-numbing hours spent on a church pew anyday.
In truth, I have for the most part given up church altogether, precisely because of its unrepentant prejudice against flesh-and-blood humanity and its disingenuous failure to embrace the real scandal of God-in-the-flesh.
Consider the sanitizing of religious rituals:
Once in the short life of my pastoring a little country congregation, we celebrated Maundy Thursday with foot-washing. That was high-risk, non-repeat behaviour.
And for good reason. Nothing is more sensitive or personal than feet (gentials excluded). Feet smell. They are dirty, calloused, bunioned, twisted, sore. No one wants their feet fondled in public by a stranger! They reveal the intimacies of our lives. You need special training to read a person’s palm; anyone can instantly read someone’s life-line from their feet.
So kibosh foot-washing in church. Save that for the old-folks home when our toe-nails get ingrown and the skin flakes and cracks.
Point being, we are embarrassed by our skin.
It makes us too human, too real, too vulnerable, too needy, sensitive. Sometimes it affords unbridled pleasure, which runs the risk of short-term choices with problematic, long-term consequences. (Who doesn’t know that one?) Other times it brings unbearable pain that can cause us to despair of life itself. Mostly it just shakes our imagined sense of being rationalistic creatures in control of ourselves and our world.
But for the most part our skin suits us very well. To be comfortable in one's skin is more than a metaphor. It is a testament to how good it is to be alive as fleshly, vibrant, sensual creatures. (Imagine the alternative for just a minute.)
So what to do about relating to a God who insists on getting physical?
Risk it. Get real, vulnerable. Touch someone. Feel. Get a massage. Give a massage. Pet your pet. Share a good bottle of wine. Make love. Hug a snowbank. Indulge yourself in anything and everything that makes you feel good to be alive. Dance, sing, play music, celebrate. Fall in love. Get you own personal snuggle-buddy.
This is my personal resolution. I am abandoning my winter hermitage and heading off to California to track my snuggle-bunny down. And with any luck I may even squeeze in a bit of tango.
Follow Aydan at www.tangotouch.ca or www.earthskyreflections.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.