Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sexuality vs. Spirituality: Which is more intimate?

April 13, 1986

I love flowers. I'm trying to be grateful to the Lord for flowers and kitty-cats, etc., but it's harder than it seeems. I'm hoping that my love of nature will become a love for its creator, but I just don't know or understand him. I get nervous when I really pray. I don't know why. I think I feel unworthy. I feel like the Lord should be mad at me.

April 12, 1986

I'm getting closer to the Lord although I've been having occasional relapses to being my usual annoying, argumentative self. I talked to my sister all through Stake Conference. I know that the fact that it was boring isn't a good enough excuse. Recently I remembered a few more things to repent of.

July 10, 1986

What the Lord made is beautiful. Each tree is different and each branch has a different shape. The tips of the branches are different colors. Some leaves are arranged like starfish, some are tears, some are hands, some are footballs. When I look at the leaves I feel I'm in the jungle.

We have stopped here in this tower for a spiritual meeting from a spiritual Joseph Smith hike. Everyone is sharing feelings even though most of us don't know one another. This is the perfect place for such a hike -- you have never known such spiritual and physical beauty until you experience this.

Soon we will go back to our cabin here at girls' camp. As for my spiritual progress? I'm coming along one step at a time now. I'm going to try to listen during church and take the messages to heart and use them. And more than that, I'm reading the Book of Mormon each night and I've set a goal to try to use the scriptures in my life.

When I first left the church, it annoyed me that my journals gave a misimpression of how "spiritual" I was. Since journal-writing is a commandment, every time I would be sufficiently guilted into trying to be more righteous and manufacturing a spiritual experience, I wrote the whole thing down in gory detail in my journal.

Now I'm actually glad I recorded this stuff in a sense because it is so alien to my normal personality that I would hardly believe I ever felt this way if I hadn't written it down.

Looking at passages like the above, I feel revulsion, shame, and humiliation. I know that religious people reading this will say that it is because I am ashamed to no longer feel "the spirit" after having felt it once, but really it is quite the opposite.

I feel ashamed that I allowed them to pressure me into manufacturing this sickly emotion of "the spirit" in my mind and that I allowed others to convince me that it was some sort of communication with an imaginary being. When I read things I've written about feelings towards "the Lord", it's as if I were reading a passage I'd written about having a nasty infection and describing in graphic detail the look and smell of the pus that oozed out of it.

It disgusts me that I was pressured into feeling this intimate emotion that I had to contort my mind into a pretzel to feel. Reading about it in my own journal, I feel violated.

I was wondering the other day why as soon as I found my journal from when I was sixteen years old, I gleefully posted to the Internet a series of passages explicitly describing my first sexual experiences in all their glory and how I felt about them. Yet I recoiled in shame and horror at the thought of sharing any of the many passages of my earlier journals such as the above that describe praying.

I'm going to be blunt about it, and I don't give a sh-t about the fact that the righteous of the world will look down on me for this:

The truth is that I'm proud of the sexual feelings and experiences I had when I was sixteen. They were perhaps intimate, but they were authentic and joyful. Unlike the prayer stuff, my sexual feelings were never contrived, forced, or laced with guilt and obligation.

God is imaginary. Sexuality is real. It is a red-blooded emotion that flows naturally through my veins and reminds me that life is beautiful and that I'm happy to be alive.


Matt said...

Righteous people will not look down on you. But the self-righteous? They will. But who cares about them? ;o)

Cyn Bagley said...

Actually... I learned what real joy felt like after I left the Mormon church. To me, it is when I lay my head on my husband's shoulder and he rubs my neck. Or when we watch the gold finches together through the sliding doors. We see the birds flit around the balcony, eating thistles.

It does not have to be manufactured. I am not told what I can feel and what I cannot feel.

Sideon said...

Gently nibbling someone's earlobe or licking along their jawline...


praying alone or with a group of like-minded people?

What was the question again?


Yes. Sexuality is very real.


Joseph's Left One said...

I was so afraid to even acknowledge my sexuality for a long time. But I knew how to talk about spirituality. I think it was a mask for all the self-denial. So much lost time and energy. sigh

Anonymous said...

I read your posts on the recovery board, and this is my first time to your blog, but this entry hit home to me. I actually threw away about ten journals from my teenage years, in complete disgust. During those years, I "struggled" with masturbation and the humiliation of being told by my bishop that he'd never had a girl confess masturbation to him before, like I was a freak or something. And I remember being depressed and lonely a lot, but my journals are crammed full of b.s. about how spiritual I was trying to be and how long I read the scriptures each day and prayed and went to seminary etc.etc. It made my stomach hurt to read through it all. It felt so freeing to just let it go, and throw it all in the trash.

Anonymous said...

I am catching up on the last week's posts. I don't have anything significant to add. I just want to say how much I enjoy your blog!!!

John said...

I share with you the frustration of trying to get intimate with the Stern Father Figure in the Sky. (Though intimacy with God can mean very different things in Mormonism, esp. as taught by Brother Brigham).

This makes me think of the Catholic mystics (or Rumi, or the Song of Songs)--a lot of mystical experience, intimate experiences with the divine, are expressed in ecstatic, sometimes sexualized tones.

Eastern tantra is another place where intimacy with the divine is combined with sexual intimacy with a human partner.

I speak as an atheist (former LDS) who's still seeking spiritual experience, a glorious intimacy with big, vague idea(l)s, with humanity, with cosmos.

Though the sex has been good, in and out of Mormonism. The self-loving is much better out than in. >:^)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hi John!!

Personally, I'm not terribly interested in transcendental/spiritual experiences now that I no longer feel obligated to seek them out. ;-)

From talking with different people, I get the impression that having a "spiritual side" (and a desire to nurture it) is a trait that varies quite a lot from one person to the next. It's very strong in some people, others seem to have none, and the trait doesn't seem particularly correlated with religious affiliation.

Religion serves a number of different functions, and personally I'm a lot more interested in the tradition-and-culture aspect than in the spiritual aspect. Obviously different aspects will appeal to different people. :D

I've read some of your blog entries about your adventures in learning about other religions first-hand, and I think that's a fantastic and admirable quest. If more people were interested in sincerely learning about and experiencing traditions other than their own, all humanity would be that much more intimately connected. :D

Anonymous said...

The truth is that I'm proud of the sexual feelings and experiences I had when I was sixteen. They were perhaps intimate, but they were authentic and joyful. Unlike the prayer stuff, my sexual feelings were never contrived, forced, or laced with guilt and obligation.

This is a really astute analysis, and a situation I envy.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Holly!!!

The funny thing is that when I was a teenager I never believed people who said that they liked to pray or who said that there exist teens who don't want to have sex yet do it because of social pressure. I sincerely thought those were just pure lies that people convince themselves of out pious obligation.

As I'm growing older and meeting more people, I feel like I'm gaining a more complete picture of the range and variety of human desires.