I watched a video last night with the sound off, the words scrolling across the bottom of the screen, of a young person explaining to the wide world the inadequate categories of sex and gender. This person–who, I imagine, would eschew all use of pronouns–placidly threw over the last several thousand years of human tradition, including the tired old way of referring to people as either male or female, and wound up by calling the human body a Living Meat Skeleton. Most ironical, I thought, given how carefully the image on the screen was managed, not a hair out of place, nary a patch of dry or red skin, nothing about the video indicating that the person did not have a very elevated sense of the body.
This non gender binary person is trying to be very clever, to share with the world some new discovery. Gender is in the brain, so saith this young person, and sex is just about, you know, what used to be unmentionable, but now is everywhere talked about.
The fact is, even if you are an ordinary person whose gender identity suffers no confusion and isn’t running off to find new words for itself, the human experience is all about division. The body and the spirit don’t work harmoniously together to do anything. The body fails and ails. The mind is beset by every manner of foolishness. We have expressions like “comfortable in her own skin” because it’s a rare occurrence and worth being remarked over. Sometimes we privilege the mind, sometimes the body, sometimes the spirit. We hold ourselves up now too high, now too low. We can never get the balance right, never get the whole person both acting and feeling and being the way we want it to be.
It’s worse for women, I think, when you add in the presence of another by letting that person live and dwell in the great darkness of your body for what seems like years but is apparently only nine months. Talk about a war. There is never enough room for me in my own self. Add in a whacking great baby and I always felt like I had no where to be. In the long distant past Helene Cixous talked about women like oranges–and endless dividing up of bits that shouldn’t have been pulled apart, that can’t be put back together again.The young non binary person, imagining a new cleverness, has actually stumbled on the most ancient and least novel consequence of sin. When Eve took a bite out of that apple or whatever it was, she cut her teeth on the fruit, and cut her soul, body and spirit into lots of little bits that would never fit nicely and comfortably together again–at least not for several thousands of years–until, in the most politically incorrect way possible, a man was born. He, one might say, was like a city at unity with itself. The soul and the spirit were not at war, did not suffer the divisions that plague everyone one of us.
And he took over the body of a young woman for a while, suffering her flesh and spirit to make way for him. It sounds like the worst way to breach and heal the divisions rent by sin. Inefficient at the very least. But strangely not. He, at unity with himself, is the place to which the tribes go up, the place where you go and are overtaken by coherence, where peace is so pervasive that you are no longer at war with yourself. Your body and your mind and your spirit are sewn back together like a seamless garment, elegant, gracious, whole.
That’s worth celebrating, in these dark Advent days. God came to put it all back together. And he did it by embracing, inhabiting, suffering our human flesh that he might bring it to glory.
Happy Second Sunday of Advent!