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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Father Elias' Theology of Human Touch

Touching without respect is violence, a penetration into someone’s privacy and honour against his or her will. In a true encounter between persons the physical contact is based on respect for the other, and expresses some kind of affection.

The different kinds of physical contact between a man and a woman and between men mutually is analogous to their different kind of friendships.

Men’s mutual friendships are naturally based in some cause higher than themselves. According to their natural intuition, their expressions of affection must necessarily communicate about something that is not enclosed in nature and therefore does not imply immediate pleasure - if not they feel uncomfortable, too close, to softish, ‘yucky’. Their physical contact tends to be agonistic, i.e. competitive, combative, risky even. Instead of a natural pleasure, the physical encounter with other men brings a spiritual joy beyond the action, when the higher cause is attained; the cause is a goal to be achieved, called ‘triumph’. It is expressed by conspicuous symbolic gestures that remind the combat itself. The agonistic activity and the celebration afterwards are essentially a public affair.

If there is no such higher cause, especially in the case where transcendence is forbidden, men will invent an artificial one, and its expressions will be destructive, like blind aggression, binge drinking, drug abuse. I reckon sexual gang behaviour also falls into this category.

The friendship between man and women is more enclosed in nature, which gives it an immediate pleasure and feeling of peace. A higher cause is present, but not so much as a matter of necessity, but as a superabundance. A new life may be given. The Creator may answer to the encounter. He may not. A kid is not something you 'fabricate' or 'realise' like a victory or an artefact, because it has the right to be received gratuitously. No one makes kids, the Creator gives them and the parents receive. Of course a family is not built without wisdom, but any 'planning' should not destroy the fundamental gratuity of new life. The physical encounter between man and woman as well as it possible outcome - all is to be gratuitous. No competition, nothing to be proven. The physical contact is not agonistic, but a union with the other. This gives a tremendous relaxation. And this encounter itself is essentially secret.

Often in the comfortable upper middle class, but unfortunately also in some Christian (intellectual) environments, the physical contact between males is suspect by definition - it's for brutes or for perverts. In fact this attitude is caused by fear, fear for showing yourself as you really are. Because that's what happens in agonistic activities and truthful anger! This fear inhibits young men and stops them from maturing. All sorts of compensational behaviour may appear later on - not necessarily in a sexual context. Being from this environment, I now recognise all this. I've had to liberate myself from it. I'm getting more free every day!


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