Religious believers often are distrustful of getting too touchie-feelie.
Ooh, bodies meeting, melding, melting into each other! That's so, um, bodily. God is all ethereal, otherworldly, spiritual. Bodies, bad. God, good.
That's a thoroughly dualistic attitude, of course. Which is more than a little strange, since most religions spout stuff like "God is one," "All is God," and "God is everywhere."
I've known true believers who said they couldn't wait to be rid of their body. They imagined that life in a heavenly realm would be so much better than existence in this crude physical world. Even when I was deep into dogma, that struck me as sad.
Why pass up bodily delights? If there's more and better to enjoy after death, great. Delight in life while living, then delight in your afterlife (if there is one).
This week SF Gate columnist Mark Morford wrote "Get over here and touch me now." He praises the glory of godless sacred touching in his unique writing style.
Here's what I think. I think human touch is surely the most sublime sensation/activity ever invented by ecstatically drunken gods as they gently and ever so briefly encased us in these slippery filthy gorgeous mortal fleshforms.
I think human touch, done with calm intention and conscious ease, is a total life-affirming blessing of the most spiritually orgasmic kind, healing and restorative and achingly transcendent in quiet but thoroughly kaleidoscopic ways.
...It is perhaps the greatest myth, the most brutal lie ever foisted upon mankind: that of separation. You are there and I am here and "god" is way, way over there and no matter how hard we try and strive, we'll never fully meet. We can never fully connect. Just the way it is.
What horses--t. In fact, it's exactly the other way around. We are already deeply connected, de facto and a priori. We are of the same divine source material. Disconnection, fracturing and disassociation is a learned affliction. A disease. Chronic, epidemic, global.
But maybe with the right touch, at the right time, in the right moment, the pandemic can dissolve in an instant. Touch me just that way, and suddenly everything makes sense. All is right with the world. We are one.
Yes, Morford speaks of god. But not with a capital "G." And not in any sort of traditional dualistic sense. The divinity he exalts is the god of poets, not of preachers.
He ends his column with: "Really, what else is there? (What is less or more than a touch?)" Curious, I clicked on that link. Which led me to a strange and wonderful place that I'd never been to before: the last part of Walt Whitman's free verse poem, "Song of Myself."
Wow. I liked what I read so much, I sought out the entire poem. It begins in perfect summertime fashion.
"Song of Myself" is long. Also, poetic (duh...). So I found a study guide which gave me some almost-instant insights into Whitman's thoroughly embodied philosophy of life.
These chants express various stages of the poet’s mystical experience of his self. The first stage may be termed the “Awakening of Self”; the second, the “Purification of Self.” Purification involves an acceptance of the body and all its functions. This acceptance reflects the poet’s goal to achieve mystical experience through physical reality.
This is in opposition to the puritanical view of purification through mortification of the flesh. In Whitman’s philosophy, the self is purified not through purgation but through acceptance of the physical. Man should free himself from his traditional sense of sin. The mystical experience paves the way for the merging of physical reality with a universal reality.
The study guide told me that the end of the poem, section 46 onward, is where Whitman launches himself on the "perpetual journey." Have a read; this part isn't very long, and it appealed to my churchless spirit. Here's some excerpts:
In section 48 Whitman speaks of God in a way that I can relate to -- because his God isn't that of any theistic religion.
I can't say that I understand the ending of "Song to Myself." But I like it.