Saturday, March 20, 2010

Songs of Sex and Violence

This morning, as I stood outside next to a puppy who was more interested in playing with a pinecone than doin' her business, the spring air around me was filled with the songs of birds. As we move from home to car to cubicle to car to Dennys to car to home, we often miss the onset of the riot of sound that comes with Spring. In a few weeks, the night air will be filled too, with the song and hum of the insects, but now, the music is all avian. As I listened attentively, I could make out the individual songs and their meanings, which filled my heart with wonder at the nature of creation.

Behind me, a mockingbird sang in it's distinctive voice: "getthahelloffamyPROPATEE!" A sparrow twirred with it's signature "thisisMYTREEyousonnavathisisMYTREEyousonnava." In a flash of white and black, a chickadee alighted on the dogwood in my front yard, and warbled "heyBabeewannarideinmyBENTLEYmyBENTLEYmyBENTLEY."

For all of our romanticizing it, nature is not really a place filled with happy prancing ponies and kittens and posies. Even now...especially now...it is both strikingly beautiful and savage. That's easy to miss in the tameness of the 'burbs, where nature has been beaten down and restrained by asphalt and ticky tacky. But it is still there. The songs of the birds that fill the air and stir us to dreamy thoughts are war songs, cries and shouts of violence, charged with implicit threats to interlopers. They are songs of sexual prowess, as blunt and direct as the hoots and calls that would follow Shakira if she walked the streets of Mexico City in a booty skirt. That's the nature of nature. It's the nature of life, which any honest observer would note is almost entirely about consumption, copulation and combat.

Yet in the face of that, we Jesus people have an ethic that seems strangely dissonant with the basic dynamics of organic life. It's why philosophers like Nietzsche, who affirmed that life and vitality are woven up with Power, had so much trouble with Christianity. It was an affront to the whole process. Having read a great deal of Nietzsche, who I can't help but love dearly, I find great truth in what he declared. Similarly, I think the writings of Ayn Rand reflect the reality of nature red in tooth and claw. But she just annoys me, probably because she couldn't write. Nietszche could capture in one pungent aphorism what it would take Rand an endless circuitous 30,000 word rant to say. Reading her is an exercise in frustrated impatience. Ayn! You've already made your point! We get it already! Stop! AAAAGH!

But I digress. Whichever way, the norm of radical love for the Other stands in opposition to the Will to Power that chirps and warbles in the Spring.

It's simply not reflective of the processes of organic reproduction. It is, however, reflective of sentience. When we go beyond awareness of self, and become aware that other beings do not exist just to be devoured, defeated, or deflowered, that they are as we are, then we're ready for the morality taught by Christ.

Ready for a different song, perhaps.

3 comments:

Vic said...

Sometimes singing and writing is more attractive when we don't understand the meaning. I'll never hear a bird call the same way again.

Jonathan said...

"Having read a great deal of Nietzsche, who I can't help but love dearly..."

Well that explains alot. ;o)

No doubt if I'd have 'discovered' Nietzsche in my agnostic youth, I would have some affection for his work, but reading him now the undercurrent of disdain and derision of Christian thought and practice is overwhelming. I just don't 'dig' the dude. I daresay that Rand could be his less eloquent, half-sister philosophically speaking, so I agree with you there.

In the end, I suppose I prefer the First century Jewish philosopher that Nietzsche had such difficulty embracing.

Beloved Spear said...

@ Jonathan: What I find most interesting about Nietzsche is how mightily he struggled with Jesus. Christianity he despised with an endless font of venom. But Jesus himself remained an enigma that Nietzsche could never quite overcome.