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a definition of abuse: perpetual desire – always wanting & never getting

a definition of abuse: perpetual desire – always wanting & never getting

Too often when we talk about sexual desire, especially in the context of faith, the conversation is skewed toward control and it’s laced with fear of innumerable dangers. Too often we neglect or lose altogether the vibrancy that makes desire engaging, pleasurable, and . . . well, desirable. This kind of energy fuels everything that we do. Ultimately we do whatever we do because we want to, right? You may disagree because there are some actions we take because we must. True. I submit that we commit required deeds rather than their alternatives because our desire to do so outweighs other options. We want to do what we must. We don’t want to leave necessary matters unattended. We wanted to.

So rather than futilely suppress or flee from desire, let’s embrace and direct it.

“Do you love life;
do you relish the chance
to enjoy good things?” ~Psalm 34:12 (CEB)

This rhetorical question is within a passage that instructs its readers to honor G~d and to avoid evil. If the reader accepts this instruction, she must then seek what it means to honor G~d. She must then indeed identify actual evil in order to avoid it. Where we contemporary humans trip up is ascribing for ourselves others’ ways of honor and ancient notions of evil. Even a cursory recollection of history reminds us that we don’t approach decisions or behavior the way humanity did thousands of years ago – nor do we view evil the same way. We ladies joke about it today, but we truly don’t believe that our monthly menstrual flow is a curse of any kind. As I told a bible study group, “It may be icky, but it’s not evil.”

When considering the dangers of desire today we must realize we live in a time when “our pleasures have become commodities.” (Walsh) Any good salesperson wants to know what motivates us, what we desire, so that she can appeal to that to encourage and influence our purchases. We have to be savvy consumers and distinguish the marketplace’s strategies from the goodness of our inherent, embodied desires. In this case we do well to mimic the life-approach of ancient humanity. They didn’t separate their passion for the Divine from that for each other or their work. Worship, sex, and labor were all fueled by the same energy. In all cases we do well to objectively view and understand our life-dynamics and seek balance in our perspectives, beliefs, decisions, and actions.

Desire is not the same for all of us.

“Desire is about wanting more than it is about getting. It is the hunger that highlights the food; the patience that highlights the faith; the arousal that anticipates the sex. It commands a shift in perspective. The salt of a lover’s lips or the sweet juice of grapes is not just pleasurable anymore; with desire, they become exquisite. Desire is the discipline to live on that edge between wanting and satisfaction. It is not for the timid or the fickle. . . .

A desire . . . is feasible in historical time, but missing in the here and now of life. . . . Desire has content, and therefore pain to it, in the acute knowledge of just what is missing. . . .

Yearning itself may even come to be experienced as a pleasure. The Song [of Songs] is concerned with the provocative question of whether the exquisite sensation of wanting another could surpass in any realistic sense the pleasure of sexual consummation. The surprising claim that it can does seem to be the premise of the Song, which stays focused on the experience of yearning, not its relief.” (Walsh)

For oppressed and/or marginalized people, Dr. Walsh’s insight into desire is problematic because the very essence of such life is about always wanting and never getting. Unfulfilled desire becomes oppressive; it is abusive. And so we never experience anything exquisite when love is not consummated. Rather we experience neglect.

I do understand her point. I do. It’s like being sure to enjoy the journey for that is where the true value of traveling lives. We miss just about everything when we fixate solely on the destination. Yet if we never arrive, we’re always missing this unidentifiable thing that we can’t quite put our fingers on. It forever remains just on the tips of our tongues. We all know how frustrating that is.

Desire and yearning are pleasurable. It is not all about gratification. But I cannot smell good food cooking all the time without ever eating. And I’m not meant to. The fullness of pleasure lives in desire and consummation.

It seems, then, in our world today that full pleasure is attached to privilege. So, I suppose when I yearn for my marginalized sisters to live and love with an inextricable sense of goodness about their bodies and embodied expression, what I really want for us is utter freedom. Only in complete liberation can we even approach Dr. Walsh’s sense of the value of desire, an ultimate, exquisite pleasure derived from yearning rather than its relief.

NOTE: Besides I believe the lovers in the Song do consummate their desire. Their highly sensual descriptions of each other can only come from a place of intimate, actual knowing of the other. It’s more than imagination, dreams, and conjuring.

Walsh citations – Carey Ellen Walsh, Exquisite Desire: Religion, the Erotic, and the Song of Songs – the Preface and first chapter, “A Question of Desire: Is There Some Accounting for Biblical Taste?”

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

body beautiful

body beautiful

“I want to help show my people how beautiful they are. I want to hold up the mirror to my audience that says this is the way people can be, this is how open people can be.” ~Alvin Ailey

Mr. Ailey certainly accomplished this goal with me. I’m sure that I saw his dancers perform in my youth, but witnessing their beauty and talent when I chaperoned a field trip for my daughter’s grade-school class was like seeing them for the first time. That’s the performance that’s burned into my brain.

“I want to help show my people how beautiful they are.”

ailey dancers

Ailey Dancers - Matthew Rushing and Linda Celeste Sims. Photo by Andrew Eccles

At that time I’d begun to dance at church, a ministry that I never thought I’d ever be a part of – LOL! I’ve always loved to dance at parties and at home – but as a child I didn’t have much rhythm. Even as I developed rhythm growing up I couldn’t quite always get the more complicated, trendy moves. Yet, I always loved to dance! So, at church, I was grateful for the development of a prophetic movement ministry, which emphasized conveying a message through movement rather than specific steps that I would forget because I would get caught up in the music or lose count of the beats. Not to mention, even in my late 20s/early 30s, my body needed a LOT of work to stretch and reach like our traditional liturgical dancers.

Then the fateful day arrived – an Easter Sunday morning. A liturgical dancer had an emergency or had become ill or something that caused her absence. She and I were about the same size and at rehearsal on Easter Saturday I was summoned to take her place. What?!? The leader assured me the movements were simple. Yeah, right. She insisted that they had to have the exact number of dancers with whom they’d practiced. Okaaaay.  Well, it was a lifelong dream and here was my chance . . ., but, “Y’all do remember I’m the one who spun around and collided with the tithing box, right?” The leader said, “Just follow me.”

“I want to hold up the mirror to my audience that says this is the way people can be, this is how open people can be.”

By the end of four Easter Services I was exhausted (no collisions with sacred items – or people) and very fulfilled – I did it! I did not, however, join the traditional liturgical group. I figured that G~d had granted me some level of grace in a pinch. I didn’t want to press it! 😉 Then came the day that I sat in the audience of Atlanta’s Fox Theatre watching Mr. Ailey’s dance company, totally enraptured by more than the grace of their movements, but by the exquisite beauty of their bodies. And I remembered all the layers I had to wear on Easter, covering up my very beauty – so as not to offend in the house of G~d. I actually grieved that the beauty I saw on the Fox stage was banned from the pulpit. “That’s not right,” I determined.

It’s about more than skin. It’s about freedom and openness, the kinds of fruits of the Spirit (no, not explicitly the ones listed in Gal. 5:22-23) that our faith/belief systems are truly about at their core. After I’d been dancing awhile with my prophetic movement group, I’d experienced incredible patience – rehearsal after rehearsal – from our own leader and other dancers. I tended to be the last one to get our choreography, as simple and flowing as it was. We also genuinely celebrated each other’s contributions to the ministry. And I learned to depend on others, something that’s not easy for me to do. These fruits began to spill over into the rest of my life. I grew in confidence to speak my mind when my thoughts disagreed with the majority or my truth might hurt another’s feelings. I reclaimed a freedom of expression that I’d allowed outside opinions to rip-off.

“Dance is fuel for the soul. I would feel lost without dance. When I found dance, I found myself.”~Antonio Douthit, Ailey dancer

dance is for the soul ailey dancer quote

Ailey Dancer Antonio Douthit. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

The highlight for me this Easter (2012) was seeing a woman I’d know in years past help lead a dance celebration, on stage! The look on her face of pure, gleeful joy was contagious – no one was having a better time this day than she! YES!!! Also, it was obvious that she’d shed some pounds from the last time I’d seen her. Maybe her leg didn’t extend like some of the others, but she was out there AND she was front and center. FABULOUS!!! By the way, all of the dancers had on the same body-fitting pants despite their sizes – yea! – which reminds me that I also celebrate the Dove soap commercials. This campaign reclaims “real beauty” from the snares of male-dominated marketing that only regards certain body types as acceptable for promoting brands, products and services.

CELEBRATE YOUR BODY!

And dance with it. By the way, today, my dance of choice is salsa ;-).

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

silence doesn’t save us . . . anymore

silence doesn’t save us . . . anymore

Let’s talk.

Speaking up versus shutting up as a woman – I think of Mary Magdalene. Mary, a loyal and beloved disciple of Yeshua (Jesus), was not a woman to shut up. She spoke up and spoke out. Particularly as this is Holy Week for Christians, I think of her being the first person to proclaim the Good News (Gospel) of a living Sacrifice:

“‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:18)

Over time, the spirit of feminine liberation waned in the Christian movement as it legalized, formalized, institutionalized. Today, even with the presence of female clergy and lay leadership, too many women continue to allow a gender-biased, hierarchical perspective of faith to influence and guide their lives. We continue to serve in churches where we know we aren’t being respected or recognized for the talented, gifted, capable, and able full human beings we know ourselves to be. We murmur and complain, operating somewhere between speaking up and shutting up.

For the life of me I cannot understand why oppressed women won’t simply leave! If the situation is so bad that you have to release your discomfort and frustration by constantly complaining, LEAVE. Find a ministry where you’re honored – or start your own.

While silence is an issue across ethnicities and faith/belief traditions, I recognize it as a survival technique used by my African American ancestors. There was a time that keeping our mouths shut kept us alive. Today it’s killing us. “Your silence will not protect you,” declared the late Audre Lorde.

Our oppressive history is also a barrier to our sexual freedom. Due to the hypersexualization of Black people in the USA,

once freed, [women in particular] set out on a mission to prove that we are more than attractive bodies. We were desperately trying to escape the horrors experienced by our ancestors, ancestors like Anastasia, a Brazilian martyred slave venerated as a saint by Blacks in Brazil. She came to a point in her life when she realized trying to please her slave masters was futile. Eventually she died in body, but rose in spirit. (Read more about Anastasia.)

To highlight our intelligence and social graces, we suppressed our sexuality – or tried to. We haven’t realized yet that people who are determined to dismiss us are going to dismiss us, no matter what? An incredibly intelligent, talented, articulate, Ivy League educated American president proves that, right? After all the self-denying effort to prove our worth, we seem only to have succeeded in self-injury. We’ve forgotten Yeshua’s words, “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33) We’re losing our lives; our collective self-image remains imbalanced, unhealthy, and lacking in self-love, care, and appreciation.

Our deep and intense gifts of sensual rhythm need to be celebrated, not exploited or buried. I love the way we walk, the gestures and gazes that convey more than words can say (like Anastasia’s piercing blue eyes), and the ways our bodies can find a fit with music that grooves across genres. Can we think about it another way? Can we widen the life-producing aspect of sex and sexuality? Can we see beyond the mishandling of it to realize that the ear-to-ear grin we display when we “get some” is life-producing energy? Is it possible that if we begin to talk openly and honestly that we can reconfigure the Church’s traditional teachings to make sense with contemporary contexts and knowledge – and that when we do so, we just may reduce significantly the mishandling of sex that we are so fearful of?

That sounds like a plan I believe Mary Magdalene would be down with . . . and Anastasia.

And what a way to resurrect our lives!

Let’s talk.

sexNspirit workshop image

Let's talk. (REGISTER TODAY for the upcoming women's sexuality and spirituality workshop, April 28th 1-5p - http://sexnspirit042812.eventbrite.com/)

Simon Peter said to the Lord and his disciples, ‘Let Mary leave us, because women are unfit for the Life Everlasting.’ Jesus replied, ‘Wait, I’ll guide her soul, to make her as a real man, in that place which transcends the differences between the sexes, so she’ll become a living spirit. For each woman who makes herself male in this way and overcomes all differences will enter the Kingdom of Heaven!’” ~The Gospel of Thomas, a sacred text that was declared gnostic, therefore dismissed, by the Church

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

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