Thursday 28 February 2008

The Mary Paradox

It's rare that I pray, outside church, though if I do, it will always be the Rosary. I don't believe in the power of prayer, because by definition, you'll get what you want if it's meant to be, and not if it isn't.

But on the sporadic attempts I do attend Mass, I occasionally burn a candle in front of the white icon to the left of the altar once the service has ended, though sadly, not until I've been out for a cigarette first.

I know that the idea that the Mother of Jesus is actually sitting somewhere listening is unlikely to be true and certainly doesn't remotely accord with my view of the universe.

But if you have to talk to something to represent the universe, then Mary always seems someone good to talk to.

I sometimes wonder how much this affects my outlook. Protestants call this practice Mariolatry, suggesting that we actually worship Mary. I'm not sure we do that. But certainly, she represents a kind of ideal of womanhood and perhaps she appeals more to Catholic males than Catholic females.

It is, of course, an impossible ideal for any woman to live up to. No woman can actually be both virgin and mother. It doesn't happen in the real world. But when I have my eyes actually fixed upon the figure of Christ's mother, I manage to suspend disbelief here.

I certainly don't expect any woman to try and live up to Mary's standard, and I'm not certainly not advocating chastity for women at all. I think women have laboured too long under a societal belief that a woman should be judged in terms of her sexual behaviour.

But I think somewhere deep inside, the way I view Mary creates a curious prism through which I, and indeed probably many from Catholic culture, view women.

I am idolising and holding up to myself, as the image of female perfection, a woman for whom the very idea of entertaining any form of sexual desires for, would be the greatest evil imaginable, to my mind.

One feels a love for Mary that makes having sexual desires feel dirty in itself.

How healthy is that?
For me, I'm not sure that it is. I suspect the root of much of the trouble in my life stems from that.
I remember talking to a friend some time ago and I simply said, as a throw away remark 'She's the type who is way too cute to f**k.'
He asked what I meant and I said 'Well, you know how there are some woman, you couldn't go to bed with, because you'd just feel so guilty about what you were doing, that you would be physically incapable of actually carrying it out? They're just too nice, too wholesome for you to want to sully them in that way.'

He didn't. I then realised that this was almost certainly a Catholic hang up of mine.

I've realised over time that I can do the whole one night stand thing with no qualms as such, I can indulge in sex-based flings and feel quite comfortable about it. But most of my relationships fail because at a deep psychological level, sex and love are incompatible, in my worldview.

I think this explains the relationship I had with D. It started as an attempt by me to seduce her and became a strange sort of platonic love where we actually lived together. The feelings I had for her were stronger than they ever were about any girlfriends of mine, precisely because she had moved up to a higher category in my head.
In fact, I had no problem with her bringing other men back- they weren't me, so I had nothing to feel guilty about. Quite often in fact, she'd come find me after she'd made love, and we'd go and have a cigarette together.

If I'm honest, I have actually had some huge crushes in my adult life, none of which have ever been pursued. Almost without exception, all my relationships have been women who showed interest and were taken up on the offer. I often saw them as friends, in some cases as almost their brother, but they failed, because the romantic love was not there on my part.

Deep down I seem to be wedded to this idea that if a woman is worth me being in love with her, then she's certainly worth more than me. If she loves me, then in some strange way, there is a limit to how high my regard for her can be.

I can only love a woman by putting her on a pedestal I can never reach.

The Mary Paradox.

PS I'd Like it very much if we could treasure bloggers we will miss by putting them permanently in our sidebars. I put the first blogger whose absence hurts in my sidebar. She'll stay there during the life of this blog. Can we make this blogging custom?


Anonymous said...

"Deep down I seem to be wedded to this idea that if a woman is worth me being in love with her, then she's certainly worth more than me. If she loves me, then in some strange way, there is a limit to how high my regard for her can be.

I can only love a woman by putting her on a pedestal I can never reach."

This statement is brilliant. The truth is, we all fantasize about a delusion of a person we really want, in our heads, and then we are unhappy because we believe the vision in our minds is unachievable.

But the cold hard reality is that it is. Merely picture the person you really want, and then visualize the person you think she deserves to be with.

And then become that person and don't give up until you believe your capable of achieving this. The key in solving the paradox is in asking yourself why you don't put yourself on the pedastal too. That, in itself, is where the problem lies.

Anonymous said...

Shelly- Sometimes It's just about freeing yourself.

There's only one way you can know if you really do love.

And that's by standing back and letting them hurt you.

Carry on as you have been doing, Shelly.
You're still here.

And the longer you stand by that last line, the easier it gets.

When you know your critics couldn't do what you did, you can swat them down like flies.

I'll tell you my favourite Latin phrase, don't forget it.

Vae Victis.

Live that, you'll always have them squirming.

Anonymous said...

And HERE lies your problems, Ingsoc

"But most of my relationships fail because at a deep psychological level, sex and love are incompatible, in my worldview."

You have personified the Virgin Mary and made her your ideal.

She is no such thing. Your mother and yet the perfect, nubile young virgin.

Good grief !

Let's take a step back.

A few posts ago you were telling us that the secret to the cosmos was 'thermodynamics' ... oh dear, this does not reconcile very well with religion does it!

All along it was TIME-SAUSAGE theory. This I am about to disclose on my wonderful blog soon.


Anonymous said...

What an excellent comment Shelly Rayedeane has made here Crushed. I think you should think about it again. Isn't that what the journey is all about? Trying to improve ourselves, to make ourselves "better" people?
EK's is pretty good too. Your idea about Mary seems a bit unhealthy to me too. But then I did not have a Catholic upbringing but became a convert in my early twenties. And wouldn't you know it but I married a non Catholic, not even a believer!

It would never occur to me to pray to Mary directly, although I have taken part in many Rosaries and actually used to say it daily for years, but no longer. It seems my Catholicism has evolved away from that. I don't see the point of it any more.

I never delete the blogs from my sidebar when the blogger disappears. They may be gone but not forgotten by me, at least. I see some of them in other sidebars too.

Anonymous said...

Holy shite! Shelly's back, I'll trot over to see her.

And I agree with Ms. Rayedeane, part of loving someone is aspiring to be the person that meets their ideals, too.

And I agree with jmb, links stay as is if the blogger left their world.

Anonymous said...

(1) I've already commemorated past bloggers in the section of my sidebar that reads "Archives Better than This One." I think it's a good tradition to start, as such.

(2) You remind me of what Groucho Marx said about never wanting belong to a club that would have people like him for a member.

(3) This is, in a way, probably one of the deepest posts I've read on the blogosphere (IMHO). It's personal, it's candid, it's thoughtful and it really lays a lot on the line.

What you're describing is a type of conditioning--if you want the technical term, it's 'associative' or 'Type S' conditioning. This relies upon the intelligence of the subject to connect broad themes of emotion, themes that are otherwise unconnectable, by linking them together in some manner. Whereas many ancient cults had fertility rituals that celebrated female sexuality as holy or sacred, Christianity (in particular the Catholic faith, but I think this applies to all sects) have a standard of Mary, the chaste mom.

As you point out, this is something that's unattainable in the first century BC (unless someone had secretly invented in vitro fertilization). That chastity and motherhood could be linked together to form a feminine ideal, that has held water (so to speak) for millennia is really an awesome thought to process. Yet, this is a theme that I recall Huxley addressing in Brave New world where, since everyone's bborn in a test tube, the word 'mother' becomes an obscenity.

It's interesting too how we've historically treated unmarried mothers as the antithesis of virtue (the fathers, of course, are judged differently), while children find it difficult to accept, sometimes, that their mothers had sex--and if they did, they were certainly closing their eyes and thinking of the Empire.

Of course, putting someone on a pedestal might seem like praise. But in effect it robs them of both their authority and autonomy, the ability to act according to one's own nature or calling. But in a larger context, it could be preventing something necessary for everyone.

As a shrink friend of mine once commented, "Good girls fuck. And," she added, "they like it." Makes sense. Otherwise, it would be tantamount to declaring women, at least good wholesome ones that one wishes to leave unsullied, have neither will nor sex drive.

(4) Given the theme of your blog, I'm also thinking about Julia. You know as well as I do that INGSOC used sex as a means of control. It officially sanctions the anti-sex league, but allows Winston to visit a prostitute without repercussions. Furthermore, Minitruth also prints porno. The results can be seen in their relationship.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's a paradox. Unsolvable, then, I think - unless you choose to be with a woman who is willing to be with you because you love her, yet holds her heart aloof; untouchable ;-)

The sidebar blogger is a sweet idea; almost worth stopping blogging for. The problem with it is that it's your tribute to them; satisfies you, but since they're gone, can't satisfy them *just like a nice gravestone, I guess...*

Anonymous said...

E-K- It's more complex than that, I think.
I notice x-dell has hit the nail on the head.

I'm not sure how far Our Lady is in fact my ideal, because I think my own personal ideal of WOMANHOOD has developed in a very different way.

But the ideal affects my own outlook, in the sense that it creates a model of devotion I find it hard to escape from.

My relationship with religion is an unusual one, no I don't believe as literally true many of the finer points of theology, nor do I believe in an afterlife.

I do not believe in a personal God, I believe the universe is conscious, so I am worshipping something, though something a little more complex than traditional theology.

It's the devotional standards that come with it that seem to lay heavy on my outlook.

Religous devotion has set a standard for me in my ideals of love that I find it hard to escape from.

jmb- It's decidely unhealthy, I think.
I think converts come to Catholicism from a different angle.

For me Catholicism remains the framework within which much of my thought structures have developed, and if the original framework is often recognisable, the framework remains.

Whilst I have turned against the views of religion on most matters of a sexual nature, I remain tied to the emotional viewpoints.

There is a sense in which idolising something is the purest form of love and there has to an element of self denial for it be valid.

Helen- Isn't acknowledging that you are unworthy of someone perhaps the truest form of love though?

Is not the unrequited lover the only true lover? For love to be true, it has to be unconditional and unquestioning.

I only relove links, if the blogger deletes. There are four or five 'dead' blogs on my roll.

x-dell- It has evolved in a curious kind of why for me, but I'm glad you brought up Julia.
You remember he line where Winston says that the more men she has slept with, the more he loves her? This is quite important to the whole outlook of the book.

In a sense, I really do feel that, I find something very erotic about a woman who is, in conventional terms, dirty. And the 'dirtier' they are, the higher my level of genuine admiration. My PERSONAL ideal of womanhood is more Freya, than Virgin Mary. But the DEVOTION to that ideal, remains very Marian.

It's also of course, developed as a result of my own philosophical viewpoint.
Although I don't take the fall literally, I do see sexual jealousy and sexual possessiveness as a human imperfection, and quite like the idea of men worshipping woman for their sexuality.

So the woman I'm trying to put on the pedestal is anything but a virgin.

Eve- I think I might have mentioned before, the theoretical ideal I hold up, is a man being completely faithul to a woman who is rampantly promiscuous.
The whole point IS, that it would hurt, in a certain way, it would be a continual assault on your dignity.
But that would be why it was rewarding.

Anonymous said...

sorry to say mate, but to me it all sounds a bit screwed up. I do understand where you are coming from, and in some weird way, it does make sence, putting women you love on a pedestal which you can never reach.

But i'm wondering, how come, why does true, pure love be unattainable. Of course, there are different kind of love and different ways of loving a person, but still... Cuz its not that you are not able to love, its that somehow you feel that you are not worthy being loved.

And hearing that truly breaks my heart. Whats purpose of life, if not loving and being loved back in return?

Anonymous said...

OK: I've had BIG problems trying to leave a comment... computers FULL of viruses/closing down things/screenfreezing/bugs/worms so I'd better be quick.

I'm no proddy but certainly no Roman Catholic either... "Mary Mother of God"... what a mystery THAT is unless you see Mary as just a historical human being who bore the Son of God... to me she isn't some spiritual star in the firmament or some idol "Mariolatry" I like that one...

"Worshipping Mary" is one thing... but what I don't get about the Catholic faith is all these saints that you're allowed to pray to..? Surely as it says when John prostrates before the mighty angel in Revelation "WORSHIP GOD"... and surely he (or she) you pray to is also one you worship?...?

Please help me out here if I'm wrong because I find this stuff really confusing!!

Anonymous said...

Crashie- It's the ideal inherant in Catholic thought.
The strength of Catholicism has always been it's underlying assumpion.

It survives on a dual code of morality.
It has laity, and clergy.
Protestantism doesn't have that, it exists on the basis of a fairly populist theology, which tries to avoid the fact that it is logically inconsistent and incompatible with any remote degree of intellectual thought.

Catholicism rests on the assumption that truth is hard and complex. It rests on the assumption that it's guardians have to make huge personal sacfrifices.

There are sheep, and shepherds. The faith doesn't encourage the laity to involve themselves in the intricacies of the universe. The idea is, that's what the church is for, to guide the sheep away from the devil.

Implicit in Catholic theology is the assumption that if you actually want to truly seek for truth, there are certain things you must sacrifice.

The whole point of the creed is 'Are you a big enough man to love the entirity of humanity and get no love back?'
That's the ideal. And, in cultures like Ireland that ideal took the brightest and the best out of the poverty trap and redirected their desires towards guarding a culture.

And that mode of thought plays a huge part in my worldview.

Gledwood- You need to understand redemption and penance.
OK, we believe that escaping damnation doesn't mean, you don't owe.
God says 'vengeance is mine'. That means, you are going to pay. Your sins are forgiven, because you repented. You won't go to Hell.
But that doesn't mean there isn't a debt.

Hitler, as that bullet pierced hid throat, might sudenly have realised 'Hey, God, I've been a bit of an evil dude, I'm sorry.'

Does he go straight to Heaven?
Well, I don't see how he can, and nor does my faith.

The fact remains, any reasonable interpretation, implies that sins are punished, even for the repentant sinner. In Catholicism, damned and saved is too simple. We have Saints, the penitant sinner, the unrepentant snner.

Saints are those who died, completely at peace. They escaped Purgatory and went straight to Heaven.
So, we know they are there now. Everyone else, we don't. We cannot know when they will leave Purgatory. When they do of course, they will be thoroughly cleansed, their debt repaid, and as pure as the Saints who preceded them.

We pray to Saints, because we see them as already sitting there on the steps of God's throne. They have access to him. They may be able to phrase our petitions better than we can, because they see a much bigger picture.

I'm not saying I actually believe this to be true. But it does make sense.

Anonymous said...

Surely the "Mary myth" was brought into being to justify patriarchy?
What you've siad about loving a woman only if you can put her on a pedastal plunges me into despair!

Anonymous said...

> I think I might have mentioned before, the theoretical ideal I hold up, is a man being completely faithul to a woman who is rampantly promiscuous.
*grins* Yes, you mentioned it; I was remembering that when typing my comment :-)