Friday, August 15, 2008

The Beauty of Vulgarity

I chanced across an obscure quote from a 50 year-old book while at work, and I liked the quote so much I bought the book. Here's the quote:

The true biologist deals with life, with teeming boisterous life, and learns something from it, learns that the first rule of life is living.

It's from John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez, originally published in 1958. It's the narrative tale of a biological expedition he led to the gulf off the Baja Peninsula's east coast.

His style is that of a truth-lover, a scientist smitten with the whole of creation, and a crafty wordsmith rolled up into one. The following quote sounded to me like something Christopher West would say:

A man we know once long ago worked for a wealthy family in a country place. One morning one of the cows had a calf. The children of the house went down with him to watch her. It was a good normal birth, a perfect presentation, and the cow needed no help. The children asked questions and he answered them. And when the emerged head cleared through the sac, the little black muzzle appeared, and the first breath was drawn, the children were fascinated and awed. And this was the time for their mother to come screaming down on the vulgarity of the letting the children see the birth. This 'vulgarity' had given them a sense of wonder at the structure of life, while the mother's propriety and gentility supplanted that feeling with dirtiness. If the reader of this book is 'genteel', then this is a very vulgar book, because the animals in a tide pool have two major preoccupations: first, survival, and second, reproduction. They reproduce all over the place.

In many ways Steinbeck's comments ring true today, and resonate loudly, I feel, with John Paul II's teaching on sexuality: it's not something dirty or crude or a necessary evil. It's a glorious, beautiful gift God has given us, and for more than mere procreating - for proclaiming his analogical love for us through a physical expression of the deepest passion we can muster, and then by letting us know his love is deeper. There is no shame in sex when it's partaken of in the context of God's plan for our lives.

1 comment:

  1. I drop over from time to time and see what you are up to. This post was terrific, and much needed, and somewhat prophetic, considering when it was written.

    If only people could get a glimpse of this part of what it is to be Catholic.

    Good post!


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