Betty Duffy


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beautiful Metaphors

I have a thing for beauty, and a thing for words, and a thing for God. So I love it when religion makes use of literary devices like beautiful metaphors to offer a greater understanding of God. But sometimes I am perplexed by how pop culture turns those metaphors on their heads.

I was talking to my friend, Pedge, today, who recently went to a talk at her Parish on the Theology of the Body. If you are not familiar with the Theology of the Body, please become familiar with it, because it contains some of the most beautiful metaphors I've ever heard (it's the best attempt at turning sex into poetry I've encountered). Pedge told me today about one such metaphor. Here it is: God created man in his own image, so when he first created Adam, he was both male and female, or androgynous.

It makes sense that the image of God would be both male and female. God separated the sexes, taking Adam's rib and creating woman, which caused Adam to proclaim, "This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." The two are then reunited in "one flesh" in marriage.

Now, here comes pop culture to turn it all upside down. If both man and woman are the image of God, then what in the hell is pornography? Think of all the sweaty guys hiding out in their basements with the blue light of the computer screen illuminating their perverse homage to the image of God. It's perplexing.

My theory is that you can identify an ethical slippery slope by what it does to our time worn metaphors. Think of what abortion does to our metaphor of the womb as a safe place. What does in vitro fertilization do to a "fertile imagination" (talk about "planting ideas")? What do absentee fathers do to our "fatherland"? What about GMOs and the "seeds we sow" or the "new crop" of children we're raising? I could go on and on.

There's a bit of truth in the symbolisms we've used over the years in our poetry and prose. And I must say that there are some disturbing changes taking place in the land of metaphor. Personally, I would much prefer for my husband to call me "Flesh of my flesh" than "My ho." (Though in real life, hell might freeze over before he seriously calls me either one.)

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