Against the Senses: Christian Nihilism

July 18, 2007


This chapter should be about what it's supposed to be about. So, everyone is familiar with the general consideration of the body the Catholic Church has. It's mostly bad. You're a soul and you merely inhabit your body, in a world whose leader is Satan. That doesn't sound too good does it. All things material should be your enemy; anything from this world should be your enemy. That's where the senses come in.

The sense that Christians/Catholics hate the most is the touch. Sex belongs to that one, unless you want to argue that orgasming and sexual pleasure belong to another sense, like something unto itself. Maybe, but for the purpose of this chapter, I'll just assume that sexual pleasure is merely the sense of touch on a higher level, if that's ok with everyone.

Say you're a monk trying to lead a very spiritual and religious life. You're not supposed to have sex, and you're not supposed to do anything carnal. Obviously, you're not supposed to caress people or kiss or lick them in any way whatsoever. That's all about the sense of touch still. Fine.

Now I have a problem with this because it seems that only some senses are being discriminated against. For instance, monks were highly discouraged from having one-night stands with peasant girls, but, on the other hand, they were encouraged to sing. Music? Isn't that the sense of hearing?

You bet it is. So let's check this out. Mozart, ok, masturbation, nope. Why now? Because music was never intended to procreate, and because you can't procreate with music anyway. Mmmmh... All right, but it's still a sense of the body, and it has to do with the world. The world whose leader is Satan. So why the sense of touch and not that of hearing? Can I listen to the best music ever and remain "detached from this world"? Monks were, and are, supposed to be devoted solely to Christ, God, etc., and not linger about earthly things. Now comes the moment where you wonder how spiritual music is exactly, if at all. Some people think light is spiritual, because you can't grasp it with your big hands. Light is not spiritual, it's very much a physical thing, and it doesn't pass through walls, by the way, nor does it pass through your big hands. Sound is much the same, it's equally physical. Now, you can say that sounds are to music what visual stimuli are to a text: the means isn't the core of it. That's a good point; it tends to say that hearing per se isn't the point of music, much the same way as reading isn't about seeing letters. Mmmmh...

Obviously, I have a problem with defining the spiritual and material, and even with the very adequacy of the schism. Let us not forget that all this isn't so much a Christian thing, originally, as a paradigm from elsewhere. Or maybe I'm wrong. I don't know. Is music spiritual? If yes, why isn't love-making spiritual too? Why do we discriminate against touch and not hearing?

Here's a possible explanation. The sense of touch is a dirty one because it's the one that makes you the most "in touch" with the world (whose leader is Satan). Not only that, but it also encompasses sex and the desire for it, lust and all. So in short, the sense of touch includes walking in a dog turd bare foot, sweating, stinking [wouldn't that be the sense of smell? Oh well, it must have made sense back when I wrote this.], pain, and everything nasty that happens with sex and child-delivery. I won't go into details. Hearing, on the other hand, has none of those inconveniences! No blood, no weird liquids, and no insane craving for hearing sounds. Consider the sense of tasting; that's connected to food, which is a bodily need you won't have anymore once you're just a soul in Heaven, or Hell. [Actually, that statement is wrong. I wasn’t familiar with the notion of the glorified body back then.] Eating is connected to the idea that you need this world (whose leader is Satan) and that you're a slave to it: if you don't eat, you die. Also, eating is connected to taking dumps. Oh yes, dear human, you take dumps. Everything you eat comes out of your ass in a less than desirable state. And it stinks like a mother. Nothing to be very proud about. Compare to sounds again; sounds don't do this! When you listen to music, there's no turd coming out of your mouth the next day. It enters the ear, and that's the end of it. Much more "spiritual", if that's how early Christians viewed the whole deal.

That would explain why those two senses get a bad reputation among humans, but is it a fair treatment? Is it based on a fair reasoning? I'm not so sure. Just because a sense is connected to things you dislike doesn't mean it's inherently evil. And if you're about considering the flesh a bad thing, then consider the WHOLE of it a bad thing, not just your skin and gustative capacities.

Let's take it to the extreme to make the point more obvious. You're now a monk, you've come to understand that hearing is a sense too, and that it's bodily, and that you hate your body because you're a good Christian. So you mortify (make dead) your senses. Thus, you never have sex with or touch any human being. You fast often. You listen to no music and nothing at all. You try not to look at things lest you should find something beautiful in this world, like, say, a tree whose leaves are moving in the wind making a peaceful sound of comfort. Remember, Satan is hiding in those leaves. So basically, as a monk, you're in a dark room with ear-plugs, your body is an isolation coffin half filled with water so you don't feel your body anymore (sense of touch) and you just remain there. If you take all the senses away, you're left with absolutely nothing but a consciousness in Hell. I'm serious: experiments have proved that the human brain does not survive over 24 hours without sensual stimulation. That means, if your senses give your brain no stimulation at all, you die.

That reminds me of this movie/book Johnny Got His Gun where this soldier ends up limbless, without eyes, ears, or any of his senses except touch. He doesn't even have a mouth or nose anymore, his whole face was blown away, and he can't communicate with anyone, he can only move his head up and down. Talk of a nightmare... But that seems to be the Christian ideal pushed to its extreme. And we're not able to survive in such conditions. We need senses and we need this world. And by "this world", I mean a physical world outside of our bodies, insofar as our bodies are to be separated from said outside.

So basically, it's confusing. And unless I find a reason to make music different from sex, in a physical way, I will think it's squarely BULLSHIT. You hear music, but that's not what counts, we said above, it's the melody, whatever. Now, can we apply this model to the touch? Yes, we can. "Touch isn't about having a hand gently caressing your chest, it's about what it makes you feel inside, just like music does, on a different sense." Does this work? Well I wonder. It seems that hearing is more developed than touch because I can't imagine writing the equivalent of a song in touch terms. The symphony of the chest! Maybe some alien beings whose sense of touch is more developed than ours are able to perform such things, but as far as we are concerned, it's not. This being said, I heard a woman say she had orgasms from her feet.

I leave this chapter as it is with a possible return to the topic later on. [Not so sure about that...]

©Nicolas