Emma and I were walking through the Botanic Gardens last week. It was raining so we were snuggled up under our umbrella. We were on our way to my new favourite Sydney Cafe – the Poolside Cafe at Andrew â€˜Boyâ€™ Charlton Pool down on the edge of the water near Lady Macquarieâ€™s Chair. We were worried that the cafe would be closed so Emma rang directory to get the number for the Cafe to check.
At the moment the Gardens are running an exhibition in the pyramid green-house on Orchids and Carnivorous Plants. The garden in front of the green house has been planted out with the name of the exhibition in flowers.
We came round the corner and saw this just as the operator from directory assistance picked up Emmaâ€™s call. I read out the name written in the garden, just a little bit too loud, â€œSex and Deathâ€…
The operator didnâ€™t miss a beat: â€˜what suburb please?â€™
I should have known that thereâ€™d be more than one listingâ€¦
Iâ€™ve been working on writing a review of The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault, so ideas about sexuality have been rustling round my mind.
The connection between sex and death is striking.
Obviously, there is a biological connection.
Reproductive sex is the mechanism through which we deal, on a biological level, with the problem of death.
Itâ€™s easy to take for granted the fact that we are only one generation away from total extinction – a point made with great power in the recent movie, The Children of Men.
But the connection runs deeper, there is a theological connection between sex and death.
Death is subject to a strict taboo in our society. It is in the blushingly Victorian space occupied by sex during the 19th Century. Our culture is marked by the thundering silence we have produced regarding death.
Is it that the secular world feels that it has answered the perennial human questioning about death…
“What happens when we die?”
… And has found the answer is profoundly dissatisfying.
Our way of life, the goods we pursue, the values we endorse, do not really make a great deal of sense in the face of an extinction coming fifteen years after retirement from work. We pile things up as though they are going to last.
… as though we are going to last to enjoy them.
On the other hand, the speech of sex grows louder and louder.
Sex is the coin of the realm. It is in the way we dress, saturates our entertainment, and is essential to our system of trade.
As death has been silenced, tucked politely out of sight. Sex has blossomed into view.
The sexual embrace is a flight from death. The desire to escape death in the power of a sensation, precisely because it is the only form of immortality left to secular humanity. The desire to speak about sex and to trade in sex is a mask for the desire to transgress the taboos surrounding sex, and by breaking the rules to master them.
And whoever masters sex holds the ‘keys of death and hades’.
At this point the Christian worldview could not be more different. Yet not without its own difficulties.
At least initially, there was no connection between sex and death, how does this make sense biologically?
Or was there death before the fall, but a different sort of death? (heresy alert)
And what are we to make of this?
â€œFor in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven.â€ (Matt 22:30 HCSB)