Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sexuality: An Introduction

It is commonly known that the oldest industry in the human race is prostitution. Prostitution continues to exist everywhere even though it is illegal in many countries. With the widespread access to the Internet, prostitution is accessible to persons with smart phones including teenagers and younger kids in most countries. While parents are busy at work, their kids have an easy way to watch pornographic videos on the digital media. With that in  mind,  liberal individualism has invaded homes and schools. The alarming trend of recognizing different types of sexual orientation as valid expressions of love, together with advances in scientific technology, pressed the justice systems in the West to legally recognize gay marriages.In imitation of other Western jurisdictions, the government of Ontario, Canada has introduced sex education to school students as young as 8 years old. 

However, thoughtful intellectuals have expressed their discontent with the above trend. In the June 2014 issue of the renowned First Things, Professor R. R. Reno describes the revolution of the "empire of desire".The full article can be found here

More comprehensive is Saint John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" which I presented in 2008 at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church in Thornhill, Ontario (See the lecture here).

Psychology: New findings

Any discussion on human sexuality requires familiarity with the advances in psychology and neuroscience particularly as the topic addresses the needs of children in schools.

A pioneer in cognitive child development, Jean Piaget taught his theory at the University of Geneva and at the Sorbonne in Paris (1950s). A most interesting article on the philosophy advanced by Piaget's psychology can be found at Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy herePiaget's model goes through stages including "sensorimotor" (0 to 2 yrs); "preoperational" (2-7 yrs); "concrete operational" (7-11 yrs); and "formal operational" (11 yrs.+). His influential work in education was adopted by the U.K. Government in 1966. His work, however did not lack criticism by others. By the end of the 20th century,Piaget's work was rated second only to the behaviorist school of B.F. Skinner in psychology. 

Dr. Alfred Tomatis (1920-2001) was an internationally-known otolaryngologist and researcher/inventor. He received his Doctorate in Medicine from the Paris School of Medicine. His major contribution is his theory that in humans, hearing and speaking are integrated for communicating by means of the whole psyche and the entire body. Tomatis distinguishes accordingly between hearing and listening. The child in the womb of his mother listens to her conversations as early as two months before the formation of the brain. It is his cumulative experience which gets stored and can be elevated to the higher levels of the brain and consciousness when ready (Cf. Raymund Schwagger, S.J., "Banished from Eden", English translation 2006). Not only do Tomatis' experiments support Evolutionary Theory but also show the importance of listening in the relationship of children and parents. For more on the continuing research by his collaborators/scientists see here

A widely appealing psychology today is "Positive Psychology" pioneered by Professor Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. As defined on the website, "Positive Psychology is founded on the belief that people want more than an end to suffering. People want to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experience of love, work, and play." To achieve the above, the reader is referred to a list of attributes here. Evidently, "Positive Psychology" generously uses Christian attributes for having a better community including responsible parenting, and communications between parents and children.

Associated for decades with the Christian Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon and Syria, the late Costi Bendaly, who earned a doctorate in applied psychology from the University of Lyon III,  wrote about sexuality and its human meaning as early as 1971 (in Arabic, republished later in Arabic and French under different titles). Check his website here and here.

In his lecture  in 2003 at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church, the Jesuit scholar Henri Boulad, S.J. spoke about sexuality from a psychological perspective in human life summarized in his book "The Dimensions of Love" (in French and Arabic) and based on his study of Freud and other psycho-analysts in his Master's degree from the University of Chicago. Henri Boulad, S.J. wrote extensively on the psychology of love, and sexuality. His publications can be found on his website here (French) and here (English). His latest publication translated to English is titled "Psychology of Love, Orality, and the Eucharist."  Once published, it will surely fascinate the readers as it draws on the insights of modern science, and the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Anthropology: Natural collaboration between sexes rather than competition for work

Desire has been studied by anthropologists and academics of fame including René Girard of Stanford University whose "Mimetic Theory" brought to light the powerful influence of mimesis (or imitation) that increases man's desire which he shares with a rival model (man) for the same object (woman). See an introduction and an interview with Girard in 2003 here and another interview in 2009 here. Readers may also wish to read this introduction to his thought here and here. In his book "Christ in Postmodern Philosophy" (2008), Frederiek Depoortere dedicates an entire section to Girard's responses to contemporary questions in several fields of science, anthropology, and philosophy (Pp. 34-91).

Recent discoveries in the evolutionary anthropology of the human race point to reasons why homo sapiens survived adverse conditions while their earlier neanderthal and homo erectus species could not. One factor is based on competition between male and female animals of the same species to hunt for the prey. In homo sapiens early males and females divided the jobs rather than competing for them which resulted in maintaining a higher level of reproduction and survival. Rather than going out together to hunt for and kill preys which harms the upbringing of offspring, the male fetches the food, likely by killing the prey, and brings it home to his female whose role is the delivery of, nursing and upbringing of their offspring. This way the jobs in the family are distributed. It does not prevent the female from getting her well-deserved education, but the government must compensate her with a suitable income in the modern state by taxing the very rich and using the tax to support mothers at home.

Once competition between males and females has been naturally eliminated, tension between them is reduced which results in more fruitful relationships. The events of wars should not blind humanity. If women had to go to work after so many losses of fighting men in World War I and World War II, it does not follow that society must legalize the selfish evils found in divorce, abortion and competition that result in the weakening of the family and the stealing of children from their parents by secular authorities with minimal interest in the healthy growth of kids.

Sociology: The Powerful Example of Brené Brown
Brené Brown, Research Professor at the University of Houston Graduate  College of Social Work, has shown and written on the need for children to be themselves  in order to achieve confidence that they are loved in society. Her TED talk about vulnerability has been watched online by 20 million people. See also Brené Brown, 2012, "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love and Lead", Published by Gotham. And over 5 million listened to her talking about shame. But it is above all worth noting how Brené Brown was transformed into the loving parent through her research.

Probably parents can do what she did: Be yourself to your children. Love them as they are. This is the first step - a huge one - if parents are willing to teach their kids about sexuality. If it is true that the family is a domestic church, then it makes sense that the mystery of Christ, that starts with selfless love, should be lived in the family. By simple extrapolation or extension, if it is true that the diocese is a church, it makes sense that the Bishop be himself to his priests, children and collaborators so they can look up to him and say this is us. We are one in Church!

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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