Thursday, September 14, 2006

The God of flatulence

I don't think I've ever liked fart jokes. But I was watching a little movie on YouTube where someone spiced together clips of televangelist Robert Tilton, and interspersed loud farting sounds throughout. Normally I wouldn't find this sort of thing funny. But because few people in the world deserve this treatment more than Mr. Tilton, and because his pseudo-spiritual facial expressions and halting cadence I was actually amused. Then my coworker, Little Miss Takes It To Far asked me if I'm at that stage in my marriage relationship where we fart in front of each other. Apparently that is some kind of marker post that tells you that you are truly comfortable with each other. Well, I went 11 years without doing it last time. It's really not a comfort level thing. At least as it applies to relationships. The fact is I'm not comfortable with the entire idea of gas. I never have been. It's probably the thing I hate most about being human.

I don't question God when it comes to evil, war, poverty or disease. What I question is why he gave us 5 senses instead of 4. Why smell? Why, God, whyyyyyyy!?!?! I've heard we need a sense of smell to be able to taste. But I'm sure God could have found a way around that. I know smell has saved countless lives. But why did God put is in these flesh sacks that continually reek? Everything we do stinks. Our breath stinks, our feet stink, our sweat stinks, our excretions stink, even normal digestion produces stinking gasses that are squeezed through a tiny sphincter to escape. Although… 'stink' is relative, right? I mean, other animals seem to LIKE the smell of these things. Think about the first thing most dogs do when they meet… they sniff each other's butts.

So God decided to put us in these animal bodies rather than some sort of pure energy form, or spiritual form, or… or anything else! And not only does He put us in these bodies that exude odor, but He makes it so we hate the odor we exude. If we had evolved this sense of smell, you'd think we would be more comfortable with our own smells. But no. And I hate it.

But why is that? I'll chalk some of it up to the traces of Victorian propriety that still lingers in my culture. It seems that most of the rest of the world is much more comfortable with their bodily functions than us. But even by my culture's standards I'm a prude about this. The best explanation I can think of is simply old-fashioned pride. I don't like being humiliated by having a bad smell associated with me. I don't suppose many people do. But I must be worse, since I find little humor in it. I've been in groups of people (specifically young guys) who apparently find it hilarious, and try to make it as loud and obvious as possible. They seem to get bonus humor points for trapping others with the smell, like in a car or elevator.

Maybe my slight O.C.D. has something to do with it. I don't touch door knobs, and I feel a need to wash my hands after I've been outside, even if I haven't touched anything. But the door knob thing really makes sense. I mean, what's the point of washing your hands after using the restroom if you're just going to grab a handle that 1,000 other people who haven't washed their hands have touched? As far as I'm concerned, that's just like grabbing 1,000 people's crotches. And smell? That's even worse. Actual particles of whatever you smell are entering your body. That means when you smell a fart there are actual particulates of someone else's intestinal gasses IN YOUR BODY! That's NOT FUNNY!

Ok… I've calmed down now. It's funny that I can see a purpose in so many other physical infirmities. I could see why God would make mankind so fragile. We face our mortality daily. We know water can kill us, wind can kill us, lightning, hail, animals, earthquakes, starvation, heat, cold… the list goes on and on. God knew what He was doing when He thoroughly mixed our soul together with this fragile flesh. He gave us longings that can't be fulfilled, desires for knowledge that can't be gained, and limitations galore.

I've heard it said that pride is at the root of every sin. Every evil grows from that vile soil. I wonder if this life is all about digging that root up and burning it in unquenchable fire. I wonder if God can't have a family of thinking, loving beings until they have gone through the process of having the pride burnt out of them. And what a lovely reminder this flesh is that we are not God. We can dress in the finest clothes, go to the best parties, have all the right friends and be rich and famous. But we will still have smelly gas seeping out of our rear, making funny noises at inconvenient times.

Seeing flesh as a mechanism for bringing about humility makes the incarnation just that much more profound. That the creator of the universe -the originator of space, time, and matter- would squeeze Himself through a birth canal, and live in a farting flesh sack for 33 years is simply the greatest state-change that anything in the universe has ever undergone. This is riches-to-rags times infinity.

I was reading about the difference between Shame and Guilt cultures. http://www.doceo.co.uk/background/shame_guilt.htm The West is generally Guilt driven, while the East tends towards Shame. The difference lies in how you perceive your misdeeds and how your society views them. In our Western culture we try to instill the idea that you are innocent until proven guilty. (Though this doesn't happen in the media or small social circles.) In a shame oriented culture it doesn't matter whether you are innocent or guilty, only what people think about you. You are honorable if you are perceived that way, regardless of how you really are. Not like here, where you may be beaten, betrayed, imprisoned, and hated, but if you know you are honorable, you still are.

Jesus came into a shame oriented system. His incarnation provided a larger honor-to-shame ratio than could be imagined. But beyond that, the death that He underwent, while not the most painful ever, was the most shameful possible. It was not like an innocent man in America going to the electric chair. No, Jesus was guilty according to the society He was in. Every honor a human could cling to was stripped from Him. His shame was complete. Despite every representation of the crucifixion I've ever seen, He was completely naked. I don't think we artists do the scene justice when we edit it with a little loin cloth to sooth our Victorian sensibilities. The point of the crucifixion was the total and utter SHAME it brought on the one who is most exalted in the universe. Because in that shame, brought to the fullest extent possible, we see the motivation: which is Love, brought to the fullest extent possible.

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