Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fleshly images

Emily Stimpson writes about beauty:

[The people we love] don’t see a collection of body parts; they see us. They see our love for them. They see sacrifices made and patience exercised. They see how many times we’ve forgiven them, listened to them, and encouraged them. They see our honesty, integrity, fidelity, and devotion. They also see our intelligence, humor, wit, and creativity—all gifts from God and all ways we image God.

Nihilists, objectivists, second-wave feminists, et al. don’t believe in this kind of beauty or the love that inheres in it. They believe in the actualizing of nuanced images of the self against custom, against law, against nature. On their view, people are only good for what use we have for them.

In a digital, pixelated age, much of what passes for beauty is superficial. Consumer culture manipulates our weakness for beauty to sell us stuff. Far more hurtful than parting with our money, however, is parting with our capacity to love. As Morgan Bennett notes in Public Discourse, continued consumption of images reroutes sexual interaction down image-oriented neural pathways in the brain at the expense of deeper attraction. In short, images stunt our ability to be excited by genuine love.

Fleshly images have the power to overshadow the essentials of a woman. Countless are the pretty girls I would have done anything to be with who were uninteresting and uninterested in me. That was my fault. I had trouble acquainting pretty girls because their characters remained hidden to me as I idolized their prettiness.

You can tell a man who idolizes the flesh from a man who doesn’t by his discomfort in the still, quiet spaces, where the shallowness of his attraction is exposed, like the near shore in low tide. There’s nothing wrong with admiring a woman’s flesh, but love must have deeper foundations to flourish.

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