a spiritual encounter with the body

i am sitting on the greyhound bus on my way back from vancouver. tomorrow i’m giving a talk about “sacred hedonism”. that phrase popped into my mind a few weeks ago and now i’m sitting here trying to figure out exactly what i meant by that. i know i had in mind to refer to a book by stephanie paulsell, honoring the body. it is one of the most delightfully written books i’ve come across in a number of years. there’s a quiet, reverent voice that’s speaking in that book, very feminine – or no, i think the word would be “womanly”; that voice seems to be confiding in me personally a secret – a secret not because what it speaks of should be kept hidden but because it is told so softly, so intimately, and a secret that this voice wants to be shared.

i am not sure that the word hedonism comes up anywhere in that book. stephanie paulsell is a christian, a disciple of christ to be exact. somehow i can’t connect the idea of hedonism with such a seriously christian group. (btw, i’m going to try to send this blog to ms. paulsell, and would happily stand corrected on this issue).

because i’m on the bus here and don’t have an internet connection, i cannot go my usual route of going to the dictionary to inspire a learner spouting forth on the greek origin (yes, that much i know) of that word. so i’ll just have to ask myself what i meant.

ok, so by hedonism i mean the enjoyment of what my senses allow me to experience. the feeling of aaaaaahhhh at the smell of freshly ground coffee. (i wish there was an internet smell experience, i could give you a link to it). the soft excitement at touching with the whole of the palm of my hand the slightly damp, green feeling of fresh grass. the drinking in of the sight of the full moon on a clear night. the sound of glenn gould playing the goldberg variations. the feeling of being, well, almost being saved when my feet, cold from over tiredness, snuggle up to the hot water bottle in my bed.

being saved. back to the christians. i am happy that i have regained a good relationship with my lutheran-christian roots but the idea of the saviour still eludes me. saved from what? the idea of needing a saviour includes a threat, and the way i understand this (supposedly) particularly strong need for a saviour that some christians talk about implies a constant, strong threat. well, i find life as it presents itself to me daily challenging enough, i don’t really want to add to the stress by imagining some horrible threat looming over me all the time.

oh boy, in this last paragraph there is enough material to write a whole bunch of theological essays but that’s not what i’m trying to do here.

what i DO notice though is, indeed, this feeling of … hmmmm …. what is it …. a feeling of relaxation, of sitting back, of relief, of not needing to keep up walls, which are associated with the examples of sense enjoyment i just listed.

is that what i meant by sacred hedonism? that the sacredness consists in giving myself so fully to the experience of my senses that i can let go, let go into the care of the divine?

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