Sunday, January 16, 2011


Chapter fifteen, as we remember, was all about embracing one's body and reveling in the physical self. In chapter sixteen, Clifford tries to explain to Connie this new scientific theology he's become a fan of. The idea is that "The universe shows us two aspects: on one side it is physically wasting, on the other it is spiritually ascending" (256). To put in the terms we've been using, the physical life is deteriorating while the mental life rises and expands.

Needless to say, Connie disagrees. "Give me the body. I believe the life of the body is a greater reality than the life of the mind: when the body is really awakened to life. But so many people, like your famous wind-machine, have only got minds tacked on to their physical corpses. [...] The human body is only just coming to real life. With the Greeks it gave a lovely flicker, then Plato and Aristotle killed it, and Jesus finished it off" (258). (Remember the Greeks from the last entry?)

To which Clifford says: "The life of the just the life of animals."

And to an extent, Connie agrees: "[Men] are all dogs that trot and sniff and copulate" (273). But humans who embrace their physicality/sensuality/sexuality may rise above the state of animals through "Sheer fiery sensuality, not messiness."

Connie discovers this through one night of such passion, where she is cleansed by Oliver's "piercing thrills of sensuality, different, sharper, more terrible than the thrills of tenderness, but, at the moment, more desirable" (271). She lets him pursue this sensuality, gives him his way, and
"It was sensuality sharp and searing as fire, burning the soul to tinder. Burning out the shames, the deepest, oldest shames, in the most secret places. [...] But it took some getting at, the core of the physical jungle, the last and deepest recess of organic shame. The phallus alone could explore it. And how he had pressed in on her!
And how, in fear she had hated it. But how she had really wanted it! She knew now. At the bottom of her soul, fundamentally, she had needed this phallic hunting out, she had secretly wanted it, and she had believed that she would never get it. Now suddenly there it was, and a man was sharing her last and final nakedness, she was shameless.
What liars poets and everybody were! They made one think they wanted sentiment. When what one supremely wanted was this piercing, consuming, rather awful sensuality. To find a man who dared to do it, without shame or sin or final misgiving! ... What a pity most men are so doggy, a bit shameful, like Clifford! Like Michaelis even! Both sensually a bit doggy and humiliating. The supreme pleasure of the mind! And what is that to a woman? What is it, really, to the man either! He becomes merely messy and doggy, even in his mind. It needs sheer sensuality even to purify and quicken the mind" (271-273).
And that's how one really awakens to life.

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