I was wondering this morning why sex and death are two of North America’s greatest taboos. It came to me that they are two events that have the potential to free us from our human body even if only temporarily, a frightening thought for we mere mortals.
When we look at these two topics and wonder why we have made them so taboo there are some answers. Yes there has been some religious implanting, yes advances in healthcare and industrialization create the expectation we can cure or conquer everything. Here are a few more to whet your curious whistle.
According to cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, “Sex is such a problem because it reminds humans of their basic, core animal nature. Our primal, animal sexuality ignites fears of our own mortality. Only when it is embedded in a uniquely human context, like love and romance, is this not the case.”
Note worthy:- “Our primal, animal sexuality ignites fears of our own mortality.”
Lawrence R. Samuel Ph.D. says; “The notion of one day disappearing is contrary to many of our defining cultural values, with death and dying viewed as profoundly “un-American” experiences. The rise of the self has made it increasingly difficult to acknowledge the fact that our individual selves will no longer exist. Because of this death and dying became almost unmentionable words over the course of the last century.
Note worthy:- “The rise of the self has made it increasingly difficult to acknowledge the fact that our individual selves will no longer exist.”
Putting these two views together it seems clear, our raw, unarguable humanness is confronting in and of itself – it means without doubt we are going to die. In order to avoid the discomfort of this certainty we simply pushed both topics, sex and death, aside making them taboo for a multitude of reasons, religious or societal. Forgetting who we truly are we have banished such talk to the backrooms of life. Though we have had success in branding these two topics as taboo, neither has disappeared if fact they both have flourished!
So lets look at both through different lenses.
These two partners in awakening share some common characteristics;
- They both have a final exhale before release
- They involve the body intimately and intensely
- They both confront our mortality
- They bookend life – conception (birth) / death
- Often they can require trained, experienced support
- They each are an internal or private experience even though others may be present
- They both involve feminine and masculine energy (not simply gender)
- If conscious the results of both can be breath taking and spirit affirming
Now, what if we really got that we are profoundly spiritual and that both sex and death were and are sacred acts. What if we accepted fully and descended completely into our humanness and recognized and also honored our spiritual core? Would we continue to make these two issues taboo?
What could happen if we practiced being present and attentive as we approached both sex and death?
David Deida wrote a book entitled Finding God Through Sex. The Tibetans have their book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Both of these books point directly at the result of being conscious while making love and while dying – Enlightenment or Knowing God. Tantra takes the approach that one should not only not reject the body and its desires, but also actually embrace them on the road to enlightenment.
Perhaps it is time to bring both sex and death back into the ‘living room’ of life where both can inspire us to live the life we have with passionate and a reckless abandon.