Monday, April 16, 2012

[love and disgust]

From Richard Beck's book, unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality.
As the self gets symbolically extended so does disgust psychology, the primal psychology that monitors the boundary of the body. Disgust accompanies the self as it reaches into the world, continuing to provide emotional markers denoting “inside” versus “outside,” the boundary points of the extended symbolic self. With this understanding of the self in hand, we are well positioned to understand human love, intimacy, and relationality. Specifically, as the notion of “one flesh” highlights, love is a form of inclusion. The boundary of the self is extended to include the other. The very word intimacy conjures the sense of a small, shared space. We also describe relationships in terms of proximity and distance. Those we love are “close” to us. When love cools we grow “distant.” We tell “inside” jokes that speak of shared experiences. We have a “circle of friends.” “Outsiders” are told to “stop butting in.” We ask people to “give us space” when we want to “pull back” from a relationship. In sum, love is inherently experienced as a boundary issue. Love is on the inside of the symbolic self.


What we discover in all this is that disgust and love are reciprocal processes. Disgust erects boundaries while love dismantles boundaries. This was the conclusion of St. Catherine noted in the quote at the start of the chapter: sound hygiene was incompatible with charity. One also thinks of St. Francis rushing up to kiss the leper. Love is, at root, the suspension of disgust, the psychic fusion of selves.

Beck, pp. 86, 88.
See the jesus febrezus cartoon in the previous post.

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