When Palladius' Lausiac History was being translated from Greek into Latin an error crept into one of the episodes of Macarius' life. The Greek text relates that Macarius was weaving a basket and praying when a mosquito bit his leg. He crushed the mosquito angrily with his hand and then to punish himself for this violent outburst in the midst of his meditation he dived naked into a swamp infested with insects and emerged six months later quite unrecognizable. The Latin text read by western monks makes no mention of a mosquito, but says instead that it was a thought of porneia, or fornicatio, a surge of sexual desire, which drove Macarius into the swamp.Maybe everybody has already heard that story and I am late to the party. But I giggled for an hour at the idea that we have been agonizing over sexual desire for centuries when perhaps Macarius was really upset about his murderous rage at the bite of a skeeter.
Love, sex, desire, marriage, children--we've conflated them to the point that they are interchangeable in our thoughts. We can scarcely think of one without the other, and the process of untangling what is true about sexuality takes great risk and effort. The video below "When Did You Choose to be Straight?" has been making the rounds on my twitter stream. It's a serious question--how, why, when, where did any of us choose our sexuality? And on what basis, with whose influence? I do think biology has a lot to do with our sexuality--but how many of us do the hard work of deconstructing the social influences that numb us to our own desires? As those of us who identify as Christians seek after God's desire for our bodies, how do we separate truth from convention--even while understanding that sometimes convention is truth?
Inevitably, when there is discussion over choosing sexuality, there is pushback about whether or not it's a choice to "be gay". I'm not sure how to answer that. The other day I heard someone refer to sexual desire for another person as "The Chemistry" as in "We have The Chemistry." And it certainly does seem like The Chemistry has basis in biology--some people just do it for you--I get that. But aren't you interested in figuring out how and why and when the social part of The Chemistry was formed? I know I am.