Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Touch and the Sacred

Some religious words are safe to talk about in our society, while others are poisonous. "Sacred" is one of the safe ones, I think. "Holy" is probably poisonous. The two terms are nearly synonymous, however; so when I say that the television show Pushing Daisies is bringing back the sacredness of touch, understand that I really mean holiness (but sacredness just sounds hipper).

The show, if you haven't seen it, has a simple concept. The main character, Ned, has the power to awaken the dead with a touch. If he touches the reanimated person (or animal) again, however, he/she/it dies forever. If he reanimates someone for more than a minute, someone else nearby dies. Well, maybe the concept isn't simple, but the rules are.

The main story arc, though, is simple. Ned reanimated his childhood crush Charlotte in order to solve her murder, and kept her alive. Ned and Charlotte are in love, but cannot touch, or she will die again.

If you know your fairy tales, and if you know your Chesterton, you recognize this theme: all the world hangs on an arbitrary rule. You must not violate that which is sacred. The arbitrariness of the sacred, it's solemn disregard of reasons, makes it offensive to the modern mentality. I doubt very much whether the postmodern mentality is much better at absorbing it. But it suffuses the premodern mind, in fairy tale, in folklore, in religion.

At the close of tonight's episode, Charlotte doubts whether the two of them can go on loving each other without touch. She references "needs" that they both are leaving unfulfilled. I wish I had access to Ned's exact response. It was along the lines of "We all wake up each morning with a long list of things we 'need.' We don't ever get all of them. Maybe some things are more important than those 'needs.' Maybe all I need is you."

Take note: primetime network television show admits that sexual fulfillment may not be the highest good.

Of course, since it still is a primetime network television show, they compensate by letting the camera linger on every female cast member's prominent cleavage.

1 comment:

Special K said...

Maybe some things are more important than those 'needs.' This is definitely NOT the view held by most of my students. They were discussing the other day whether or not it is rape when a girl says no to sex, but her boyfriend makes her have it anyway. Nearly every single guy said, "no"!!! One of the strongest arguments was that if he didn't get it from her, he'd have to get it somewhere else, but then he'd be cheating, (and the girls agree that's not good) therefore he has the right to take it. Um, seriously?!?! My heart broke in that moment for all the girls who don't have this kindly Ned in their lives.