Morality, Modification, And Damned Dirty Hippies
There’s a guy who comes to the bookstore everyday. He selects a book, thumbs through it for several hours, and looks around to see if people are looking at him. He’s probably in this thirties, he wears fashionable jeans and shoes, a popped collar, and I hate him. I don’t know why I hate him, but I look over at him and hate him. He looks like he is just here so that women will see him reading and think he’s smart. I’m assuming there, but I don’t care. I hate him. I mean, doesn’t he have a job? He’s always here. Then again, so am I. I bet he hates me too. We have this war happening on the battlefields of our minds. I wonder if I’m winning. Probably not. He looks pretty fit, and I’m handicapped. What an asshole; beating up a handicap like that. I think I hate him more now.
You cats and kittens know that I believe in God. It’s not something that I try to preach in this forum; I don’t think it’s appropriate. It’s part of my life, and I have no right to instill those ideas on you guys. If you guys wanted to talk about God, though, I’d engage, but for the most part, I keep that shit to myself. I wish more Christians would. Recruiting for God doesn’t seem to be in concert with what the book says. But I digress. I was reading an article on www.christianitytoday.com about the questions of morality in regard to body modification. It didn’t mention anything about tattoos or piercings, only plastic surgeries and cosmetic procedures. It made loose and poorly constructed arguments, and resolved with no real conclusion or proving of a thesis. It was well written, but pointless in the end. I imagine that is what most people say about my rants. Boo me. But it made me think a little bit about the inherent morality or amorality of what we do, and if it even matters.
The way I view body modification, I think that any outside manipulation of the body fits the word. That is obviously what we do, tattoos and piercings. And heavy mods, pocketing and splitting. And cosmetic procedures, fake tits and liposuction. But even more innocuous behaviors like shaving and makeup. These things fit the definition as well. You’re not born hairless (unless you have that weird disease), and you’re not born with eyeliner on. You have to manipulate yourself through outside means to make these things happen. Even cutting your hair or wearing perfume. C’mon, you don’t really smell like that.
So with this definition, the only really unmodified people are those natural hippie broads. And babies. Even then, man babies get circumcised (please no more circumcision propaganda comments). So for the rest of us who modify, where does our morality reside, and is morality even an issue to be considered? It’s difficult for me to address this idea without looking through the lenses of faith. Morality, after all, is a key stone that fortifies devotion to a faith. So with that said, am I defiling the carbon meat bag that God made for me by remanufacturing it to fit what I believe it ought to be?
If you believe in what is contained in the Bible, you believe that you were made in God’s image. So we are made to assume that we are children of God in his fashion. That’s not terribly hard to get. But if we manipulate and modify ourselves, are we saying with a scalpel that we have distaste for the image that is supposed to be that of God? Would we cut apart God’s body too? Maybe he’d like a few pounds sucked out of his belly, or maybe shave that bump off of his nose.
But all sacrilege aside (look out for the lightning shrapnel when God smites me), since we were given free will, doesn’t that will govern our possession of ourselves? Genesis tells us that we were given domain over the land and the beasts (“...and all the crawling things…”), but it doesn’t say that we have domain of ourselves. It doesn’t say in Genesis that we are free to manipulate ourselves to our choosing. It does say later in the Bible that we probably oughtn’t be hurting ourselves. Then there’s the ‘body as a temple’ thing, but I’ve already written about that in my first book. But just in the first book of the Bible, the book that talks about man’s inception and his being given the Garden of Eden and Eve from Adam’s rib and all of that stuff, we don’t really get a clear idea about how much moral dominion man has over his own body. Man only gains shame after he talks to Satan, and then we start wearing leaves over our privates. God just wants us to keep our damned hands off the tree.
But let’s get away from the Bible for a second. Let’s talk about the grey lines of modification. Let’s assume for the purposes of this one point that you believe that modification is morally wrong. You don’t modify. You don’t wear make up. You don’t shave or wear perfume or cut your hair. You are as feral as any one person living in a society can be. Damned hippie. While you’re chaining yourself to a tree in protest of a developer building an orphanage, you blow out your knee. You’re taken to the hospital, and your doctor tells you two things. He says, “This is what you get for chaining yourself to a tree, you damned hippie.” And he also tells you, “You need a complete knee replacement.” Is this body modification? The futuristic titanium ball joint that looks like it belongs on a T-800 Terminator. The doctor can slide this in place of your failed organic mess of a knee. Are you in violation of your moral agreement to God to not fuck with his creation?
A knee I guess is one thing, but what happens when you start replacing hearts or organs grown in dishes or on the backs of mice? Is there an ethical or spiritual concern there? When you push the envelope (which is a really dumb expression), how far does it reach before someone says it has gone too far? God gave you a heart that failed. He gave you a heart that was destined to betray and murder you. Are you a moral criminal if you say, “Not on my watch,” and replace it with a machine that can do the job of the heart with four times the efficiency? And if it is better than a real living heart, why don’t we all cyborg ourselves with parts that will never fail?
I think I got a little out of control there. What was I talking about? Right. Body mod and morality. I don’t see myself as spitting in the face of God when I put a piece of jewelry through my skin. I see it as a celebration of what He has already created rather than an attempt to improve it. God has given us the wonderful, double edged sword called subjectivity. We all see things differently, and in that perception, we conjure for ourselves our own favor of beauty and attraction and comfort in ourselves. Are we damned to punishment because we wear jewelry in our skin, or tattoo images on our bodies? I highly doubt it, and if it is so, then I have been mislead as to the attitude of my God.
I didn’t solve anything in this discussion, just like I chastised the article I read as doing. I suck. But I think it is an interesting idea to kick around in my empty skull. I have always believed in God, and I wager that I always will. I enjoy my faith, and I enjoy the idea of a man in another place who governs everything. With a big bushy white beard and booming voice. No, I don’t worship Santa. But it works for me. I like the idea. I do believe in more of an Old Testament God than a New Testament God. I think He’s pissed, and I also think he has more than a right to be. But that’s my theology sneaking in, and like I said earlier, I don’t really want to do that to you guys. Just do me a favor, and stay beautiful.
Talk to A. Robert Basile on AIM at Basilephone
Yahoo Messenger at email@example.com