As spring and summer unleash deep sexual desires within me, coupled and fueled by the sudden blossoming of exposed female flesh, all those hot women in short skirts, low cut blouses, tight jeans, etc., so the winter brings a reawakened desire for a deeper spiritual life. The shorter days, the colder air, the cloudy and graying skies, the previously exposed female flesh now hidden beneath heavy sweater and coats, all contribute to a deeper need for spiritual sustenance. Lately I have been feeling this.
Despite my own enormous sexual appetites, I desire that spiritual side as well. The spiritual life is important to me, sometimes it is more important to me than the sexual life. Or, perhaps I should say, the two are important when they are harmoniously united.
There is a deep connection between the spiritual and the erotic; yet so often we think they are opposed to each other. As St. Paul says in Galatians, 5:17 “For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit lusts against the flesh.” But what does this all mean? If I start to think about it, what exactly is he saying? I don’t have the answer to that, except to say that in my own experiences when I have gone too far to one side or the other, either the side of complete celibacy, or the side of sexual excess, the end result is usually some sort of frustration or unhappiness. Frustration and unhappiness result during the celibate phase, when desires are being constantly repressed in the name of spiritual purity, only to be frustratingly indulged in eventually; and a sense of unhappiness, or at least weariness, can result from excessive indulgence in sexual pleasures and pursuits. Perhaps I can interpret this passage from St. Paul as a warning not so much not to avoid all physical pleasure, but to avoid the excessive extremes of physical pleasure as being antithetical to a healthy spirituality. However, too often I feel most people think this famous statement refers to a complete negation of sensuality or physical sexual pleasure, as being something utterly opposed to a good spiritual life. Hence the unease so often found among Christians when it comes to sexuality. I think what is needed most is harmony and balance: harmony and balance, often the essence of what is beautiful.
Fall and Winter brings a different kind of beauty than the Spring and Summer. It is a quieter, more restrained, more contemplative kind of beauty. Perhaps, because of the nature of the seasons, the cold and darkness, we have a deeper sense of our own mortality than during the bright and luxurious days of Spring and Summer. It is as if the soul hungers for prayer in a deeper way; and with fewer external distractions, with the entire world beginning to sleep under the cover of ice and snow, we have more freedom in our minds and souls to pursue those spiritual pleasures. And prayer is a form of spiritual pleasure. Good and deep prayer can be a beautiful thing, yes, a different kind of beauty from erotic beauty, but beauty nevertheless.
So winter is now hovering over the horizon. We know spring will return again eventually, but we now must get through the next few months of cold and darkness. Winter can be a time of great darkness. Still, this does not mean the darkness has to be a bad thing. It can be turned into something productive, something to sharpen those other areas of our minds and souls that perhaps have been neglected in the more frenetic time of warmth and sun. So as the warmth and brightness of summer fades away into yet another winter, I will enjoy deepening my spiritual life, but I will still enjoy some erotic pleasures as well, although perhaps in a different way than I do during the summers.