Monday, October 12, 2009


Recently, Göran and I went to see the movie Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis. The film (for those of you who somehow managed to have missed the TV and theatrical previews) is set in the near future, in a time when people no longer interact with the real world. Instead, 98% of the world's population hooks itself up to machines, and lives life through robotic surrogates. The surrogates supposedly guarantee that people can interact with the world in complete safety. Anything can happen to the surrogate robot, but the user will be completely unharmed. However, tragedy strikes. Bruce Willis plays a police investigator who must get to the bottom of a mysterious incident in which the destruction of two surrogates appears to have simultaneously killed the surrogates' users.

The plot of this suspense action thriller is a bit thin. This despite the fact that the script-writer introduces some twists and turns by fully taking advantage of the fact that anybody can log onto and use any surrogate. (Sorry if this is too much of a spoiler for those of you who haven't seen the film yet but intended to!) However, there is a profound spiritual principle underlying the premise of the story. It is this spiritual principle that gives the story its emotional appeal, and kept me interested right up to the tear-jerker ending.

The spiritual principle is that there is a profound link between our spirits and our bodies, and when we degrade that connection, we literally lose our souls. The film of course portrays (thankfully not in too graphic detail) the amoral consequences of living life through surrogates. Anybody who has had experience in any number of on-line chat rooms already knows about that. When you can interact with the world without people knowing your true identity, without direct consequences for misbehavior, and without accountability, you might easily choose to behave in barbaric ways.

But the film writers, interestingly enough, chose not to focus solely on that aspect of severing the spirit-body connection. They chose instead to focus on how our spirits are nurtured by the real world activities and relationships our bodies engage in. Our spirits are literally nurtured by physical touch. When we lose these connections, our spirits atrophy and our interactions with the world become soulless. Infants literally die when they do not receive adequate physical touch. Without touch, without physical connections to other people, we begin to lose any sense that life has appeal or meaning.

It is true that certain forms of promiscuous behavior -- anonymous or casual sex, overuse of stimulants, use of pornography -- effectively severs the spirit body connection as much as, if not more than, inadequate physical touch. We think we are feeding the body by giving it various kinds of stimulation that it craves. But in these situations, we use our bodies in ways that ignore the sensitivities of the spirit and actually deny it what it needs: soulful touch.

However, we can and often do also sever that connection through prudishness, through an ascetic approach to life, through shame and denigration of the body. This is why scripture wisely counsels us to bridle our passions. We are not counseled to exterminate our passions, not to stamp them out, but to find appropriate outlets for them -- outlets that nurture both body and spirit, that respect the delicate integrity that must be maintained in order to feed and strengthen our souls.

All people need this. Finding the appropriate body-spirit balance, finding ways to touch and be touched, and to interact lovingly and respectfully with the beautiful world our Heavenly Father has created for us is as critical to the spiritual well-being of gay people as it is to straight people. Most of us who are familiar with the gay community are all too familiar with the damage caused to our spirits and souls when no appropriate outlet for the vital human need for touch is permitted. We also see the damage caused when spiritual sensitivities are ignored. This is one of the consequences of the fact that so many gay and lesbian people have been excommunicated -- sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively -- from the spiritual communities that should have taken responsibility to help us nurture that spirit-body balance.

Though I'm not sure we'll ever see a real world where everyone lives through robotic surrogates, in many ways we already do live in a world where people live their lives with their spirits disconnected from their bodies, only barely getting by and barely nurturing their souls. We have much work to do.

1 comment:

Sean said...

I might have to see that move then.