Monthly Archives: May 2011

Do you love your wife or a picture in your head?

I’ve been reading throug a blog discussion between Rachel Held Evans and a guy called Tim Challies ,who’s further unknown to me, (see the discussion 1 2 3 4) about a supposed commandment that according to some should be ‘biblical’ and that says that women “should not let themselves go’ and do everything to remain attractive to their man. A lot of the discussion is going on about what is ‘biblical’, and I’m with Rachel here, since the Challies guy seems to be just pushing American values forward under that word, which to me -as a non-American- sometimes just seem irrelevan, and not very related to the used prooftexts (if there are any).

But I wanted to go back more to the question of Rachels first post.

(so, the blog discussion is about married relationships, but it applies to all other couples equally. And I think you should be able to switch sexes also, I just write from the viewpoint of a man because I appear to be one…)

So according to some people it would be biblical to command women to ‘not let themselves go’ and do everything to remain sexually attractive for their husbands. This seems connected for some reason to the false, twisted and toxic logic that if the wife is not able to do that, she’s responsible if the man would commit adultery. How Christians could ever defend such logic is beyond me. My first comment would be that I don’t see why such a comment should be gendered. We all should try to be attracive to our partner anyway, and not just in bodily appearance. Men who don’t do as much effort to stay in shape don’t have any right to ask such a thing from a woman… But underneath the discussion I do smell something else; something very fishy and unhealthy. And I think the problem is not in the woman here, but in the man and the standards of our culture.

How do we look at women? Most basic answer: with our eyes… Now, eveything we percieve through our senses is a mediation. We don’t percieve reality directly, but through our five senses. If we would be able to see light of other frequences like UV-light (bees do that), if we would have a radar (like dolphins or bats) or if we could ‘feel’ vibrations and oscillations with our ears (like snakes) or feel very small electric fields (like sharks) we would have a totally different reality around us. So we don’t see directly, but reality is mediated, in this case through eye vision, which our brains interpret.

So what do we see when we look at a person of the opposite sex? What’s the most important? The person herself or an object sexual attraction? Do we see a person that’s so beautiful we find attractive in all ways including sexuality, or do we see a sexually arousing object that coincidentally happens to be a person too. The second way of looking is very reducing, an insult to humans as created in the image of God (and a violation of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:28) Female beauty is more than something sexual, especially in the narrow sense of the word. I liked my wife as a beautiful person long before I would ever have thought of her as sexual being the way lovers do.

So, what does a woman mediate when she alters her appearance to be ‘more beautiful’ with make-up, special clothes, whatever? Does she mediate her inner self,  or something else? I do not at all believe that altering your physical appearance will automatically channel your ‘inward beauty’. Even more, I ‘m affraid that if you don’t see the ”inward beauty’ of a woman when she’s just dressed casually and as neutral as possible, that you’re just not able to see that beauty! A woman that you do not find attractive when she’s just plain and naturally herself you just do not attractive for who she really is. If you need dresses and make-up to find her attractive (or sexy underwear and I don’t know what) you don’t find her attractive, but something she’s not, most likely the pictures in your head of how a woman should look to be sey, which she will only resemble by changing her appearances. In the end you end up making love not to your wife to a dummy that”s just channeling some fantasy woman in your head. Which is very close to conceptual adultery if you ask me, and it sounds pretty unhealthy anyway…

In the end it’s easy (and practically unavoidable to a certain extent) to be influnced by the unrealistic ideals of female beauty of this world. Our idea of what a woman is, is a simulacrum, a picture of which no-one knows what the origin is, if there would even be one. Yes it is vaguely based on the idea ‘woman’ in platonic sense, but also of pictures that are based on pictures based on etc…Historically grown and evolved. But this should not be our standard. Our standard should be real women around us, in their ‘natural’ state, not in their ‘altered’ state, nor the accumulation of the unrealistic and unnatural ways of how women look in magazines, on Tv, etc… Look at the real thing in front of you! Base your standard on the reality, which is for you embodied in the your real lover!

So what do I say? Love your wife for who she is,  not for who she becomes in an altered state of outward appeareance. Train yourself to see her beauty in her ugliest moments. That’s when you’re really able to see her beauty. Look at her with Gods eyes. All make-up and dresses and whatever should be channeling and accentuating that beauty that’s always there, and not something else that isn’t there in those ‘uglier’ moment so that her real self should be hidden behind a more pretty appearance to be sexually interesting to you.

And since this discussion is also about what Christians should see as ‘biblical’, I think it’s important to think about the commandment to love our wives as Jesus loves the church. I know that in the end in the New Earth and heavens she will be glorified as a pure spotless bride, but look at Jesus fiancée now. Sometimes church can seem such a strange bunch of hopeless lost people. Doesn’t Jesus also love the church at her worst, her ugliest, and then cry for her? And still Jesus sees the beauty in all of us, and in the Church as a whole.

We should love in the same way, not only our spouse, but everybody. (But of it doesn’t work with our spouse to begin with, it won’t work at all) It will make all of us beautful in a way that trancends all make-up of the planet!



sufjan Stevens, Cirque Royal Brussels, may 10th ’11

Sufjan stevens surely is an unpredictable musician. He might probably be known best for excesively orchestrated indie-folk, but the American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has been playing around with a lot of other genres too through the years. Also unpredictable are his live-shows: the days where he just played his songs on a guitar or banjo have been replaced with big bands and sometimes even orchestras. His most recent album ‘the age of adz’, which came out last year, was based mostly on weird eclectronic beats, sound effects and strange orchestrations, while the folk was driven to a far background on most of the album. And it was this last album that he was touring with when I went to see him in the cirque Royal in Brussels. I was seated very high, which gave a good view on the things that were happening on stage, and the sound was very good. I had no idea what I had to expect, but I knew it was going to be something special…

The opening act was some guy called DM Stith, a man with a pretty good voice, and acoustic guitar and an occasional loopstation. He was already playing while we were arriving, so I can’t say much about his set, except for that the last songs sounded really okay.

And then he’s there: Sufjan stevens. Starting with  ‘seven swans‘ without any announcment, and in a completely new arrangement. From the fiest seconds it’s clear that something has changed. Even his first song alone, impressive both visually and musically, would’ve been worth coming. Sufjan and his banjo get accompagnied by 10 other musicians and even more instruments, alienating costumes, projections and other things. The dynamics between the hard and the quiet parts are incredible, just like the costumes and choreography, which happens to include big swan wings in the first song. We also note two drummers (!) one at each sside of the stage, two female singers who also do a lot of dancing, and a lot of electronics and brass. It’s only the banjo, usually omnipresent in a Sufjan set, that dissapears almost completely out of sight after the first song…

Sufan then leads his gang of weirdos through a set consisting completely of new material from the second one on. More than his usual folk we hear space-music and electronic symponic pop, in a spectacular happening of more than 2 hours. I remember ‘too much’, with strange beats in 7/8 and heavy orchestration, the title song ‘the age of adz’, the quiet and beautiful ‘the owl and the tanager‘ on the piano, played very impressively, a very strong ‘Vesuvius‘ with apocalyptic projections, and a beautiful ‘futile devices‘ with strange solo at the end. I could say that all songs are really strong, not just musically, but also visually, with a lot of variation; weird costumes that get even weirder and more psychedelic in blacklight, strange projections, and a bizarre choreography… sufjan also introduces …; an outider artists on whose paintigs Sufjan based much of the album, which is a good explanation for the near schizofrenic psychedelics of this concert…

The ‘opus magnum’ of the evening is a thundering ‘impossible soul’ of more than 20 minutes; Interstellar pop music, weird instrumental passages, heavy electronic percussion played live by the 2 drummers, and some really cachy poppy dance parts even (that vocoder…) with Sufjan in a strange impressive suit with wings, and hundreds of balloons falling from the roof in one of the climaxes. When the band fades out sufjan takes his acoustic guitar to conclude the song. and then the musicians leave the stage. They have given all…

… And still five minutes later they come back again, after a change to more casual clothing, to play an encore set of older songs. A clearly exhausted sufjan takes a seat behind the piano for a solo version of ‘concerning the UFO sighting‘, to a beautiful ‘Casimir Pulaski day‘ (hey, the banjo is back in the background!) and finally everything goes loose again with ‘Chicago’. The angelic sounds of the outro fade out and there’s one things for sure: This was not just a concert!

(links are youtube videos uploaded by other people taken from the audience. The quality isn’t always that good, but it’s enough to have an taste of the evening….)