Life Illumined

Talk on Chastity

A talk given in the parish of St Swithun, Stavanger, about the notion of chastity. I’d already proposed the topic for a couple of other talks elsewhere, but people didn’t want to hear about it. What does that say about the term – and about us?

You can watch the talk, given in Norwegian, here.

It took me years to see that, in fact, the process works the other way round; that it does not make experiential sense to ascribe orientational autonomy to the sexual instinct, as if it were a naturally ordering force bound to align other aspects of one’s being to itself in harmonious design. Human sexuality calls out for a structure of personhood upon which to grow, blossom and fruit, much the way a climbing rose needs trellises to rise and spread. Left to crawl on the ground, such a rose turns into a leafy heap. Its beauty will still be visible, by all means. Its fragrance will remain. But long stretches of stem will fail to bud for want of light. Its flowers will be few. Lacking strength to maintain upward momentum, it will collapse into itself. Any gardener’s hand attempting to direct it once it has grown a while, once summer has come, will reach into a tangle of thorns.

From Chastity: Reconciliation of the Senses.