If you've never read Brave New World, you should. It's an amazing book, a gruesome dystopia. In a world where everything is mechanized, including birth, where Ford has taken the place of God, there's a drug called Soma that makes you feel wonderful, and has no harmful side-effects. You are less in control of yourself, you are high and peaceful, and less in touch with reality. It's such a wonder-drug that the government uses it to spray rioters and protesters, to help them forget their anger and rage, and help them calm down. All done quite peacefully.
I'm a guy. For those who know me, I hope this doesn't come as too much of a surprise. For those who don't know me, now knowing this, you hopefully also will not be surprised that I have a male perspective, and am limited in all that I can fully understand. So please understand what I say from that limited point of view. To misquote an old Moroccan proverb, "I am only a man. I know nothing."
There is much I admire about women. Despite all they must endure and suffer, at the hands of men, at the behest of the curse, and in obligation to their own biology, they have a lot going for them. Indeed, my doctrine of suffering is such that I believe it is because of their suffering that women have gained so much. We are told that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, character hope, and hope does not disappoint. Women have the pain of childbirth, which certainly doesn't begin at the actual birth. They also have regular suffering every month, which, though it varies in intensity from woman to woman, is at the very least inconvenient. For some women, the pain of cramps can be quite intense; for others, mood swings are a real battle.
I think there is something women have that we (men) lack. There's a lot, actually, but I'm focusing specifically on biology here. When we experience suffering, and turn to God in the midst of that suffering, we are able to come closer to Her, depending more fully on Her, as She identifies with us. Jesus demonstrated this empathy when he had compassion on the bleeding woman, by implication a woman suffering from constant menses. Women by their very nature have more of this opportunity for suffering. Not just from the oppressive hegemony of mankind, but from the way their bodies work. Yes, of course, men can suffer. They can die in war, or in fights, or be hurt tilling the ground. But if we're to be honest, those are not uniquely male traits and actions. Women can and do participate in them too. I'm never going to give birth.
In the midst of the wisdom gained in suffering, I think at the heart of it is a greater understanding of one's own body. As a man, I think very little of my body. It just doesn't come up much. In talking with women, I find that they are quite aware of their bodies, and what they do. They are in touch with themselves in a way I can not comprehend. They understand how their very being communicates with the long-ago ebb of the sea from which we all came, as lunar tides pulled on the primordial soup.
And a body is not just a body. Christianity has long rightly condemned that ancient Gnostic heresy that put the mind or the spirit ahead of the body, claiming that the ethereal was all that was. God made creation, and She loved it! She reveled in it, like a Leviathan of the deep. Our bodies are also good, and we look forward to the resurrection of the dead- not just as a disembodied ghost, but as a body-spirit, as Jesus Himself proved. Paul also spoke of how, if we do not look forward to the bodily resurrection of the dead, then we are the most to be pitied of all people. This body is good, and has a definite effect on the spirit, and the spirit on the body. So to understand the body better is to better understand some part of the spirit. We are Body-Spirits, as Lewis Smedes says, not merely one or the other. When a woman is regularly connected with her body, I believe she also understand a little bit better who she is, in a way beyond my ken, at least this side of eternity.
This week they announced a new wonder drug. It's based on The Pill, but it's a lower dosage, and you take it every day, with no seven day placebo. If you take it, you have no period. Never. For as long as you take it, every day. For women suffering the strength of menstrual cramps, I am all for them taking some sort of pain reliever. For those who suffer intensely from the monthly cycle, I think this new pill can be great as well. But for the vast majority of women, I wonder. I wonder if, without the regular experience of what their body goes through, they will lose some of what it is like to be a woman. If it won't mean a little bit of a loss of the presence of their own bodies, a little bit more of a theft of intimacy with their body. If it won't be a bit like when we are heavily medicated with Benadryl to make it through an allergen-filled day. Yes, this new wonder pill will mean no more irksome cycle to deal with. But like Soma, is the trade-off too great? It works, and makes you feel wonderful, but is one then perhaps a little too far out of touch with who they are?
They say that in trial studies, 99% of women were able to begin ovulating again within three months of stopping the use of the new pill. The trials are probably too limited to speak of the possibility or not of effects on a future fetus. But I'd hate to be part of that 1%.
Not that I ever could. As you read this, remember, I am only a man, after all. What do I know?