“Only in love does the carnal become transcendent” (Hedges 117) and love is a constant battle beetween expectation and reality. We find ourselves easily deluded by a compromise of carnal urge and true humanity, by which we generally choose the carnal. As a teenager handling a sex craved society, often have I found it prudent to evaluate the true essence that is consummation. Is it valuable to me for the external pleasure aspect, or for the transcendence in love that it may facilitate? For there have been moments in my life where I have had the ability to experience what that pleasure might be, but I shied away for my heart told me that it was not what I truly wanted. Upon the consideration of these events and the morality of my heart I found a crux. That perhaps all along, the one thing I have yearned for is to give love and be loved in return. In my waiting, I search for a person, a lover that understands me in essence and passion and reciprocates. However, we as a society, in spite of this true passion, have allowed ourselves to be tricked by the delusion of a quickly fading imperfect image of love that mocks its externality and throws to the wind its true essence. Human interaction in terms of this image, this consummate idealism of sexuality, yields startling results that portrays the carnal urge over the essence. Beyond the delusion, consummation has been abused to produce selfish endeavors. Societal avarice becomes a doorway to the convoluted belief that the most prominent value of which to judge by is sexual consummation. Caught between righteousness and consummation the balancing begins; society compromises the two whom should be entirely separate in order to profit from external pleasures, sacrificing justice for perfection, for consummation. We continue this path of self-centered idealism toward an insanity that rips us from substantial love, promoting superficiality and rapaciousness.
The image of sexuality becomes a tool to those in our society that treasure delusion. In the Canterbury Tales the ‘Wife of Bath’s Prologue,” elucidates an abuse of sexuality to the end of gaining material wealth. The Wife of Bath testifies to her sexual endeavors, whilst admitting that through sexuality she controls men:
My husband shall have it eve and morrow
Whenever he likes to come and pay his debt,
I won’t prevent him! I’ll have a husband yet
Who shall be both my debtor and my slave
And bear his tribulation to the grave
Upon his flesh, as long as I am his wife. (Chaucer 280).
Men become futile to overcome her prowess in sexual manipulation. The idea sprouts from her dissertation that she sells her body in order to achieve her delusional belief in monetary wealth. The cost of her body forces her man to become her debtor. A slave is the net result, and she uses her abusive sexuality to conduct her slave husbands as puppets. In the course of this path, we become witnesses to the tool-like wielding of consummation to gain societal standing. The abuse of such a level of sexuality verily results in a lack of morality.
The wielding of sexuality as a tool elicits internal decimation, for it disillusions us from a sense of righteousness. In the epic poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the girdle acts as a vehicle to illustrate Gawain’s personal destruction and rejection of virtue, through the wielding of sex, done by Bertilak’s wife, in relation to societal laws. Struck by the iniquity of the girdle, donned to him, subversively, through explicit sexual behavior with Bertilak’s wife, Gawain is compelled to “[hide] her love-gift in a secret place / … so he could find it later / [before going] swiftly to the chapel” (Raffel 1874-1876). Gawain’s morality is destroyed as he cowers in light of giving the girdle to Bertilak or telling the priest for fear of societal laws; the uncovering of his actions with Bertilak’s wife would shed light upon his lasciviousness. The abusive sexuality utilized by Bertilak’s wife has placed Gawain in a struggle to maintain his societal endeavors and his carnal urge to consummate. The girdle represents his selfish urge, for society would have him give the girdle up; but he cannot. Instead, Gawain flees from the problem by means of the easiest possible solution, choosing to seek cowardice and hiding the girdle, the sign of his secret affair, in the face of retaliation for his actions. Thus, has the wielding of sexuality as a tool toward schemes by Bertilak’s wife compromised Gawain’s morality in terms of societal laws, it is an internal decimation created by her abuse.
The ruin of internal decimation constructs barriers that result in conflict between human understanding and societal convention. As seen in SGGK, Gawain’s compromised morality becomes his downfall as the Green Knight deals him punishment for disregarding societal law. The sentence becomes an attack, not for the kisses bestowed to Gawain from Bertilak’s wife, but rather for his lack of loyalty to societal convention, for the Green Knight confesses, “it was all my scheme! / She made trial of a man most faultless by far… / yet you lacked sir, a little loyalty there” (SGGK 2361-2362 … 2366). Ergo, the internal decimation at the hands of the abuse of sexuality yields a societal response in terms of punishment. This demonstrates society’s obsession with conventional justice in terms of consummation. The interest to live now conflicted by the girdle comes to clash with societal beliefs of repressing consummation, thus Gawain bleeds. The Green Knight understands Gawain’s urge to live, his corrupted moralities in light of the rules of society. However, the punishment must remain, Gawain must live his sin and thus “the nick on his neck he naked displayed / that he got in his disgrace at the Green Knight’s hands, / alone” (2598-2500). In this sense, Gawain’s punishment is a Hawthorne scarlet letter. He will live with the scar of his impudence, a sign that his internal decimation caused him to battle society to his loss. Society has become the tool of sexuality and the enforcer of laws against it; thus, we are left searching for what the world requires of us, repression or abuse.
Society yearns for justice, but it dually yearns for the external pleasures to be maximized; society focuses to find ways to pleasure itself behind the back of the parenting figure of justice. Oscar Wilde in his masterpiece The Picture of Dorian Grey demonstrates human obsession with external pleasure. Lord Henry witnesses the beauty of the character Dorian Grey; with his thorough understanding of the conceptions of society, Lord Henry perceives that, “A new hedonism is what our century wants. [Dorian] might be its visible symbol” (Wilde 39). The ideology of hedonism claims pleasure as the ultimate object of good. However, in Lord Henry’s affirmation of Dorian’s born purpose, he has to compromise society’s dual obsession with justice in order to validate his claim. Lord Henry dismisses the obsession entirely as he tells Dorian “don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving your life away to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar” (39). Lord Henry demonizes justice to Dorian; thus he becomes pleasure’s champion, its recruiter, adding to the ranks a perfect embodiment of beauty and external goods, the consummate individual. To Lord Henry, and those of us who are deluded by societal immorality, we value consummation not for the essence of love, but for the externality.
Pleasure becomes the ultimate advocate for the value of consummation, and within society it becomes an esteemed goal. In fulfilling his role as the new symbol for hedonism, Dorian Grey accepts the position and claims a new hedonism for the ages. He figures, “yes, there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism… It was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, was to be experience itself” (Wilde 143). Thus, Dorian was to be the “completed, perfected, fully accomplished” (OED), consummate individual. By seeking experience solely for the pleasure of experience he sought to be “of the highest degree; absolute, total; supreme” (OED); he sought to become consummate beyond all other goals. Dually, has the word come to exemplify both Dorian’s wishes, but the societal take on external pleasures. Evaluating the verb definition of consummate, which became “(more generally) to have sexual intercourse,” we see the idea of consummation to have evolved into perfection founded in explicit sexual activity and generally the experience of external pleasure. This demonstrates society’s growing obsession with the consummate individual who maximizes external pleasures. Our society elevates humans to super star status, glorifying them for being nothing but people who are enthralled with pleasure. It allows for Dorian’s elevation to a stature of perfection solely for being someone obsessed with pleasure. However, the rest of humanity is not Dorian Gray, and we but finite and faulty beings; what of the outcome of such an endeavor, to be consummate?
To those of us whom strive to be that consummate individual, the one whom maximizes external pleasure, what occurs? In the balancing of society and consummation, human beings are left disheveled in spirit, for in the end, it destroys you. In T.S. Eliot’s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Eliot describes a man that has sacrificed his passion and morality, hoping instead to be a man of pleasure and life, pleasing societal expectations. The poem resounds as the man recounts his life as an entirety of regret, his life has sent him to his death and Eliot affirms, “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea / By sea-girls wreathed in seaweed red and brown / Till human voices wake us and we drown” (Eliot 127-130). According to Eliot, Prufrock, and others like him live their life asleep, waiting for the moment they awake to drown by reality. It is a death due to living in a shadow of true reality. In Arthur Miller’s A Death of a Salesman, Willy is shown to be a man that has spent his life being defeated by society, whilst society shoves him back into the ring; he attempts personally to reconcile his failures with sexual endeavors to no avail. In the moment that his farce is uncovered by his son, Biff affirms his father’s failure as he shouts, “You fake! You phony little fake! You fake!” (Miller 1341). This life of striving to be an ideal consummate individual destroys us as surely as Willy is shown to be a phony. In this we are all phony little fakes, waiting for our farce to be uncovered. We destroy our world with this impossible game. What roads must we seek to defeat this destruction?
Consummation is but one avenue to pleasure and happiness. In the most recent episode of New Girl, the character Nick comes to a startling revelation. He tells his friend Jess, at the end of the episode, “I’m not ready for meaningless sex” (New Girl). Nick realizes that despite his urge to have a vanishing external pleasure that instead he wishes to have a life of meaningful love with someone important to him. His experiences have led him to understand the iniquity of endeavoring to be a man obsessed with consummating. Upon the considerations of his heart’s purity and his reason, Nick becomes the opposite of Lord Henry. He becomes not the champion of any such quest to find pleasure, but rather a man who understands its purpose and that to abuse that purpose is to destroy one’s self. I find Nick to be wise, not like the selfish, self-loving, and often, despite their wisdom, cynical and obtuse characters of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Those character’s elevate happiness and the experience of it through the external beyond all else. The periodical from the pop-culture criticism website Videogum “Everyone is Divorced,” demonstrates this inequality. The article evaluates the recent uproarious obsession with the Kim Kardashian marriage and divorce, it reflects upon how much we are obsessed with the idea of happiness, and not its implications. The author states, “we place so much value on the emotional state of happiness while we devalue unhappiness, when the reality is that they are just two emotional states we will all find ourselves experiencing in our lives and… they are actually equal” (“Everyone is Divorced”). Our lives embody pain and happiness, and when we overuse one, we destroy it. Learning from Nick, I use a sense of heart when I am tempted. Witnessing ads in our world, I come across a Budweiser advertisement. I may be a young man, but I now see through the trickery. They cover her body parts with bottle caps while a beer bottle rests in her hand above her waist (Budweiser). The ad whispers to you that consummation rests in intoxication, and they sell this idea to young men for it is what they have come to value. However, if this is the outcome of societal avarice, there has to be a way out.
Continuing upon the idea that Nick subtly found, that to listen to one’s self rather than societal obsessions is to be good, we are left asking: how am I to do this? The answer is not far, and has been discovered long before. You must realize delusions for what they are, and be rid of them. Listen to Thoreau in Where I lived, and What I lived for, as he affirms, “shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life … would be like a fairy tale” (Thoreau 894). Thus, the key to establish a path to self-reliance is to first realize the potential of living without addictive attachment to illusory obsessions such as sex and external pleasures. He affirms that if we realize the reality, that in consummation exists the essence of love, that our lives become something wonderful, something that he can only describe with the beauty of fiction. For it can be healthy to desire consummation for the sake of love, but to obsess over it for the sake of pleasure, is to destroy it. It is not our natural state as beings of conscience and reason to defy nature and abuse it. Emerson aids in his essay Nature that, “the lover of nature is he whose inward and outward sense are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy into the era of manhood” (Emerson 494). Thus, young men today would know that consummation should be balanced not by society, but by the self. Our heart retains the ability to be loving beings, we must adjust our hearts to our surroundings.
Understanding the circumstances and our abilities to be healthy and loving, we come closer to how we are supposed to live. Using our hearts, destroying delusions, and adjusting to our natural state, we have found ways to combat societal lust. One last piece exists in this solution, that we should live a life calmly, and purely, for “when we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, -that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality” (Thoreau 895-895). Consummation is but one avenue to pleasure and happiness, let us seek what road suits us best at any moment, never forsaking one for another because of delusions, for we can see beyond that. Our senses have the ability to save our hearts from its own destruction, and our hearts have the ability to cure our senses from its delusions. We are the perfect balance, and we must realize that we have the ability to be soulful. We know that while sex leads to that fleeting moment of ultimate pleasure, that using it in such a way leads to pain despite how society may sell it to us. Let us know that “nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul” (Wilde 37). The heart and the sense will doubly guide us and balance the other. In such a way, are we saved from, and now live in union with, consummation.