Surgical Theology

It’s always startling to find yourself at the intersection of a particularly strange convergence of thoughts, especially when the catalyst of oddity is a pretty flower.

Still, with this blossom between my fingers this morning, unlikely or not, I paired the word “beautiful” with “as long as it doesn’t beat within me”.

Probably conjured by the little needle-like feelers that traced the interwoven petals (like the undulating borders that cells use to navigate the bloodstream), I found it a small jump to imagine the flower within my own chest, quite easily a pulsating organ with more applicable use to me than decoration for my breakfast table. And just like that the notion turned on itself in my mind. How simply it became grotesque: plump, pink, inner-workings intimate and squeamish.

Of course the scientist in me relished the absurdity of the comparison, bringing it over to the light to more closely inspect it. What makes an object, removed from context but only vaguely flesh toned, perch on the precipice of aesthetic horror? Most likely an evolutionary trait. Mankind is patently curious. It makes sense a certain percentage of those at one time satisfied that yearning by poking sticks in their gooey bits and twirling them. Thus the natural selection of the children of the merely externally curious: those that saw a throbbing biological taboo underneath their skin.

Of course if that’s true then it’s surely more than just the coincidence of shape and color that put my feeling of unease so close to my appreciation for the flower. Animal self preservation is also a reverence for the “natural” world in that sense: those that would not tinker with their own internals appreciate the biological such as they already are. But by definition this respect is precarious. The “ordinary” is a thin margin to maintain. Ask those in robotics or computer animation, fighting the effects of “The Uncanny Valley”. Teeter too far from humanity’s minute comfort zone and find yourself wallowing in the vast fields of the perverse.

For some reason this left me with a kind of kinship with my unpleasant flower. It could be because artists are, as some say, aberrations of nature, people meant for death in the wilds, suffered to exist as tropes of civilized society. However, I suspect it’s rather that the flower validates me. It tells me that the most visceral introspection, the kind that is akin to piercing the chest and peering inside, is a vile, challenging endeavor that walks the line between natural wonder and self annihilation. It paws through our guts, tugs loose our origin stories and brings them frothing to the surface.

I suspect that’s where God is. Not peering into the folds of a flower exactly, but within our own evolutionary and emotional viscera. In the valley made by perverse peaks and beyond the reach of myth and literal translation. We poke tenderly at the still-living innards, like a witch woman telling the future by looking into a pile of disemboweled sheep intestine. Only it is our own flesh, our own material. Only those willing to be destroyed have a hope of finding truth, and then there is no guarantee that it will be beautiful.

And this is what I liked about this flower. I suppose you could say that I liked the look of it.

Odd thoughts indeed when looking at my wife’s centerpiece.