Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 24 January 2016



(For M.)

I circumcised my heart for her.
It lay bare and bled for days.
But after a while it turned hard.

I still said those familiar things
because I'd always said them and

one day I said them to you
but I don't know if they're true.

26 February 1987

Most people think of circumcision as a minor surgical operation, the removal—for health or religious reasons—of a man’s foreskin. In the Bible that’s mostly what it means but occasionally it’s used metaphorically, for example, when God tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh Moses says, “I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me?” and, later, the apostle Paul tells the congregation in Rome, “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart.”

I’ve always had a problem with the Abrahamic covenant. I could very easily not have a problem with it if God had only explained why circumcision. But he didn’t. He so often doesn’t. And for years people have been trying to guess why exactly circumcision? Why that? Was it not enough that they not shave? Or he could have commanded them, like the monks, to sport a tonsure? Where would be the harm in that?


Tim Love said...

Is "one they I said them to you" right?

Kass said...

I'm fascinated by the practice of circumcision. Obedience is one thing. Potential for permanent injury and sexual dysfunction is another. The symbolism is apt in your poem, especially the use of 'hard' in the progression of healing after the unkind cut.

Your explanations added more insight, especially the idea of 'lip service' vs. the heart's ability to commit to inner and deeper devotion.

To cleave and lay bare any part of the body, whether literal or symbolic, to further a personal cause, in this case, the winning over of a woman, is a complex issue, especially as we grapple with a personal moral code based on shaky beliefs.

Jim Murdoch said...

Shoot me, Tim, shoot me now and be done wi' it. Fixed!

Jim Murdoch said...

“[A] personal moral code based on shaky beliefs.” Yes, Kass, as much as I hate to see the words written down like that I really can’t object to them; that was me. I’d always struggled with what was wrong and right and I could see that right was not automatically best. The problem with being raised in a Christian environment is that your thinking’s done for you so when it comes to decide for yourself you’re often ill-equipped. I had opted—no one made me—to return to an organisation that had a certain belief system and moral code. It could’ve been the Boy Scouts or the local bowling club. What’s the point in being a part of a social group if, deep down, you know you don’t believe in what they stand for? I could accept the facts and the figures—that was not the problem—but that wasn’t enough. I was expected to be a certain kind of person. And here’s the thing, it wasn’t enough to obey the letter of the law. It wasn’t enough not to lie. I had to want not to lie. Lying needed to be something unthinkable and abhorrent. What determines whether something is right or wrong? It’s a copout to let God decide. My hope was that by going through the motions I’d start to become the kind of person I was expected to be. By osmosis. But that never happened. So I left. But not yet. We have a few years of misery to get through not that leaving brought happiness either. Maybe happierness.

Kass said...

"It's a copout to let God decide."


I'm taking these words from you today and pondering them.

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