In case you don’t know, Rihanna landing on the Met Gala red carpet with a stunningly ravishing Pope dress has been what went viral recently in social media since Monday, 7 May 2018. Fundraising for the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, the annual Met Gala event was also meant to celebrate the exhibition this year charismatically themed “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”. Responding to the Catholic reference, Matthew Schmitz, the senior editor of First Things, an American Catholic journal, wrote a web-exclusive article critically reflecting on the theme of the event. On the surface, the event crowning itself with fashionista and sacramentality is a daring but failing juxtaposition which amounts only to the stark incompatibility between the Catholic conception of the body and the NewYorker’s perceived “Heavenly Body”. Indeed, the two kinds of body mark their aesthetic differences when the latter seeks the artistic liberation of a heteronormative body from the institution of the former by prioritizing it over an established semiotic treatment of the Papal garment. Yet, this aesthetic return of the body back to a precognitive, holistic sensational level where the body claims the centre of the anthropological existence actually completes the circle of an evolution of the conception of the body in the West. Now it is high time we paid a revisit and dove into an exposition of the body again after my last post on the body.
Roman Catholicism before and after the 1054 East-West Schism as a consciousness has been rooted in, first and foremost, the monotheistic sense and sentiments fundamental to religious experience preserved in the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish tradition and, next, the Greco-Roman philosophical conceptualization and later doctrinal formulation of such this-worldly existential experience with the other-worldly giver of every given of this reality, including the body. I am not here to trace the etymological development of the body the concept but the positioning of the body in our human existential-experiential dynamics which consists of three levels (i.e. the sensational, the cognitive and the perceptual) and five stages (i.e. the three levels in chronological order and then with two returns, one epistemic and another aesthetic, back to the cognitive and the sensational level respectively). The body in the Catholic-Christian perception as understood in the Resurrection of the Body lies only after (S1) the so-called primitive body as (or as if) in the flux of reality in action has been through (S2) an initial conception distinguishing it from other things in reality, (S3) a rightful essentialization and identification in such perception and (S4) a cognitive return characteristic of reconceptualizating whatever the body is given or presented to the perceiving self in perception. And, at last, (S5) it goes through an aesthetic return back to the rightful and just treatment of the body as the body itself on the sensation level in action. This body in the postcognitive level of sensation is what is distinguished as the body we can typify, to which we can ascribe a name as the Catholic-Christian body. The body as seen from a NewYorker’s pair of voguish goggles (and also from a non-Western perspective) is vastly different, but it is still within the abovementioned experiential dynamic circle or cycle. It is the body not yet conceptualized before experience and experimentation, as in (S1). It is that which on the first sensational level.
Here I must outline the epistemological and epistemic consequences of the dynamics of this dynamic circle/cycle for the sake of a clearer comparison of the two bodies as conceived. Skip this paragraph if you find that the language here is getting too technical. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!) Here we go: The experiential cycle is tantamount in structure to the smaller hermeneutic circle on the cognitive level within it. This circle in circle is what is important to recognize when one is speaking of an interpretative horizon in Continental epistemological terminology in philosophy. Phenomenologically speaking, the horizon is greater, when, information-theoretically speaking, more information is gained after possibilities (in propositional terms) with very low or zero probabilities have been cancelled in the face of evidence resourced from data or the lack thereof (with probabilities assigned by intuition, confidence and various other epistemic virtues), generating more truth claims sufficient for knowledge when those information items are prima facie (i.e. at the first place) justified and warranted until a defeater defeats the claims. The epistemological practice (as described above in a predominantly Western philosophical discourse prone to a problem of de-sensationalization specific to the West) is always restricted to the two cognitive levels and the perceptual levels, theoretically de-sensationalized if the sensational level is excluded. A completely rightful and just epistemic practice will have to satisfy this phenomenological necessary condition operative with sensation as a whole: following the way of letting-be (i.e. letting the others be themselves so the self can be) amounting to primary, existential, justice, which includes seeing the perceived other as a sovereign subject sui generis but not an object of perception. So, in order to understand the NewYorker conception of the body, a Catholic-Christian must not be ethnocentric in perceiving it and forcing one’s consciousness in deciphering this other, but one should adopt an attitude respecting cultural relativity and diversity (without necessarily endorsing moral relativism, which is different, because normativity rules over descriptivity in an attitude of moral relativism, while descriptivity is the goal or epistemic and praxeological virtue in an attitude of the kind of cultural relativism here). In this manner, a Catholic-Christian in the face of the NewYorker has to figure out the internal logic in the NewYorker (queering) consciousness, perhaps by mapping and engaging with his or her discourse; vice versa. (i.e. A cultural NewYorker should do the same to a Catholic-Christian understanding of the body if one really aims at dialoguing with this other.)
Of course the Met Gala fashion pope is just a crystallized copy of Catholic consciousness, but it celebrates its own NewYorker queering consciousness in antagonism towards “the original”. This consciousness is queering precisely because it is othering —— or treating as the other —— the body as conceived by the Catholics and the Catholic Church. It embraces the body in its precognitive form in sensation at least as much as the Catholics would uphold the body in its postcognitive form in the Bodily Resurrection of the faithful and the righteous. At the same time, it completes a hermeneutic circle of an evolution of the concept of the body as experienced by us all within the greater circle representing the actual placement of the body (as in the circle-in-circle situation in the last paragraph), because however anachronistically, it reconceptualized the body as in the Victorian-Christian sense, and transformed it into a rather deconstructive sense by an aesthetic return (symbolically into an art museum in the Met Gala event, yeah, sarcastically). People in New York wth such queering consciousness can meet their mating other in whatever urban settings, have a session of physio-biological union and see if this other can proceed to the next step towards the end of the hermeneutic or performative cycle/circle of dating and romance, where a point of exit for this other would be to become the significant other of that NewYorker’s hyper-individualist self. After all, the problematic of the juxtaposition of the two bodies from different stages is that whether each of the community, the Catholic or the queering/othering NewYorker, opens to a sufficient extent of horizons to the other (with the Absolute Other, however interpreted) for its conjoining the self (with appropriate extent of concealment for the sake of existential justice). Both logics of the two bodies can basically be sensational, sensible and sensical. The NewYorker queering consciousness can possibly (but not necessarily of course) rightfully uphold a precognitive sensational union of the body (i.e. “the Heavenly Body”) as in one night stands, for example (I mean, given the logical dynamics of the self and the other definitional of ethics, why not?), which is as legitimate as the Catholic (which today must be modern and nationalistic, however religious) consciousness, which can possibly (but not necessarily of course) allow the performance of postcognitive sensational union of the body as in sex within sacramental marriages (And still, given the logical dynamics of the self and the other here definitional of morality, why not?). None of the two parties should degrade the other’s logic of its consciousness, because they cannot but be of the same civilizational root in a sociocultural universalist manner.
Finished writing on 9 May 2018 at 23:36. Finished editing on 10 May 2018 at 03:53.