Wednesday 25 July 2012

Fourth Reflection on Humanae Vitae: as Organic Food

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Much has already been written about HV in the previous three posts by my Jesuit confreres, and I have decided to take a different perspective in approaching HV – that of using allegory – to avoid repeating the same ideas in the same ways. In particular, I have chosen to illustrate some important truths and observations about the sexual act as presented in HV by means of organic farming because I think these two things are intimately related.

Organic farming deals exclusively with God’s creation, a creation that has been given us in order to strengthen our bodies and keep us healthy. Farming in an organic fashion respects the simplicity of nature and its “natural laws”. Chemicals are not added to the process because nature is able to take care of itself just fine without us meddling in it. In such circumstances, nature is most itself; creation is left to be as the Lord has created it, hence it flourishes and bears healthy fruits. We human beings are a part of nature as well. In fact, we are just as much part of it as an apple tree! We also follow the laws of nature and we function best in circumstances where our nature is respected.

For the last month and a half or so, I have been blessed to live on a certified organic farm in Guelph. I am currently doing a summer program at the Loyola House retreat centre that happens to be on an organic farm: the Ignatius Jesuit Centre. I have had opportunities to help out on the farm and I have been fortunate to talk to a number of farmers here. What have I learned about organic farming? It is much more difficult than one can imagine.

There can be many ways to illustrate this, but let me use the example of weeds. All commercial farmers use both pesticides and herbicides to take care of insects and weeds. Certified organic farmers do not use neither pesticides nor herbicides, since research has demonstrated the detrimental effects of these chemicals on the environment and also to a certain degree, on human beings. There are always traces of chemicals in the fruits and vegetables – wash all you want, but you will never get everything out because these chemicals are inserted into the very fibres of the organic matter.

At any rate, my point is that weeding is done manually in organic farming. Yes, the farmers, along with “farmers in training” and other volunteers such as myself have to weed by hand, or by using hoes or other tools. I had the “fortune” to help out with this weeding process. I was at it for three and a half hours, and I only finished about two or three rows of “vegetable beds”. Being the weakling that I am, I was dead tired, dirty, and sun burned afterwards.

Apart from such hardships, there are some interesting clever tricks used in organic farming to help with insects and other unwanted visitors. To take care of the bugs, organic farmers encourage certain species of birds and bugs that eat other bugs but not the produce, such as praying mantises. To help reduce the mice population that furrows in the roots of apple trees, thereby killing many of these trees, they let the grass grow long, which invites snakes – and we know what snakes love to eat. The bottom line is that nature takes care of itself. This results in completely organic food, food that is devoid of unwanted and potentially harmful chemicals. Organic farming has taught me the value of patience, hard work, and the incredible interconnectedness of nature.

Now a word about HV. It is obviously more complex than organic farming, but there are some interesting parallels. The sexual act is God’s natural gift to his creation. It is meant to be exactly that, as natural and as gift. When we start inserting unnatural things, we begin to disrupt the natural flow of things, and we clearly see what happens when nature is disrupted – both people and animals end up suffering. Is it difficult? Yes! Does it require patience and hard work? You bet! Is it worth the effort? Undoubtedly. Sexuality as prescribed by HV can therefore be safely labelled as “certified organic”: sex au naturel; no preservatives added. Since this is meant to be an allegory, I shall leave the filling-in-the-blanks to you.

[Go to First Reflection on Humanae Vitae]
[Go to Second Reflection on Humanae Vitae]
[Go to Third Reflection on Humanae Vitae]

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