In her novel Room, Emma Donoghue has re-calibrated the Christian mythos with one simple statement of a fictional five-year-old boy. The phrase is, “When Baby Jesus popped out of her vagina…”
This is not the nativity story, part fairy story, part ancient politics, decorated with incense, myrrh, kings’ gold and sweet baby sheep. This is a beautifully bald statement; a subtle comic image with multiple overtones. The truth of it is that vagina trumps Christian establishment every time, when it comes to absolute reality and deep mystery. Christ as mystical, magical super-hero cannot be sustained in the face of the utterly fundamental reminder of the part that woman’s womb, vagina, birth pains, and the blood and primeval stuff of childbirth played in the biblical narrative. (If Baby Jesus were to grow up and find himself a wife, he, too, would know this, in the biblical sense, too.)
In the face of Scriptural beauty and bombast, there is nothing more mysterious and profound than biology, in the way things live and simply be. In my heretical view, Baby Jesus, as a story, doesn’t come close. There is nothing more profound than the deep hunger and nourishing between true lovers: Nothing more than the language we call sex. Pheremonal… biology celebrating itself… a sighing, yelping laughter-cascade of fleshing stars… the furious giving and taking pulsation that awakens the moors, the trees and roots and sky… the beautiful, beautiful body, dew on skin, humming an arcwise smile between two – and that drowning in scent, smell, taste, teeth on flesh, fingers clasping through hair. Love and lust incarnate…. That is the poetry.
How can we consider church and state and its horrors beside that?
Love: man and man, woman and woman, man and woman, mother and child, father and child, animal and babe…
Out of the very mouth of a babe, the vagina trumps church, state and phallocentricity in the most fundamental, and profoundly simple way.
The vaginal image in Donoghue’s Room, is a kind of slapstick, a mud-slinger of an image, the escaped piglet at the aristos’ banquet; the filthy, scrofulous joke at a convention of Analists. If I were a typical academic, I would turn it into a political polemic, a feminist attack on male dominance, and so on… But I will not fall prey to the seduction of the political vagina. Emma Donoghue had the esthetic sense, and humour, to not let the image be expressed in a political and abrasive way.
All that we need do is read it, and, without thinking on it, touch the primeval, and feel ourselves liberated, our bodies and minds unshackled from the mechanical world that threatens so to trap us, to make us forget… Forget what? I almost remember… My mother, my father… my deep, deep loves’ language still whispering of Brandy, and Linda, and Rose, and … and beyond…then the return… “When Baby Jesus popped out of her vagina.”