Thursday, May 31, 2018

On Chesil Beach

In this age where the pornographic imagination furnishes a hyperbolized and idealized vision of antiseptically facile sexual performance, it's refreshing to see a movie about a loving couple who can't get it on. Dominic Cooke’s On Chesil Beach proceeds in fits and starts and through flashbacks over the course of a wedding night with the laboriousness of failure brilliantly punctuated and paced by the details of a novelist’s imagination. Ian McEwen who wrote the book on which the film is based (and also wrote the script) interspices references to Uccello and Mozart with pictures of class struggle (an upper crust martinet father and a brain damaged  middle class mother are part of the cast) as signposts in his narrative. They define the history of his characters and provide an acute counterpoint to the lucubrations of tortured sexuality. The film has a final act which is as brutal as any scene from Strindberg in which the emotional accounting comes up short. However there's the matter of the epilogue bringing a film that begins in 1963 to its conclusion in 2007. The emotional equation at the movie’s center centers around the female protagonist, Florence’s (Saoirse Ronan) reticence "You're always advancing and I'm always pulling back," she says and when she accedes to her fiancé Edward (Billy Howle’s) demands he's still not happy. It's a perfect leitmotif for a period piece. If only On Chesil Beach had encompassed an era rather than a lifetime. By the end, the psychosexual and social elements have reverberations that go far beyond the story of one failed marriage. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Do the Right Thing

What is it to be a moral person? Kant talked about the categorical imperative. However hard it was to determine, it was something which delineated wrong from right? But by what means in the age of drive theory where we conceive of the mind as being composed of unconscious elements that are by definition not within the power of understanding, can one talk about right action? In some sense most people are like The Sleepwalkers which was the title of a novel by the German writer Hermann Broch. Gide wrote The Immoralist and  Do the Right Thing was the title of an early Spike Lee film. The idea of morality is never far from the zeitgeist. It seems almost a simple matter of avoiding the seven deadly sins, lust, sloth, gluttony etc. But experiments by Kahneman and other researchers other have shown that people are often unable to parse their motives. Morality can be little more than a subterfuge. For instance, the otherwise liberal leaning firm of Schneiderman, Weiner and Spitzer famous for its hectoring about the sins of others turned out to be guilty of a few of its own. Oscar Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Gray brilliantly visualized this kind of ego splitting. For instance, schadenfreude or the enjoyment of other people’s suffering is an immoral sentiment that at the same time can drive people in unusual ways. In order to avoid acting on an emotion, a person may bend over backwards and end up doing something that's not to their benefit. People with high moral aspirations, in this regard, may be the ones who have the most ambivalent relationship to morality. They may do something immoral, i.e. cause self-injury, in order to exonerate themselves from accusations of doing something they feel is wrong where others are concerned.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

James or Therapeutic Bond?

Ian Flemings's drawing of James Bond (Daily Express)
The therapeutic bond between a patient, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst or social worker takes on a life of its own. It’s almost like a person. You can have an absolutely horrible, cantankerous and recidivistic patient or a indifferent, narcissistic and rigid practitioner, but the resulting interaction can be one of those marriages that seem to be made in heaven. This cocktail can apply to people and drinks themselves; two repugnant substances can sometimes merge into something tasty. Mental health professionals exist in a world of their own and due to the transference many patients idealize those to whom they pay their hard earned dollars, conferring them with undeserved halos. The fact that you have spent years training to help people doesn’t mean you still can't be a self-involved jerk, who doesn’t know shit from shinola about human existence. Conversely, just because someone seeks help doesn’t mean that there's anything good about them. There’s a popular misconception that suffering somehow elevates people. Sometimes it does, but in many instances it only serves to make them more small-minded, needy and selfish. If you've ever met one of those happy campers who believes in God you’ll understand. The average neurotic who believes in nothing and spends their whole life waiting for the great come and get it day when they will suddenly be happy because they have gotten everything they want (it’s unlikely they will ever be satisfied no matter what hand they’re finally dealt), is simply an awful human being who will die as they lived, feeling loveless and unloved. But that third party, that doppelganger that emerges from years of sessions is another matter entirely. It’s the child of the treatment and it’s often a remarkable thing considering the limitations of its parents.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Pornsophy: A Penetrating Analysis

The TLS  ran a review Germaine Greer wrote of Howard Jacobson’s No More Mr. Nice Guy back in l998 in their From the Archives section. “Like most of his male contemporaries, Jacobson’s hero, Frank Ritz, is obsessed by pornographic imagery" Greer remarked. "When the soft, wet, gabby real thing intervenes between him and his fantasy, he is appalled.” Earlier in the review Greer quoted Jacobson to the effect that “One way or another, penetration itself is usually a let down. The word flatters the deed. Either it is a bruising struggle to enter or you are swept away like a salmon awash in a waterfall.” Say no more than “his penis is on the fritz” nudge nudge—these are the kind of passages you either instantaneously get or not. Been there done that—as the popular homily goes. Anagnorisis is the Greek word for recognition like say Oedipus realizing who Jocasta was and that oy, yoy, yoy, he’d been shagging his ma (should there be a contemporary adaptation of the Sophocles play called The Mama Sutra?). In any case, Greer was hailing Jacobson for giving a male’s eye view of male sexuality instead of a male’s eye view of female, which she found to be "infinitely less offensive, say, than D.H. Lawrence’s writing Connie’s, Gudruns’s and Ursula’s orgasms, tastefully though he may be said to do it (not by me).” It’s a great thing when a writer is able to encapsulate experiences for words may have failed others. Bravo to Jacobson for writing his novel, to Greer for recognizing its fine points and the the TLS for reprinting the review. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Are You Institutionalizing Your Depression?

People sometimes end up in institutions for manic depression, but there’s also institutionalized depression that might have a bedfellow in chronic anxiety. What characterizes both conditions on an anecdotal basis is the fact that something generated by a cause or happenstance or even something that has intrapsychic or developmental roots takes on a life of its own. Like a virus or bureaucracy such states proliferate through a network of self-perpetuating internecine connections. It’s as if an affect were setting up shop, in a Darwinian sense becoming the fittest which survives despite the competition of other states of mind for the hegemonic spotlight (aka personality). It’s not really an abstruse idea. Let’s take anxiety and remember Freud’s famous remark, “neurosis is reminiscence.” Those who suffer from PTSD are often haunted by remembrance. Once an adrenalin rush is catalyzed it's likely to repeat again. An exhaustive course of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might be prescribed but the initial chain reaction may be hard to break. Ditto depression whose chemical component may very well be triggered by a perverse form of nostalgia, which draws some people back to the black holes of their mental history—working, like a default mode, through simple familiarity. Human beings can acclimate themselves to even the most maladaptive of situations. An individual hell, however, horrifying at least provides the psychic equivalent of four walls and a roof.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

What the Las Vegas Odd's Makers Are Saying About Pascal's Wager

Blaise Pascal
When you think about it Pascal’s Wager makes a lot of sense. If God exists then you come out in the black. You’re ahead of the game. You may even go to heaven and get eternal life. If there's no God, then for starters all your prayers will not be answered. Of course, part of the wager depends on your definition of what God is and specifically the idea of God as a protector and savior, who basically has a positive view of humanity. The anti-Christ of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor is not the kind of force that Pascal was reckoning with. Truman Capote titled his unfinished novel Answered Prayers after a quote by Saint Teresa of Avila, “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” And bah humbug but eternal life may turn out to be a bore. Death gives you something to reckon with and it makes life even more precious. So there’s one more reason why you may want to put your money on the supposedly losing horse. You live your short life, with the satiation of every pleasure being like a mini-death, then you wrap things up and make room for the next sufferer. Pascal’s Wager is a little like Newtonian physics. Yes the apple’s fall is accelerated because of gravity, but the whole process might be viewed in a different light, if one were dealing with relativity or quantum physics. A positive God who seeks the best for all his children who were naturally made in his image is an anthropomorphic conception that may have little to do with the nature of actual divinity--if there's something out there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

#MeToo, Pablo?

"Nude Woman in a Red Armchair" by Pablo Picasso (1932)
Artists often discard models, many of whom have been their lovers. There are artists who either consciously or unconsciously dissolve a relationship, then making the story either intentionally or inadvertently the subject of their art. That was the case with Updike whose collection of storiesToo Far to Go,charted the breakup of his first marriage. Was life sacrificed for the sake of art? The secret of course is buried with the writer or painter. Picasso exhibited a similar pattern of painting his lovers/models and then discarding them. Dominic Green’s “Picasso: difficulties with girls” (The New Criterion, May, 2018), is a refreshing respite from the juggernaut of Picasso hagiography in which classic modernism may one day drown. The occasion for the piece is the “Picasso 1932” exhibit at the Tate. Here are some gems. “The Malagan sex maniac was fifty years old in l932,” “Picasso seems to have had trouble seeing a vagina without its complementary dentata,” “Picasso begins June by sketching Marie-Therese’s face as a sculptural medley of zucchini-like phalluses and testes the size of large potatoes,” “you wonder whether Picasso’s pharaonic phallocentricity will condemn him to the same historical attic as psychoanalysis,” “Undeniably, a continuum of coarseness links Picasso to that other macho oligarch of entertainment, Steve Wynn.” Wynn as you may recall is the Las Vegas casino magnate and art collector who is one of the growing list of casualties of the #MeToo movement—from which Picasso like Trump has remained curiously immune. Green on the other hand has the balls to perform a little turn around and conclude with the following: “Sooner or later, the grandchildren of the people who used to dismiss him as an imposter or lunatic may add him to the list of ‘problematic’ people to expunged from the last shreds of the syllabus. That would be a tragedy for all of us.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Origin of the Feces

Why are feces bad and roses good? Why do you call a person you don’t like a piece of shit? Is it simply because of the smell? The olfactory feelings elicited by shit are a complicated question since many people report not minding or even liking the smell of their own—which ostensibly reminds them of home. If you work in a sewage treatment plant do you get used to the smell of shit any more than people who work in abattoirs grow acclimated to the sight of staggering cows whose entrails lie in pools of blood? And what about proctologists and GI folks? Do they get used to shit in the way that gynecologists and urologists get used to the site of urethras or proctologists, assholes? Shit is generally considered to be ugly and not a subject for dinner conversation. Try talking about your doodies at the next cocktail party you're invited to and watch the group standing around you dissolve like an Alka Setzer. Talking about shit has its uses if you want to get away from a chatterbox who has taken you hostage. Shit is a liberator! Give them shit, not brioche. But are those things like roses, beaches at sunset, Paris that are generally considered to epitomize beauty really so great? Sure most people with a sensitive palette would prefer to eat in a three star Michelin restaurant than to eat shit as Pasolini’s characters are forced to do in Salo. But take a delicacy like fois gras. It might not have the offensive odor but when it comes down to it your average pate looks just like a soft shit. And it goes back to the old adage about the sausage factory. You don’t want to see the torture that geese are put through to produce this tasty food. If you did you might not be so quick to extol its virtues in comparison to poo. It all goes back the Latin, sub feces aeternitatis, or looking at feces under the aspect of eternity.

Monday, May 21, 2018


Sebastian Lelio’s Disobedience is set in the world of London’s  Orthodox Jewish community. But the revelation that's one of the film’s themes is hardly one of a religious sort. Sexual identity is the lingua franca and it's when Esti (Rachel McAdams) expresses hers that she runs awry of the values of the fundamentalist community in which she lives. Of course sex is a gigantic topic and the movie actually avoids the danger of becoming a reductio ad absurdum. Ronit (Rachel Weisz) the rabbi’s daughter, who has turned her back on the cloistered life, provides the catalyst for the movie’s stereotypic energy. But to the director’s credit she along with Esti husband, the rabbi Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) all break away from their prescribed roles to credit the movie with a certain humanity. The film begins with the exhortation, “Hashem gave us choice which is both a privilege and burden” and ends in just about the same place. The more profound problem is that the narrative ties all the loose ends together with a Solomonic justice which is hard to buy, considering all the passions that have been unleashed. If there's an overriding emotion it’s that of equanimity, a sentiment that some viewers may find hard to square, with the terrain of the  subliminal desires Disobedience describes. Spoiler alert: the film's initial triangulation becomes a kind 21st century trinity.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Delusion of Immortality

A human being begins to die the moment they’re born, but along the way this salient fact of human existence is almost completely forgotten. It’s a little like free trade greasing the wheels of commerce. The reminder of death acts like a tariff that can dull the trading in life experience. This is one reason why people are shocked when they’re lives are brought to a stand still because of illness and disease. It’s as if the powers on high were in violation of the heavenly contract. Day after day humans are given hints about  the fragility of life. The leaves die in autumn, tiny insects are stepped on and spider’s webs and their inhabitants are neatly extinguished with dust busters. Yet no degree of warning seems to do the job. People have built-in forgetters when it comes to death and it’s something which curiously also makes them less prone to appreciate life when they have it. If you know that life is short by any standards and that any life is but a footnote in the history of the universe, you’re more likely to relish each hour of every day. It’s unfortunate that the nature of human defense mechanisms are such that they allow denial to triumph over consciousness. You of course don’t want to greet a baby with a morose funeral dirge. However, isn’t there something more life affirming about acknowledging transience than allowing the kind of delusory feelings that ultimately lead people to squander the gift of existence?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Homo Cologuardis

photo of Cologuard box by Francis Levy
Back when you were in high school you were in a totally different stage of human evolution.Though homo sapiens roamed the earth many were still hetero at least in name, and men still had a fascination with women’s undergarments and what women looked like naked. Some women may testify to a countervailing sentiment reflected in little homilies like “it’s not how big it is but what you do with it.” Parenthetically decades later and depending on one’s orientation this last turns out to be a total piece of white washing. Of course size matters and guys with little dicks and those who love them simply have to find ways of compensating for what amounts to a disability. But getting back to our current age of true homo sapienality in which hetero sapiens are the exception and the word bra no longer creates a frisson, it’s the contents of the Cologuard Box, with it’s stool sampling kit that’s the real source of mystery. If you’ve ever received a prescription you know this popular colon cancer screener comes in a big box and the first thing you ask is, what the hell's inside? You know that doody smells and you’re going to be sending yours somewhere, but what you’re receiving is tantamount to a brick shithouse or Fort Knox. How many degrees of separation are required? It’s all a little reminiscent of Ben Casey, the medically oriented TV series that starred Vincent Edwards and Sam Jaffe back in the 60’s. You remember the lingo scalpel, forceps…Now it’s shitter, feces, container.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Final Solution: Pompeo, Clausewitz and Etherege

According to The Times ("What’s Kim Jong-un’s Surname? Mike Pompeo Is Learning the Hard Way,NYT, 5/9/18), our new Secretary of State might have been challenged on a significant fact. It’s particularly surprising since he'd formerly held a position (as CIA director) that deals with intelligence gathering. It was the kind of malapropism that characters make in Restoration comedies like George Etherege’s Man of Mode. The Times quoted one irate Twitter post regarding this snafu. “Somebody really needs to have a word with Secretary of State Pompeo before he meets anybody in North Korea,” The Times quotes from the Tweet, “He just referred to Kim Jong-un as ‘Chairman Un.' That’s like, I dunno, calling Winston Churchill ‘Prime Minister Spencer.’” Or the North Koreans referring to the American president as Mr. Rump. Apparently Mr. Pompeo’s earlier trip to North Korea was not a fact finding mission or he would have gotten the North Korean leader’s name right. Of course due to RexTillerson's cuts, Pompeo might have found himself understaffed at the time of the trip and who knows what other details were mistaken. For instance, who knows if Pompeo had been given the wrong address for the presidential palace and ended up having to call the North Korean ministry for help when his entourage got lost on some back street in Pyongyang? But no one likes it when their name is misspelled or mispronounced and one of the first premises of diplomacy that may go back to Clausewitz is, know your adversary.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Eastern Shore Journal: Royal Oak

Royal Oak Commiunity United Methodist Church (photograph by Hallie Cohen)
Harriet Taubman and Frederic Douglas both urged Lincoln to allow blacks to serve in the Union Army and a small plaque now stands in front of a roadside cemetery in the town of Unionville where 18 Talbot Country slaves and free blacks are buried. The area has a liberal history and feeling that’s more humorously communicated in a street sign which advertises Love’s Folly Road. In Royal Oak, a hamlet which might be termed a suburb of St Michaels stands the clapboard wood United Methodist Church in front of which is a beached boat reflecting another aspect of the local heritage, the maritime history which infuses practically every element of everyday life. The church for all its modesty still manages to sport stained glass windows that almost have a tromp l’oeil effect; they hardly seem to soar and look more like a fading painting that's both sublime and wistful at the same time. But the weathered structure is a landmark that indelibly captures much of the feeling of this area of the Chesapeake Bay region, a mixture of the spiritual and the arcane, in which the old co-exists but is rarely obliged to give way to the new. Tolerance is perhaps the best way to describe the enchanting landscape where growth and preservation go hand in hand and age doesn’t automatically lead to obsolescence.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Eastern Shore Journal: St. Michaels

Restoration of Edna E. Lockwood (photograph by Hallie Cohen)
You have undoubtedly heard of the Slow Food Movement with its unconscionably long meals and its insistence on the savoring of every bite. But there’s a global form of this impulse that may be more palatable to those who still have a nostalgia for fast food iconography. If you journey to the town of St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, time seems to have come to a complete and utter halt. Visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum overlooking the harbor where on a weekend afternoon in May, a classic wedding will be taking place, with a bride in a long gown attended by her maids. But you will also see the vestiges of a world gone by. The Edna E. Lockwood a Bugeye Oyster dredger built on Tilghman Island out of logs rather than planks in 1889 has been in the process of restoration since l975. Words like “gunwale” and “breast hook” are still employed by the shipbuilders who continue to ply their ancient trade. And then there's the lighthouse. Back in l892 two cottage style lighthouses were built with fog signals and bells. And where else can you learn that a typical watch on a boat lasted four hours with the bell being rung every 30 minutes. There are the antique bazaars in which whole lifetimes seem to be on display. It’s not the “A Stop at Willougby” episode of the Twilight Zone. Life hasn’t come to an end in St. Michael’s. In fact it’s flourishing, albeit at an exponentially slower pace. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Juggernaut of Self

Have you ever felt like you were drowning in a juggernaut of self? Have you ever felt your egotistical concerns spilling out of you like volcanic lava that eradicates everything in its path? Talk about Pandora’s Boxes, once you jump off the precipice into the well of self-involvement, it’s hard to see the forest from the trees. Blinding selfishness of this chronic sort can hit you like a rabbit punch and it occurs like eczema, herpes, shingles and other viral skin conditions that can lie dormant for years before they strike. You are never immune. You might be struck in the middle of a particularly selfless moment when you receive a message that's the equivalent to the dreaded letters potential recruits received during the dreaded days when there was a draft. The only difference is that the message comes not from the Department of the Army but from the executive center of your brain. Actually it may be the mind that’s responsible, but the activity itself is better known as belly button gazing. But does the juggernaut of self actually take a form? You think of genies popping out of bottles or the spirits and doppelganger’s that hover around the Christian self still smarting from the trauma of original sin. Is it one of those dark presences of gothic myth that emerges from a Transylvanian forest or the devil incarnate, a dark brooding fecal cloak that emerges from the deepest recesses of one’s being? The Revenge of the Body Snatchers? The Night of the Living Dead? The answer is yes.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sperm Count: Lapdance Island

In a Times Sunday Business piece, "A Spy's Tale: The TV Prankster Who Says He Became a Double Agent," (NYT, 4/27/18) Barry Meier tells the story of a former television producer named Robert Moore (no relation to Roger one would suppose) who produced a “Candid Camera” type show “that conned the unsuspecting.” Eventually Moore fell upon hard times and went off to a life of corporate espionage but not before unleashing a series of spoofs that really seem like they would be ripe for a second life. “On one show,” Meier remarks, “politicians were tricked into campaigning against a street drug called ‘cake,’ which didn’t exist. On another program, men were fooled into auditioning for a ‘Survivor’-style show called ‘Lapdance Island’ supposedly set on an island inhabited by lapdancers." The fact that Moore didn’t achieve success with these gambits shouldn’t stop him from backtracking and making another mid-life change. Spying has only gotten him into trouble (he's become the subject of legal suits). Plainly his future lies in being a mixture of Jerry Springer and Allen Funt, who created the original “Candid Camera.” “Lapdance Island” may have been intended as put on, but it’s exactly what the public wants in our era where people are naming their newborn daughters Stormy and it isn’t farfetched to imagine Michael Avenatti as the dean of the Stormy Daniels Institute for Forensic Law. The reality TV show “Lapdance Island” could easily spawn a feature film and then a series of sequels “Lapdance Island” #1,#2, #3. “Lapdance Island #3” would naturally be followed by a Broadway musical of the same name with a musical score by Carole King and Frank Valli and a series of “Apprentices” produced by Donald Trump, of one-time presidential fame. Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Pornosophy: Wash Your Hands

All those who feel that sex is a wonderful thing that comes easily raise their hands. All those who find sex to be a tortured activity filled with haunting feelings and dysfunction whether it be impotence, frigidity or the detachment symptomatic of alexithymia raise your hands. All those who think that Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Eric Schneiderman, Eliot Spitzer, Matt Lauer and Anthony Weiner are simply exceptions raise your hand. All those who think that sexual abuse is only a male problem raise your hands. All those who believe that life has always been this way and that problems that have existed are just coming to the surface raise your hands. All those who believe that there's something in the nature of the modern family and the ways in which sexual identity is defined that's exacerbating sexual confusion raise your hands. All those who feel that pornography has created a generation of sexual predators raise your hands. All those who believe that the exponential increase in the popularity of pornography of an increasingly violence nature is symptomatic of other causes raise your hands. All those who believe that paraphilias are more predominant in our current age than they have been in the past raise your hands? All those who believe that all sex offenders must be treated as criminals raise your hands. All those who believe that humiliating and destroying the lives of even those guilty of minor offenses is the only way to prevent recidivism raise your hands. All those who believe that the most rabid inquisitors may be hiding their own complicity raise your hands. All those who feel they're personally immune to sexual deviance and never would have thought about things like gagging, facials, golden showers, forced feminization and foot worship, who never imagined female anchors reporting the news in stirrups or naked male politicians on leashes with their scrotums bouncing merrily like dogs unless their friends told them about these fantasies raise your hands. All those who think the death of God or an inquietude in nature such as you see in Lear are somehow related to all these scandals raise your hands. All those who don’t have any answers to these things and remain totally stunned by the revelations they read in the news or see on TV raise your hands.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Were Cezanne's Apples Enough?

"Still Life With Apples" by Paul Cezanne (MoMA)
In his review of the show of “Cezanne Portraits” at the National Gallery, (“High Anxiety, The New Yorker, 4/9/118) Peter Schjeldahl cites a l929 essay by D.H. Lawrence which praises “Cezanne for establishing like no other artist a recognition that ‘matter actually exists,'” independent of human self-regard.” Sounds a little like the old paradigm of a branch dropping in the forest when no one is looking, doesn’t it? Schjeldahl goes on to remark that “Lawrence saw Cezanne as striving to objectify the ‘appleness'--the thing in itself--of people, too, yet without much success because, the writer decided, they were beyond his ken.” What would you prefer to paint a person or an apple? Most people don’t have a choice. But this whole question of what Schjeldahl refers to a “quiddity” or what the Kant termed “ding an sich” or noumenon rather than phenomenon places Cezanne right up against another philosophical issue. Ultimately, casting aside the question of people and things, the problem may go right back to Plato's Forms. It’s what the cave dweller wasn’t able to perceive when he saw only the shadows of reality on the wall. Maybe Cezanne was the ultimate Platonist and who cares if he didn’t do justice to humans, if he succeeded in taking his apples where angels feared to tread?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Sperm Count: When You Retire From Masturbation, Do You Get a Pension?

When you retire from masturbation, do you get a pension? This is a question asked by many people who are moving on in life and deal with issues like Social Security and Medicaid. Masturbating is a job like anything else and while it might not have produced a salary from which a social security contribution was deducted, it still rightfully should produce benefits for men and women over 65. Unlike certain law firms and teaching institutions, masturbation does not have a mandatory retirement age and there are many people who will choose to masturbate until a ripe old age which will make the question of pensions a non-issue (unlike with Social Security for instance masturbators do not lose their accrued benefits if they fail to collect premiums by the date of their eligibility). In fact, some anecdotal reports indicate that masturbation is one of the few callings for which an older demographic proves to be particularly well-suited. You might not choose to employ a senior citizen to do heavy construction work or to involve him or herself in a criminal defense case which involves long hours of cross-examining witnesses, but if you yourself are an aging baby boomer you're likely to find that there's no reason to give up your masturbating. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Cosmic Yawn

Timeline of the Metric Expansion of Space (NASA/WMAP Science Team)
Is the universe a hostile or benign place or is it merely indifferent, presenting its inhabitants with a cosmic yawn? For there to be the kind of magnanimity that Buddhists talk about there has to be a meaning and order to things. Those who believe that everything is the way it’s supposed to be or meant to be often point to the symmetry and order of mathematics. How could there be a Pythagorean Theorem if nothing made sense? How could there be the beauty and symmetry of crystalline formations, Poincare’s Conjecture or a quantum physics without some higher force running the show? The contravening argument relates to the fact that the laws of nature whether they’re posited by Newton or Einstein are really just superficial manifestations and more a reflection of the minds of those who made them up than the reality of dark energy or dark matter. And of course we have a whole branch of mathematics which underscores the dubiety of the notion of order, i.e. chaos theory. The anti-Christ represented so eloquently by Dostoevsky in his famous chapter from The Brothers Karamazov, The Grand Inquisitor is one of clearest examples of a self-imploding universe bent on its own destruction. But one of the most interesting representations of the nature of the universe may rest with those who argue that it’s neither benign nor malevolent, but merely like the executive top man in a very large conglomerate who has no way of keeping track of all of his employees. Under this theory, even if there is a God, he, she or it is not some sort of celestial phone operator waiting to answer all the incoming calls. All forms of life and lifelessness go on, creating new paradigms that are like snowflakes, no two of which are ever the same, while what or whoever the higher order or consciousness is, simply and ineffably continues to delegate its power.