If it seems like I can’t stay away from picking at the whole “look/touch” thing and where the evil comes in on the route from Good spirit to Bad flesh, there’s a reason for that. I can’t figure it out and I’m in a position where it bothers me a lot.
I was watching some little girls the other day, trying to play in that hamster trail thing at McDonalds at the same time as eating some fries and spilling Cokes. Adorable little suckers. I don’t have a lot of that momma gene, baby cuddler thing going on. I’d be perfectly happy in a world with no kids around. But this little pair was just so cute and sweet and plump and beautiful I couldn’t help stare at them. I was only slightly horrified to realize I wanted to just pick them up and kiss their little pink cheeks and tousle their hair and pinch their little bottoms.
I’m exaggerating a little. I get around my brothers kids and act fairly normally toward them. And I end up doing what I see him doing. Drying them off, picking them up to cuddle, kiss them up, pinch their butts, kiss their bellybuttons. It’s the normal reaction to kids, isn’t it? That’s what the way they look and the way we’re made makes us feel. And act.
We see them, and get charmed so we want to see more. And we yearn to touch them. If we can, we do. The beauty of their flesh calls to something inside us, is the only way to put it.
So is it really so vulgar that we want to stare at any beautiful collection of molecules? And to touch it? And explore the sensations or cues of that touch? Nobody thinks it’s rotten to want to do it to babies.
And yes, duh, it doesn’t make us want to have sex with them. Some folks, it does. And we think of those folks as a lot worse than vulgar, we think of them as monsters. Having met a few child freaks in my time, I think many aren’t so much monsters as pitiful cripples trapped into desires they can control. Didn’t keep me from demolishing that guy’s knee that time and smashing a bunch of his teeth right out on the floor with my hairbrush.
But I’m talking about people with normal esthetics. I’m not sure there is such a thing as “normal sexual appetites”. What would that be? Seems to me there’s nothing normal about any of it. Sex is all weird, you come right down to it.
And I don’t guess I’m some brainiac philosopher coming up with the idea that it’s Good for our esthetic appreciation of a material object to please us and attract us, and maybe common but not evil to want to ogle and touch it, but Evil when we start working up to bumping our uglies on it.
But I still get twisted up over how and why those lines are drawn. Why it’s not just good, but super-good, super-civilized and urbane and cultured, to be pleased right out of your knickers, your soul stirred with “palpable response” so paintings and sculpture in some gallery in Mahattan or Paris (where by the way, I’ve been treated to the sight of some of the ugliest, stupidest objects I’ve ever seen in my life, including objects coming out of the south end of a northbound hog). But it’s somehow less cultivated to get the same feeling looking at a classy thoroughbred or brand new Maserati or some little girl’s buttocks. And becomes totally mundane and crass and possibly wicked if the object of appreciation is the body of an adult of the opposite sex. (Or possibly even totally disgusting if they’re the same sex.)
For one thing, the Maserati was made by people, by designers and such like. So why doesn’t it have the prestige of a bunch of goat droppings some insufferable dickhead has arranged in patterns on the floor of some gallery space in Santa Monica? I just can’t get anybody to answer that question in any way that doesn’t fall apart when questioned, or even makes any sense at all.
Why is it more cultured to politely murmur about the feeling and use of negative space in some vague noodling in MOMA than enjoy a sunset or stroke the flanks of a racehorse or run your fingers through an arctic fox jacket? Sometimes I think it’s because any fool can see how beautiful a gladiolus or jaguar or samurai sword is, but you have to go to school to “appreciate art”, to learn that something isn’t really ugly if you know a bunch of nonsense about it. More ethereal. Except right away they start talking about how collectable that canvas that the guy puked on is, and how much more it will be worth in a few years. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of a gallery in my life without some dolled-up little Barbi robot telling me about the investment angle.
So, what I’m getting at is that the line is artificial, and that it’s corrupt. Which adds up, in my humble account book, to being full of pigshit.
So how much for real are these other lines and hashmarks and redzones they sketch out for us? How much lead time makes any sense? You say that dancing around like Sufi whirligigs praising The Lord is spiritual and Good, fine. You say that getting your brains hammered out up against a wall is carnal and Bad, maybe you’ve got a point. But when you start saying that slow dancing with some guy on the boardwalk is Bad because in your opinion it’s just a ploy to get somebody’s undies sticky, I think you might be getting a little to far off base. And looking at it like I’m crouched down there with the ball thinking I can peg it to second before you can back and you’re prancing little ass with be Out.
It reminds me of pickets or tripwires or the perimeters Pow talked about from his marine days. In order to feel secure you can’t just have a fence, you need to have trenches outside the fence, and alarms outside that, and clear the ground for another couple hundred yards past that, maybe keep some scouts out there in the woods. How far out do you have to start your defenses before you can feel secure? Does that sound to far-fetched?
It wasn’t until I went to Europe before I really figured out what people mean when they talk about Americans being Puritans. Everything is so much more relaxed there. Lots of areas where we have little Maginot lines are blurred or non-existent over there. Especially, it seemed to me, in areas I think of as sort of generic Euro. Like Greek and Mediterranean pleasure islands where everybody is Euro, but what national passport they carry is irrelevant. One day everybody in some café is speaking French, next day the same people are all speaking Italian. You see a whole family come out of the water and sit around or tumble around naked. See a guy sitting there in obvious intimacy with a 40 year old blonde and an 18 year old brunette, or a lesbian ménage a trois, or some elegant inbred countess type practically moaning while stroking a sable bolero, you don’t even take a picture. The idea that a body would want to make full sensual contact with things that initiate visual or olfactory tickles is taken for granted. It’s the same simple ethic you’d find with children, but these aren’t un-cultivated people. They’re Europeans for Pete’s sake. You want cultivation and culture, they’ll show it to you carved in stone, stacked up for millennia.
Okay, so you don’t have to take Baptists seriously, but this whole flesh vs. light thing is warping us, in my snotty opinion. And worse, you see that same Puritan morality and mental set-up messing up the political world. And I’m not just talking about Republican assholes outlawing abortions or trying to make you get state-raped before you can get births controlled. It goes way beyond that.
Since I fly around a lot, I’m painfully aware of all the security mania, allegedly because of the 9/11 attacks. I travel light and am used to making cretins keep their hands off my junk, but I look at the whole process and see something going on.
The idea is to keep terrorist towel-heads from hijacking planes and zooming around crashing into stuff, right? Think about it. How would you go about keeping somebody from joyriding in your 747? Am I the only who figures it would be a good idea to make the door to the cockpit impossible to force? How hard would that be? If they can’t get into the cockpit, they can’t boost the plane. Solved. Then you search check baggage for bombs and I think you’re most of the way down to your normal dangers of flying around in machines.
But what do they do? They search you and grope you, take off your shoes, swipe your fingernail clippers. They take all the lockers out of airports and train stations and bus stations. That one really eludes me? The terrorists can’t get on the plane with their bomb, so they’re pissed off and blow up the terminal instead? Why not just leave the bomb luggage sitting under a bench in the waiting area? Or the trunk of a taxi. It makes zero sense. They have the whole terminal turned upside down, hassling everybody who travels or works there, instead of just locking up the cockpit good.
So how should we keep your kids from shooting smack and smoking crack? Keep an eye on your kids? Of course not. We run around Latin America shooting people. And shut down borders and search everybody and scare everybody except your dumb kids.
See the pattern I’m talking about. It’s like these onion skins of safety and fear, any security we might have is threatened from outside, so we build another layer around it, but then that one’s threatened.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Do the Brits and French send helicopters and shock troops into other countries to wipe out anybody who might be near a drug? And do they have more junkies than we do?
OK, maybe it’s a little far-fetched to get all extended and political about this. But maybe not. Maybe it’s the same thoughts in the same kind of minds. You build all these walls around you to keep out the Devil, then you turn around and there he is, locked inside with you and there’s nowhere to run. I get this feeling that if you’re some spiritual paparazzo who wants shots and interviews with the Devil, your best play might be to show up inside the head of these prudish censors running around trying to keep us save by not letting us do things.