You know, I never in my career have ever thought about what the goal was. The goal was always to be better than I was at the present time, at what I was doing.
…I went on every night, and I learned the difference between impersonating a comedian and being a comedian. And that was my break, was learning how to be authentic - not to the audience, but to myself. I developed a baseline of confidence and also insecurity. I knew how bad I was, and I knew how good I was. And that is what helped me through a lot of the ups and downs as we went along.
It would be easy, on first glance, to dismiss Madeline Levine’s “Teach Your Children Well” as yet another new arrival in a long line of books that have urged us, in the past decade or so, to push back and just say no to the pressures of perfectionistic, high-performance parenting. But to give in to first impressions would be a mistake.
For Levine’s latest book is, in fact, a cri de coeur from a clinician on the front lines of the battle between our better natures — parents’ deep and true love and concern for their kids — and our culture’s worst competitive and materialistic influences, all of which she sees played out, day after day, in her private psychology practice in affluent Marin County, Calif. Levine works with teenagers who are depleted, angry and sad as they compete for admission to a handful of big-name colleges, and with parents who can’t steady or guide them, so lost are they in the pursuit of goals that have drained their lives of pleasure, contentment and connection. “Our current version of success is a failure,” she writes. It’s a damning, and altogether accurate, clinical diagnosis.
One academically talented girl in Levine’s care is knocked off her feet by self-loathing and grief after she’s rejected from a particularly desirable college. She “lies in bed for days,” Levine writes. “She will not get up, and when I visit her at home, all she can say through her streaming tears is: ‘It was all for nothing. I’m a complete failure.’ ”
Other kids cheat, take drugs, drink, shut down or, worse still, keep up their tightrope act of parent-pleasing, Ivy-aiming high achievement while quietly, invisibly dying inside. “The cost of this relentless drive to perform at unrealistically high levels is a generation of kids who resemble nothing so much as trauma victims,” Levine writes. “They become preoccupied with events that have passed — obsessing endlessly on a possible wrong answer or a missed opportunity. They are anxious and depressed and often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Sleep is difficult and they walk around in a fog of exhaustion. Other kids simply fold their cards and refuse to play.”
Levine has spent 30 years with these unhappy children, as a therapist and a mother of three sons who attended high-pressure schools. And now, it would seem, she’s had it. She’s had it with schools that worship at the altar of high achievement but do everything they can to undermine children’s growth and well-being: eliminating recess; assigning mind-deadening amounts of homework; and ranking, measuring and valuing kids by narrowly focused test scores, while cutting out other areas of creative education in which large numbers of students who don’t necessarily test well might find success and thrive. And she’s had it with parents who profess to want nothing more than “happiness” for their children (“Kids laugh when I tell them that their parents don’t mention money as a measure of success; they think I’ve been snowed,” she divulges) while neglecting the aspects of family life that build enthusiasm and contentment, and overemphasizing values and activities that can actually do harm.
These are parents who run themselves ragged with work and hyper-parenting, presenting an “eviscerated vision of the successful life” that their children are then programmed to imitate. They’re parents who are physically hyper-present but somehow psychologically M.I.A.: so caught up in the script that runs through their heads about how to “do right” by their children that they can’t see when the excesses of keeping up, bulking up, getting a leg up and generally running scared send the whole enterprise of ostensible care and nurturing right off the rails.
This message — that, essentially, everything today’s parents think they’re doing right is actually wrong — is the most noteworthy take-away from the first two-thirds or so of this book, which otherwise spends a bit too much time consolidating and restating (without, unfortunately, adequate footnotes or in-text credits) a great deal of previously published wisdom on the dangers of winner-take-all parenting.
Levine has good, if familiar, lessons for parents about the virtues of teaching empathy; encouraging the development of an authentic self; and making time for dreaming, creating and unstructured outdoor play. But she really comes into her own — and will, if widely read, make an indelible mark on our parenting culture — when she moves beyond child development to concentrate instead on parent development, exploring why we do the misguided things we do, and asking how we might (as we must) change ourselves and behave differently.
Here, her insights are fresh. “When apples were sprayed with a chemical at my local supermarket, middle-aged moms turned out, picket signs and all, to protest the possible risk to their children’s health,” Levine reflects. “Yet I’ve seen no similar demonstrations about an educational system that has far more research documenting its own toxicity. We have bought into this system not because we are bad people or are unconcerned about our children’s well-being, but because we have been convinced that any other point of view will put our children at even greater risk.”
With vastly increasing numbers of children now showing stress-related symptoms, it’s more urgent than ever, Levine argues, that parents learn new ways to express their love and concern, trading their fears of failure for faith in their children’s innate strengths, and prioritizing the joys and challenges of life in the present over anxious visions of an uncertain future. “There comes a point in parenting,” she writes, “where we must decide whether to maintain the status quo or, armed with new information, choose a different course. There is little question that our children are living in a world that is not simply oblivious to their needs, but is actually damaging them.”
Levine is correct to say that, as parents and as a society, we’ve reached a tipping point, in which the long-dawning awareness that there’s something not quite right about our parenting is strengthening into a real desire for change. Families, their fortunes tracking the larger economy that encouraged so much of their excess, are crashing after bubble years in which they spent their every penny, and then some, on cultivating competitive greatness in their kids. Now exhausted, often disenchanted and (conveniently enough) broke, they’re reconsidering whether the mad chase was worth all the resources that sustained it.
After all, as Levine notes, the inconvenient truth remains that not every child can be shaped and accelerated into Harvard material. But all kids can have their spirits broken, depression induced and anxiety stoked by too much stress, too little downtime and too much attention given to external factors that make them look good to an audience of appraising eyes but leave them feeling rotten inside.
“For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”—Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay
When you think of a Bond Watch, what comes to mind? Style, luxury, sophistication? Perhaps the actor who played James Bond in your favorite 007 movie, or maybe the over-the-top gadgetry that made the Bond Watch a trademark of the 007 films from the late 70’s and early 80’s? No matter your initial reaction, or the concealed gadget inside, we can all attest to the coolness of the 007 timepiece. A symbol for the man every boy wants to grow up to be, and the confidence every grown man wishes he could achieve.
As an avid Bond fan I have collected all of the movies, read all of the books, and played most of the video games. Not one for props, memorabilia, or firearms, I thought my Bond collection was complete just as long as I stayed up-to-date with the release of the latest films. It wasn’t until I became jealous of my friend’s Omega Seamaster, that I realized owning an authentic Bond Watch could be within my future.
The first step in buying a Bond Watch is figuring out which watch to buy. In the movies Bond wore everything from a Rolex Submariner, to a digital Seiko. Of course for me James Bond meant Pierce Brosnan, and his ocean blue Omega Seamaster. What can I say I am a child of the 90’s.
What I like most about my Seamaster is its color. Depending on the light it can either appear to be deep black, or bright blue. The wave pattern on the face equally distributes light in mysterious ways. The skeleton hands, although not as legible at night as the sword hands of other Seamasters, provides a sophistication that is unique to this model of watch.
If you have never worn a Seamaster than you are missing out on way the two-tone stainless steel bracelet drapes across your wrist. Nothing is as comfortable. Unlike leather it is impervious to moisture, and unlike the cheap links of other straps, it never pinches the skin.
A brand new Seamaster costs several thousand dollars these days, but due to a vibrant second hand market on eBay I was able to pick mine up at less than half the asking price. When it comes to the decision between Quartz and Automatic, I would spend the couple extra hundred dollars for the Chronometer. I didn’t think it would make a difference, but I have grown to appreciate the steady ticking of a mechanical movement with no electrical parts; that will never need a replacement battery.
With the exception of my computers, I own very little in the line of luxury. I do not own a car, my TV has always been small, my home is just an apartment on a busy street. I bought my Bond Watch because it is the best I could afford, and hope it lasts long enough to pass onto a future generation. More importantly, it is a constant reminder of confidence. James Bond might be a fictional character, but his legendary confidence has captivated audiences for over 50 years. That is a quality money can’t buy.
I can remember the specific moment when I swore off the sex lives of the famous as journalistic currency. It was the case of a national sportscaster — I won’t name him, but, alas, most of those old enough will remember the name, which is regrettable — whose sex life had suddenly become the media chow.
This man had been involved in a consensual relationship with another adult and for reasons both ridiculous and obscure, the other adult thought it just and meaningful to reveal herself and her complaints, making explicit all of the unique and varied ways in which she and this man had expressed their sexuality. And my, wasn’t he a weird one. And wasn’t it funny.
When that story broke, I was standing in the newsroom of the Baltimore Sun and I remember my growing distaste watching reporters and rewrite men as they were sucked, joking and snickering, into the breaking news. And no one had any doubt that it was news. The man was a national sportscaster, for the love of god. A more public figure this nation cannot muster.
I was no Candide on a first promenade through Paris. I’d held pen and notepad akimbo and reported hypocritically at points. Not a year earlier, I think, I’d been guilty of dragging to the front of the metro section some sad sack who happened to serve on a mayor’s advisory committee — an unpaid position, mind you — and happened to get arrested in a car with a lit marijuana cigarette between his lips. At the price of that misdemeanor, I’d messed that guy up good. Wasn’t my fault he caught that charge; hey, I was just the cop shop reporter calling districts and reporting arrests. Don’t shoot the messenger.
And then, like the shitbird that reporters often are obliged to be, I probably left work that night and smoked a joint with the night editor, after which, we went to Burke’s for onion rings. Which we did just about every other night.
Hypocrisy will never go out of style in American journalism or American life. But sitting there and watching the rewrite and sports desk mobilize to surround the sexual wanderings of a sportscaster, I remember making a decision: Enough. This is just sex. This is nothing more than the odd, notable penis or the odd, notable vagina staggering off the marked path and rubbing against the wrong tree. This is just people.
I told myself that I wasn’t in journalism to chase something so ordinary, so adolescent as other people’s sexuality, that I wouldn’t play this game, that there were better reasons to be a reporter, and there were better things for readers to consume. I knew that one soldier opting out from such a lurid and exalted battlefield of the media wars meant nothing, but I did it anyway. Fuck Gingrich’s divorces. Fuck Lewinsky. Fuck where Anthony Weiner found some happy online moments. I’m not playing anymore. I long ago ceased to even pretend to care.
The arguments about character? That human sexuality isn’t the most compartmentalized element of our nature? That if someone will lie about sex, they’ll lie about other things? Really? No, sorry, fuck that tripe. Character has become the self-righteous rallying cry of far greater hypocrisy than any cheating husband. It’s the excuse that makes our prurient leer seem meaningful and reasoned.
Observe the process by which we remove some of the most essential American figures of the last century for having failed to corral their sexual organs in the marital bedroom: Roosevelt, gone. Eisenhower, gone. Kennedy, gone. Lyndon Johnson, gone. Clinton, gone. Martin Luther King, Jr., gone. Edward Murrow, gone. Follow the gamboling penis to an arid expanse of sociopolitical wasteland, where many of the greatest visionaries and actors can never tred, a desert in which only the Calvin Coolidges and Richard Nixons remain standing. Anyone who looks at the history of mankind and argues that private sexual fidelity exists in direct proportion to political greatness or moral leadership is either a chump or a liar.
And now comes General Petraeus.
His penis, too, has roamed. And now he is grist for the usual mill. And there will be three themes that we must now endure ad nauseum from all of the men and women of our media elite who will gather around their laptops and type so furiously as to obliterate everything they actually know about human sexuality and achieve the necessary velocity for judgment and arrogance:
1) Man, this guy was dumb. Ha hah!
2) Too dumb to be the Director of C.I.A. Isn’t that a sensitive position? Shouldn’t his penis only show itself in the most careful moments, so as to protect a great nation’s secrets? Isn’t he therefore incompetent? As well as:
2a) Didn’t he know he was boning a crazy lady? The head of the CIA should be smarter than to be boning crazy ladies, right?
And lastly, because there is always a place for dumbass partisanship:
3) How does this affect the Democrats? How does it affect the Republicans? When can we put a -gate on the end of this scandal?
To wit, let us parse the work of one Roger Simon, my namesake alas, a veteran political writer currently slinging witticisms and paper-thin insight for Politico.com:
“Gen. David Petraeus is dumb, she’s dumber.”
That’s the headline. Let’s venture southward into the prose and see what we find:
Ah, Mr. Simon says the general should not have resigned because he’s involved in a sex scandal. No, “he should have resigned because if he were any more dimwitted, you would have had to water him.”
Ha, hah! That’s great stuff. Mr. Simon is saying that the head of the CIA is as dumb as plant. Because you have to water them. A tasty bon mot, and we’re off and running. Mr. Simon then offers to leave aside “the sordid, yet fascinating details” of the general’s private life — after which a sordid, yet fascinating detail is quickly cited — and instead focus intently on all of ways in which General Petraeus and his paramour were indifferent to being discovered — their use of email, the girlfriend’s jealous anger and her foolish compulsion in expressing that anger in writing to a perceived rival, and finally, Petraus being unwilling to act sensibly when confronted by the FBI: ”When Bill Clinton was caught in a sex scandal, he lied through his teeth until they came up with the DNA. Not Petraeus. He folded immediately…and admitted everything.”
So, now that we’ve had our fun chronicling how poorly these two people have handled their personal affair, it is time for Mr. Simon to turn his level gaze on General Petraus as the public man. Just what did Petraeus do so that we thought he had any merit in the first place? And Roger Simon — a man who has covered politics all his life, who is charged by a news organization that wishes to be a serious prism by which Americans can evaluate the political world and its relationship to actual issues and policy — he has exactly this to say:
He was once on an airplane five years ago with John McCain. And he interviewed McCain, who admired Petraeus, who thought him charismatic, who then, in this interview, reduced the general to an anecdote: “One thing he did was have a bag of money, and he would go around and say, “OK, build this irrigation ditch, buy yourself a generator.”
This is more than enough for national political columnist Roger Simon to look down at the valley of the dumb and dumber from the high mesa of his sun-kissed laptop and joke about being impressed, since he is from Chicago and knows the value of carrying around bags of money with which to dispense favors. And then Mr. Simon offer his grave doubts — based on what John McCain told him about David Petraeus second-hand, in an offhand interview on a plane between Cedar Rapids and Davenport — that Petraeus, despite his education, his military experience, or any other qualification, was the man to save Iraq or Afghanistan. As if such a man even exists.
And there it is: Not only is Petraeus dumb, he’s easily expendable. Bring on the next hump and let’s see if he keeps it in his pants.
But here is the real world in proportion:
David Petraeus has had sex outside his marriage, as have many men and many women. Human sexuality and compulsion are not in any way related to intelligence. It’s not that the dumb or powerful are more prone to fucking around, or that the intelligent and powerless do it to any greater degree. It’s that men in general are hopelessly and permanently prone to contemplate sex and furtive romance and, sometimes, to act on it. The reasons they do so are crude, ordinary and inevitable. Women are also hopelessly and permanently prone to contemplate furtive romance and sex — and yes, I changed the order, I know — and the reasons they do so are only marginally less crude, ordinary and inevitable.
Professionally, David Petraeus understood a helluva lot more than John McCain conveyed to Roger Simon in two minutes of conversation. For one thing, if Mr. Simon wanted to be honest, he might acknowledge that it was Petraeus who saw the morass that was Iraq even as it began, who famously turned to a journalist on the march into Baghdad with the 101st Airborne and declared openly: I know how this begins, but explain to me how this ends? That alone makes the man more astute and more valuable than an entire White House, most of the Pentagon, and much of the American press corps, which itself failed to raise much worry when war in Iraq was being debated, or rather, not seriously debated at all. It certainly makes Petraeus smarter than most of America, which largely supported that disastrous intervention.
To characterize Petraeus now as having failed to save either Iraq or Afghanistan is facile and dishonest and, of course, necessary to Mr. Simon’s argument that the sexual misadventures of a human being can then reveal that perhaps this fellow wasn’t smart enough in the first place. After all he got caught, didn’t he? A smart fellow would have taken more care. No emails. Only whispers. And affections only for cunning and discreet ladies. No undue emotions, please.
Having had a sexual misadventure, this guy can’t be smart, and therefore, let’s make him completely clueless by dint of a solitary, second-hand conversation with one distracted politician. No other context is required.
It would be one thing if this were a scandal that could have compromised the CIA or American intelligence, if this were some honey trap set by foreign entities. When politically-connected columnist Joe Alsop was famously lured into a homosexual liaison by Russian intelligence, which then attempted to turn Alsop, he rightly marched into the CIA headquarters and revealed the ploy, rendering it moot. And if there were indications that Petraeus was vulnerable to being so blackmailed, this mess might have actual import. But no, upon being confronted with his paramour’s indiscreet emails, he confessed all, resigned, and returned to private life to attempt, no doubt, to salvage his marriage or at least deal with the personal implications of it all.
More incredibly, Mr. Simon argues the general’s stupidity in not lying to federal investigators. He is, at that moment, not merely callow and sneering, as much of the press is apt to be in such a circumstance, he is, himself, grandly idiotic. The penalties for lying to an FBI agent are profound. Just ask Henry Cisneros. Or Martha Stewart for that matter. Or Bill Clinton. No doubt if the general did lie and was later charged with a false statement, or worse, lying to a grand jury, Mr. Simon and his like would rush to declare that it wasn’t the marital infidelity that we care about, but the perjury and dishonesty. As if it isn’t entirely rational for any human being — caught and shamed for thinking with their genitals as ordinary mortals are often apt to do — to lie and avoid not only the public shaming, but the private harm to other loved ones inherent in that public disgrace. Nice for the press to have it both ways: Shame them when they tell the truth about their private indiscretions, or stand self-righteously and defend the public trust if they don’t. Christ. It’s enough to make even a half-honest man vomit.
I’m neither an admirer nor detractor of General Petraeus. But I am most definitely a detractor of what journalism has become in this country, of what passes for the qualitative analysis of our society and its problems. And I’ve paid enough attention to the human condition to no longer take seriously the notion that anyone who lets penis or vagina rub against the wrong person, who is indiscreet in doing so, and who then tells the truth about it when confronted by an FBI agent is unfit for either citizenship or public service. I certainly know enough about the human condition to know that all kinds of people — smart and dumb, powerful and powerless — are capable of finding themselves in such a circumstance and shaking their heads at just how far they strayed, at just how indiscreet they were in their very ordinary, human hunger, and how they have hurt those closest to them. Sex, done right, is some powerful shit. And when Americans begin to accept the human condition for what it is rather than an opportunity to jeer at the other fellow for getting caught, then we will be, if nothing else, a little bit more grown up. I remember when Francois Mitterand’s wife and mistress walked beside each other in the French premier’s funeral procession and few in that country thought it remarkable. The French have got their problems, but in some respects, they make our country, our political commentary, seem as mature and insightful as a fourteen-year-old unsticking the pages of his dad’s just-discovered skin mags. It’s a peculiar American hypocrisy that only the worst kind of journalistic hack would readily and willingly embrace as a meaningful metric.
We’ve caught some of the smartest and most commited public men and women with their pants at their ankles. Time and again, we’ve had our fun. We’ve roundly mocked them for the very weaknesses that are so utterly our own. Reporters who have at points in their lives fucked themselves silly in hotel rooms across this great land of ours while pursuing the infidelities of more public men with righteous glee — these are not men and women who are much inclined to any real moment of self reflection, but then who among us really is? This kind of hypocrisy requires a complicit silence and a ritual wiping of the memory before every byline. Well, I’m 52 years old and I will admit that I have not lived this long without occasionally misplacing my penis. For shame, yeah. And so, being fully complicit in the human comedy, the last thing I’m going to mock is the mistakes that others make in the rush to bed, or why they do so.
But for those who love throwing stones, is it too much to ask that their aim be true? That they limit the target to Darwinian compulsion, to ordinary, and yes, at times, unthinking human desire. That they not equip themselves to judge the totality of a public servant’s entire career and works solely with the details of whatever sexual misadventure we happen to discover. Roosevelt was a smart guy. So was Eisenhower. Clinton might be the smartest president of my generation. And David Petraeus saw and spoke to the folly of Iraq before the rest of America was cheering the fall of Saddam’s statue. And he stayed long after that folly was evident to work at a remedy for and an extrication from that tragic intervention.
If we can judge stupidity by solitary lapses, then Roger Simon, by dint of this recent column could rightly be judged a moron. And if we’re going to free associate stupidity with the public discovery of sexual misadventure, such vacuous shit as Mr. Simon just offered up virtually requires him to be caught unawares in a Nuevo Laredo whorehouse with a fistful of fifties.
What I just wrote is unfair of course. I’m sure Mr. Simon has had better and meaningful moments commenting on our body politic, just as the general has had other, more meaningful moments as a public servant. But given that Petraeus himself doesn’t seem to have done anything criminal, or failed in his public performance, one can surmise that his decision to depart as CIA director is predicated on what he will now endure from our stunted media culture.
Allen Dulles screwed his way through dozens of women as director of the CIA. Dulles, by every fair historical assessment, was a Georgetown player and backroom bullshitter who led the agency into some of the worst intelligence failures in American history, then created an alternate myth of success for the agency. Shame on the American press corps of those years for buying into the professional myth, of course, but hey, at least those then covering the intelligence community hadn’t reduced themselves to a copse of dour-faced, suit-and-tie-wearing Hedda Hoppers. They didn’t give a shit who Dulles slept with. But David Petraeus can expect no such quarter, or — as Mr. Simon’s commentary suggests — even the smallest sense of proportion.
“For much of my life, I wanted to be other people; here was the central dilemma, the reason, I believe, for my creative stasis. I was always falling short of people’s expectations: my immigrant parents’, my Indian relatives’, my American peers’, above all my own. The writer in me wanted to edit myself. If only there was a little more this, a little less that, depending on the circumstances: then the asterisk that accompanied me would be removed. My upbringing, an amalgam of two hemispheres, was heterodox and complicated; I wanted it to be conventional and contained. I wanted to be anonymous and ordinary, to look like other people, to behave as others did. To anticipate an alternate future, having sprung from a different past. This had been the lure of acting—the comfort of erasing my identity and adopting another. How could I want to be a writer, to articulate what was within me, when I did not wish to be myself?”—Jhumpa Lahiri
My self-summary I am a writer and poet, one, bear with me here, of the “major” writers of the late 20th century, though just typing that felt desperate. I received a B.A. in English at Humboldt State University, then went on to attend the esteemed Iowa Writers’ Workshop, thus launching my career. I also like to drink.
What I’m doing with my life Working on some short stories but honestly not that into it, which may be why I’m entertaining the prospect of dating again.
I’m really good at I hate to kick a dead horse here, but I’m really good at writing. I also make a pretty neat beef stew, since I tend to take 6 hour naps. It just gets done. My first collection of short stories Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? was shortlisted for the National Book Award and sort of revitalized the short fiction form. John Updike selected on of my stories for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century; Robert Altman made a sprawling film out of my stories; writing professors all across the country solemnly mention me as a kind of blue-collar American Camus; so, I’m not saying I’m really good at writing, just noting some examples of how others seem to feel this way.
The first thing people usually notice about me I look the way a depressed person looks, if one were not trying to look that way.
Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food The Trial; The Sun Also Rises; For Whom The Bell Tolls; The Stranger;Dear Mr. Capote; Kramer vs. Kramer; Terms of Endearment; Taxi Driver; Annie Hall;Love Connection; Empty Nest; Mr. Belvedere; My Two Dads; Miles Davis; Charles Mingus; Bill Evans; Pasta all kinds.
The six things I could never do without Hendrick’s gin; tonic; lime; ice cubes; a tumbler; my typewriter.
I spend a lot of time thinking about The triangular yet cyclical relationship between the author, the character of a story, and the reader; how empathy may just be narcissism projected onto others; how nostalgia is desperate memory; the hair-thin line between cliché and truth; showing vs. telling; my kidneys, liver, and spleen; realism, location, and class; linguistic economy; how to say something by not saying it; codependence, alcoholism, and intimacy; rent; whether or not something is a run on sentence and does it matter.
On a typical Friday night I am I enjoy turning off all the lights in the house a few hours after dusk, walking over to the window, a drink in hand, and just looking out at the vessels of leafless branches bruised into purple gloom, as if beaten by day. I see a man walking his dog, the diagonal leash sloped downward towards its neck like some slanted guillotine; I see this and think what is wrong with me? As you can tell, I need to be dating again. The bottom of my glass portrays multiple ever receding foci, all working in collusion together as the room fucking spins. The once frozen lobster ravioli is now paste in my boiling pot, as I’ve forgotten about dinner.
The most private thing I am willing to admit I’ve been cruel to others for material.
I’m looking for Just something, or rather someone, to get me away from this writing desk. A jovial date; a flash of tits; some female chatter. We could ride a roller coaster, have way too many corn dogs, and I would hope to die of a heart attack. Anything.
You should message me if You should message me if you’d like to take a chance on a morbidly depressed yet emotionally available writer near the end of his noteworthy, and in some circles, brilliant career who just wants to tap into this supposed carnal hedonism of art and literature, which I will admit is a heavy handed euphemism for copulation, which despite all subtleties herein I must now betray and just say will you please be quick, please?
The problem with sex from an existential perspective is that it’s inherently awesome and it’s inherently banal and cliche, and it’s both things at the same time. Hardline religious prohibitions against recreational fornication, for example, seem insanely anachronistic but also, undeniably, are based on a valid point: sex for the purpose of sex somehow seems spiritually empty. Reality, however, makes it manifestly true that everything that occurs in adulthood, especially the stuff we admire and celebrate, like art, skyscrapers, and getting decent at guitar, exists as a semi-conscious ploy to win some girl or guy’s favor. Studies consistently show significant negative correlations between sexual frustration and a more general existential frustration. And further, any acts that lack the promise of sexual reward - like say, attaching a solid fuel rocket to a car, moving to Montana, or becoming a Catholic priest - are not only pointless, they tend to make trouble.
“It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”
Considered to be by far the most powerful number of all…possesses both creative and destructive capabilities. No.5 represents the human being as the center of his own world.
The great controller- both the concept of power over others as well as the control of the self. From this come the ideas of ego, strength, boldness, leadership potential, greatness of talent and ability.
As no.5 may create or constantly renew itself, so it may also destroy another number of itself if opposed. This creative/destructive potential must always be in balance for the great power of 5 to be used constructively.
By David P. Barash The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov 19, 2012
The mystery of gayness: Homosexuals reproduce less than heterosexuals, so why has natural selection not operated against it?
Here are some promising possibilities.
Kin selection. Scientists speculate that altruism may be maintained if the genes producing it help a genetic relative and hence give an advantage to those altruistic genes. The same could be true of homosexuality. Insofar as homosexuals have been freed from investing time and energy in their own reproduction, perhaps they are able to help their relatives rear offspring, to the ultimate evolutionary benefit of any homosexuality-promoting genes present in those children.
Unfortunately, available evidence does not show that homosexuals spend an especially large amount of time helping their relatives, or even interacting with them. Not so fast, however: Those results are based on surveys; they reveal opinions and attitudes rather than actual behavior. Moreover, they involve modern industrialized societies, which presumably are not especially representative of humanity’s ancestral situations.
Some recent research has focused on male homosexuals among a more traditional population on Samoa. Known as fa’afafine, these men do not reproduce, are fully accepted into Samoan society in general and into their kin-based families in particular, and lavish attention upon their nieces and nephews—with whom they share, on average, 25 percent of their genes.
Social prestige. Since there is some anthropological evidence that in preindustrial societies homosexual men are more than randomly likely to become priests or shamans, perhaps the additional social prestige conveyed to their heterosexual relatives might give a reproductive boost to those relatives, and thereby to any shared genes carrying a predisposition toward homosexuality. An appealing idea, but once again, sadly lacking in empirical support.
Group selection. Although the great majority of biologists maintain that natural selection occurs at the level of individuals and their genes rather than groups, it is at least possible that human beings are an exception; that groups containing homosexuals might have done better than groups composed entirely of straights. It has recently been argued, most cogently by the anthropologist Sarah B. Hrdy, that for much of human evolutionary history, child-rearing was not the province of parents (especially mothers) alone. Rather, our ancestors engaged in a great deal of “allomothering,” whereby nonparents—other genetic relatives in particular—pitched in. It makes sense that such a system would have been derived by Homo sapiens, of all primate species the one whose infants are born the most helpless and require the largest investment of effort. If sufficient numbers of those assistants had been gay, their groups may have benefited disproportionately.
Alternatively, if some human ancestors with a same-sex preference reproduced less (or even not at all), that, in itself, could have freed up resources for their straight relatives, without necessarily requiring that the former were especially collaborative. Other group-level models have also been proposed, focusing on social interaction rather than resource exploitation: Homosexuality might correlate with greater sociality and social cooperation; similarly, it might deter violent competition for females.
Balanced polymorphisms. Perhaps a genetic predisposition for homosexuality, even if a fitness liability, somehow conveys a compensating benefit when combined with one or more other genes, as with the famous case of sickle-cell disease, in which the gene causing the disease also helped prevent malaria in regions where it was epidemic. Although no precise candidate genes have been identified for homosexuality, the possibility cannot be excluded.
Sexually antagonistic selection. What if one or more genes that predispose toward homosexuality (and with it, reduced reproductive output) in one sex actually work in the opposite manner in the other sex? I prefer the phrase “sexually complementary selection”: A fitness detriment when genes exist in one sex—say, gay males—could be more than compensated for by a fitness enhancement when they exist in another sex.
One study has found that female relatives of gay men have more children than do those of straight men. This suggests that genes for homosexuality, although disadvantageous for gay men and their male relatives, could have a reproductive benefit among straight women.
To my knowledge, however, there is as yet no evidence for a reciprocal influence, whereby the male relatives of female homosexuals have a higher reproductive fitness than do male relatives of heterosexual women. And perhaps there never will be, given the accumulating evidence that female homosexuality and male homosexuality may be genetically underwritten in different ways.
A nonadaptive byproduct. Homosexual behavior might be neither adaptive nor maladaptive, but simply nonadaptive. That is, it might not have been selected for but persists instead as a byproduct of traits that presumably have been directly favored, such as yearning to form a pair bond, seeking emotional or physical gratification, etc. As to why such an inclination would exist at all—why human connections are perceived as pleasurable—the answer may well be that historically (and prehistorically), it has often been in the context of a continuing pair-bond that individuals were most likely to reproduce successfully.
There are lots of other hypotheses for the evolution of homosexuality, although they are not the “infinite cornucopia” that Leszek Kolakowski postulated could be argued for any given position. At this point, we know enough to know that we have a real mystery: Homosexuality does have biological roots, and the question is how the biological mechanism developed over evolutionary time.
Another question (also yet unanswered) is why should we bother to find out.
There is a chilling moment at the end of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, when a human family, having escaped to Mars to avoid impending nuclear war, looks eagerly into the “canals” of their new planetary home, expecting to see Martians. They do: their own reflections.
It wasn’t terribly long ago that reputable astronomers entertained the notion that there really were canals on Mars. From our current vantage, that is clearly fantasy. And yet, in important ways, we are still strangers to ourselves, often surprised when we glimpse our own images. Like Bradbury’s fictional family, we, too, could come to see humanity, reflected in all its wonderful diversity, and know ourselves at last for precisely what we are, if we simply looked hard enough.
Unlike the United States military, with its defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, many reputable investigators are therefore asking … not who is homosexual, but why are there homosexuals. We can be confident that eventually, nature will tell.