How to Live, by Doctor Robert MacLean, PhD

Lessons in life from One Who Knows—on YouTube, on Amazon, and right here:

    You are doing something wrong. By now that should be obvious.
    You have failed at love (see LOVE). 
    You have failed at your work (see WORK).
    You have failed to acquire enough power (see POWER) even over your own life to be able to control your future.  You are still, after all this time, "on your way."
    Or, conversely, you have succeeded.  You have made it to the top.  But there is something you have neglected to do that would permit you to enjoy your life there.  Something you don't have.  Some lack in you.  You are at the top of the wrong profession.  You are admired by the wrong people.  You have married the wrong person.  You have the wrong children.
    And you are getting older (see AGE).  It is a time, for you and for the culture, of sexual withdrawal.  You are divided as by a glass wall from everything you want.  You have made the wrong choices.  The moments of decision, botched, or fled unnoticed.  There is nothing now but darkness, celibacy, age and death (see DEATH).
    Am I close?
    You may not even exist.  The greater part of the East and a substantial number of western intellectualsBuddhists, Hindus, linguists, logical positivists, behavioral psychologists, internet employeesare prepared to argue that your existence is an inconvenient mirage.  A non-thing.
    You would not survive as you at all if you did not shrilly and irrationally insist on so doing more times a day than you care to recall.  Your sense of yourself in the world, over and against the worldas opposed to the world, let us sayis maintained by a series of fictions not of your authorship frantically shuffled by your imagination at a rate of several per second and so hysterically contradictory that the sorting process never quite stops.  You are impressionable almost beyond reclaim.  Some slow-witted c and w lyric can have you lurching around moodily for days.  Your feelings, your opinions, your memories, quite possibly even your "self" are not things of your own (see SELF-IMAGE, YOUR).  
    Only your suffering verifies you.  You suffer, therefore you are.  Of this you are almost certain.  It may be fleeting. You may be no more than the tip of a brief flare of suffering but you do have your pain.  You may even need it.
    With what thoughts shall we comfort ourselves?
    You have put aside the old commandments, the old theories. The various therapies are no longer persuasive.  You are not even sure any more what it is you want.
    Let us pray.
    Heavenly Father, in Whose sight we are but scuttling insects busy beyond our own deciphering, grant we beseech Thee enough light to sin by and know what we're doing.
    But prayer no longer works.  It has been castrated by the contradictions (see GOD), is nothing now but an arbitrary attitude, a pose before the mirror, an act of futile self-encounter.
    You are, when you think about it, desperate.  You are not what you want to be.  You are not where you want to be.  Or how.  And you have not the courage to face your own death.
    Little can be done for you at this stage.  You need time. You need language that will put some distance between you and What Is.  You need someone to sort things out for you, a dispassionate figure in a lab coat to interpret the X-rays and guide you in your struggle to become more truly yourself, sort of thing.  You may not be able to stand it.
    Are you sure you want to do this?
    It won't be easy.
    And of course, you can't breathe this air indefinitely.  Sooner or later you will dive back into life and forget everything again.  Which is more or less how it all happened in the first place.
    But for the moment at least, the Doctor is here.
    Get on the table.
          You turn thirty when you turn twenty-nine.  You turn forty when you turn thirty-eight.  You turn fifty when you turn forty-seven. Sixty, when you turn fifty-six.
          Of course it goes by fast.
          You are already changing shape.  Your neck is shortening.  Your shoulders are narrowing.  Your flesh is slipping down your chest.  The skin on your throat needs ironing.  You are not yet gaga, but how will you know?
          The whole experiment is failing.
          You do everything very slowly now.  You concentrate.
          Things continue to happen, that's what's really insulting.  The young reach new conclusions about beauty.  The movie stars in People are caressed by life while you pass your pebbles from pocket to pocket like one of Beckett's wretches.
          The Doctor would tell you you're going to get through this but you don't want to get through it!  This has gone far enough!  Soon, the drawer.
          But we cannot altogether hide ourselves in thoughts of our passing.  What the soldier fears is not death so much as mutilation.  Before what infirmities will you grovel, how grotesque will you have to become before you are granted the mercy of oblivion?  (See DEATH.)
          Can the God who made the middle finger the longest, who made shit and urine water-soluble but not blood, have permitted such a thing? (See GOD.)  This is what you get for relaxing with the given.
          You sit there hunched, palsied, impotent, trying to spend all your thoughts, get it over, but the stream is endless.  Are you talking to yourself?
          The whole thing is inconvenient.
          At least you have learned not to appropriate the future.  You have that poise.
          Builds character.
          Go out and be soothed by a movie or something.  Stop bothering everybody.
          Age is a club.  Find someone with more or less the same mileage and compare symptoms.  Don't just witness magic!  Be it!  Age is passion (see PASSION), otherwise it's entirely pointless.
          You have always been half one thing, half the other—half earth, half sky—it's just that now the ratio is more like one to two.  The soul is sticking up out of you like a hardon.  Life is a delightful surprise!
          Housewives, you can buck the old fart up by encouraging him to think of his leathery carcass as been-through-it-all glamorous.  Jaded-but-hanging-in.  You never know your luck till the ball stops rolling.  It all depends on how you sell it, tell him.  You may even get some action (see SEXUAL TECHNIQUES).
          Guys, the women in our lives have not stopped wanting it.  They're still not sure what it is, many of them, but they do know they want it.  The marital regime is once a day (see LOVE, INTERIM), even if it's only telling them.  Any old state of grace, what the hell.
          The Doctor is not going to complicate your ignorance with some kind of theory but he would like to point out that your experience here, in the sense of, you know, life, is open-ended (see SELF-IMAGE, YOUR).  To try to reduce it to a hieroglyph may not give you the kind of looseness you need to negotiate the turns.
          It doesn't matter if it's taken you your whole stretch to find out how to do things.  It's always present time, which is what keeps your chances fresh.  And it's not over yet.

     Your anger simply cannot be commanded away.  Not by you.
It isn't like sex.  Sex can sometimes be dismissed, at least for the moment.  It doesn't have to deform the judgement.
Anger does.  It can be appeased by the object of your anger.  He/she/they can acknowledge your value, recognize your pain, reward your effort and dissolve your anger from without.  It's like reading a book that has an effect on you, seeing an exceptional film, falling in love with a painting—it can change your rate of metabolism for hours, days; alas seldom forever.  This can be done to your anger but, I repeat, only from without.
In the absence of the world's solicitude your anger lies there wedged, a boulder in a gorge, blocking you.  You have to go around.  You have to climb.  You have to leave behind much—sometimes everything—that you were.  Your comfort, your dignity, your sense of being able to control what happens to you.  You will resume these in another life, the life that awaits you beyond the boulder.
This, by the way, is why so much of the world believes in reincarnation.  You are never sure whether reincarnation is to be looked upon as a reward or a punishment.  As much as you revel in your own existence you find the idea of having to do it over and over again, odds are in relatively wretched circumstances, dreary beyond relief.  Be assured.  The fact that half the world believes in it is no more reason even to glance in that direction than the entire world's believing the earth is flat.  Theories of the hereafter are invariably pictures of the now.  Panic looks in the mirror.  When it realizes it's looking in the mirror it vanishes.
You reincarnate several times a day, and never more so than when you are angry.
There is something essentially unfair about anger.  With every other emotion—love, sex, hunger, ambition, even fear—you go forward to engage with the world in a way on which you can reasonably expect to follow through.  Follow through on your anger and you can wind up on Death Row.
(Freud ascribed guilt feelings to lust; which may have been the case for the Victorian culture he rose to diagnose, but not for you.  What makes you feel guilty is anger.)
It is seldom, to the point of negligibility, that your anger can be harnessed to some project that will benefit you.  You want to destroy.  You want to annihilate.  It is irresistible, exponentially self-generating and inevitable.  Anger, that is—and as bulky as these observations are they can crowd onto the pin prick of a murderous wrath—makes you angry.

You are a little spooked by the fact of having a body.  To be in the world is one thing; to be a body in it is quite something else.  You awaken, sit on the side of the bed and see yourself in milady's mirror, as much an apparition to you as to anyone else.  What is going on?
The Doctor reports that very often in his adult life when he has looked at his watch it has either been on the hour or thirteen minutes past.  Two times out of three, say.  Is his body doing that?
(The Doctor by the way does not have a wrist manacle.  It is rude to wear them in the evening—see MANNERS—and the phones have replaced them anyway.)
Getting a haircut, examining your imperfections in a new mirror, you conclude again that you're OK, you look good.  You don't know how you do it.  Exercise for you is walking around while you floss.
It must be a gift.  You think you're enchanted.  You think you're an exception.  You think you're a special case.  Now: is thinking so different from being so? (See REALITY.)
But what kind of gift is it?  You are your body and yet there are robotic aspects about it, the wiring, the sealed cables and so forth.  It makes you nervous.  Your hypochondriasis drives you to excesses of sunscreen and time-release vitamins.  Your interrogations of partners before and after the sex act are brutal, brutal.  And if the Hindus are right and you do reincarnate, will you always be this lucky?


You are bored.
This isn't the kind of boredom where you're sitting around late at night and you say what do you want to do and the other says I don't know, what do you want to do?
This isn't like waiting for the ferry to leave and you look at your second left knuckle, having never really noticed it before, and then at your belt buckle.  How did you get that scratch on your hand?
No, this is a profound boredom, a boredom that inhabits every superficially joyful act you perform (see JOY).  Your laughter is bored.  Your love is bored.  Your boredom embraces life, rather than the reverse.
You are tired of getting up in the morning.  You are tired of shaving.  You are tired of clipping your nails.  You are tired of getting your hair cut.  At the thought of going to the store to buy food you fall to your knees in despair.
Your ambition depresses you.  You are weighed down by your accomplishments.  The people who serve you, who don't want to be anything, who hang around looking at the light, get drunk, go to a movie—why aren't you like them?
Evil bores you.  It is only the energy of good.  You can't even be evil.
You have tried culture.  Beguiling dull eternity the heart plays hide and seek and comforts us with culture.  You have served time in the academy, you have walked around bloated with thoughts, parsing phonemes or whatever, you have sat around with your colleagues saying things, expressing opinions, and you know the following:
-  You wouldn't be the way you are if it weren't for Jesus and Hemingway.  Hemingway's suicide was more significant than, say, the Pope's could have been.  Any pope's.
-  A successful artist is one who captures the imagination.  Critics, like mothers, insist on calling it genius.
-  It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.
-  The paradox we live in all democracies is that the majority is always wrong.  This does much to explain Hollywood and Broadway, which must court the market.  The market is democracy-with-money, and is wrong, i.e. will rarely give the individual what he/she wants.  Democracy, notwithstanding, is the best social order to be oppressed by.
-  Bullshit is that which is commonly believed.  The purpose of education is to alert the mind to bullshit, the dangers of which are nowhere more present than in the academy.
-  The solution, finally, is to forget.  Forget everything.  You had to learn it.  Now let it go.  Suppress it actively.  Machine-gun it, it will stalk you.
Now you are back to your boredom.
You wander in traffic muttering some mnemonic shopping-list phrase.  They will find you under the wheels of a truck whispering bank-laundry-kiwis-bank-laundry-kiwis.
You have tried drugs.
Summer is a drug.  Sex is a drug.  Poetry is a drug.  Drugs are drugs.
Cocaine is God's way of telling you you don't make enough money (see GOD).  Cannabis drops you into a hole.  Unless you are dominating the conversation you sit there staring into the other holes, and cough so hard you almost blow out your prostate.
The Doctor is acquainted with someone who took LSD in Delhi and became a dog, was actually persuaded that he was a dog.  He prowled the streets on all fours and, on encountering a fight involving several dogs, hurried in and participated.  Afterwards there was some question whether he required treatment for rabies.  So we can't recommend that.
It looks like you're stuck with the inconveniences of life, of which here is a short list:
-  airconditioning;
-  hot-line radio turned way up in taxis;
-  fluorescent light;
-  babies, unrelated;
-  babies, one's own;
-  beauty, others';
-  beauty, one's own.
The whole thing's inconvenient.
You'd better fall in love (see LOVE, FALLING IN).

        You mustn't apologize for your charm. It's not your fault. It could happen to anyone. Of course, it's a kind of innocence, and innocence was born to be insulted.
Your charm, if you only knew it, is your seriousness, but you experience seriousness as danger.  When it takes hold it replicates and draws other seriousnesses to it, until it collapses under its own weight and makes a fool of you.
It is your defense against being a fool that you pretend to be frivolous.  Nothing can take you in.  You work yourself into an ecstasy of confession but your positions are larks.
You affect, for example, a character (see SELF-IMAGE, YOUR), which is a comic device—no one has a character—and the arch parody you present as your own threatens you with a screaming claustrophobia.
Do you want more?  You might not be able to perform your service if you had more, not that it's available.  Even this backstage soliloquy threatens to become a style.
(See also MANNERS.)

The first thing to be aware of is that it's all right to die.  It's OK.
It's not something you want to plan for your weekend but when it's time to shuffle off into the not-know you just have to do it.
You've seen it coming.  Your reflection in the darkened bathroom mirror as, drunk, you pull up your pants in profile, your own ghost.  Pings in the robot.  Sooner of later something goes and then—boop!—so do you.
It's all right!
You're going to live forever, don't worry.
I wish I could tell you the ground of these feelings but I can't.  I have to fall back on the fact that I want to tell you—that I want to tell you that and not something else.  Not much to go on, is it?  No, it isn't.  Forget it.
You will pass into an arena of competition and hierarchy even drearier than the one known to you here.
And between these two poles—the anything-anytime uncertainty and the intuition of your immortality—you.  No possible moral code (see MORALITY), no guarantee, not even a sign.  Just you, and the riddle of the three score and ten.  Four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, three in the evening.
How can you be anything but wrong?  What among all the wrong human things isn't wrong?  Let us be gloriously wrong!  The only alternative is to be ingloriously wrong.  Everything can be taken two ways, every piece of evidence can lift or depress you.  Can we hope that the starving are numbed to their pain, that the sick secrete chemicals to protect them, that the hunted animal is sealed safely in its panic?  You may have to die to accept life.
Meanwhile you know things you don't know.  You pass between all chances.  Your ignorance, a beautiful dignity.

You are a swashbuckler.  You live beyond your means, both financially and psychologically.  You live dangerously, which is to say naked and unashamed.  Play and danger are what you need.  There is no security anyway and heaven loves those who dare.
Fear is a bore (see BOREDOM).
And what is guilt but fear of punishment?  Also boring.  Surrender to the air and ride on it.  If there is a cosmic bureaucrat monitoring your behavior (see GOD), give him a good show.  Sell it, baby!  Be selfish.  Be a monster.  Sin, as Martin Luther said, bravely.  You have an obligation to indulge yourself.  Once you start going for safety it doesn't stop, it's like money.  Never enough.  Go without assurance.  Safety is vulgar.
Taking this attitude towards fear—an attitude of disdain—gives the right relation.  Fear is ignoble.  You are noble.
You are more than noble.  You are divine.  Fear is forgetting that one is divine.  What can possibly happen to you?
But here is the paradox:  Anything can happen to you, because divinity is vulnerability.  Insofar as you are divine, that far are you vulnerable.
Which leads to a seduction: if you make yourself tall enough you'll fly, fine, but do you want to fly?  To get high, to experience joy always, can only be desirable (see JOY), and yet you find yourself yearning for a vision with a little blood in it, even if it's your own.
The analogy is to religion.  On each of the several continents the vast majority of sentient adults are committed to some form of religious practice or metaphysical speculation; whereas if they really believed in their eternal natures as you do it might occur to them that eternity is adequate for the contemplation of the eternal.  We have made a privileged intrusion into time.  It is the moment for things of the earth.  If they're not to your taste you'll just have to wait for the bus back.
So it is with your fear.  You cling to it not perhaps because you are afraid but because you find it cozy, like gray weather (see WEATHER).  You suspect that it may be the price of sensitivity (see MANNERS).  Uncertainty and ambiguity are the stuff of life.  How can they be relished without fear?  Your very sensuality requires that you feel fear.  There can be no shiver of anticipation without it.
Fear, that is, is luxury.  An indulgence.  If it makes you feel better, go ahead.

        Freud taught us that every act is sexual (see Freud).  With the women's movement we have emerged into that Periclean light of day in which every act is political.
It is in some places now illegal to speak of women as in any way different from men.  If you are a man you may feel you know better but try to keep the issue in the background.  They taught you how to put on your pants.  You didn't like that.  They taught you how to tie your own shoes.  You didn't like that.  You can do this too.
Women are a constant in life.  You can't run away from them.  Som men actually become women (see HOMOSEXUALITY, YOUR).  You have at least one woman inside you, possibly more.  You are outnumbered.
Many women are working towards a value-affirming committee-endorsed rapprochement after which everything will become smooth and predictable.  You regard this as a little ambitious but you play along.
"Well then are you a feminist, Doctor?"
"Not really."
"Why not?"
"Because I do humor."
"Is there some disconnect between feminism and humor?"
"That's very funny! You're not a feminist either!"
Remember, you're as good as they are.  You even have tits.


        Freud lost credit when Darwin did (see SELF-IMAGE, YOUR).  The id was only the ape within.
And with Freud has gone an arch, erudite science of rescue and a compellingly romantic authority.  It's too bad.  But you still know what you knew then, that the important thing was that one individual came toward you and touched you into bloom, not that what he believed was the truth.

God is love.
You aren't.
You don't love enough.
You don't love anyone, unless you want to count your weevil-like self squirming through the muesli of life looking for the powdered sugar.
God, however, loves you.  You certainly don't deserve it.
Reality is God.  We are broken eggs on the Teflon frying pan of God.
God is the world, and is not the world.  He is omnipresent in the world just as you are omnipresent in your body.
You are a god, and a human being.  There is a God who looks after you and loves you, and you are entirely on your own and at the mercy of an uncertain future.  All of this is true at once and without contradiction.  It's difficult to get the mind around but the Doctor wants you to accept it.
OK.  I'm sitting on a cottage porch on a beach in India, dictating this.  When you do this kind of work you can move around (see WEATHER).  The sand, the sound of the sea, some strolling nudists—and over by one of the other cottages, a cobra, moving very slowly.  Everyone knows it's there, no one's going near it.
Now, who made the cobra?  Forget about evolution, the numbers are wrong (see SELF-IMAGE, YOUR).  You can see the shaping hand on every creature, don't give the Doctor nineteenth-century theories.
What kind of concept is "cobra"?  What mind did that come out of?
(My stenographer requires that I comfort her.  It'll go away soon.)
Let me put it another way: is God a personal or an impersonal God?  Does He have a face?  If God is impersonal, and God is love, what does that add up to?  Do you want impersonal love?
Better than nothing, I guess.
If God is impersonal—and this is a comfort insisted upon by many—what does that say about you?  Are you, ultimately, impersonal?
It's not an easy idea to like.
Go directly to SELF-IMAGE, YOUR and we'll kick it around some more.
        A good time should not be underrated.  Venturing out into the not-me.  Cultivating agreeable sensations.  Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps the Doctor from swallowing all the pills.
Let us divide it into its parts:
Eating.  Or more properly, eating out. 
What's your favorite food?  Answer quickly.  Sugar.  Unless we are ruthlessly honest we won't get anywhere.
At the Doctor's favorite restaurant there is a dessert called sex.  Zabaglione and ice cream.  "I'll have some sex, please."  It's an impersonal force.  The difference between a visionary experience and a mystical one.  The Doctor can actually feel himself getting fat.  But on him it looks, I don't know, sensuous.  Decadent without being altogether unboyish (see BODY, YOUR).  And even when one is a brain-dead pool of adipose and cholesterol one will still be able to solicit some sympathy from one's love object, the Doctor feels quite sure.
Drinking.  So you have a little drink.  Stick with the wine, it won't fry your prostate.
The discipline in life, let's be quite clear, is to expect nothing; to make your image zero (see SELF-IMAGE, YOUR).  The Doctor admits that this is a spare program. 
There are times—we suggest this with all possible tact—when your only recourse is to gross stimulants.  Go out and get drunk, agree with people.  Sit there among the OMM's (the Only Mildly Miserables) in their various interpretations of ceremonial dress and watch the trumpeter's cheeks inflate.  The saxophonist is at rigid attention.  The vocalist scats on her knees.  Pour yourself some more of the present tense.
Being merry.  You sweep your partner to her feet and onto the floor.  Her eau de cologne is almost as suspect as your own.  You dance, as it were, reek to reek.
Your lips go to her ear.  "I'll have some sex, please."
She smiles.  It's looking good.

So. You want to walk around with a narcotic smile on your face. The Doctor affects to be patient with you.
Happiness, as the etymology implies, is luck. Perhaps. Mayhap. Whatever happens. Now. Then. Sometimes.
You have to be very young to believe anything else. Life is total war. You are at war with yourself. The world is at war with itself. You are at war with the world. Life is contradictions. It's nothing else.
Think rather in terms of satisfaction. If you cansqueeze a little satisfaction out, the Doctor says yes to that.
(See, however, JOY.)

After all this time you still don't know if you're gay or not.  Make up your mind!
The Doctor is only kidding.
Your homosexual fantasies coexist with your desire for women.  You suspect that they are congruent, that in some men the desire for women is so intense that it spills over into the desire to be women.  By this logic lesbianism would be a self-preoccupation so extreme that it implicates the other.
This is at best a theory but it does highlight your obsession with women even in the throes of your homosexual desire, which, such as it is, is a luxuriating in your own body—a wish, uncharacteristic of you in other modes, to surrender to ravishment.
Male bodies, if you except you own, are of limited interest.  And, given your aversion to pain, and what any actual partner might regard as a too consistent passivity (see POWER), fantasy may be the most satisfactory realm for these encounters (you only have so much time!), not to say the easiest.
This is perfectly all right.  Anything goes.  Certainly you do.
A belly dance with a woman or a snake dance with a man, what difference?  In certain moods.  A man will of necessity address himself with greater tact to your instrument.  And if homosexuality were as natural among us as among the ancient Greeks it would pose no problem.
But it isn't, and that provokes many of its practitioners to excesses of style with which you do not wish to associate yourself.
1)  The aggressive style.  Call it faux-macho.  Guy comes up to you at the bar and says "What kind of shoes are those?"
"Deck shoes."
"Can I smell one?"
2)  Faggy.  This one has a cat draped on him which he non-stop strokes.  "Don't you wish you had a pussy?" he says.  "I've got several."  Don't tell him to shove it up his ass, he probably will.  "How gay of you!" he'll say.  Wants to be buried with his vibrator.
3)  Demonstrative.  He doesn't speak to you, he passes you several times back and forth making acrobatic gestures with his tongue.  A challenge to the aplomb.
You have your own style of autoerotic foppery but it can't withstand any of this.
So, you know, you're still not really gay.


The rollercoaster of moods.  It depresses you.
The trouble is, you believe them.  They are associated with attitudes, philosophies, manners (see MANNERS) so intimately, each can so powerfully induce the other, that you can never quite distinguish between chicken and egg.
You like your depths.  You are seduced by them.  They afford a style of melancholy that puts you in touch with areas of yourself that seem otherwise out of reach.  About sexual longing, for example, at least a certain middle-aged sort of it, there is something sad that you covet almost as hungrily as the desired object.
But you can easily spend too long down there.  You prefer joy by inclination, as what someone called an aesthetic choice.  Besides, it's more fun (see GOOD TIME, HAVING A).
The trouble is that it's not always available.  There may be a cycle at work—you suspect at low moments that you are manic-depressive—but you have your frivolity to fall back on (see CHARM). If joy induces frivolity (as Errol Flynn movies induce energy), frivolity can induce joy, though it can take a serious effort.
Let us not demean frivolity.  Are not the convictions that we can fly in space and cure cancer essentially frivolous?  Aren't the heroes always the frivolous ones?  Oliver Cromwell, sternest of puritans, said "A man never rises so high as when he knows not whither he's going."  Are not you a hero of frivolity?
But maybe not.  You work a little too hard at it.  Put yourself out a little too much shuffling your associations, trying to organize your frivolity—it's all so determined.  You come to the thing impure—you are an ant, not a grasshopper!
And there go all the plans you had for being bad and feeling good.  Your ambition to be marginal, to place yourself above respectability was after all an ambition.  The cruelty of the world insults your coyness.  The whirlpool of feelings swallows you up.
And it is here, perhaps, at the low point of the vortex, that you glimpse your redemption.  It is in your very impressionability, your very susceptibility!  You think everything is your fate!  You are seduced by every game!  You believe anything!  You have no control!  You are entirely without protection—and this (see SELF-IMAGE, YOUR) in itself is noble (see MORALITY).  Landing asprawl on the moment, standing on the moment, flying on it like a god sort of thing!  You need to get out of the house more!
You know a certain fugitive happiness, and swing your arms.

"It's a sin to look at your legs."
"Why on earth should it be a sin to look at my legs?"
"There's too much pleasure in it."
"You never seem to look at me."
"Why not?"
"I'm tired of women like you."
"I'm ugly when I take my clothes off."
"Maybe you need a second opinion."
"Do you know why the Chinese never use this finger?"
"Because it's mine."
"You're always sad.  Why is that?"
"I've heard about you."
"So have I."
"I'm not very beautiful.  Do you think you could develop an interest in me?"
"Madam, I ask only to cling to your ankles."
"Come on, I'll show you the moon."
"There's something in my eye."
"Wait, I'll blow it out."
"Where do you live?"
"I thought I might come over some time and fuck you."
Pause.  "That might be nice."
"You look like an erotic dream."
"Have you been to Sweden?"
"No, but I rode in a Volvo once."
"Would you like to stay with me indefinitely?"
"I'd like to stay with you definitely."
"I've got you by the balls."

Love is an ecstatic coming forward.
It is a euphoria in which you exist, not as yourself, not as the other but as a third thing between you.
We mature at different ages.  You have known love often but you have participated in it only at brief moments you weren't wise enough to value, moments you thought you would be able to re-induce.
That is one of the poignancies of your life: you thought love was voluntary.
You searched for more satisfactory conditions, trying to get the mix of soul and body right, struggling with social approval, rejecting social approval but still not finding that elusive ultimate zap, still not pointing the vision at your face and pulling the trigger.
The whole quest was selfish, you knew that, but you were moving towards a moment at which selfishness would transcend itself, surrender itself, the whole thing would be automatic.
All the moments of failure in your life, all the crises of your authority, all the misfires so excruciatingly embarrassing that you cringe practically out of existence at the memory of them, you see them now as love searching for itself in you, in the others, love outraged, love trying to teach you to vibrate—succeeding in teaching you to vibrate, teaching you the distance between error and the real thing.  If you're not falling, as the ski instructors say, you're not learning.
You were learning that love is pain.
You are almost ready to surrender.
Your cavalier attitudes are a thing of the past.  Sex itself, since it costs such an emotional price, since dim examples of the kind of nobility that could forswear it still loom in your memory, you are ready to relegate to second place.  Fantasy and the intrusion of orgasm into your otherwise symmetrical affection you will demote to functions of mere utility.  What matters is that you expose yourself to pain.
But already you begin to slip.  You don't see much future in this.  The emergence of pure spirit, the triumph of the moral self through a monkish mortification of desire—you may as well have gone to law school.
And here is what really revolts you: you have put yourself in danger of self-pity.  You cannot stand self-pity.  Just let somebody try it.  When your mother does you can comfortably banish her to purgatory without a phone call for months.  It is the one vice you will not permit yourself even to think of indulging, at least not in public.
And to surrender yourself to pain, what is that but self-pity?
There.  You have already betrayed the ecstatic coming forward.
Love, falling in

You meet at the post office.  You are standing in line behind her.  When she gets to the counter the clerk asks her something she doesn't understand and you translate.  Your Greek isn't that good but now is the occasion for it.
You walk out into the market together.  Here it is.  Its absence has been the god in your sky.  You have worshipped it, waited for it.
"Show me your feet," you say.
You both admire them.
She says, "What right do we have to this?"
After making love you change cheeks, still in the embrace, stretch your necks, rub your heads together in mutual caress.  This is what it is to be alive.
Is it real love?  All love is real.
She gets up in the night and, blinded by the light of the bathroom, gropes her way back to bed, lies down, places herself.  The moonlight is enough for you.  You watch her.
You are still a little bit young.
She suggests a certain cafe.  You hesitate.  "No," she says, "I don't like it either."
The trouble with loving is that one can never quite be that person.  This is the basis of passion (see PASSION).
There is a woman you loved, though she never knew it.  She lives a quiet, unambitious life in the city of your youth, the same life every day.  The obligations, the commuter train, the late-afternoon horizons.  You envy her.  What are you doing here?
Now you have it again, the clean articulation, not the words but the music, not the sense but the heart in it, the heart in the act of being seduced, is that right?  The heart betraying itself.  Oh please God let me betray myself and have the heart to pronounce it good as You did, Your Word superfluous, frivolous.

You are now an example.  No one is afraid of you any more.  You rotate together slowly as if standing on a potter's wheel.
"I think one of the reasons you love me my cooking," she says.
You snuggle up behind her while she's asleep and lie there, spoons in a drawer.  She farts on your dick.  You smile.  You are home.
Love, saying goodbye to

It can start when she's trying on something to wear that evening.  You argue about whether it's peach or apricot.
Over dinner you try not to let her see you staring at a really upsetting-looking woman.
That night she wakes you up.  "Darling, tell me how much you love me."
"A whole lot."
"How much is that?
"Enough to keep you going until morning."
"OK, just wait till you feel the chasm of non-being open up beneath you!"
In the morning she says, "You were having a bad dream."
"Why didn't you wake me?"
"You were too involved."
"I was in hell and you left me there?"
"I felt you had to go through it."
When you snap the floss from between your teeth you ping  a trace of plaque at her.  Gratified by this manifestation of vulgarity she stares at it in disgust.
She can't make love because she's defrosting the fridge.
You're standing there admiring the rain, swimming in the sea of thoughts, whatever, and she's asking you a lot of Chinese questions.  Interrupting your conversation with yourself.  Boredom settles like snow when she enters the room.
Why?  Can you put it in words or is it just so powerful it's inarticulate?
"You never surprise me anymore," she says.
You have been through the fire together.  You have endured the stresses of happiness.  What did you do wrong?
Certain yogis can cross their legs behind their heads and have congress with themselves—a high commendation for the supple spine.  I merely mention this.
"I love your bitterness when you turn on me.  I love your aging body because I saw one in a movie.  I wish I loved you."  And for your pleasure you reduce her to tears.
You will never stop thinking you did the wrong thing—two, maybe ten times a day.  You are wrong, you are evil, you are undeserving.  Accept it.
"I can't stay around here admiring your beauty forever.  I have to get back to my own."
"What about our future together?"
"You do it."
Thrust her cruelly from you.
"I'll have to get along without you," tell her.  "I love you with my heart but not with my other part."

"So who divorced who?"
"My husband divorced me."
"I think he wanted children."
"Don't you?"
"Yes, it's left me without structure."
"And have you found structure with B?"
"This is good soup."
The hostess turns to B.  "Has she found structure with you?"
A says, "What do you put in it?"
"You don't want to answer my question?"
"Thank goodness we're at a table where we're not really expected to.  Where we can relax among friends."
"I'm worried about you."
"You have an interest in my private life that rivals my own."
A fleshy but shapely woman wears to a party a dress with a top that is a band across her back reaching forward to cover her breasts, leaving the place between them bare.  Her skirt rides on her hips.
She sits on a hassock and says, "My husband likes to make love to me with his thumb up my ass.   That's the only interesting thing I can think of to say.  I think one should say one interesting thing per evening."
"But if you despise us why do you favor us with such interesting revelations?"
"I don't despise you at all."
"Do you like music?"
"Not really."
"You don't?"
"There's too much of it around."
"Well, that's our entertainment for the evening."
"Oh, please don't alter your plans for my sake.  When the music starts I'll run along home."
"Oh, no, please stay.  It's amplified cello."
"I have an allergy to music.  Amplified music gives me toxic shock syndrome."
"I'm in at the moment.  Could you call back when I'm not here and leave a message?"
Manners may be thought of as modes of sensitivity.  It is a brutal thing to say but sensitivity can be overdone.
When a hostess urges you to eat something you don't want, say "I can't eat them without being sick."
Manners are also ways of behaving and can mask you completely, as Mailer said of Gable that he wasn't so much a man as a manner.
Servants can be hard to find, especially when you're having an important dinner party, but many cities have dial-an-actor agencies who will send one over to amuse your company.  Book some to play your staff.  It doesn't cost much more and they will do something more important than just serve: they will improvise the manner of servants.
When someone remarks that you eat quickly, say thank you.
If the pastry cook commits the faux pas of putting chopped nuts on your strawberry mousse, don't whine.
There are cheeses that smell like feet out of running shoes. It's OK.  Eat them.
Gin depresses you.  Vodka cheers you up.  Tequila gets you flying.  But lay off this stuff, it'll break the veins in your face.
Red wine for conversation, especially with that most civilized of institutions, lunch.  At lunch it's not so much a matter of hunger as of desire.  A good lunch can last well into the siesta period, after which you can snooze till the evening swim (see WEATHER).
Get lots of sleep.  When you haven't had enough sleep everything is uphill.  When you have had enough sleep everything is downhill.  Which is your direction.
No one in a hurry is quite civilized.
Beware of beer belches, which can incinerate the lining of the nose.
Dope before wine, fine.  Wine before dope, nope.  (But see BOREDOM.)
It is acceptable to say gesundheit when someone throws up in public.
It is possible to achieve exquisite propriety in the midst of drunkenness.  Poems of propriety.  In the morning you will lie there like Job and call on God (see GOD).
If you leak wind and it hovers around the table in the still night air embarrassing everyone, don't try to inhale it.
Should you express something noisier, say "Excuse me."
In the matter of public bathrooms the Doctor's heart goes out to women.  You hate them and will endure entire evenings without relieving your bladders.  For us the only problem is directing the stream away from the coat tails in the wind.  (Men, the Doctor gives you permission to go into a cubicle when you have only to urinate.  You don't have to explain!)  When it comes to contact with the convenience we lay paper, or crouch on the rim.  Indian bowls in fact are often equipped with wings for this purpose.  (In India much is accomplished without contact—the pouring of drinks from glass to mouth for example—though for ritual rather than sanitary cleanliness.)  But this is somehow not a solution for western women.
Flushing can be accomplished with the toe, but that can be awkward in a skirt.  Use some toilet paper as you would a surgical glove, or if none is available use a shoe and do it on one foot, assuming that is commensurate with your morality (see MORALITY).  Happily, standards of decorum are higher in women's washrooms than in men's.
It is seldom polite to insist, unless one is picking up the check.
Women, however, no matter how many books, groceries, make-up kits, pills, tampons, DVDs, necklaces and rings of keys they have in there must carry their own purses.  This is an absolute rule.
On the other hand if you're going to an airconditioned cinema and you can squeeze in his sweater, glasses, pen, notepad, socks and maybe a few Kleenexes that's OK.  It isn't far.
Men, if you are standing at a stoplight and a strange woman in front of you is wearing a low-backed summer dress with the label sticking out, you may be tempted—absently, in the midst of conversation—to reach out and turn the label in.  Don't.

Men, a guide for women to

Men can never be sensitive all the way around the block.  At a certain point most of them (see SEX) have to get animal.  You get animal too but it isn't so selfish.  His eyes glaze over and he's gone.
They are oily individually, and aggressive in groups.  They can be as respectful and impersonal as an English domestic and then ask you if you can put your nipples in your mouth.  A man's idea of intimacy is telling you how long his Proglide razors last.
Since people resist being characterized, even to the specification of nuance, it will give some pleasure to group them into types.
1)  Womanizer.  Go-getter.  Journalist or collection agent manqué.  Slightly overstated suit.  Has your date called to the phone and moves in when he's gone.  "I'd like to have sex with you."  Couldn't find a hole without hair around it.
2)  Bored Husband.  Tries not to let you see him eyeballing woman across room while maintaining the Star Wars of your conversation but no longer really courts your pleasure in the matter.  Has touched a center that is not yours.  Wants to be your friend.  Introduces you as his first wife.
3)  Sincere Guy.  Kneels before you, runs a finger up your calf.  You tell him you shouldn't be doing this.  "Nobody should, it's too powerful."  No deduction is possible from his language.  Gives himself an alpha wave by telling you he loves you.
4)  Lance.  Pins your knees to your shoulders on the understanding he won't force it in all the way and then nails your uterus to your palate.  Holds it in hard and collapses.  You have to wake him up to unbend.
5)  Beautiful Man.  Composed in his own beauty and torn apart by yours.  Lies there and lets you do it all.  Prefers his own nipples.  Embarrassed when you call him handsome.  "What a cute little possession you are," he says.
6)  Henry VIII.  Rolls of glamorous royal fat.  Approves of everything he does.  Report of what he had for supper is a long long list.  "Possibly I did the girl unkindly, I have no way of knowing.  She said she liked it and she said she didn't, not in that order."  Gooses you with a drumstick and keeps eating.
7)  Unlucky Jim.  Also fat.  Kisses you so hard you fall off the wall.  Takes you midnight swimming but is afraid to go in.  Paces on shore with hands on hips calling at you in the dark.  After a while he gets dressed, goes home.
8)  Short Guy.  Assertive.  Easily hurt.  "Vertically challenged" is perhaps a better concept.  Tends to use a word because he knows it.  Doesn't need you.
9)  Antifeminist.  "Those who do, do.  Those who don't, bark."  "It's only gentlemanly to give them every chance."  "No, but we're very glad to have your input on this.  Let us  know if you come up with anything else."
10)  Agricultural Guy.  Says things in a folksy way that gets on everybody's nerves.  Developed his style of walk avoiding cowshit.  Tucks his tie in his pants.  Wants to get married.
11)  Tosspots.  Case of beer on his shoulder like an Irish ghettoblaster.  Not so much high on life as besotted with it.  Lousy company sober, or dead drunk, OK in the middle states.  Erection wobbles.
12)  Slob.  A sub-man.  Digs it.  Picking his nose in his passport photo.  Drawer full of dress tee shirts.  When you present your cheek to be kissed he whispers something obscene.  Wants a hum job in the hot tub.  Sings in his sleep.
13)  Businessman.  "If you don't cover your nut you don't make it, OK?  We're losing our ass!  We're not even covering our costs!  I mean I'm not betting the kids anything."  Thinks it's interesting. Apt to cite market conditions when being parsimonious.  "Smells fishier than a mermaid's pussy."
14)  Impotent Man.  Tells you it's psychological.  Tells you he's hung up.  Tells you it's not your fault.  Give him credit.  Tells you you're too beautiful.
15)  Self-involved.  Turns pillows so they open outward when he makes the bed.  Hates rain because it takes the crease out of his pants.
"Are you coming?"
"I have to wait for my toenails to dry."
"Well I can't wait for your toenails to dry."
When you ask him if you're fat he says, "No, I wouldn't say that."  Then he eats his soup and looks out the window.
16)  Boring husband.  Stands up, points at ceiling:  "I absolutely forbid it."  Thinks you're there to make him eat his greens.  Picks the wrong moment to tell you you're beautiful.  Keeps a gun.  Hears burglars, shoots the sneakers going around in the dryer.  Does his pushups outside the hotel.  "Amigo, the position is right but the woman is gone."
17)  Landlord.  Likes undershirts.  Comes around  making everybody nervous.  Brain of a dog in a fat man.  Sneers at you to let you know he wants you.
18)  Smart-Ass.  When the customs officer lifts the sexual device out of his bag, he indicates you.  Hands you a Kleenex when you don't want one.  Has a call-waiting signal simulator to get him out of unpleasant phone conversations.  "Careful," he says, "or I'll give you an ironic look."

Moral beauty is both immediately obvious and a matter, for those who would conceive it, of infinite revision.
It's not goodness.  The traditional triad is
corresponding to
Father/Son/Holy Spirit
or, according to the old theology,
Intellect/Word (or Will)/Love—
the Word being the Intellect, as it were, spelt out.  In terms of your own makeup that translates as
Do not be confused by double use of the word "spirit."  Your spirit is your presence here.  Intellego:  I perceive.  Call it "attention."
  That which sees but is not seen,
Which puts on flesh and feels,
        Immerses itself in the carnal dream
      And bobs to the surface for meals.
Mind is attention's power of organization.  Or it's the world organizing itself, I don't know, but it's a middle term.  It is the form attention takes on the one hand, the form the world takes on the other.  The world out there is the mirror of the one in here and the two have corresponding boundaries, i.e., none.  Let's set it up:
The Holy Spirit on the other hand is that Person of the Godhead whose office is the physical world and the human bodies in it—the Church (the Bride of Christ) and the fruition of the divine mission in the world.  The dove manifests at the end of the flood (think of the Hindu triad:
at the insemination of the Virgin and at the christening of Jesus.  Completion, let's say.  Consummation.
The love between the Father and the Son is so perfect as to be personal (see GOD), i.e. as to be a Person, the Third Person.
Bodies are love.  Your body is the love between your spirit and your mind—the love that flows from that love.  You so loved the world that you gave your only-begotten body to it.
Schizophrenia is not a matter of "split personality" but a splitting off of the mind from a sense of self on the one hand, and from a sense of the body, of the world, on the other.  You took some awful chances to be here.
That is why moral beauty is not goodness.  Generosity, let us note sadly, can be a cudgel.  Moral beauty is nobility—something subtler than mere boring goodness.  Nobility is the regulation, or better the harmony, of what, goodnesses?  Evils?  The whole poise.  "Nobility" is etymologically related to "know."  It's a kind of knowledge—not gained by study, though it may have something to do with the impulse to study.  It is, like other forms of beauty, not something you can try to be.
It is not divinity.  Your decision to live under the sky—under any sky—separated you from your divinity (see FEAR).  Nobility, what share of it is yours, is a kind of blindness.

You wouldn't mind a little power.  A little power.  Just the Mercedes.  A few suits.  Some swagger in the world.
You are occasionally seduced to actual effort in this direction by your animal spirits but mainly you just want to lie there and empty your mind.  Content merely to exist sort of thing.  You suffer from Laziness Syndrome characterized by yawning in the presence of ambition.  Hard to stay awake for.   It's all you can do to reach out and slap down the alarm clock.
The mother of all action is panic.  When you're strong you don't have to to prove yourself, right?  So don't.
(See also WEATHER.)

The moral self rises out of and hovers over everything, and is confused (see MORALITY).  That is why we tolerate passion—indeed celebrate it, live for it.
Passion is suffering, even from joy.  Etymologically it is related to passivity.
But it is certainty.  Relief from ambiguity.  The only condition under which you know what you want.
It is exaltation.
It is what you live for.
One woman you have known tortured your moral self into a conviction of dualism.  She was your real wife but you wanted passion and you left her.  You had found God so logically you had to betray her.  You are no longer sure whether the suffering of your soul outweighs the suffering of your body.  You are no longer sure whether your frivolity is misery or joy.  You will never leave anything but bad feelings behind you.

 If you know people with money you can find yourself involved in some pretty elaborate fantasies.  (The rich can do anything.  See RICH, THE.)  When your partner is being brought off by someone else she may ask you not to watch her.  She won't mean it.
But the most common  and possibly the most accessible perversions involve some form of anality.  Sodomy of course takes at least two, and in a heterosexual context there is not always mutual agreement in advance.  It takes tact.  Lingual attention to the organ in question may be the best beginning, followed by judicious application, amounting to insertion, of lubricant.  Gently.  The intruding  finger will have to probe downward for entry, the direction of pain, and must almost immediately press upward, toward the base of the spine, the only direction in which pressure can be sustained by your partner.  Force the orifice left, right  or down and she will close up and scream.
Then you, as it were, enter.  Here she begins to know doubt.  Prying yourself firmly upward, assuming your address is from behind, you work the sphincter to an openness felt only by you, not by her.  Now there is nothing but submission, grappling with pain and that unity of the heart that is victory for both of you.
There are further variations.  A professor known to me had his female students lie on their stomachs and pass wind into his face while he spoke intimately to them.  The young ladies reported that it was rather liberating when you got the hang of it.
Finally, there is the preoccupation with the anal product itself.  The instigator of this is a victim of passionate love (see PASSION).  He has found an absolute: her beauty; her utter desirability.  Now, like all obsessives, he wants to test it.  Verify it.
With some difficulty he persuades her to urinate in front of him but on no account will she evacuate her bowels while he is anywhere nearby.  He awaits his chance and, when she has urgently to move them, hustles her into the bathtub where they both squat naked and begs her to let go.  Pleads with her.
They are face to face.  She can't.  Then she can.  He catches it in his hands and smears it on her.  She is traumatized.  Like a soldier in combat she voids in horror.  He spreads it over the whole surface of her; of himself.
Then he makes love to her.  Conditions are to say the least unsavory but there enters into it a quality of infantile play, of regressive therapy.  They caress each other with it, rub it into their hair, daub the walls.  Liberation.  Success.  Cure.
OK, that's it for now.  Time for a shower.
You underestimated reality.  You dismissed it as a conspiracy to keep you in line, a social product you didn't want to buy, a euphemism for bad news.  You gave yourself permission to ignore it.
That was a betrayal.  You're the one who's supposed to love the world, and what else is reality?  The world of things, if that's not a redundancy.  The world.  The things.  The others.
Reality is the distance between you and the others.  There is no wider desert.
Reality is the world in its unidentifiable aspect.  You are camped here in reality.  You send up inappropriate signals.  You have brought the wrong hat.

Rich, the

Idleness is the one thing you envy the rich.  Well, not the one thing.  Mercedes sportscars.  France.
But at the risk of repeating the cliches of romantic fiction—i.e. of fiction—it can be cruel to be désengagé.  They suffer a constant sense of futility.  They are not always attractive, and have trouble acquiring the sex partners they want.
So what?  You don't want to be "the rich."  You want to be you, and rich.  Still, a glance at them can tell you a few things you'll be up against.
The rich are motivated.  You are motivated to succeed so you can dispense with motivation, as an orgasm or the repose of the intestine after the b.m. annihilates motivation.  The relief is temporary.  As with learning, as with beauty, as with security, so with money: there is never enough.  You will never relax and say, there, I have enough now.  You will never be unafraid (see FEAR).
There is nothing the rich fear like poverty.
They want to belong.  And whichever aristocracy they want to belong to—the real ones, the ersatz ones—rejects them.  It exists to be exclusive, and it rejects them.  If they were penniless artists they'd have a better chance.
Indeed, the more authentic the aristocracy the less likely its association with what in America is called "real money."  Aristocracy inclines—or better, declines—toward modesty.  The English gentleman gives his suit to his valet to break in, and so forth.
The rich, by virtue of the fact that they are rich, are peaking.  They haven't quite arrived.  They may have leeched designer clothes and the love of the new out of their systems but to the upper circle they will always be something unmistakably nouveau about them.  There is nothing quite as bourgeois as trying not to be bourgeois.  Uncool to be cool.  (See MANNERS.)
Their young despise them
They have a lot of luggage.
They never have cameras.
They are as helpless as hospital patients.
They have a horror of age.  You have a horror of age, sure, but the rich have that horror which is inspired by the suspicion that something can be done about it.
They get plastic surgery.
"Now, don't be critical.  I need your support in this.  I want to have plastic surgery."
You give it a moment.  "My love isn't enough for you?  You want everyone else's too?"
"Oh, Bob, you know we've had our day."
"Do I, darling?"
"It's not that I want to look younger.  I know it can't do that.  But I can look better!"
In the breast lift they used to cut the nipple off and relocate it.  Now they cut around the top half and take out the flesh.  There is about all this a vulnerability that is positively stabbing.  You are not uninterested.
She won't be able to see at first.  The skin is pulled so tight her eyes won't focus.  She will ask you how she looks.  Don't tell her.
Self-image, your

The old Greek advice is to know yourself.  Even if such a thing were possible, what an intolerable burden it must be.  Fortunately your ignorance of what you are is total, which may be your best clue.
Darwin's theory of evolution, which tipped the medieval chain of being on its side and extended it in time rather than space, is no longer persuasive.  The Catholic Church found its Thomistic materialism sympatico and  bought it almost immediately—seven days, seven eons, what difference—but it is scientifically untestable, sketchy in the extreme and even if the gaps could be filled in would explain nothing of significance.
The theory that your ancestors were extragalactic visitors merely begs the question.  Who were they?  What gave them being?
The very seamlessness of your ignorance points to your being on a spiritual journey, and you are ignorant even of the nature of the journey.  You can't keep track of who you are or what you feel.  You suffer guilt feelings.  Guilt is fear of punishment (see FEAR) and you are still, after all this time, trying to find some way to imagine yourself that does not involve guilt—i.e. for which you will not be punished.
It's a roving effort at best.  You can neither transcend yourself nor identify it.  The most important things in your life you've had to do without an identity (see ANGER), the most delightful experiences have lifted it away from you and yet you feel you should be true to something.  You have betrayed everything outside yourself, you should at least have this.  You are not of the earth perhaps but you do want it.  You want your image reflected back to you from the others.
It has been suggested that you are here to learn to love the others, or at least put up with them; that you are here to learn patience; that you are here to learn kindliness.  But you know people who have always been patient and kind.  They didn't have to learn it.  You yourself aren't really all that patient and kind, you're not all that convinced that patience and kindness are invariably the best thing (see MANNERS) and you regard such sentiments as a conspiracy against you by the others, in illegitimate attempt to grab your soul, a kind of spiritual midgetry.
It is one of the favorite thoughts of your species that if you do not behave yourself in this life you will reincarnate as a lizard and spend several lifetimes lurking under rocks while huge birds circle looking for you.  You prefer the notion that you are taking a ride in the cosmic amusement park, that you have thrown yourself into this for laughs.  This is a roll of the dice, a proving ground, a swirl of dust in  a sunbeam, a prayer mat stretched before your self, a slow-motion underwater moment of panic—there are moods in many-chambered you, but none that will work all the time.
Let's say you fall in love with someone (see LOVE, FALLING IN).  It goes the way it usually goes and in the upper world, or wherever, you confront one another.  She suggests you live a life in which you meet once and she snubs you.  You shrug and say OK.
Am I being too surgical?
On what ground can you act?
A self-image cannot possibly cover all you think and feel.  The details of your life as you dream it will not coagulate into one scab.  Personality is a cloak over your nakedness, a mask.  Death is not the annihilation of personality: life is.
Don't fix on any one way of being.  Life is a contortion.  Any image is a barbarism.  Forget about yourself.  A "self" just isn't a viable thing.  What you are will just have to be a mystery to you.  Silence will cover every difficulty, if you can manage it.
You can't.
But hey, come on, don't be down!  You'll be dead soon anyway and it won't matter!
Skip ahead to WEATHER and we'll see if we can't cheer you up a little.

I used to think that there was a wider variety of sexual response among women than men.  Some women have apparently never heard of sex; some are randier for it than the forwardest men.  But of course the men least involved in the pursuit of sexual completion are the least likely—by virtue of their own inclinations and of society's expectations—to be vocal about it.
To what sex is like for women I have only my fantasies to guide me.  I have been told by other men that male fantasies about being women are necessarily male and provide clues only about male response, even as science fiction is always about the present; and I have been told by women to whom I have confessed these fantasies (the Doctor suggests the frankest possible discussion of the most recherché details of one's inner life as an infallible aphrodisiac—go ahead!) that they're right on.
There's an ancient legend that Zeus and Hera had an argument in which Zeus maintained that women have more pleasure in sex and Hera that men did.  They took the question to Tiresias who had been walking outside the walls of Thebes and seen the forbidden sight of two snakes coupling, in punishment for which he was turned into a woman.  Ten years later she was walking outside the walls again and saw two snakes doing it, for which she was turned into a man.  He was the only one who really knew what it was like from both directions.  Women, said Tiresias, have ten times the pleasure men do. And Hera blinded him.
        Bitches. There's something about that yearning, those of us who feel it, that sends us light years into deep space through black holes to the inside out.
The only generalization the Doctor has come up with is that men seem to enjoy the smell of their own genitals, women not.  No doubt there are exceptions.
Anyway, I have sat beside various women in cinemas, I do know something about the subject.  Life is a foreign country even to me, so we may as well get started.
Sex is an ecstatic coming forward.  In this way it is indistinguishable from love (see LOVE).  Both can be performed alone.  Both can be brief.
Indeed, the distinction between sex and love implies one between soul and body (see PASSION)—which may be an error.  I hate to find myself giving birth to an opinion.  It's always dangerous.  Your mood changes and then where are you?  But I feel I have to take a stand here.  We know nothing about the nature of spirit (see MORALITY), and the further we go, the less we seem to know about matter.  It's not out of the question that they're the same thing.  Of course when you die the body decays.  Sometimes before you die.  And that doesn't happen to your spirit, whatever that is.
The exquisite way things are set up here is that you can't make a separation until it's time to do so.  Let me go further: until you want to do so.  You have a spirit separate from your body when you want to have a spirit separate from your body.  It may be that simple.
Unless of course you don't believe that, I don't know.  The Doctor can't explain everything.
Desire does, though, have a great deal to do with life, I think you'll agree there.  Many would argue that there are more important things than sensuality and physical fulfilment.  And I have no doubt there are!
But your basic predicament is one of dissatisfaction.  To see a woman (I am speaking as a man now; or again, perhaps not only as a man)—to see a woman, whether one knows her or not, in a summer dress that reveals a starkly beautiful back literally destroys the world.  All your preconceptions, plans, feelings of order and predictability go out the window.  You're left standing there without any viable way of dealing with the world.  It's not necessarily pleasant (see PASSION).  It eats at you in a way you'd almost rather not be eaten at.
I submit that you have always been obsessed by sex, even before you properly speaking knew about it.  And if word from the front is to be believed you will go on being obsessed by it long after you're able to do anything about it, in some cases decades (see AGE).  It seems like it only started a few minutes ago and already you're coming up to the waterfall.
The trouble is, you don't have sex, most of the time.  Possibly for example you are married (see LOVE, INTERIM).  Possibly you are unmarried.  Neither state is necessarily optimum.  You are ugly, you are too good-looking, you are short, fat, tall, gaunt, have bad breath, look too obvious, try too hard, can't get motivated—no.  Outside the context of what I would like to call "civilization" these things wouldn't matter.
Work schedules, social arrangements, clothes—all the roadblocks that have been set up between you and sexual fulfilment—we can sum up in one word: civilization.
But of course we need civilization.  The other thing is just not on.  It helps in these cases to imagine life in the uncivilized state.  Where in our experience do we find the uncivilized state?
Two places: the schoolyard and the prison, those of us who have been there.  The Doctor hasn't been there, but he has these nightmares.  And he knows from the movies that prisons are much like schoolyards: they're sexually segregated, and six guys run everything.
They are in many ways exact copies of the barbaric state, except that this last is not sexually segregated.  From which it follows logically, and the literature on the subject agrees, that in the barbaric state six guys have all the women.  For the women this can be of but limited interest.  For the men it means either you do without or you become one of those guys.
So unless you want to release that psychopath that lurks in your inner closet and hack your way to the top—and you may be more than tempted, assuming you have a choice—you have to settle for civilization.

"Dear Doctor," writes Helen, "I'm getting married soon.  What should I know about how to please my husband?"
The most important  thing abut making love with a man—the most important thing, that is, to him—is that you keep your hands on his behind.  Pinch, caress, grab fistfuls but do not take your hands from his behind, assuming of course that you can reach the area.  We come, if I may so put it, in all shapes.
Do not become concerned if he leads you through the same dance every time.  His fondlements may soon become standardized.  That doesn't mean he's getting bored.  You may be getting bored, but usually the boredom of one partner has much to do with the fear that the other partner is bored (see BOREDOM).  He isn't.  He just wants to get in there and plow.
You both may have to face that you are holding dream machines in your arms.  You are being raped by Hell's Angels.  You are a woman making love to another woman; she's a nun.  Your plane is hijacked and you are sold to an Arab prince.  Go ahead!
Do not, at the moment of truth, remove your hands from his behind and run them along his now glistening back.  He is not bored by having your hands on his behind.  He wants your hands on his behind.
And try to keep your knees up.
Now, men: you will often not receive strictly accurate information about your partner's orgasm, the recent occurrence of, no matter how sweetly and/or insistently you ask.  Could be she doesn't come that much, or if she does it's not something she wants to make a case of.
If, however, enough trust and intimacy have been achieved or your partner is sufficiently forward you may find yourself required to induce an orgasm otherwise than by poking your lever into her.  Two methods are open to you, both involving stimulation of the clitoris; perhaps not direct stimulation—often it's too tender to be touched—but steady stimulation.  You have to keep the rhythm going.
And you have to find it.  Not always easy.  It is located upwards, i.e. frontwards, of the urethral opening, so if you feel a growing amonia burn on your tongue you know you're on the button—which again, may not be exactly where she wants you to be.
And you can lose it.  The plasticity of the area is such that it may offer no consistent shape to your searching tongue-tip.  Home in on the burning sensation and live with it.
The tongue of course becomes tired.  It's not an easy motion to sustain.  She wants it up and down, which I'm afraid is almost impossible to supply for very long at a time.  The compromise is to go side to side, which you can do indefinitely, and kick in with up and down when she starts to stretch and whine.
The second way to bring this off is manually.  You will want to hold your partner firmly in place, which can give her a frisson of bondage and help keep her steady when she begins to buck.  You don't want to lose her at mid-convulsion.
If you are right-handed lie on her right.  Place your left arm behind her head and grasp her left wrist.  Clamp her right leg between your knees and her right arm around your neck as if she were about to throw you and help her with the contractions until she delivers herself of a come.
The principle of maintenance of rhythm applies also to your own orgasm.  Talking to the men here.  Always come on the same terms you get excited on, i.e. the same physical terms.  If you get worked up with your partner's legs down, don't pick them up to come.  Of course you can change fantasies as often as you like; indeed, if you alter your address at the last moment the imperfect surface contact gives a machine-gun quality to the orgasm that can jerk the image track around pretty good.
What about impotence?  Let me talk to Helen again: impotence can have many causes, real and imagined, usually the latter.  Keep a tube of KY Jelly by the bed.  A shrivelled-up nightstick doesn't mean he doesn't want to do it.  His libido is in there; it just needs to be come and got.  A massage with this stuff can shape an erection in almost any man, as many times as you have need of him.  If it doesn't, suggest he consider implants.
Finally, if you want to do your husband a real favor, get your dental work done before you get married.  He'll appreciate that.  And while you're at it, a few judiciously-placed extractions can facilitate certain intimacies.  You may never see his face again.


Gray weather is cosy.  It lowers the sky and closes the system.  The cool touch of rain in the air before it actually happens induces a sensual trance that drains the motivation out of you.  Even at its worst there's a kind of minimalism of mood, an archness of intelligence, a delicious bitterness that comes with gray weather.
If you're lucky you may see it rain—I think I mean feel it rain—the gutters running, the world cleansing itself, the magical effect of water.  I apologize for this.  I am an apostle of the power of water.  When I get into the sea I stay there for hours.  It's entirely renewing.  Taking a shower transforms me.  When it starts to rain I move my chair into position and watch it.
But: these things should be experienced in warm weather.  I don't want to go so far as to personify warm weather—it's too much the natural element of the soul, i.e. the body (see SEX)—but cold weather is unmistakeably hostile.  Unfriendly.
Right now I'm sitting on a Greek island (I get around) looking out at the pink and purple sunset, my feet up on the parapet, red wine and a plate of olives at hand, caressing the aureoles of my stenographer, who works nude.  It's a choice!
The Doctor does what he can to be happy.  He isn't even drunk yet.
I address myself of course to citizens of English-speaking countries, most of whom are climactically miserable.  Imagine yourself swimming in a calm bay in the Mediterranean when the sky suddenly goes dark and you could peacefully die.
You will counter that the sun is not as healthy as it used to be, but that's not really a factor.  The UVBs are the same strength at all latitudes.  People who live here are inclined to cover up in the sun.  Light cotton clothes and so forth.  You swim in the evening anyway.
Scenery that gives you a little relief from your thoughts, one never gets tired of it.  Fruit, fish, olive oil (see GOOD TIME, HAVING A).  I mean don't let me talk you into this.
There is an absence of aggression among the citizens that makes it a pleasure to walk the streets.  And costs tend to be low.  The Doctor isn't rich or anything but he likes to treat himself as if he were.
My steno pops an olive into my mouth and I am forced to pause until she can extract the pit and toss it over the side.  Where were we?
See, your problem stems from a need to suffer.  Our Calvinist forbears believed that the sole pleasure life offered was victory over it.  They had a passion for justice and going their own way, we can't really complain.  I just wish they'd liked the world a little more.
I realize I'm damaging my authority.  The Doctor shouldn't let you see him lying on pillows eating grapes.  Composing bagatelles.  Cultivating frivolity.
Would you believe him now if he told you that the solution to most problems is to ignore them?
What I do gives onto nothing.  I suppose every human project has this satisfying ocean-front.
It's so hot here.  Too hot to hope.
But who needs to hope?
Put your scarf on.


You adore women.  You revere them.  You would rather look at a beautiful woman than eat.  And you like to eat.  When they put their hair up at the back it does something to your erectile tissue.
And this is entirely inappropriate since all women want to do is castrate you.  They don't want you to adore them.  Not like that.
It's just that you want what you can't have, they'll tell you.  They'll tell you any number of things, and you'll let them just so you can stand there and look at them.
Women who love you do not want to be your friends.  At the same time they despise women who are your friends.
Women, like God, are usually defined by their absence.  You don't have them.  Not the way you want them.
Although we can offer no theory of character (see CHARM and SELF-IMAGE, YOUR) we can posit certain recurrent types that you are apt to encounter in the opposite sex (see also MEN, A GUIDE FOR WOMEN TO) simply because our rush to self-organization inclines us to become types, to inhabit abandoned masks and act them through, often not permanently or consistently (indeed we can assume quite contradictory roles within the space of a short time) but with adequate seriousness that some remarks may be indicated:
1)  Nymphomaniac.  Politically outmoded concept.  Woman Who Likes Sex a Lot, let's say.  Will surrender herself to be stroked by the band members while you weep.  "A woman can do it all day and all night, it's natural for her to have several lovers."  Idea of back-to-nature is taking a cucumber to bed.
2)  Much-Married Woman.  "Darling, I have not the heart to leave them so I marry them and then I can divorce them."
3)  Lesbian.  Forget it.  She likes to hear you tell her she's beautiful.  She likes to hear how uncoercive you're going to be.  She likes you to want her.  But she's not going to bed with you.  She wants to hug and kiss women, which, I mean, sure.  Get her to let you watch.
4)  Ballet Dancer.  Perfect if slightly menacing legs.  Rigid grace.  Walks with toes out.  Real glad to meet a straight guy.
5)  Professional Mother.  Drab.  Oppressed.  Gives classes in birthing.  Got pregnant so she could be fat with dignity.  Had a baby size of a juke box, which now sleeps in same bed with her and husband.  Crib death, she says, is the result of isolating babies in rooms.  Theorize ever so fancifully that this is a country in which isolation in a room is an ambition, a requirement, perhaps a prelude to space travel, and you won't be invited back to dinner.
6)  Straight Butch.  Knows what she wants.  Former sergeant in the Israeli army.  Wins all the wrestling matches.  You become the object.  Pretty soon you're prancing around in heels and a garter belt.  Take it easy!
7)  Bitch/Nag/Shrew.  Often also wife/co-vivant/ partner/live-in/satellite/attendant.  Comes into the room and gives you a lot of electric guitar about the toxic waste dump of your love, sort of thing, just because she lets you fuck her.
You don't like to think about certain things.  This makes you think in that direction and you are resentful.
"Was that you farting this morning?"
You don't know.  You just do it, you don't make notes.  Seven fifteen: farted.
"Why did you do that?" she says, about anything.
"I don't know.  I can't explain that."
Fairly purgatorial.
Intercepts letters from your mistress so frequently your mistress starts addressing them to her.
8)  Actress between Parts.  Doesn't get slept with enough.  The magazines say she's supposed to be getting taken advantage of more often than there's really time.  Has permanent feeling of being behind schedule.
9)  Neurotic Woman.  Has to go to the bathroom before the movie starts.  You like to go to the bathroom before the movie starts.  Who minds the seats?
10)  Drink-Thrower.  Has determined that her social advantage lies in throwing drinks in disagreeable faces.  At parties surrounded by frowning men wrapped in blankets.  Watch the ice cubes.
11)  Bimbo.  Somewhat blank.  Skirt that bisects her buns.  Sucks like a dust-buster.  Not that easy to introduce to people but if you value your orgasm you'll make allowances.
12) Exaggeratedly Feminine Woman.  Whispers.  Sits with legs cast to one side, even on bar stool, sipping soda water with a flower in it.  Stirs it to get the bubbles out.  Won't hesitate to strike you.
13)  Feminist Commando.  Bit of a doberman about it.  Lot of rage.  Don't get in the way when she dances.  Doesn't like it when you lead.  Comes to costume party as Marilyn's rotting corpse.
14)  Small Woman on a Big, Big Motorcycle.  You lose her in traffic.
15)  Indolent Slut.  Semi-elderly.  Hawks, spits.  Rather fat of ass.  Why is she so sexy?  Sits with knees open, fans musk at you with her skirt.  Careful.  What would you talk about?
16)  Prostitute.  When a man picks up a woman she usually tells him how much other men want her.  This one tells you she has eight brothers and sisters.  You know all that, you say.  You become the servant of her lust, which is nevertheless sweet and demure.  Coming shakes her.  You believe everything.
17)  Landlady.  You can almost imagine doing it with her.  Almost.  Things will have to get worse.


If the woman who pays is independently wealthy (see RICH, THE) she may suffer from a sense of shame over you.  You are dependently wealthy, and this is felt by the middle class to be immoral (see MORALITY).
If she is an aristocrat it won't matter.  The world is her apple to eat.  She will sit on the bed in her underwear while you stand naked before her.  "Come here," she will say.  She'll dump you when she feels like it.
The woman who pays may possibly also be a woman of a certain age.  This is a particularly unfortunate convergence of types, for the rich have a horror of age (see RICH, THE) that outdoes your own.  Panic set in for the woman of a certain age when her looks began, not to deteriorate but to change.  She thought the panic would subside when she adjusted.  It hasn't. She watches your eyes carefully, and may resent buying you things.
You must never speak of the woman of a certain age as a woman of a certain age.  You must not use the phrase, woman of a certain age.
She treats you like an object, which you like.
She does it because she loves you, which is her business.
You are not a gigolo.  The polite term is "writer."


You are essentially lazy (see MOTIVATION).
You have chosen work that combines a maximum of self-indulgence with a minimum of effort.  Your whole life has been an avoidance of effort and you have backed into the hardest thing there is to do.
You are obsessive about it, and almost constantly depressed.
It justifies anything.  You have learned to avoid all the people you owe money to, and have incurred legal penalties from government agencies in pursuit of you.  You feel that you owe no debt to impersonal money, any more than to an impersonal God, and the only personal God you can imagine approves of everything you do.
He is the only one who does.   You have no patience with The Others and they sense this, and despise you.  Your brief career in the academy was an experience of paralysis and shelter-taking.  You can abide neither a superior nor an underling.  You fear both.  You live disguised to yourself as a je m'en fou-tiste, unable to support yourself (see WOMEN WHO PAY), without even the sexual libertinage that was your lure in life.
Your enormous boredom with other forms of culture weighs on you as you sit at your table.  You're not even supposed to believe in art, you're supposed to believe in fart.  You're supposed to be Errol Flynn.  You're supposed to be one with the smugness of the morning and here you sit frying language, getting surly when anyone asks you what you're working on, consorting with words, those shallowest of all whores.
Writing is an act of publicity.  You wish you could get famous.  Is that superficial of you?  You have always preferred stars to actors, not that you want to know any.  The people on the news never have interior lives; that's why you envy them.  That's why you want this.  The perfect internal life resolves into an exterior.  In the blinding noon of your fame you would be so much more yourself.
Meanwhile you scratch away at your prose comic books, agentless in Gaza, adrift in the curved space of your interior.
You have your work.
There is no protection for you.  You are not safe.  You're not getting out of this alive.  You'll be lucky to make it in one piece.
Even if you successfully escape into the present, even if you cling only to the raft of existential nowness, you will occasionally glance up at the horizon of lunacy and decrepitude and weep.  You may at any moment be annihilated, dismembered, crushed, cast into profounder night and forced to endure paralytic isolation for the remainder of your scratches on the wall, something sewer-born struggling up to the light.
I mean I certainly condole.
The Doctor has done his best.  He has attempted to penetrate your darkness, to lay upon you the hand of a comradely if not quite so prostrate fellow-sufferer.
In so doing he has betrayed himself.  He has Said Things.  Delivered himself of opinions.  He doesn't like that, but sometimes one has to commit these crassitudes to reach people, I think is the phrase. 
I have eschewed what in less ambitious circles might be called "method."  Your humanity submitted to a system as in France, he doesn't like that, either.  He has wished only to cut all the kaka and try to get your soul through, to help you negotiate the chamber of horrors that is life.
Almost with the same urgency that you reconceive yourself in the turning beacon of your mood—no rest for you, you must be wicked—do the various therapies bloom and wilt, each with its satisfactions, each with its shortcomings. The Doctor has relied upon lightning insight which, alas, fades almost before it has illuminated the terrain.  He has struggled to give you a glimpse of yourself as you hurry from mask to mask but of course the language only bends so far.  Or as Heraclitus said, you never get the same haircut twice.
The truth is, you don't need protection.  Sure it's dangerous.  Sure it's discouraging.  The Doctor knows you're in trouble.  No one has ever known the right thing to do.  The unscrewed-up life, not worth living.
You have to go through this.  There was a time when you wanted to.  That will come again.
And don't worry, I love you.
So that's pretty much the end of the story.  Obey these simple rules, chant your mantra and you should be all right.  At least you'll be able to say you did all you could.