Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Of hedonism, self-denial, and responsibility

I really do need to apologize to everyone, not just Dondon, for the length of that last post. My closest friends, my beautiful L'Ailee, and my therapist all know what I'm doing when I ramble like that. My bosses, if I stayed with them long enough, all knew something is really up when I babble--I'm drawing up my nerve to tell them I'm going back to school or I broke the computer or I saw the assistant manager take money out of the register. I felt a need to talk about something real--how my first relationship was abusive and how Seventeen magazine saved me from that particular life path. But it's hard for me to really discuss that kind of painful stuff, so I need to talk talk talk about other things beforehand. In person, the ones who really know me can tell me to cut the shit and say what I need to say. I appreciate editors better now.

However, I thank Eugene for introducing me to the F-Minus strip, and I enjoyed reading others' thoughts on comic strips. (I'm happy for Elizabeth from For Better or For Worse too, ConnieJane!) I thank everyone who read that far, too. I have learned that wisdom comes from many sources, especially the ones not advertised as wisdom. It used to be that in medieval courts, the jester would frequently be the wisest person of all, but he could get away with a lot because he was funny and colorful.

It doesn't always work, of course. I'm very disappointed that the Washington Post, among other papers, banned this Opus strip because they thought it would be offensive to Muslims. I e-mailed them. Obviously what is being made fun of is religious dilettantism. Anyway, it was spineless, and unbefitting of the newspaper that exposed Watergate. I think everything from Islamic excesses to televangelists to Richard Dawkins should be made fun of in comics. My grandfather used to say some things are too serious *not* to joke about. I wish others could understand the wisdom in that. I wish the Christians who are upset that Christianity can be made fun of but Islam scares people would take it as a complement--"We're pretty sure *you* won't come firebomb our office if we make fun of those in your group who act stupid!"

At least, for the moment, we can be pretty sure of that. On Monday, I submitted an article to Talk2Action. Remember how poor Gwen Stefani had to cover up and overhaul her act in order to be able to perform in Malaysia, because of their Islamist morality police? (That term is literal there!) A Christian writer got upset that Christianists can't have that same degree of control over female entertainers and their wardrobes in America. So I had to respond to her and those who thought like her.

L'Ailee and I discovered some really interesting candy. Jelly Belly has a product called "Sport Beans"--little packets of fruity-flavored jelly beans that are supposed to be "energizing" for athletes, with special ingredients, at an even more marked-up price! Sold next to energy bars, too! L'Ailee tried some. She'd rather stick to half a peg bag of her beloved Gummi Bears and a can of coconut water. We did like Pure Fun organic candy. The chocolate meltdowns are pretty good, but the even better best thing is the pomegranate-flavored lollypops and hard candy! I am not kidding! I don't know how kids would like pomegranate or goji berry lollipops and hard candy, but we're not complaining.

Those local-eating snobs are so full of it. Sure, it's best to get tomatoes in season from close by in August instead of eating mealy hydroponics in winter, and sure it's good to get fresh vegetables from the farmer's markets and co-ops, but "eating locally" is what our ancestors did because they had no other option. They'd have loved to be able to get Californian or Middle Eastern pomegranates turned into candy in Canada delivered to New York City and retailed at half an hour's pay. I'm going to stick to Florida Natural orange juice as long as I can, because it benefits the growers in my home state, and I'll insist on it even if I move to Australia for that reason. The local eaters don't seem to understand the concepts of "non-native plant takeovers" and "helping farmers in poorer parts of the world," not to mention "enjoying your life." Oh, well. More pomegranates and masala spices and good orange juice for uncool people like me and L'Ailee, I guess.

Larry Craig's says he's not gay. I believe him, too! Obviously he just thought that poor man in the airport bathroom had a rattlesnake bite and needed the venom sucked out! I feel so sorry for his poor wife. Those sunglasses she wore for that farce of a press conference were almost as good as the paper bag she no doubt wanted to wear over her head. I suppose I should feel a bit sorry that Larry Craig had to deal with social pressures and all that, and maybe he's actually bi and likes sex with his wife, but any man who's willing to endanger his partner's life by cheating on her with random strangers deserves to have his clock cleaned in divorce court, and I'm not going to be dissuaded from that opinion. I'm sure Mrs. Craig has already consulted both a gynecologist and a lawyer. At least, I sure hope so for her sake.

I also think we should pretty much just assume that the people who talk the loudest about "family values" and how wrong everyone else is are really speaking about themselves when they rant about "perversion." I hope my fellow voters are getting a collective clue.

From the USA Today forums, by fooledonce: "In an all out effort to make the 2008 Re”pubic”an Convention a rousing success, Minnesota has pulled out all the stops to make attendees feel right at home. Improvements include 3 coats of Marine Varnish to all exposed surfaces in the mens rooms to facilitate easy clean up and KY dispensers will be installed with an operational pamphlet by Ted Haggard insuring its correct use. For those struggling with their sinful urges, a 24 hour hotline (1-800-INO-TGAY) has been set up. Also, the local archdiocese has erected temporary confessional booths that will be manned by priests, either for immediate forgiveness, or for a last minute date."

I have to share a Reason magazine article that made me cry and made me appreciate what the Killing Fields in Cambodia were really about. I never learned about it in school, only vaguely heard about it. A slogan used in Cambodia towards urban and educated people during Pol Pot's reign of terror was "To destroy you is no loss." Brian Doherty's details are brief and powerful: a singer with a "Golden Voice" who was kidnapped and "disappeared", instruments that almost nobody knows how to play anymore, "a stunted, petty, bitter resentment of anyone who has achieved anything grander than picking at vegetation or threatening people with a gun; anyone who ever ate a meal better than they had eaten, enjoyed a moment more elegant and lovely than they had enjoyed". Listen to Cambodia's lost rock and roll, and learn about the Cambodians, Americans, and Cambodian-Americans working to bring the music back.

I started this entry in my Wordpad, where I prefer to compose, with one overarching theme in mind. Another occurred to me as I typed, in between taking phone calls and doing the work I'm actually getting paid for. People who think like me, who care about pleasure and fulfillment, are so frequently called "selfish" and "hedonistic" and "immature" and "irresponsible," all kinds of things that are supposed to be just awful and shameful to us. I do sometimes internalize that shame, because I get it from some of my relatives, too.

But I am pondering, and I am thinking, there are much worse things to be than a hedonistic indivualist. Self-denial can so easily become other-denial, too, if it becomes organized. I think individuals are the cells of a society's body, and too many cells get sickened and poisoned by that sort of restraint gone wrong. It can lead to censorship and fear. It can lead to behavior that embarrasses and possibly infects one's family. It can lead to young people getting brutally beaten for wearing "lax" clothing. It can lead to killing. I have said this before, and it was L'Ailee who helped me formulate my thoughts on this, but I don't think goodness comes from avoiding things labeled "bad". I think goodness comes from goodness. I think whatever else pleasure and individualism lead to, it has the potential to make people happier and nicer if pursued responsibly. I lift a pomegranate martini (just one, when we're not working or driving or looking out for young kids) to all the responsible hedonists reading this.


Barbara said...

Thanks for your kind words about my mom.

Steve Boese said...

In my mind, it's not just self-denial feeding other-denial, it's the moralistic, fundamentalist version of self-denial which cannot exist apart from secrecy.

Larry Craig's penchant for secrecy was so strong that he imagined that he could keep his arrest secret from his own wife. (Frankly, he almost succeeded.)

Healthy discipline and self-denial can be practiced openly, where slip-ups or diversions from the goal can be shared and learned from. And, healthy discipline and self-denial (in physical exercise, intimacy, diet, or work, for example) tend to be connected to good self-care.

To all outward appearances, Larry Craig has been practicing self-denial laced with fear and shame. He's probably had valid needs for intimacy and sexual expression but enshrouded them so deeply in secrecy he became delusional about his ability to hide from his wife and the public.

I agree with you that there are much worse things to be than a hedonistic individualist. Especially when that means being aware of, and taking responsibility for meeting, our own needs.

Take care...

Yuki said...

"Remember how poor Gwen Stefani had to cover up and overhaul her act in order to be able to perform in Malaysia, because of their Islamist morality police? (That term is literal there!) A Christian writer got upset that Christianists can't have that same degree of control over female entertainers and their wardrobes in America. So I had to respond to her and those who thought like her."

I am from Malaysia and I missed that concert. :( But I agree with you there is much much less freedom of expression here because of the Islam morality police.

I think you would know we can be jailed here for the most trivial of matters!

Just came in to your blog and loved it. Gonna put it on my blogroll right away. Stay in touch dear!

ConnieJane said...

Larry Craig...what a hypocrite. To add insult to injury, his "own" are starting to turn on him now.-

::White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, "We are disappointed in the matter," without specifying exactly what was causing the discomfort.::

::Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota joined Hoekstra in urging Craig to step down.::

::Coleman said in a written statement, "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator."::

::In an interview with The Associated Press, Hoekstra called Craig's explanations "not credible."

"I think it's important for Republicans to step out right now and say, 'No, this behavior is not going to be tolerated,'" he said.::

They have a CODE OF CONDUCT? Who knew?

The moral of this story is to watch your back and don't plead guilty if you aren't.

alan said...

I read all of your last post, and just was too brain-dead to have much of intelligence to say. (I've read FBorFW for years, and think the world of Lynn Johnston. I heard her years ago on "Fresh Air" and she spoke of a book she was involved with named "Bad Girl Art" before she became of many things on my Amazon list!)

Larry Craig can say whatever he'd like...deep down I think we're all bi until society demands we "conform". The Republicans are like a pack of dogs turning on one of their own now because it's injured...

As I read your linked story about the kids being beaten, I remembered one I heard not so awfully long ago on the radio about a girls school that caught fire and the "moral police" wouldn't let men rescue them because they weren't related...I believe that one was in Saudi Arabia.

My belief in the three-fold (or seven-fold if you'd rather) law prohibits me from wishing ill on them; by that same law though, they've already set their own misery in motion...


cats said...

i just feel sorry for craig (even sorrier for his wife).

obviously he is living a lie and that can only lead to a half-lived misreable life.

alan said...

Being someone who should no better than to try to write something intelligent after a long night, I woke in a panic this afternoon.

Partially because I remembered the full name of that book: "Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art". My other reason for the panic and the last half hour's surfing is that I can't remember if it was Lynn who was part of it, or Nicole Hollander (who writes "Sylvia").



Jen R said...

"Obviously he just thought that poor man in the airport bathroom had a rattlesnake bite and needed the venom sucked out! "

Thank you SO much for that mental image!

::looks for the brain bleach::

Barbara said...

Well said! Being raised Catholic, one of my favourite quotations is one made by the late Erma Bombeck, "Guilt, the gift that keeps on giving."

I remember this little quip each time I'm laying face down butt-naked on a massage table and the thought that I shouldn't "waste money" creeps into my head.

Mary said...


I do feel sorry for Larry Craig. To have to hide your feelings and such and look for happiness in a bathroom at an airport. SOOOOO sad.

What is an action unbecoming of a Senator? Lose who throw stones shouldn't live in glass houses. MR. Coleman might have one thrown at his house....