Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Big Time Sensuality

I'm reading Montaigne now.  Today I was delighted by what he has to say--mostly by his comment, at age 53:  "I now defend myself against temperance, as I once did against sensuality."

My greatest worry about the younger generation--and it's my obligation as a 50-something to find young people worrisome in some way--is that they have very little sensuality and almost no curiosity.  They are freakishly chaste in body and mind, it would seem, just to hear them talk.  Descartes would be appalled at how blank their slates still are even at age eighteen.  They have narrowed their self-indulgence down to food--junk food mostly--and greed--I'm pretty sure they'd do just about anything (except have sex--or give up Cheez Whiz) for money.

I was a late bloomer, so I can sympathize, having been raised fairly strictly to be a good Christian and little else.  But at least I was curious--fascinated by divorcees, Catholics, Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke, and other wrong types.  I suspect a good quarter of my 17 to 25 year old freshmen would have a difficult time sitting through an episode of Glee without its causing a mild (of course "mild") panic attack, whereas at age 14, I, between devotional readings in my bible, read James Bond novels and even did an oral book report on the dirty parts of The Painted Bird (I was scolded by my teacher afterwards, but gently and humanely).  I had sex for the first time at age 14, too, with a girl my age, nobody I was interested in or would ever be interested in, it turns out, but at least I had a healthy curiosity about how things were done.

Who else today still uses the word "racy"?  Or "keen"?  Or "far-out," "snappy," "tangy," and "mind-blowing"?  Where do you find purple prose anymore?  WTF is the emoticon for "zest"?

Everything is virtual now--and digital.  I suspect smell, touch, and taste will disappear off the human nervous system entirely.  Holograms are what we'll be.

The boys drenched in British Sterling, Old Spice, and Aramis (sometimes all at once) are a distant memory (not a particularly pleasant memory, but nice in that, back then, people still luxuriated in strong and zingy smells).  

The giddy pleasure of brushing up against somebody or holding hands may have to wait till a Wall-E rediscovers it.  God help the first-grade teacher who fondles a child in her lap these days.  God help the first-grader who wants to climb a tree.

Can any of us say we actually like the taste of McDonald's burgers?--or are we just used to it, the way we grow used to pop songs we are told we will like, which are  then played everywhere so that, in time, we come to believe we do actually like them?  

The average twenty-first American has a color palette that runs the gamut from beige to bone white.  No wonder some of us are starved for color.  Perhaps the recent (and now perhaps spent) popularity of Bollywood spectacle is based on India's lavish respect for gaudy color and noise.  

Rasa (relish, passion, sensual exuberance) is both an aesthetic and a spiritual concept in Hinduism, but then look at Bosch, Rabelais, and Chaucer and see there that "carnivalesque" was once no less a part of European Christendom!  

In time we may not remember what the aura of a live human being feels like.  Emaciated, cool, perpetually safe, abstinent, bored, we will all be lightly lemon-lime scented, dry as Facebook pages, placid as cows, tasteful and blandly groomed as cemeteries and politicians--"with a hint of" real life left in us.

1 comment:

  1. Your comments resonate strongly, and as an Anglo-boy in a Latin Peruvian culture, I´ll amplify a little. Just about all that you describe applies to youth here, but WORSE: because the schools, even elite and costly private schools, dispense a lamentable level of education. I´m actually an (apparently) unwashed engineer/scientist, but my secondary education included French and Latin studies. Without actually liking them, I´m now aware of how some classical values have subliminally permeated my mind. Returning then to your specific comments, firstly the appreciation of the epicurian delights of food start and stop at Macdonalds (yes, even in Peru, KFC too!), secondly history, art, music and culture start around 1990 (even pop-music!), and thirdly, their minds are closed by an ignorant yet innocent exclusion of any prior past or future pondering. No choice here, it´s just quite beyond the edge of their "flat" earth. While I am an unrepentant hedonist, this does not mean living myopically for today´s epoch only! Above all I retain (even at a somewhat advanced age!) an open minded wonderment spanning space research, AI, human sexual diversity, the advances of my gym workouts, Vico C rap music, the Wagner Ring, and the literature of Montaigne and Proust, and mastering my Android cell phone. Meanwhile my younger peers at gym are limited to feverishly and continually communicating in monosyllables in Twitter and Facebook. Although it is traditional for older generations to "complain" of the younger, here I perceive a substantial sea-change, in great part wrought by the instant commmunication and instant gratification expectations of the 24X7 online culture. Stepping back, YES, there is a NEW kind of intellectualism, but NO, there is sparse time for reflective and creative internal brain-storming and reflection. This is the surprisingly new foundation of an intellectual poverty that has fully emerged in the 21st century, after the vibrant ages of enlightenment of the 19th and 20th. As the pop song goes "Where are you now ...".

    from the land of Paddington Bear,
    Deepest, Darkest Peru !



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