Archive for the ‘love’ Category

The Wealth of Neurons

March 30, 2011

Your thoughts and feelings don’t count for anything.

As social creatures human beings are judged by their actions. The Christians disagree, for our thoughts can also be evil and God may judge us sinners for the crimes of our neurons. But, if you are like me you will agree that what transpires in our brains is our own business (so, not only is there no God, I am also relieved).

“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 27-28

The distance afforded by social networking is fraught with benefits and danger. On the one hand, the lack of personal touch allows us to minimise the effects of the emotions of others, and to examine dispassionately whatever it might be they are saying. On the other, the lack of body language and other cues can on occasion make it difficult to pick up on jokes, sarcasm, or irony. Then again, it can also inhibit the genuine expression of thoughts for confusing them with said levity.

However, I am morally certain that in the wake of recent tragedy in Japan that the cries of support and venting of personal turmoil were entirely genuine. Sprinkled amidst the feed were also jokes about Mothra and the other ironic parallels playing out in the East Asian catastrophe. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether such jokes are born of cynical indifference, or are a just another means of coping with the horrors of the world.

But but but but… we are defined by our actions. All reasonable people agree. What wells up in me when I see “My heart goes out to the people of Japan” scrawling across my Twitter or Facebook, is not a sense of commiseration or feelings of human solidarity, but thoughts of “Oh yeah? What are you doing about it?”

I don’t mean to be cold or dismissive of people’s feelings. Life in so many respects is about feelings; emotional responses, coping, and revelling. Nor do I think that because someone is coping with a public tragedy with an expression of sorrow that they therefore must follow through with an action – that they have somehow taken on more responsibility than someone who is mute.

However, what does it mean to really care about something? If a mother claims to love her child and yet neglects and abuses the child, does the mother love the child? The mother might express extreme sorrow for having her child taken away, fight to the last to keep her child… but is that love or a response to maternal instincts? I say it isn’t love. We are defined by our actions.

So I am at a loss to reconcile the vast majority of the response to public tragedies with the words “I care.” Tragedy that is so far away as to be but mildly emotionally effective at first, and then an intellectual puzzle second and permanently.

I’ll end with this brilliant quote from Adam Smith:

Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own.

Robin Lindsay



Bent Double, Like Old Beggars Under Sacks

February 23, 2011

There is little less masculine than a profession of love for poetry.

No one can claim ownership of the words masculine or feminine. Some things in this world are rough, tough, and angular (or handsome, ruthless, and stupid, in Dorothy Parker’s idealized conception) and some are soft, bending, and curvy. Whether those extra broad generalizations can be safely applied to men and women is outside the domain of this discussion. Suffice it to say: dogs are boys, cats are girls, PCs are boys, Macs are girls, and for whatever reason you care to cite, we all seem to agree.

Poetry is graceful, pretty, emotional, and flowery. The flow of the words; the sound they make when repeated back to oneself is paramount, and while it is inescapable that poems have meaning, for words mean things, deciphering the hidden meaning, if  there is any to be found, is missing the point at best. However, a man’s love of things graceful or pretty or emotional or flowery is supposedly limited to what he can fuck, and any further pronouncement of joy at the sight or sound or experience of delicate waff, makes him a poof, a nancy boy, or a fag.

Nothing new in the above. We are all too aware of the reputation risked by any boy brave enough to carry Emily Dickson without camouflage, but the cliche to my limited experience is abnormally felt, and I wonder at the cause. Men like music and lyrics, can appreciate a turn of phrase wittily and adroitly presented,  read books, and seem to run the gamut of stuttering neanderthal to elegant wordsmith with the same frequency as women. Social pressures, no doubt contributing, cannot possibly explain everything. There must be something specific to the art form or its reputation making the males in my social group bored at the mere prospect.

Boring. There it is. That word. There is nothing worse than boring (perhaps homicidal or smelly if we are talking about people). I was manifestly uncomfortable and terribly annoyed at being forced to read E.E. cummings or Robert Frost in high school. And rightly so. The beauty of language is not a subject worth discussing with partially developed minds, and Shakespeare elicited a similar response. No, what the dreary high school matron (my English teachers were invariably dull and female) was left with was a search for meaning. An accounting of facts. An exercise in: “Well, why the fuck didn’t he just come out and say it then?” Sure, some of the students were ready for poetry, and genuinely enjoyed it. They tended to be girls. No, not tended, were girls.

But I loved books, and was perfectly happy to engage fully with a difficult metaphor and not feel in the least put out for having to decipher it. Be that as it may, the contradiction in finding poetry irritating for failing to be direct, and not holding literature to the same standard, has only recently struck me.

Nowadays, I can approach a poem without any precedent angst, but it required a genuine effort to displace the notion that deciphering meaning was the task. I was never scared of being called a fag.

Try this. I dare you not to get a little moist.

Robin Lindsay



August 26, 2010

Below is a heavily reworked piece, originally titled Finishing Each Other’s Sentences

Originally published, May 2009

The next time you find yourself awash in dangerous toxin and in dire need of a means to induce vomiting, I suggest clicking here.

The E-Harmony ad campaign, with its noisome Jazz-pop and impossibly handsome couples, is such obvious fantasy that I dare say no one is fooled. The men in the ads are especially hard to believe, with their fashion model looks, interesting careers, sensitivity, and artistic streaks, are the archetype for the love-interest in any feminine masturbatory aid you care to name.

The conceit is that E-Harmony, unlike the balance of the online dating sphere, will match you based on “compatibility.” Aside from sidestepping the obvious question “by what means other than compatibility can one be matched?” the actors (or, “real couples,” if that is to be believed) have such universal appeal, that no talk of compatibility is at all relevant in their cases. Can we get a show of hands from the female readership that would reject a handsome chemist who likes to paint, is vulnerable but decisive enough to drag you off to the closet for a grope, and is interested in something stable? Some types are almost universally attractive, and any talk of “compatibility” is neither here nor there.

It is plain to all and sundry that E-Harmony is selling a fantasy. However, buried under the nauseating love-in is a subtle message: online dating is okay. Look at these successful people; they are busy, sick of the bar scene, and have excellent reasons why they are 30 and single. These people aren’t losers and neither will you be. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Twenty-five years ago you were a social outcast by definition for merely owning a computer. Now that it can get you laid, the computer is well established as mainstream and girl-friendly.

Robin Lindsay


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