Are you there God? It's me, Mike.

I know I'll pay for my excesses. That's my fate. I should have lived an austere life. I have always known that. Even my passion is passion in the Christian sense. There has always been suffering in it. That's partly why I have never been able to sustain a relationship that is both intimate and passionate. Because who wants to be a party to that kind of suffering?

I might have a hemorrhoid.

Why? Because it is the Hebrew God, the vengeful, punishing God, to whom my fortunes are wed, for better or worse. Did I choose Him or did He choose me? I don't know. It is only the difference between two unnecessary, unanswerable questions, really. In the first instance, it might be a small psychological question, in the second a great ontological one, but the situation remains unchanged. He is my God, and now I have to deal with Him, one hemorrhoid at a time.

But I wouldn't say I've given up much giving up sex for the remainder of my vacation. Lust, as Pliny had it, is a canker on the mind and weakness of the wit. And the fact is, the sex this summer was singularly uninspired anyway. I risk becoming like those old bums who beg on the street for enough money to buy their daily lottery tickets. Probably once or twice a year they win twenty bucks or something, and that keeps them going, poor sods.

Here's something I have to disagree with Thomas Nagel on: bad sex is often not better than no sex at all. Bad sex is like bad food, and here I mean food that's gone bad. It poisons you, and you end up sick from it. Even bland sex should be avoided. Where masturbation could suffice. There's no harm, but no joy, either, in eating food just for sustenance. Bland, boring food can indeed sustain us, but bland, boring sex only dissipates and diminishes us. And considering what goes into getting laid, to not enjoy it, for it to be anything less than glorious, is a humiliation. If it is not ecstasy, it is an abomination. If we are unable, in that profound connectedness of bodies, to experience a connectedness of spirit, we have lost something more valuable than the time and effort it took to get off, we've lost a bit of our souls. We have engaged in a 'beastly act,' unredeemed by our derelict capacity for empathy, the dignity of our humanity. If this communion of flesh yields nothing in the way of spirit, no sort of transubstatiation, then I think it really is best to abandon the ritual altogether.

Masturbation, too. I think that was my main way of dealing with the stress of the last year, and not a particularly healthy way. It's a compulsion, after all. Not that I was not a practiced hand long before 9-11. However, once a day has sufficed for most of my adult life, but over the past months I'd say I average 2.5 to three times a day, which is a wee bit excessive.

But am I ready to quit cold turkey? I feel a little like Augustine on this one: 'Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.'


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