Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Promised Post on Happiness
I once attended a talk by a Buddhist teacher where he was asked about pleasure. Specifically, the questioner was having trouble because it seemed like Buddhism was all about the renunciation of pleasure, and, well, she liked pleasure.

The problem with pleasure, he said, was that we tie pleasure to only the best things in life. We moan with pleasure as we put a bite of fine steak in our mouths, but feel nothing as we shovel in a burger for lunch. Pleasure brings happiness, but because it is tied to external circumstances, we are not free, nor can we be truly happy. At best, we're like a dog, with the world of things our master. The master gives us a toy and we're happy, the master takes it away, and we're sad. When things are bad, we remember when they are good, feel the contrast keenly, and so are sad. Even worse, when things are good, we know they won't always stay that way, and we start to miss them before they're even gone!

The goal of meditation, then, is learn how to be where we are and when we are completely, so that we can enjoy the hunger before the meal as much as the sating of that hunger as much as the feeling of fullness after, and so that we can find the same pleasure in a bowl of rice as in a fine meal. We are no longer at the mercy of our own thoughts, or the whims of the world. We are free.

If you've studied Buddhism before, that's probably nothing new to you. And if you haven't, it's probably because you're not interested in Buddhism. So why tell the story? Background, baby, background. It also helps because, while one hand feels like I've learned some lessons about how to be happy in this life, the other thinks I don't know shit, and who died and left me guru?

So if it's okay with you, I'm going to start far away from myself and circle in. I'll start with Jersey Girl, but just to say that the central struggle of the movie is about, as Sheryl Crow put it, "not getting what you want, but wanting what you've got." Affleck's character, Ollie, has a clear view of who's important in the world and who isn't, and from where he sits in Jersey, he used to matter but doesn't anymore. By the end, as movie rules dictate, he's realized that he's got a good life. Of course, he's kind of a dumbass, so you know he's going to keep struggling, but you feel like he's broken through a barrier.

Even if he wasn't a dumbass, though, he'd hit the same stuff over and over again, because the road to happiness isn't a straight line, it's a spiral, and you keep going through the same crap, just at a higher level. Like the man says, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." So learn to love your struggles, because they're going to be with you for the rest of your life.

It's tempting to think that our unhappiness arises from our external circumstances: a lousy job, with an incompetent boss and mean-spirited coworkers; our spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend; a town that's too big or too small, too liberal or too conservative. And you're right, to a certain degree. Life's full of ugly situations that gradually eat your soul, just as it's full of wonderful, sustaining situations. But in the words of the great Buckaroo Bonzai, "Wherever you go, there you are." Jon Kabat-Zinn said it much better than I could in his book of the same name, but I'll take a crack at it. There are things you're supposed to learn in this life, and you carry those things around with you, so that while you may think you're leaving your problems behind you, they may end up following you to your new home, job, relationship or whatever. Not only that, but things may actually get worse.

If you're theistically inclined, call it the Jonah Syndrome: When God asks you to do something, it's best to do it the first time he asks, because the second time he asks, there may be a really big fish involved. If you'd rather leave gods out of it, think of it as a pattern in your mind that shows up in your relationships and in the way you think about your life. If there's a problem in those patterns, it will keep showing up until you deal with it. And if you've ever ignored a problem with your car, your body, or any other complex system, you know that problems tend to escalate when you ignore them. It's the same way with your life.

So what's the solution? First of all, recognize this: You can't think your way out of a problem in your thinking. You have to learn to step aside from your thought processes so you can observe the patterns and see where the problem's creeping in. Once you learn that trick, it works like a clutch in your brain. When you feel yourself getting stuck in a loop, you press the clutch and disengage, letting your brain loop off on its own.

To keep going, a fire needs two things, oxygen and fuel. Thoughts are the same way, but their two fuels are attention and action. The first step in killing off a pattern of thoughts that's causing us trouble is to not take action based on it, and that includes speech. Especially speech. The second and much harder step is to stop paying attention to those thoughts. Don't even argue with them. Sunrui Suzuki said that trying to quiet your thoughts is like using your hands to tamp down the ripples in a pond; you just make more ripples. Instead, let them happen, but don't feed them with your attention.

There's a pattern in my head that tells me my life isn't good enough. I should be driving a better car, have a bigger house, or maybe an apartment in the city, with a glamorous job working for someone that people have heard of, doing something impressive. Or maybe even be famous myself. My floor should be cleaner, my breath fresher. I should be taller, with whiter teeth. From time to time, I get this urge to change careers and head for the coasts, even though I know I'd hate it there.

Ginny Morgan tells a wonderful little story that pops into my head when I'm thinking those thoughts. Manindra-ji, a Buddhist teacher, was passing through Columbia when his escort's car broke down. The escort was an old friend of Ginny's and called her to see if they could stay with her for a couple of days. She'd fallen away from her meditation practice of late, but she said yes. While he was there, Manindra-ji offered to teach a class to whoever wanted to show up. So Ginny put out the word, and a dozen or so people showed up, including a teenage boy, clutching a Carlos Casteneda book to his chest and twitching with energy.

Manindra-ji talked for a little while, then asked if anyone had questions. The boy's hand shot up. "How do you leave your body? And don't tell me it can't be done, because I know it can!"

"Yes, such things are possible. But why would you want to leave your body?"

"Because I'm miserable in it!"

"If you are not happy in your body, then you will not be happy out of your body."

"But he says," the boy started, gesturing with his book.

Manindra-ji made a gentle gesture like brushing crumbs off a table. "Please. I have met this man, and he is not happy, either. Listen to me, please, if you can. Be an ordinary person. Cook breakfast. Look for your happiness in these things, and you will find it, not anywhere else."

So that's it: the secret of happiness. There are more than enough challenges in any one life; there's no point in throwing yourself against the world looking for more. Look for happiness in simple things that cannot be taken from you, and keep your grip loose on even them. What could be more exceptional than to be an ordinary person, and bring all of your extraordinary gifts to bear on that goal?

Oh, and check out phototag and BookCrossing. They're cool.

Monday, March 29, 2004

100 Underappreciated Movies - I've seen about 20% of the flicks on this list, and I agree that every one deserves more love, which makes me give serious thought to the other 80%.
This Salon article on abridged children's books (particularly The Wind in the Willows) is a pretty good entre into that Jersey Girl review I promised you. How so? Emotional complexity. Grahame's original is fulled with gorgeous language, and the "Great Illustrated Classics" was apparently edited with a tin ear. Even worse, though, the "abridgement" has removed much of the depth, replacing complex emotions with simple ones, while removing many of the chapters focussed on Ratty and Mole, thinking, I suppose, that the Toad chapters appeal more to children. When I was a child, though, Toad scared me with his wild and self-indulgent behavior, while Ratty and Mole had exactly the right amount of adventure, grounded in the kind of friendship any of us would be lucky to find (actually, I've found several friendships like that, but I've always been lucky).

Okay, now that I sit down and actually try and write my way from one to the other, it's clear that the connection from one to the other is a lot more tenuous than I thought, if not entirely imaginary. But I'll try and stick with it.

Wind in the Willows is about a bunch of anthropomorphized animals, but Grahame gets the emotions right, in all their messiness, so it feel real. I was a little shocked, then to read some of the negative reviews Jersey Girl got. I sought them out after making my little crack about dead souls and then thinking I might want to check on that. I stand by it. "Hokey" was the word most bandied about in the negative reviews. Look, this is a movie about a guy left to raise his daughter alone after his wife dies in childbirth. The center of the movie is a seven-year-old girl. There's serious danger of schlock there. It could have been bad. Stepmom bad.

But Raquel Castro's Gertie is a real kid, not some movie moppet. Sure, she's cute as hell, but she's also got that "I know I'm cute, and I've got the world wrapped around my finger" edge, and she screams very convincingly when she doesn't get her way. Neither Smith's writing or Affleck's acting ignore the anger that comes tangled up in grief, and even in love. Jason Biggs plays a minor role that turns from caricature to character in one crucial moment, and he manages the turn perfectly. The romantic story arc doesn't end in "happily ever after"; it ends with "I'll think about it." From the plot arc to the telling details, like the set design of their house, this is the most real movie about relationships that I've seen in a very long time.

Next post: The Secret to Happiness Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Went to see Jersey Girl tonight. A more detail review/response is in the works, but in the meantime, I'll just offer the moderate suggestion that if you don't like this movie, it's because your soul is dead.

Friday, March 26, 2004

For a daily dose of evolutionary theory, check out The Panda's Thumb, founded specifically to take on the pseudo-science put out by the Intelligent Design crowd.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Slate's got an article on prescription pain medication that's worth reading. But here's the short version: the media pushes a "normal people trapped by horribly addictive drugs" story, but the truth is that most of the people that abuse prescription pain medication have a history of abusing other drugs. For those with no history of drug addiction, the addiction rates for prescription opiates are in the single digits. Nevertheless, doctors are highly reluctant to prescribe anything more than mild pain killers to anyone except the dying (and sometimes even then) for fear that a prosecutor will target them as a "pill mill". As a result, people living with chronic pain are deprived of drugs that work.

It's a harder story to report on, but I'd love to see a media expose on overzealous "drug warrior" prosecutors and their effect on pain medication prescription rates.

Years ago, I sat and listened to a group of college freshmen talk about their plans for the weekend. One of their friends had just landed in the hospital for overdosing on his mother's antidepressants, which he'd taken because he wanted to hallucinate. Now, they were comparing the virtues of beer (very hard to get) and Robitussin (unpleasant, but easy to get). As I understand it, they ended up huffing keyboard cleaner.

Nothing was going to stop those guys from getting high, anymore than you could stop a lab monkey from pushing the button that lights up his pleasure centers. All the drug war did was push them off on more and more dangerous substances. Meanwhile, for every one of them, there are a dozen folks who want nothing more than to be a minimally functional human being, but can't because of pain. There are drugs available to treat that pain, but it's hard as hell to find a doctor willing to prescribe them. In my humble opinion, treating that pain is worth letting the monkeys have their soma, but, then, I never went to law school, so maybe the prosecutors know something I don't.
I haven't seen it myself, so I'm basing my opinion on the accounts of people who have, but everything I've read, seen and heard indicates that Richard Clarke's appearance before the 9/11 commission was a startling reminder of how grown ups are supposed to act. For one thing, he opened his testimony with an apology to the families of those killed: "To them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you. We tried hard. But that doesn't matter, because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask--once all the facts are out--for your understanding and for your forgiveness."

One of the nasty tricks in preventing terrorism is that your successes are quickly forgotten. In December of 1999, there was chatter about a possible terrorist attack in Los Angeles, and Clinton ordered daily meetings of the agencies involved, making preventing the attack their number one priority. It worked. In the summer of 2001, there was similar chatter about a coming attack, but nothing was done, and 3,000 people died. Clarke has been appropriately clear that he's not saying Bush is reponsible for the deaths on 9/11, or even that 9/11 could have been prevented. He is, however, saying that there is a lot that could have been done, but instead nothing was done. Go here and here for a little bit more detail. It'd be somewhere between ironic and tragic if the incompetence of the Bush administration gave them an aura of invulnerability on the issue of terrorism.

Oh, and then there's the "he's a partisan Democrat who's best friend works for the Kerry campaign" line of defense. The best friend in question would be Rand Beers, who also used to work for Bush, but quit in disgust and went to work for Kerry because, in his own words, "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out." Read this article on Beers from last June, and you'll see why he and Clarke are friends. My only question is who in the White House thought it would be a good idea to remind us all that Clarke's not the only one to quit the White House in disgust at their ineptitude in fighting terrorism.

Jesus, is there anything these people can do right?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Things I know now thanks to Fundrace: Quin Snyder was an Edwards supporter. The owner of the Broadway Diner likes Dean. A little. Bush is not well loved in Columbia, but Dean is. And the only person on my street to donate any funds to a presidential candidate was a retired guy that gave $350 to Wes Clark. What can I say? It's a working class neighborhood.
Via kottke, an exhibition of photos with all text removed. A nice glimpse into a silenced world.
High-larious.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Tab-clearing Time
1. Back in 2001, The Onion ran a prophetic story on the Bush inauguration. Like I usual do with Onion pieces, I read it, laughed, and forgot it. Dan Chak's done an annotated edition that's a fun read.

2. I love Match.com. Used it once and never would again because a. I'm takend and b. it's a horrible way for writers to meet people. We're so used to constructing a persona that it's almost impossible to be authentic. Life's messy and for romance to work in real life, it has to be messy, too. For me, and, I suspect, other writers, online just isn't a messy enough place for a relationship founded there to work. But as a repository of stories, it's irrestistible. Some profiles are tragic, come comic, and some are such a trainwreck that you can't quite take your eyes from the screen.

Because I used it once, I still get weekly emails suggesting possible matches, and because I love the stories, sometimes I click through. Today I found this: "MUST be a Christian. MUST NOT be a momma's boy. MUST like children. MUST like firearms and/or hunting. MUST NOT be shorter than me. MUST NOT have a bad back or be bald."

Ouch.*

3. Salon's got a well-written and interesting piece up on the hell of almost making it as a writer, with a sidebar on saving the midlist author containing a completely predictable rant about Barnes and Noble. I'm of at least two minds on this.

The first mind feels for the author, who spent years writing, got very little back for it in the way of financial remuneration, and is now about to take a day job, though she plans to keep writing.

The second mind scoffs and says, "So what?" First of all, the only evidence we have of the quality of her books is in this piece, and while it's well structured and flows well, the narrator is quite self-absorbed while being not at all self-conscious. Such a character can be worth reading, but only if the author is aware of these flaws and uses them deliberately, but here the author seems to suffer the same maladies. As far as the central conflict, we hear much about the author's stresses over money, but the only actual hardship we hear is of her ghostwriting a Hollywood autobiography to "keep her daughter in Nikes". This is hardship?

Jane Austen Doe, as she calls herself, isn't interested in being a writer; she wants to be a Writer. And she wants to do it writing what she wants, when she wants, and the fact that it doesn't sell as well as she'd like is the public's fault for not appreciating her particular genius. Um, okay. Van Gogh depended on his brother for financial support. Charles Ives kept selling insurance even after winning the Pulitzer for composing. William Carlos Williams got up at 5 a.m. to write while still practicing medicine. That Doe can't buy her daughter overpriced sneakers while writing literary fiction is not exactly a "man bites dog" story.

That's not to say her story is without virtues. There is a myth in this country that publishing your first novel, signing your first record contract or selling your first painting means the struggle is over. Not true. As Jane beautifully evokes, that's just the beginning. There is the next novel to worry over, then the one after that. And because we live in a capitalist society, it is not enough that a few critics call you great. People actually have to like what you do enough to give money for it. That's the bitch of it, and artists of all stripes have complained about it for centuries.

Sidebar: If a baker refused to make cakes that taste good because bland, chewy cakes can better be molded into odd shapes, and insisted on using chewy, chalky icing because it was the only way to make the shapes he wants, well, then he'd probably do very well making wedding cakes. But a cake is ultimately to be eaten, and an unpalateable cake is blasphemy. Similarly, art is about beauty, as is writing. Why, then, are so many artists dismissive of public opinion? Sure, it's easier to produce something that's pretty than something that's meaningful, but it's also a hell of a lot easier to produce something that's ugly and meaningful than something that's beautiful and meaningful. So why not strive?

4. This is subtly but forehead slappingly funny. A nice commentary on the intersection between programming and reality.


* Obligatory nice-guy disclaimer: There's probably some guy out there that would, and he's probably exactly the kind of guy she's looking for. That's what I mean about messiness. God bless them both and may they be very happy together.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

It's local media day here at Yet Another Damn Blog. First of all, there's this Slate story on satellite radio, arguing against FCC rules making it harder for the satellite folks to offer local news, weather and traffic. We happen to have some kickass radio here in Columbia. In fact, I woke up to BXR one morning, and they had a caller on the air talking about having sold his XM set on eBay because BXR kicks so much ass. But not everyone is so lucky. For those of you stuck in Clear Channel land, satellite may be, ironically, your best shot at decent local coverage.

And then there's this piece from one of our local rags, The Missourian. Rather than celebrate the execrable Americanized St. Patrick's Day, kids from Rock Bridge High School's Classical League decided to revive Liberalia, a Roman holiday that celebrated young people reaching voting age. Here's hoping it catches on.

Finally, though this is kind of a stretch, the hit counter rolled over 10,000 some time in the last couple of days. It's tempting to reach for a big post filled with meditation on the meaning of blogging and all that, but it's been a long week, so I'll just say that it's been a great couple of years and you guys rock.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

So I'm at the grocery store over lunch today, and in the bakery there's this entire rack of bread thats a sort of mottled, moldy green. Having seen plenty of that sort of thing in my own kitchen, my first thought is that it's been left out too long. But this is a grocery store, and I can't imagine how an entire rack of bread could be left out that long. And then it hits me. St. Patrick's Day. My only question now is who in the hell thought green bread would sell?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Benefits of a Classical Education
Reading this article, I wasn't thinking about depression, mental illness, religion, or the influence of pop culture on the highly impressionable. Nope, all I could think of was The Young Ones, and the chronically depressed Neil saying, "No, man, you can't crucify yourself, man, it's a total bummer, I've tried it, and you can't get the last nail in."
Deliciously weird - Greg Beato's LA Weekly profile of a 35 year old roadie is full of weirdness, but this is the sentence that tipped me over the edge: "I started doing so much cocaine, my dick was completely useless," Hickey recalls. "So when girls would come around and say they were willing to do anything to meet the band, I just started throwing meat at them. That’s what they had to do to earn their backstage pass. I’d make them strip down and stand in the corner while we pelted them with the deli tray. After a while, it became like this daily event. All the bands would stop sound check and gather round, just to watch me throw meat at some chick."
Worth Reading - Matt Yglesias goes into detail on all the ways the Bush administration has screwed up the war on terror. And although it's only tangentially related, Franco is still dead.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Welcome to the family
My mom once said that you're not a Terry woman until you've taken a Terry man to the emergency room. Congratulations, Christie, on earning your stripes.
Things I learned this weekend:
  1. Flatbranch has truly kickass babyback ribs. The spices are just right, the meat comes apart in your hands, and the sauce is perfect. If I were told I could never have ribs again for the rest of my life, these would be number two on my list. Gates, of course, would be first.
  2. You know that additive, hormone, or whatever the hell it is in beef that makes me break out? Apparently it shows up in pork, too.
  3. My theory that hives was my body's normal reaction to whatever the hell sets this off and that the anaphylaxis was a fluke...well, it was a nice theory. Turns out that hives are just a warning shot across the bow, letting me know that anaphylactic shock is coming.
  4. Christie is a very light sleeper. Turns out that all it takes to wake her up after a night of me tossing, turning, and scratching is the sound of her 165 pound fiance collapsing in the hallway.
  5. Gray is not my color.
  6. The Epipen works.
I'd love to tell the whole story, but I'm pretty fuzzy on the actual details. I can tell you that my macho, just ignore it and maybe it'll go away approach to healthcare doesn't work very well for this sort of thing. The fact is, if Christie hadn't have woken up and come to check on me, I probably would have died. That's some scary shit, so whenever it pops into my head, I try and find something else to think about, but it keeps popping up, and I'm running out of something elses to think about.

So that was my weekend. How was yours?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Typo of the day: "fresh coat of pain"
"Do you have any idea," you ask, "how warm and fuzzy I got
when you went out to fix the gutters this morning?"
And twenty minutes of swearing on a ladder in the rain melt away
as you make me a hero,
just for buckling on my toolbelt before breakfast.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I was very disappointed in my results on the Libertarian Purity Test. Somehow I managed to get an 11. Weird. I guess even a fuzzy headed liberal like me isn't completely opposed to freedom.

Monday, March 08, 2004

This weekend, my nephew was in basketball tournament for Lutheran schools. He's a hell of a player, but this post isn't about him. Watching Atonement take on Holy Cross, it occurred to me that there's a hell of a Lake Wobegon skit to be found in the play by play from a Lutheran basketball game. Or maybe football. Unfortunately, I don't really know enough about sports to make it as funny as it could be. Sadly, I'm a little burned out on religion at the moment.

Like I've said before, Christie and I are engaged. Trying to find an officiant is a headache and a half. Christie's a rationalist agnostic who thinks asking questions is more interesting and fun than making up answers. I'm a pantheist ex-wannabe shaman whose answer to the New Thought question, "Would you rather be happy or right?" has always been, "I can't be happy if I know my happiness is based on bullshit."

The trick is to find someone who's open minded enough to talk about the mystical side of things, which appeals to both of us, but not, in the words of my favorite philosophy professor, "so open minded their brains fall out."

The search so far has meant a lot of reading mission statements of churches, which can be emotionally tiring if, like me, you were brought up in a fundamentalist church by free-thinking Christian parents.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

So you've heard of those "Voting is for old people" t-shirts that Urban Outfitters is selling, right? If you're like me, you assumed that the people responsible for it were your based clueless hipsters, right? So how do you feel knowing that Urban Outfitters is owned by a conservative ex-hippie who gave money to Rick Santorum's re-election campaign? I wonder if he owns stock in Diebold?

On a lighter note, Vote, F*cker!
I haven't read the book, but this review makes me want to. The book is Lee Baumann's God at the Speed of Light, in which he looks at the juncture of theology and quantum physics and decides that light, being the squirrelly thing that it is, might just meet our definition of God. How's the writing? No idea. The science? Probably not great. But the idea that a metaphor as old as humanity might well have literal truth at its core? That's irrestistable to the poet in me.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Via Atrios and TBogg, we have Paul Cameron, (forgive the pun) seminal figure in the anti-gay rights movement, saying, "Marital sex tends toward the boring end," he points out. "Generally, it doesn't deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does."

Little did I know that unintentional self-parody would be the theme of the day. For instance:
A business book - The Do It Yourself Lobotomy
Relationship book? - Do You Think I’m Beautiful? Bible Study And Journal : A Guide to Answering the Question Every Woman Asks

I'll keep you updated if I keep running across these things.

Monday, March 01, 2004

The Sex Post
There's a comment thread going on Matt Yglesias' site about sex and sex education. Matt makes the very reasonable point that we might get better results out of sex ed if we pretend that teenagers are rational creatures, rather than hormone-addled, free will-deprived zombies. He goes on to assert that sex is good, but potentially dangerous, and that sex education should concentrate on maximizing the good and minimizing the danger.

There are, of course, some very good reasons why what he's asking for hasn't happened in any kind of widespread way. For instance, his base principle that sex is good but dangerous is far from universally held. A large group of folks believe with all their heart that sex outside of marriage is bad. Not just immoral, but bad. As in dangerous. Rots your spiritual teeth, I guess you could say. If I had to argue their side of things, I'd say that sex creates a profound bond between people, and each making and breaking of a bond leaves its mark upon you, so that by the time a modern couple come together in marriage, they're both crisscrossed with scars that get in the way of their really being together.

Absolutely true. My previous relationships have left me with more than my share of baggage, and it's tempting to think that things would be easier for Christie and I if it wasn't there. But there's some good stuff in that baggage, too, and each lesson I learned in my previous romantic life is one I don't have to learn at Christie's expense. And then, of course, there's the honing of skill, but I won't go into that. Well, not much. Let's just say that Christie's lucky she didn't find me 15 years ago, when I was but a bumbling schoolboy.

But that's not what this post is about. I had some thoughts this weekend that just happen to dovetail nicely with this topic, so I'm using Matt's post as an excuse to post other thoughts about sex.

Timothy Leary used to talk about The Robot. Not as a dance maneuver, but as a metaphor for a particular part of the human experience. A friend of mine claimed to have very clearly heard The Robot in his head during his first acid trip, as a droning voice saying, "Hungry, thirsty, wanna woman, feet hurt, hungry, thirsty, wanna woman, feet hurt" over and over again. Grossly speaking, The Robot is the body.

I don't particularly like The Robot as a metaphor, though, because the body is an animal, and it acts and reacts like an animal, not like a machine. Crassly speaking, the animal wants to fuck. We are a bundle of genes that wants to make copies of itself, and the body throws up the drives and desires necessary to make that happen. The human being, however, is more complicated. Another friend of mine, in recovery from a bad relationship, talked himself out of pursuing who knows how many women by telling himself, whenever he felt a flash of desire for someone, "I want to take that girl home and fill her with my sperm." The animal wants to fuck, but the human being wants it to mean something, and recoils from the animal's desire when it comes uncloaked in rationalizations.

Human beings are different from most animals, however, in that we have sex when there's no chance of reproduction. Why? Much ink has been spilled on the matter, but the general consensus is that it's about pair-bonding to improve the child-rearing environment. The pleasure of sex is the carrot used by the powers that be (be they genetic or supernatural in nature) to get us to do what needs to be done to keep the human race running.

But not only does most sex take place when the woman is infertile, but much sex (or, at least, sex-related program activities) occurs in such a way that conception is physically impossible. And this is not a new thing, though every generation seems to think they invented the hand job. Or masturbation. Or any of the thousand other things two people can do that falls somehow short of actual penis/vagina intercourse.

Like a rat pressing a button for a food pellet, we're gaming the system. The pleasure that's meant to reward biologically virtuous behavior has been repurposed as an antidote to boredom or loneliness, or simply as pleasure for its own sake, with virtue left to find its own way. We've hacked our own bodies.

So how are we supposed to feel about it? Personally, I think it's great. What with weirdly fluctuating emotions, migraines, digestive inconveniences, sore muscles, bad eyesight, etc., etc., my body gives me more than enough trouble, and I spend more than enough time catering to its needs. So if I can find a way to pry a little pleasure out of it, more power to me. But, then, I'm a geek.

But if you believe we were designed rather than developed, then hacking your own body isn't about pleasure or realizing your potential, it's about subverting the desires of your creator. Which explains why so many creationists also oppose homosexuality, masturbation, premarital sex, and other forms of hacking the sex drive. It doesn't really explain the foul temper with which they express these opinions, but that can be explained by the lack of blow jobs.