Milton described it as a "brutish congress" with "two carcasses chained unnaturally together." Now, despite the bickering of a regularly constipated Eliot or feisty little Pound, there is no denying that John Milton was a great poet. Some have contended that he was the greatest of all English Poets. And yes, that would include the playwright chap whose works are the sole tenants of the Folger Library in Washington DC.
Apparently, however, Mr. Milton was not especially keen on the physical aspects of lovemaking. The pen is his tool for expressing the fervor and fascination of love. Aside from an occasional "gaudy day" in London and several ill-starred marriages, Milton managed to handle the throbbing fancies of his flesh with puritanical moderation. Then again, he went totally blind by the age of forty-three.
Well, I'm in my mid-forties, and if there was any truth to that particular ol' wives tale, I'd have been escorted to my junior prom by a German Shepherd.
My problem is that I still require a "gaudy day" once in a while, although Lamai, not London, is the pasture where I graze and carouse. It's a convenient retreat from the rigors of righteousness. A half year has expired since there I last retired. It's time again to sate this yen.
Wow, is it not astounding how like Milton I am sounding?
Perhaps for the British it is brutish, but for most people the prospect of sexual congress is exceedingly tantalizing. Other than submitting to a lobotomy, sooner or later only the deed itself can quell the passion.
It is commonly professed by virtually every religious code that the purpose of sexual intercourse is to propagate the species. I have no objection to that purpose. I do have an assortment of objections to certain members of the species--for instance, the entire pitching staff of the Chicago Cubs should be replaced--but, for the most part, I'm all for keeping the curtain up and the show running.
My only quandary is to why God designed man to enjoy such pleasure in the carnal procedure necessary to maintain the species. Broccoli, garlic, and liver are also helpful for the nourishment of the species, but most of us indulge those items for that reason alone--and we do so reluctantly. Jogging is a colossal bore, though gads of people do it to prolong their presence upon the stage. More to the point, child bearing and child rearing demand a vast amount of personal sacrifice, discipline, and understanding. Were I to have a child, I'd pray to God for the virtue required to meet those challenges.
But why isn't the act of sexual intercourse itself more along these lines? I mean, if I wanted to have a child, and having that child obliged me to jog five miles a day while subsisting on yogurt and lemon juice for nine months, I suppose I'd muster the resolve to do so. However, that is not the regimen.
As it is, I can sally forth on any given evening, drink to my heart's content, and impregnate an equally inebriated stranger for no other reason than that we provided each other with a great deal more pleasure than can be had from jogging five miles while subsisting on yogurt and lemon juice.
Recreational sex has long lost its status as a trophy of conquest. It's not a matter of pride any more. It's engaged in merely as a final and shameful remedy for a septic, though ardent, delirium.
Obviously, I lack the willpower and moral restraint of more virtuous men.
But again, I wonder, if God meant sexual intercourse for the exclusive purpose of propagating the species, why did he imbue the procedure with such wanton pleasure? Could it be that God has a higher appreciation of man than man has of himself?
Perhaps if sexual intercourse was no more sensually gratifying than a jungle trek with an eighty-pound pack on your back, or a spoonful of cod liver oil, the human race would have crossed the finish line ten-thousand years ago. Or is God trifling with us?
Clearly, there is more fun and frivolity in the procedure necessary for the creation of human life than there is from the application of talent and sweat necessary for the creation of a love poem, or a bridge, or a loaf of bread. Is not human life the most precious and sublime of all the masterworks achievable by man? Yet it requires no apprenticeship and a lot less skill than is compulsory for the same fertile transaction performed by two rhinoceros.
Having observed two rhinoceros in the midst of attempting sexual congress, I can only conclude that they were doing so in order to propagate their species, and surely not because either of them was enjoying the ordeal. Sex is not a sport for rhinos. They aren't known for faking orgasms. And though I use them myself, rhino condoms aren't a big seller.
Human beings, on the other hand, are the only species that engage in sex while purposely taking precautions to insure that no life will ensue. If, unintentionally, life does supervene, humans now have developed the means and morals to dispense with it--although we are fashionably outraged when a madman pummels Michelangelo's Pieta with a hammer.
It might be construed that man has become more interested in attaining a degree of immortality via the creation of art than by way of propagating the species. No, God is not trifling with us. The pageantry of human behavior must surely be His primary source of entertainment. He probably suspects that without the enticements of lust, man would simply stop reproducing himself, and then--in a very short time--God would have to rely upon the antics of birds and bees and rhinos for his amusement. And the antics of birds and bees and rhinos, curious as they may be, are not the stuff of Dante's Divina Commedia or Milton's Paradise Lost.
Imagine a cast of rhinos starring in the movie Casablanca. Who the hell would play the piano? Imagine a pitching staff of orangutans playing for the Chicago Cubs….
In that case, what you might gain in competence you'd lose in drollery.
If God were enamored of competence, he would have rested on the sixth day, not the seventh. Bounders and blunders may not be his pride, but they must be his joy. Whereas the rest of his handiwork operates with awesome proficiency, human beings are forever stumbling, stuttering, and stultifying themselves through one escapade after another of sheer buffoonery. A review of my most recent vagaries in Lamai would provide ample testimony to that assertion.
If only debauches of bad taste didn't taste so good.
God must have one hell of a sense of humor. At least I hope he does.
Otherwise I don't fancy my chances of redemption. And for heaven's sake, don't let Milton be the judge.
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McFinn is from Chicago and currently resides in Cambodia. He has a degree in Philosophy from Georgetown University. Much of his work should be considered humorous and fictionalized memoirs. There are also satirical essays. Location settings include Thailand, Cambodia, India, Burma, Morocco and Greece. Excerpts, reviews & purchase information are available via his website: www.morganmcfinn.com
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