We’ve Moved!

November 5, 2007 at 6:49 pm (Death, Featured Poems, Featured Prose, Graduation, Journal, Marriage, Naked Proverbs, Poetry, Prose, Religion, Uncategorized, Web Sites)

We’ve moved to theNakedAtheist.com

Please change your bookmarks/favorites accordingly.

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6 Points for a Graduation Speech

September 28, 2006 at 8:46 pm (Death, Featured Prose, Graduation, Prose)

First: I’m only a beginner at life. I’ve never been alive before — this is my first time. That means I’m going to make mistakes. That’s ok. Understand that it’s only inexperience. I’ll try to understand your mistakes if you’ll try to understand mine. You forgive me and I’ll forgive you. After all, we are only beginners.

 

 

Second: Life is perishable. I will only live a short time — like a squirrel for its season or a fly for its day — and then I will die. Human life is fragile and temporary, like a sparkler arching though the night, briefly illuminating the darkness. Then it’s over. Life, vulnerable as it is, is all we’ve got. And that makes it valuable, as nothing else can.

 

 

Third: Life is enough. Quick, tempestuous, brief; over way too soon, and yet my life is enough. Some believe that there is more to it than we see here, that after we die our lives will somehow continue on. If so that’s a plus. But even if this is all there is, life is wonderful. Being alive is the whole show. Despite its briefness, life is enough for life.

 

 

Fourth: I will never know a time when I’m not alive. We only know what we experience, and if death is the cessation of experiencing, then death is something which can’t be experienced. I will never know that I ceased to be. Others will experience my death, but I cannot. So, even though it’s temporary, life – as actually experienced – has a strange eternal quality. There is an eternity in the moment.

 

 

Fifth: We are all in this together. I know I’m unique, but also I know each of you is unique. Yet, despite our uniquenesses, we have common feelings, common fears and pleasures, common pains and desires, common dreams and common failures. We share this human body between us. Driven by the same needs, felled by the same diseases, we are all in this together.

 

 

Sixth and final: This one flows from the first five, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”

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A Few Broad Strokes

September 8, 2006 at 1:44 pm (Death, Featured Prose, Prose, Religion)

Religious atheism can be seen as an attempt to fix religion’s flaws and eliminate its untenable assertions. Most of those flaws revolve around the concept of a spiritual world separate and remote from the physical world of bodies we inhabit here on earth. Out of this mistake spring Gods and miracles and afterlife.

I can paint the religious revolution I am proposing in a few broad strokes.

Religion is not a spirituality-based enterprise, but a body-based one. Its proper object of worship is here and now, for what is bodily is inherently sacred, mysterious and—as we experience it—eternal.*

In order to understand this new religious orientation, it’s necessary to abandon the dichotomy of soul/body and replace it with a new dichotomy: experiencing/behaving. Importantly, it is necessary to declare both worthy of worship. If we do so, it follows that the sacred is right at hand, not separated from us by the chasm of death or lost in the distance of some kind of spiritual realm.

Such realm is at best an illusion of thought, the result of incorrectly drawing the categories of our existence.

By using the dichotomy of experiencing/behavior instead of mind/body, we get a clearer picture of our nature. Experiencing is easily understood as something bodily, created by the brain, and this makes our mind comprehensible as a bodily phenomenon. If a word like “spiritual” refers to something beyond or transcending the body, it becomes an unnecessary fiction. We can now see it as a fundamental misunderstanding of our existence. Pertinently, it follows that religion needs to be body-based, not hinged on the fiction of spiritual entities.

We must never forget that to refer to a beyond devalues life and ruins religion. How much better a religion real and palpable, than a fiction in the stars.

Even heaven is a stillborn vision. A “paradise” without sex or food or body is more akin to death than to life. To be worth anything, life must be bodily. The alive body is the annunciator of our existence.

Now as we all know, the objection to bringing religion down to the body, to imagining life bodily, is that we die. Our bodies die.

We don’t want to die. So we invent afterlife, we imagine heaven or summerland or nirvana and populate it with bodiless souls. Bodiless us, as if that were somehow possible.

By reformulating ourselves as something bodiless, essentially lifeless, we think we can avoid death. Define ourselves as something devoid of life and presto! we are death-proof.

So we think. But it is nothing but the worship of death by another name. The denial of life. The embrace of anti-life, which is the one evil there is.

In embracing death, afterlife, nirvana, heaven, bodiless souls—the religions of the world have betrayed all of us, betrayed the life that we are. They have turned the bow of our human ship toward nonexistence.

They have the gall to call those of us who don’t go along non-believers. When it comes to worshipping what is after life, we are indeed heretics. But their non-belief is aimed at life. Their non-belief is aimed at sex and food and pleasure and everything that is precious and wonderful and worthy of real worship. It is aimed at us.


———
* Since our experiencing of the world began with birth and will end at death, it follows that we have never experienced a time before being alive and will never experience a time after we die. Put another way, we will never know our own non-existence. Others will experience our death, but we will not. Nor does experiencing take place in fixed time, in seconds, minutes, days or years; it occurs in subjective time, moments of indeterminate and varying lengths. Fifteen minutes on the clock may “feel” like an hour; or a clock-hour may seem to whisk by in a flash. In short, our experiences occur in the unexplainable now, and are the essence of what we are; we know nothing but what we experience.

In a valid sense then our experiencing self is us, and it is therefore a remarkable observation that just as we never experienced the beginning of our experiencing, so we will never experience its ending. You can’t experience the cessation of experiencing. Therefore life as we experience it will be eternal. This is surely the source of that iridescent feeling we all have that life goes on forever. It is not untrue. But it is also true that we will die and death is final.

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CoffeeAndTeaShow

July 7, 2006 at 10:11 pm (1977, Prose, Web Sites)

I am involved in a podcast – check it out at http://coffeeandteashow.libsyn.com/

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the Naked Atheist

June 10, 2006 at 9:11 pm (Featured Prose, Prose)

Had the gods bodies like men and women, desire would be the elixir, passion the holy sacrament, coitus the zenith of heaven. But the gods are forever bodiless, and so bodily delight — the greatest wonderment of all — became the entitlement of sunny earth.

Naked atheist looked at naked atheist and they smiled.

Sex and love — it was all the same to them. When ungod kissed the first human genitals into life at the dawn of the Pleistocene, the first human erection greeted the first vulva with delight. Sex became their Sunday service. It was the sun’s annunciation of life, and every day was Sunday.

To the naked atheist, living meant accepting death; but it meant also accepting the bodily self and, above all, accepting sex. Eternal God couldn’t do it.

God couldn’t do it because pleasure and desire and sensuality — the body of existence — put Godly existence to shame. Deity was nothing but a faint speck, disembodied, dim, a nullus compared to the bright sunshine of earthly delights.

To the extent that it worships the here and now of living, religion is atheist. But when religion looks to afterlife it casts life aside, and its eternal God strides forth as the lord of death.

Thus heaven and afterlife are euphemisms for death, and stand as the antithesis of the sunny cosmos of the living, of laughing bodies enjoying each other, of delightful sex, of happy conversations in the sun, of pleasant nakedness in the cool of the evening.

For every sun has its annunciation of life; every son too, and every daughter. They draw breath not from on high, but from here among the trees and mists of bodily life.

Naked atheist looks at naked atheist and they smile.

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Here or Elsewhere?

May 29, 2005 at 10:38 pm (Prose, Religion)

The first great question of life is: here or elsewhere?

All our hungers, emotions, fears, inclinations, perceptions, desires, urges, obsessions, wants, instincts and needs answer here. Yet the answer of all the great religions is elsewhere.

It wasn’t always so. The earliest human religions were here religions. True, archaeologists point out that the practice of burying the dead goes way back in human prehistory, but it is flawed to interpret ancient practices based on modern bias. Contrary to popular assumptions, there are strong practical and emotional reasons for burials, reasons which don’t themselves point to belief in afterlife. Dead bodies decompose and stink, and become extremely unsanitary. It is emotionally disturbing to see dead humans lying around — quadruply so when it is the body of a loved one. Imagine the emotional impact of seeing animals and vultures clawing and pecking at your dead mate or child.

It’s easy to understand the human desire for burial, quite apart from the question of afterlife. It is merely a modern bias to conclude that burying the dead demonstrates belief in afterlife. It demonstrates only the belief that the dead should be buried. Beyond that we must look for other clues.

The earliest religions were here religions. Their spirits were nature spirits, their gods nature gods; their magic and shamanism were efforts to tap into the unknown powers of nature. Only later did the more sophisticated notion of a separate spiritual world, a world wholly other to everything we see around us, a world of elsewhere come into being.

The more sophisticated religions developed by alienating spirit from body. They developed by associating the mesmerizing azure blue of the sky and the mysterious regularity of the stars at night with the world of spirits and gods. Nature spirits became sky and star gods and goddesses. Eventually the even more sophisticated idea of God arose. And with God, the concept of elsewhere became dominant.

Our urges, emotions, perceptions, desires and instincts answer in unison here, but our intellect began to scream for elsewhere. And that is where we stand today.

Our intellect has made an understandable mistake — but it is a mistake. Splitting spirit from matter, soul from body, supernatural from natural made intellectual sense for thousands of years. But no longer.

Science has now taken us beyond that point. Natural selection and our modern biological understanding of the brain and mind (rudimentary as it is) make it clear that the splits were artificial. We thought they were necessary, but they were not. We were tricked by our own mental processes, the manner in which we must perforce think, into assuming that the world matched.

Science tells us it does not.

Religion is freed to return to its roots: the here and the now. No more alienation. No more elsewhere.

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Carol’s Death

July 19, 2004 at 2:03 am (Death, Prose)

I've known a lot of death in my life. I've lost a brother and a newborn son, grandmothers, grandfathers, a stepfather, two best friends.

The influence of death on me began when I was a teenager. My 9th grade teacher, Mrs. Blumenstock (the best & most influential teacher I ever had) committed suicide the summer I turned 15. My best friend from high school, Boyd, was killed in a car wreck when I was 20. I went to graduate school at UGA, in large part, to chase his ghost.

It was there at UGA, at the age of 22, that I met Carol at a party. We were drawn to each other, and a connection formed between us. It was clear that night that she had entered my life. And that I wanted it.

The following night she died.

I have never recovered fully from any of the deaths of loved ones, but Carol's in particular hit me at a vulnerable time. The day after, I wrote 29 pages in my private journal.

About how I felt.

About everything I could possibly remember from meeting her.

About what she said, what we did, and how it made me feel.

About the gap in my life from never getting to see her again, never knowing her deeply. Never really engaging in life with her.

More than any other death, Carol's death changed me. What follows is unedited and uncut (except for a few spelling corrections, and Xing out some last names). It includes a few things I wanted to omit, but I have not. I wrote so honestly then that it would feel wrong now to do anything but present it exactly as I wrote it originally.


April 26 —

Death and life haunt me. Yesterday the sun was barely enough to give warmth, and when the clouds covered it, wasn't enough. Today, between the sidewalk and wall that ajuts, like an earth barrier, the garden here, I came upon a squirrel lain on the grass at the base of the bricks. It didn't move, and its eye was glassy and thickened, and seemed to see me. Its paws, its belly, were stiff like hardened dirt, and cool, did not touch back my touch.

This was death, then, fur become but a cool covering on stone. Shiny, yet mucus eye, that seemed still to see me—seeing, and not knowing it saw. I walked on: so this was death.

Last Saturday morning, I laid in the grass in the sun on North Campus, reading my book. I was so happy in the sun, even if I had to read. And when I grew tired of reading I saw I was sitting in clover—surely this was clover, green and little and three-leaved. Clover! And I began eagerly searching for a four-leafed one—ah a sign—one sign, please.

I never found one.

Clover, when it comes in patches, is a grass of the moon. At night! at night! when the moon stands like a silver source of blood over the starless sky, clover underneath it takes into itself, its leaves, the silver moon-blood. It takes in the mystical darkness of the moon into its roots, into the deep soil. For Artemus, moon, is goddess over clover. And so it is that a four-leafed clover means luck in love: means something will happen.

I didn't find one.

Again on Sunday, all afternoon, again sitting in the grass reading, I found myself at a patch of clover. It was near that tree that, a month ago only, had been snowed with white petals, and then they had fallen, in the windy, two-faced days of early spring. Now there are no more of them, and now even their corpses have disappeared in the holes between the grass: become, perhaps, clover.

More clover! I thought; and took a break in reading. For a minute, not two, I looked diligently for the four-leafed clover.

Again, I found none.

Today, Tuesday, I sit here again, the same spot, and I stare down at the same clover. I am unable to read, unable. And the clover haunts me.

No four-leafed clover, somehow it doesn't matter any more, it is too late.

Damn clover.

I can't but think about the girl who died Sunday night.

I want to put it off as unimportant—I want to say, it doesn't involve me, not deeply anyway.

But death does involve me, her death. It is the end; she is, and she isn't. It is like a blow of wind come up against me, challenging me, taunting. A strange fate, beyond my power utterly, that has come slapped me in the face—see! it threatens me bitterly, see! Slapped life; and will kill, to serve its means.

It is all so improbable, so utterly improbable, that because it happened, it seems a fate beyond my power, at work.

As if I'd found a four-leafed clover things would have been different.

As it is it's such a lesson I've learned—always, always, every moment must be sacred, every experience, every meeting. Sacred.

For life is only a flower, or an insect, all too frail, all too close to being blown out in death.

So every touch with every living creature is sacred.

Saturday, just last Saturday, Morris Hall and Rutherford had a softball game and cookout. It was a long time ago. But the softball game was to be at 4:00, and I was late. Clouds came and went again all day, and it rained a little. It wasn't clear there would even be a softball game, if the sky didn't want one. On the walk over I stopped at the bridge, with the view down over the stadium, and watched the finish of the spring Red-Black game. As I reached Rutherford I saw—indeed—the softball game was being played, and was well in progress.

Recall I watched half an inning from behind the screened backstop—and then walked over to the steps of Rutherford, watched from there, where others stood, and girls sat in clumps on the steps. Kit arrived, and the two of us entered Rutherford, through the hallway, through the T.V. lounge-room, to the back porch, with its four tall white columns. And got beer. And two were back there, watching the hotdogs and hamburgers, as they grilled them. And we returned.

Finding a little foyer, or front-room, and a piano in it, Kit sat down for a second to play it. I set my look out the window, at backs of girls sitting on porch and steps. And then went outside and sat, and Kit too. Watched softball.

Small groups of girls, two, three, once a group of six, came from somewhere along the sidewalk, turning up the steps, some sitting, some passing through into the hall, but throwing conversation at others as they passed.

Shortly the softball game ended, the Morris and Rutherford students began flowing up the stairs. Time to get up and hurry inside, before it was too crowded and too late. And food was served: a hamburger, a hotdog, potato salad, beer and coke, and they tore half your "admission" ticket off, for it. In the crowded back porch I ate, and managed to fall into conversation with a fellow from Morris named Gary: he argued that an ecclesiastical monarchy was the perfect form of government, a sort of combination of the positions of Pope and King. Naturally I couldn't agree; but the upshot of his argument was, that as a Catholic, he had to feel that whatever the Pope said and did, was right, and had Lordly sanction and legitimacy; therefore, whatever the Pope did as King was also right. He absolutely refused to separate Monarch as Pope from Monarch as King. If you dissented politically, you therefore dissented religiously, and Gary refused to admit the separateness of the two. He admitted that those who weren't Catholics might not find his perfect government so perfect—but after all, it was his concept of the ideal government that I'd asked about (his field is political philosophy). But why punish religious dissenters? I asked—Why not let God punish them? Because, he answered, you've got to save their soul. It's quite justified even to kill them for heresy, if it might induce them to recant, and thus save their soul. Any price for a saved soul.

I argued that even Catholics would find it, like as not, a repressive government—look at the bad Popes in the middle ages, and look at tyrants like Henry VIII who felt himself not only King, but also head of the Church of England. How many, how many Thomas Mores would there be, in his world?

But he insisted that, as a Catholic, he would have to believe it impossible for the Pope-Monarch to be wrong. He was head of the Church, and what he said was so, was so.

And so we went on and on, and I amazed that there should be such an idea taken seriously, in this day. But after all, there are those who believe Dictatorship the perfect government, if your dictator is Julius Caesar, or some sort of "good man". And since the Pope, by definition, is a good man, and a very religious one, directed by God, well—ecclesiastical monarchy it is, then.

But where would I, poor atheist, where would I be. Even if freedom of conscience was allowed, as in More's Utopia, where would I be in this modern world, if I could not talk and write freely my views?

But so much for that conversation. They offered seconds in food. I showed them my ticket stub (one had to show it) and got a second hot dog, no hamburger though, for the first had been but a juiceless, burned biscuit, that was half-unedible. And I broke down and had coke for the first time in half a year, or maybe longer. And they offered thirds, but not for me, no, I wouldn't have any.

So soon four or five of us were in conversation with two, sometimes one, girl (yes! it actually happened, conversations between Morris boys and Rutherford girls!).

This girl's name was—I don't remember.

I do remember she seemed very familiar to me, seemed like I'd seen her before—Augusta College, I thought. But no, she was from Atlanta, had never attended Augusta College, had attended Georgia State, or somewhere, instead. But her face looked like a face I'd met before—and I don't remember her name.

Coming around for beer was a short, perky girl, with a strangely busy way of talking. Shorter than five feet, but entertaining to listen to, and her name would later be Candy. An Atlanta and Atlanta-outskirts girl, part Cherokee, she claimed. Three of us talked for quite a while. Her five brothers, her Cherokee nickname as a little girl—which name she hated. Indians, especially, the Cherokees. This, that, and the other.

After a while it was only the two of us talking, and I think we even talked briefly of cities (how I didn't like them). And Candy was, believe it or not, a home economics major. That she had, last year, been Treasurer of the dorm council, and how good a council it had been. That, this time (and she was glad about it) she was not on the clean-up committee.

Suddenly, where had all the time gone? People were leaving—most people had left. The clean-up committee was cleaning up. And Candy, not on it, and glad not to be on it, found herself unable not to assist. And—why not?—I helped a little too.

In a few minutes Candy said goodbye and departed down the hall.

A few people were watching T.V. in the lounge, "family" room of the hall, and Johan was there, who had made the short films, and who is from Norway. We talked a little, he worried about the oil spill in the North Sea. I told him he ought to have brought his movie camera—complete with dolly (he doesn't have one) and assistants, and moved through the party crowds as if shooting a movie—what better way to attract interest, especially the interest of girls. And so we talked a little, and I sat and watched T.V. a little, and only a few people were left. And I was about in my mind to leave, though occasionally people would come by.

Then Candy came by, sat down, and we began talking again. This time the subject was diets and vitamins and other food minerals—for that's what she studied in home economics, and it fascinated her. Shortly, two people came by, and she introduced me to them—one was (I believe) Steve, the other Carol. Carol struck me right away, not short like Candy (who wasn't 5 feet), and she didn't seem to be wearing earrings, and generally struck me in a favorable way. Carol and Steven pulled chairs over, and talked a little, Carol sitting almost opposite. I admitted I was History, but had no intention of teaching, was willing to work with my hands, and that I was interested really in writing. When I asked Carol her major she laughed, said she didn't like to explain it—it took a long time, and finally admitted it was Agricultural Economics. Yes, uh huh.

Then—"What's this?" she asked and made an indication with her finger that she referred to the way I let my fingertips fall on my thighs as I talked (I sat with my right elbow tight against the arm-rest of the chair (which was too high) and arm extending out over my upper leg, with hand falling with a natural curl, fingertips resting on my left-thigh.)

"What? My fingernails?" I responded, looking at them, thinking Carol had meant how long they were—but no—apparently it was the way I rested them on my thighs. Candy then noticed I did have long fingernails (some, not all) and I explained that I believed it a sin to cut fingernails or hair.

"A what?" Carol asked. "A sin." "Oh."

Talk went on, and after a while Carol and Steven left, apparently downstairs.

This time Candy and I talked of airplanes (for her brother had flown her over and back only that morning or the night before); and also I had to explain (naturally) the peculiar shortness of my right hand index fingernail and thumbnail—which I keep short to put my soflens in and out. (See how much I remember!)

Presently, Candy was eager to find out "what they were doing down there"—and jumped to the phone. "What are you doing down there!' she exclaimed over the phone—half, I thought, for my benefit. "It sounds like a crazy place down there!" And so on.

She hung up, and motioned me—"Let's go se what they're doing down there." So I went, gathering it was some sort of gameroom or something—or maybe, one thought sinfully, an orgy!

It was neither, naturally. In fact it wasn't much going on down there (nothing sexual!)

Where Candy took me was a large, 3-girl dorm room (Candy's, Charlotte's, and some other girl's). Carol, Charlotte, and the fellow Steven were down there, and apparently had been throwing a ball around, and maybe a pillow, mostly general cutting-up and talking. Carol sat in a chair, and Charlotte in a chair opposite, and Candy went over and sat on a bed, and I took a chair (the last left) by the wall—but I decided to excuse myself to attend the men's room, which I had spied on the way down. Returning I took the seat by the wall, so that to my left sat Charlotte so as to protect her collection of bottles lying on the stand behind her; to my direct right, Candy, on the bed, but a cluttered stand between; and to my forward right sat Carol. And Steven, the fellow with the prominent sideburns, stood more directly in front of me, in the open part of the room, a little leftward.

And what did we do—? we tossed a beachball quickly back and forth. And talked. And since Carol was identified as an animal-lover, someone (Steven) went to get her pet rabbit. Rabbit spent most of the time on the floor, hiding beneath the bed, or one of the stands, but later was enticed out by the offer of rabbit food, by Charlotte.

And conversation continued. I was informed about the "animals"—as Charlotte, Carol, and Candy called them—2 Bills, a Lee, a Jack of Hearts, and so on, and one was supposed to gather that they were the "animals", somehow, from Carol's avowed love of animals—and so they became "animals" too.

The the conversation moved over to their joking about searching for Peter Thursday night. Peter, who was supposed to work at a Wendy's, or at some place across from a Wendy's, or something. And Carol was all to blame for saying to turn right instead of left, and then when they found Wendy's it was the wrong Wendy's, and finally when they found where Peter worked, he was no longer there, having finished his shift. But Charlotte, Candy and Steven insisted it was all Carol's fault, taking them to the wrong Wendy's. Carol, for her part, protested innocence.

Suddenly, Charlotte and Steven got the idea to visit Peter again right now. Carol made it clear she wouldn't go: "You go on and Dwight and I will stay here."

Soon they were going, and Candy too, and asked me if I was coming. I backed out, the thought of being alone with this girl Carol beckoning, though I never expected it. But surprisingly to me, Candy made no protest at all, and the three of them left. Carol and I sat alone—something I'd wanted since I'd seen her, and apparently she wanted.

Suddenly, though, they burst back in the room—at least Candy did: "Ah ha!" But we were just sitting there, not having had time to hardly begin speaking. And Candy—or was it Charlotte?—flicked off the light as she left, but our protests got it put back on. (Or did Carol probe over and flick it on?)

Carol and I began to talk more seriously.

"Where do you think I'm from?" she asked. I guessed a farm, since I'd heard talk of goats and rabbits, earlier, concerning her growing up. No. So I guess Atlanta next. No. Didn't I think her accent sounded different? she asked. No, I confessed—I wasn't one to know accents.

Upon this, she observed that I "didn't have an accent." So I explained, second time that night, that though I was born in Tallahassee, Fla (being born in Florida doesn't count as the South, she explained), and had lived my life in Georgia, except 3 years in Germany, my parents were both of them from New England.

Where in New England?

From the Vermont/Massachusetts border area. She knew someone who lived in Massachusetts, and she explained she was from Ithaca, N.Y.

We talked of high schools, my explaining that in the South at least, math wasn't taught in the schools—that I'd had calculus in high school and had learned absolutely nothing, never really even figured out what calculus was—yet got all A's.

She told me she had gathered Georgia high school education wasn't on a very high level, especially in math and sciences. And I mentioned that after three years in armed forces schools in Germany, I returned to U. S. schools to find them ridiculously easy. She explained that those schools were the equivalent of good private schools, which, to think about it, I find quite believable.

She, it turned out, went to a public high school (over 600 in the graduating class) that ajutted on Cornell University. That, in fact, Cornell used her particular high school as a fawning ground for future students—extremely strong high school in maths and sciences (but weak in English, as seen from the fact that she had scored too low on the English achievement tests, and had to take, here at Georgia, some pre-credit English courses—English 100, and so on.)

In high school, she always found history to be simple, almost pointless—always on the level of American Civics, and so on. Which was my experience as well, except for Mrs. Smith in 8th or 9th grade. She found World History a useless course, all memorization of wars and kings—and got C's. Which was same with me.

And conversation came round to college—she had originally gone to Cornell.

"Aren't you going to ask me why I'm not at Cornell right now—everyone asks me that."

"Oh. O.K., why aren't you at Cornell right now?"

"It was too hard for me."

And besides, 17 people a year commit suicide there, because of the pressure. Not for her. So now she was at Georgia, a freshman at Georgia.

He father, by the way, works at Cornell.

It came out that I hadn't been an undergraduate at UGa, but rather had attended Emory U. and Augusta College. Emory she had certainly heard of, and was impressed. I talked about how it was a rich kids school, attended by a lot of people from Northern private schools, very private, well-to-do schools, who couldn't get into the good Northern Ivy-League schools.

She had originally been in Genetics at Cornell, now here she was in Agricultural Economics at UGa. Most people found economics hard, but she liked it, and she liked animals, and it offered good careers, in Agri-business.

And so we talked. She like to train animals, and our talk went briefly to dogs, and she especially liked, she said, not the "fancy" poodle, but the poodle/hafl cockerspaniel, or something.

Suddenly she asked me if I like Granola—she had some Country Morning—Granola mix—did I want some? Sure. So we went to her room—finally beginning to get somewhere.

Two doors down—Room 15—we entered, I swinging the door closed behind us, but it hung ajar. So as she passed she pressed it completely closed, carrying a large box, with a disprorportionately small amount of granola—Country Morning mix in it.

She asked if I played chess or backgammon, and since she "only knew how the pieces moved" in chess, it seemed better to me to play backgammon. But first she had to refresh the rules to me, since I'd only played once, and that was a while ago. So we played backgammon and ate granola—Country Morning.

Suddenly, Candy, Charlotte, Steven burst into the room. "Caught you!" But Carol and I were only sitting there playing Backgammon—innocent enough. So as the five of us talked, the two of us played backgammon on the bed. And every once in a while our eyes would meet—embarrassingly—for too long of a time.

The phone rang, and Charlotte jumped to it: "Carol's Animal Farm" (or something like that). The guard had some people outside, one gathered from the conversation—'the animals', and wanted to know if they were welcome in. Charlotte went to get them.

Charlotte returned ahead of them, and they burst in the room, the fellow named Lee in front descending on Charlotte with a great hug, then over to Carol for the same, no, an even greater one. And the other 'animals' were there—a fellow named Bill (I think) with curly black hair; another fellow named 'Jack of Hearts', who sat on the other bed.

After two great hugs and kisses from Lee, of which Carol appeared pleased, but also a little unpleased because of me, they all left, taking Candy down to her room.

"Did they take Candy to her room all alone, with her so drunk?" Carol asked. "We'd better watch them."

Charlotte checked the room, but reported they were just sitting around talking. Then Steven, making use of his size, picked up Charlotte over his shoulder, and carried her out. Picking up girls on his shoulder and carrying them—that was "his thing", at this moment. Soon he came and picked up Carol. Since that left me alone with an uninteresting backgammon board, I followed—first down to Candy/Charlotte's room, where the 'animals' and Candy and Charlotte just stood and sat around talking and cutting up; but Steven wasn't finished carrying Carol, he turned around and back down the hall. I returned to Carol's room, and Steven carried her back in, set her down on the bed, and that interlude was over.

Others came into the room—Candy, Charlotte, Bill, Jack of Hearts, Steven, and we talked with the poor rabbit out, trying to hide beneath the bed, and whenever Carol or Charlotte attempted to rescue poor rabbit from under the bed, Steven would reach forward and tickle them, to prevent it.

Carol and I managed to end the Backgammon game, somewhere along the line, perhaps before all this. I only know she won by one marker and one, just one square, if you can talk of 'squares' in Backgammon. Enough of that. Charlotte had a cornbread mix out, and prepared it, and began to cook it.

And somewhere, at some time, Carol asked me, it was the second time she'd asked it, it seems, if I played the guitar. I explained that I had one, and that I sure wished I could, but just hadn't been successful, mainly because strings kept breaking on me, and that, even now, it was at home with two broken strings. I looked like a guitar player, she said. If I could play the guitar—I would trade my chess ability for guitar ability—then I would write songs all day.

Carol also had a guitar, and was learning to play, and she got it out. After my insisting I couldn't play at all, she began to strum a few chords. She started to sing Blowing in the Wind—but neither of us could remember the words. For the few lines she did sing, her voice was surprisingly intensive, strong, melodious.

Perhaps it was now Charlotte came in with her intention of cooking cornbread. We talked, Charlotte sitting on the other bed, Candy, Steven, on the floor, Carol, I, on her bed. We had more and more of those embarrassing eye contacts, that I or she would break off, but gradually she stopped breaking off, and began to look so very attentive, at times, into mine, that I felt disarmed completely, and would invariably break off. After all, we weren't alone in the room. And as we talked Carol began to stretch out her legs on the bed, and nudge them against my back, in answer to which I didn't see anything I could discretely do, except look at her.

Later the animals, and later Lee, came in from Candy's room or somewhere, and more conversation. Again Lee hugged Carol, and made a display of it, and we were introduced, and so on.

Earlier, Charlotte or Candy had told Carol that Lee wasn't Lee's first name—so Carol asked him about it. "Lloyd Edward" was his first name—

"Boyd?" Carol asked.

"No, Lloyd."

—neither of which he liked, so taking his initials, he got Lee. I found out he was from Waynesboro.

The bunch of us kept talking, Lee, Carol and I on her bed, Bill the political science major interested in politics, and "Jack of Hearts" on the other bed, Charlotte, Candy, Steven, sitting on the floor, and rabbit under the bed with us—somewhere, always. Carol still managed, occasionally, to touch me with her feet, despite Lee, and so on.

Later Carol also sat on the floor, in front of Lee and I on the bed. And Candy and Carol managed to dig up a few beers—Carol especially urging me to have some, for she apparently didn't think I'd had enough, since I hadn't tickled her, or gone touching her indiscretely, or for whatever reason. Talk went on, and even Lee was sometimes giving me looks, and I gave him looks—for I confess I liked him, with his dark hair and dark gypsy complexion—reminded me of the "gypsy" in the movie version of Lawrence's The Virgin and the Gypsy. Besides, he looked familiar to me—as if I'd met him before; and seeing he was from Waynesboro, it seemed likely; and quite possibly he was a friend of Peggy's, or George's, or somebody's.

For quite a while the bunch of us talked, until it was late, and someone in the room above knocked on the floor. "It can't be that late."

But with the time change that took place just that night, it was five after three A.M. Visitation hours only went to two A.M.

We kept on talking, and occasionally Carol would say something to me to the effect that she hoped I wasn't getting the wrong idea—"You must think we're a bunch of crazy people—we're not like this all the time."

"No, we're worse!" Candy or Charlotte would chime in.

Then the phone rang. It was someone complaining about the noise. But why?—It was only 4 A.M.

Lee, Charlotte, Steven, Candy, the others, wanted to go over to Myers Lobby, where it would be all right to be up and noisy. Carol didn't want to go. She was tired. But no, she must go—one way or another. So Lee picked her up over his shoulder. And we went over to Myers, Carol not eager, but yet enjoying the attention, making light of it.

So to Myers lobby into couches and chairs—Lee laid Carol on a couch, head in his lap—and I, having no place to sit, made a game of sitting on Carol's legs. After a while I let them up, and sat, and she put them in my lap. So Lee had her head, and her shoulders, and her arms, I had her feet and her legs. (But then, I'd only just met her.)

She made it clear to me she wanted to be tickled—or something, so I began tickling her feet. How she like it! Tickling eventually degenerated into mere stroking, since that turned out easier, for Carol had become immune to tickling. "Keep it up—I like it," she whispered.

And the bunch of us talked. For a while Carol sat up, back to Lee, slipping her fingers onto my shoulders, and I slipping my fingers onto her, out of Lee's sight.

And the bunch of us talked. Lee had her head back in his lap, and I had her feet back in mine. Carol was a leg-shaver—I could feel the rough ends of her hair barely flush with her smooth skin—it felt disturbing, almost unsexual, to caress such denuded legs—definitely more womanly to have a little hair, then the rough whisker-ends of shaved hair.

Lee was more and more not happy at all with Carol's overtures to me, and I could hear whispers like, "You know what I mean." "What?" And a hard look. And frank looks would pass, as well, between Lee and me. I would look at him, he would look at me, sort of sizing up, sort of wondering. And of course Carol would again and again catch my eye, and give me such a passionate, frank gaze, that it was, not being alone (and even had we been alone) most uncomfortable, for me. I would have to look away, usually, after a very short time.

Once, while Carol was sitting up, feet still in my lap, looking at me, back to Lee, he put his finger in her back, with a warning. "This is a knife." Carol knew it wasn't, but then Lee thought and pulled out a knife, and put the blade at her back. "Yes, that is a knife. Yes." Even in total fun, I don't like the use of knife-blades like that. It was, at least, a Freudian threat on Lee's part. I recognized it as such.

It was late—after five—and wise not to tickle or caress Carol's feet or legs, or to stare at her, since a certain dislike was flashing in Lee's eyes. I could feel how he felt, and couldn't blame him—but neither could I blame me, for Carol was making overtures, after all.

Finally, Carol pleaded to me to sign my name to her feet, and my phone number as well. So I began to sign my name on the bottom of her feet—Dwight to one foot, Lyman to the other—she insisted especially I sign my last name, for she didn't know it. I had to go slow, signing, for it was painful for her, the point of the bic into her tender foot.

But I didn't put my phone number—given the circumstances, that seemed too blatant. Besides, with my last name, she could get my phone number.

The others were leaving slowly—Candy, Steven, Charlotte, Jack of Hearts. It was time for me to leave.

"Well, you know where my room is." said Carol.

It was 5:30 by the clock.

"I'll see you, Lee," I said. And to Carol:

"I'll see you."

And I left. I hadn't thought to ask her what her last name was.

I had misgivings about leaving Carol alone with Lee, in Myers lobby.

Outside it was night air. What will happen now, I thought, walking home. Has this girl Carol entered my life? Shaved legs? But no earrings. Girl that had gone to Cornell? And played Backgammon?

At least, I thought, it's a good ego-trip for me.

But I must set things straight, with her, I thought. Whatever happens must happen on my terms, or not happen.

Why was she so interested in me? Apparently because I was a graduate student, and I had gone to Emory. She had all these boys—Lee, Steven—around her, and no doubt others (that Steven more than liked her, was obvious from how he acted)—so why the interest in me.

It seemed to me, walking home, that she was reaching out for something more, for someone more intellectual. If that was the case, I thought, Lee needn't worry, a while with me would cure her of that.

A police car at a light looked me carefully over, and coyly went by. In a few minutes it came up behind me, and stopped. A plainclothesman got out—"Are you a student?"

"Yes."

"Let's see your I.D."

So I showed it him.

"O.K, Mr. Lyman O.K. We're just checking. It's kind of early in the morning, you know."

"Yes it is, isn't it?"

And so they went on.

When I woke in the morning, I had much work to do. It was Sunday. I did reading; I did three or four hours in the library. Then, walking down Lumpkin to eat Sunday evening while it was still light, a white, probably Ford, fairly old-modeled car, passed. I had just been watching a pigeon take off in lame-looking flight, and the car tooted while passing. At me? I wasn't sure—no one around. A single person, it looked like a girl, was in it, and I thought it might be the girl Carol. The car slowed, after passing, then turned off quickly, on Wray Street.

Would she turn around and come back? Or would she come back around the block—and had it indeed been her—had the tooting even been at me? It seemed that it had, so looking back, I kept walking, sure the car would return, not sure from which direction.

After a while the car did return, from Wray Street, and came up on the other side of the four-laner. With a girl driving, that may have been Carol, and may not have been. At any rate she didn't seem to see me, and the car seemed to turn onto Broad almost angrily.

Now I regretted having kept on walking, and it seemed to me that it had been her—and she hadn't expected me to be further up the street. So I hurried to the corner, looking down Broad, expecting maybe she would turn around again. But I waited, and the car didn't show. So I shrugged, and crossed to go down to Blimpe's. But then across Broad, I thought I saw the same car again—it turned up Jackson. So I crossed Broad, to be on the right side, next time, and I waited at the corner of Herty and Broad. But the car didn't show again, and I presently walked back across and down to Blimpe's.

Later, walking home, I came upon the fellow named Bill, in political science, and he introduced me to a girl with him. I mentioned the police stopping me.

All day, I'd thought about the girl Carol, and how to get hold of her last name, and phone number—I saw no way but to go to Rutherford personally. I would do that Monday, when I would have more time.

And Monday afternoon, around 4:00, I found time, on excuse of going to the Science library, to work on the Bibliography. On the way over, I stopped in Rutherford, in the lobby, and checked the list of names. Carol Xxxxxxx, Room 15, #6345.

Sunday morning I'd found time to comb through a bit of the Student Directory, looking for a Carol Anybody in Rutherford Hall from Ithaca, N. Y. I gave up on it as futile, but did find Lloyd Edward Xxxxxxx, of Waynesboro, in there.

Now, Monday, I didn't drop by her room, but went on to Science library, and did my hour's work. After, I dropped by Room 15, Rutherford. No one was in. A message-plaque, that hadn't been up Saturday night, was up, and I left word I'd been by, with my complete last name, as an afterthought. Perhaps I would call her later that night, or perhaps she would see my name and call me.

Back in Morris, the dreadful phone rang. Not Carol but Charlotte. Had I come by to see Carol? Yes. Then I hadn't heard what had happened. No—what happened? On Sunday night, she died.

Charlotte was extremely nervous, as if what she was telling was all too unbelievable. I couldn't believe it—it was too unbelievable.

Carol's always had a weak heart, Charlotte explained, and apparently that had been compiled with a lung-problem they hadn't know of—and Sunday night she died. They hadn't known how to contact me, until they had seen my name on the message board. A bunch of the 'animals', she told me, were meeting at Lairds that night, to drown their sorrows. I had a paper to do, but where was Lairds? "Don't you know?" "I haven't been there." She explained it was up Baxter, across from a Piggly Wiggly.

Dead? It seemed so improbable. I meet her, and a day later she is dead? A great, a great something—not unlike fear of fate—came over me. No, it was too improbable.

No—it was a joke. That made sense. That was much more likely. Why else invite me to Lairds—no, it was a setup. I was being set up for a little surprise—wasn't that much more likely. But they hadn't told me what time to be at Lairds. No, Carol had instigated this, somehow. She had seen my name on the message board on her door—and had plotted this.

Immediately, I put on my shoes; there was nothing to do but go straight to Rutherford, straight to her room, and uncover this. Explain that I hadn't been fooled at all, not let on that I had really fallen for it, at first. It was an admiring, a bold trick, to pull, I had to admit to myself; and convincing. Charlotte, because her voice had sounded like it itself couldn't believe what she was saying, because it had been in a nervous, half-laugh, over the phone, sounded so very convincing. Because that's how the voice is, often, after death.

What if Carol was really dead? But the fact remained that was so improbable. How often do you meet a girl in such favorable, eager circumstances, and a day later she is dead?

At her room, on the message board was another message. Apparently written to the other Carol—Carol's roommate. "If there is anything we can do to help, let us know", and signed by apparent friends of hers. Again I knocked, no one answered.

I stood limply in the hall a while. Could this be? This was too cruel to be a trick.

A girl came down the hall, my throat was very dry, I didn't know how to ask. I motioned at the door, dumbly.

"Did you hear something?" she asked quietly.

I managed a yes, or a nod.

"She died Sunday night. . ." and she told me the story. She'd had a weak heart—with apparent breathing problems, and so on. She was given artificial respiration, and rushed to a hospital, but still died. The girl was very compassionate, with very moist drops of compassion in her eyes, yet she talked calmly, serenely. Finally she asked me what it was I had heard.

"I heard she had died, or something."

So Carol Ann Matyas, the very girl I'd just met, was dead. It was all real.

I had been so looking forward, so looking forward. . . .

But it was as if some thing, some fate, had stamped a veto on it, by making her die.

She met me, and a day later she was dead.

So eager to reach out to me, to make a touch. As if she knew she was going to die. She had to see me again. She just had to.

And I had been willing, but I never expected this.

We had just begun a touch.

Stillborn.

I found out Monday night at Larids, that Carol had been expecting to die. She had the heart problem. Even in walking to Snelling to eat—a scant block away—she would have to stop and rest, as of late—Charlotte and Candy explained to me. She had told them, "I could die at any time. You don't believe me do you." "Yes, we believe you, we believe you." they had insisted.

So she was up til 5:30, at least, early Sunday morning. Sunday evening, a bunch of them were in her room—Peter, Candy, Charlotte, at least, and began to watch a horror movie. But Carol seriously asked them to leave—with more insistence than they'd known from her before—and they left. Soon they heard screams from her roommate, and there was Carol, unable to breath. Peter gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, a campus policeman arrived, took over, ambulance took her to St. Mary's Hospital. And she died. It was about 11:00 Sunday night.

Carol Ann Matyas
15 Rutherford Hall 6345
XXX Xxxxxxx Road, Ithaca, N.Y.
d. 24 April 19xx

It does involve me.

Death is so unfair, so final, for those who die. Life is all they have, and then, suddenly, it's stolen. For it is the soul, not the body, that dies. The very soul dies. The very spark, the very source of life, is extinguished. Afterwards, slowly, the body dies. Decomposes.

You can't put back life, when it has gone. You can't make up for it, for what is lost. It is a brief excursion into experience, a spark of life-throb looping over. Only a brief, brief moment of life. Then gone.

We have to make our touch when we can, for any moment it may be stolen from us. We must make our touch, and not be afraid. Must must overcome this inertial fear of reaching out to touch. We have to be willing to brave ridicule, brave illegitimacy, for touch.

We must place our very life against the inertia.

Carol. Carol. What was she? I don't know. She remains beyond me, beyond my touch. Dead, because I couldn't touch her.

Her reaching to me was a reach for life. My reach back I had waited too late.

I am implicated. I am involved. I am an accessory. As we are all implicated, concerning the lives of those we know. We are, for all we have met, an accessory either to life or to death.

Are we to let circumstances bar us from life?

Are we to allow ourselves forced into being accessories to death?

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Are You a Sinner?

March 24, 2004 at 8:02 am (Prose, Religion)

Christians talk a lot about Sin.

They say we are all Sinners.

Sin was the moon god, worshipped 2000 years BC .

In the the ancient city Ur of the Chaldees (located on the Euphrates near its point of entry into the Persian Gulf, in present day Iraq), there is — if it has survived the present war — the remains of a zuggurat (a pyramid-shaped tower of brick) built around 2100 BC to worship SIN.

If you worship the moon-god Sin, you are a Sinner.

And Christians talk about you a lot.

I'd like to see this zuggurat myself. Like to bow down at its crumbling bricks beneath the full moon rising in the darkness and worship Sin.

Maybe do a little Sinning myself there on the moon-spilt ground. Be a Sinner.

Sinning with other Sinners under the beacon of the cloudless moon.

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Drop of Summer

January 28, 2002 at 10:50 am (Prose)

Tonight the wolf moon stares across the night and howls its low & mournful, mid-winter howl. Darkness, and winter still, and a moon-howl of cold still on its way.

But the afternoon!

The slow, unwinter-like hours of sun-flakes wafting down. The pregnant, lazy warmness. As if a day of summer had dripped into January.

The word for today was languid.

Languid warmth that drifts slow and summerlike on the air.

Birds that chirp soft and lazy and languid as they wing in lazy arc across the warm-rimmed trees.

Languid, easy folds of her hair wrinkled on the grass. Sly invitation of her eyes. Warm lips as you bend over her, kissing her long and languidly in the afternoon air.

Not for me!

Not me, chained in my cubicle. Unfree face and hands pressed shocked against the inside window, looking out.

Looking out at the languid day.

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Circus Acting

May 20, 1977 at 3:30 pm (1977, Journal)

A weariness is over life—No, a blanket, and beneath is the weariness. What is life for? We spend our whole youth being packed with gun-powder, aimed, and shot—towards what? It is supposed to be life—but it is just a net that we land in, as if at a circus. Outside everyone claps, a good feat. So we learn skills, a career, we get married with another who has learned a career—and walk the tight-rope as lovers, never quite able to relax for fear of losing our balance, and falling to disgrace and the death of illegitimacy. Married, and carry on our bedroom acts like trapeze artists—somersaulting from swinging bar to bar, clasping tight hands in death-defying grips, catching bent legs with bent legs, legs with arms, arms with hanging ankles—we know so many tricks! Yet we never feel . . . what?

It is all an act—a show, for approval. We so desperately need approval that we withdraw our own approval from those who don't appear to quite approve us enough. We are all afraid of falling.

How to cure us from our fear?

And how, alas, to catch the meaning of life—we catch the other in our death-defying leaps but why doesn't it feel like life? Why, somehow, somewhere, perhaps someplace, some before, something is missing . . . What is missing? Life. But why.

Both things are cured in one stroke. The circus has become a weariness—at first it was fun, with a deep, underground wonderfulness, so death-defying—but now it just wearies us to a pulp, as if we were ready for the paper-machine.

But look up my dear! Look up! And you don't see things flying between the day and the night! No swallows, no bats! You don't see them.

Why?

A blanket has settled over us, a canvas, held up by long tent poles. It is between us and the sun. It is between us and the moon, especially the moon. It is between us and bats. We have even blocked out the insects.

What a divider this blanket is, this canvas! It has divided us from life.

Now, be specific . . . what does all this mean? What does it refer to?

There is nothing wrong with thinking (it is good for people) so long as thinking hasn't got to be habit with you. Only when a word sounds new and fresh, is it keeping us free. Let it be a word old, a word "universally recognized" as true, and it is dividing us beneath a blanket from the vast stretch of world beyond blanket.

Charlotte said this afternoon, though tonight's party included swimming, she didn't intend to swim. Her in a bathing suit, among other people! What would they think of her in a bathing suit! (Her skin would be so white—and she is not, after all, Farah Faucet-Majors who looks so attractively sexy she ought to be squeezed flat in some machine and placed permanently into, yeah, Playboy.)

"You shouldn't let what other people think bother you. Just think: they don't matter, then." I told her.

I was wrong, though, as even I know. What they think does matter. But what I mean is that, let it matter, and still go out in your bikini. Reconcile yourself to that sort of illegitimacy. Don't be afraid of it. It is not a fun pain, but if we want to get outside the tent, we must take the blows. We must let them call us illegitimate. We must fly our legitimacy right into the face, like an angry moth, but with a flutter of moth-livingness.

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My species

May 18, 1977 at 7:30 pm (1977, Journal)

That is the very purpose of touch: to unarm us. The man and the woman must become unarmed fully in each other’s presence, present each other no danger absolutely, then it is touch.

There must be no hidden thoughts, like hidden weapons, and exposed ones must be shown harmless, not intended as weapons.

These truths I learned from Georgia, from thinking about it.

With someone like Peter I feel—what is it I feel, I like him so? I know that he is like me, a genuine animal, human animal, and stepped out of the crouching, civilized cemetery long ago, like a man skipping beyond the club-armed primal forests into a new, a human, kind life. We agree, even with our different words, because we know we talk of pretty much the same thing.

I feel like I’ve never talked of it before, the same thing, with someone else.

I feel like—Peter is one of mine, one of my species. Yet I am frightened, a little, not having met one before. It almost puts me on trial.

I like him.

He grants me a certain insect-nature, like a dragonfly.

So I grant him being a living specimen of a human being, which is so rare—a species long thought extinct.

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to Georgia

May 17, 1977 at 9:00 pm (1977)

Box 61 Morris Hall
Univ. of Ga.
Athens, Georgia
30602

Georgia,

I think that you may find this a strange letter (but then, what is life for, if not strange letters?) First letters are always hard to write. I think this one is especially hard for me, because I don’t know what to write, or what I ought to write. I’m not even sure, in myself, what I honestly want to say to you.

I'm sure I could write you a short, meaningless letter about school or this or that, and it would probably be fine, would probably be all that you asked of me—or expected.

But I don’t want to do that—I want my life to be a serious thing, that I don’t run away from, or degrade into meaningless, innocent, everyday letters. I don’t want this to be a common letter, or a “sweet” letter, or a “let’s-write-about-anything-but-what’s-important-in-life” letter. I think it would be just lies—or rather, fear of living, to write like that to you. I owe you something more meaningful. (It’s like some devil’s in me, assuring that this won’t be your run-of-the-mill letter.)

So here goes:

(Probably, I’ll frighten you to death!)

(Without reason, of course.)

Anyway, here goes:

(I think I’ll start with Sunday night—yes, Sunday!)

Sunday night Charlotte thanked me for “keeping” her younger sister “company” while she was down (or up?) here at Athens, and for “giving her a good time”.

Now, I hadn’t realized that that was what I had been doing—keeping you entertained with a good time while you were here. It didn’t seem like that to me.

“Well, I enjoyed it too” I told Charlotte. (Which seemed like I was lying, because, it just wasn’t like that.—I don’t consider you my “entertainment for the week”—Saturday (and Friday) Night Live, or whatever. It’s alien to my blood, to my instincts, to feel such a way.

So anyway, I told your sister what seems to me to have been a white lie: “Well, I enjoyed it too.” Well, Georgia was my weekend toy; I enjoyed it; who will be next weekend’s toy? (Florida? Idaho?)

It was a white lie, see.

At the same time it would have been as much of a lie to have said: “I’m in love with your sister.” It wouldn’t have been true. For one thing, the thought is ridiculous—there can be no question of me possibly “being in love with” a girl I’d only just met, and couldn’t possibly really know.

No, I should have said something like:

“Georgia and I had a touch. I don’t know what it means; but I know it was important. A touch cannot but be important, and this one was important. It was life. But how important it was, I can’t know. I can’t know just what it means, or what it will come to mean, if anything. But it was a touch.”

I didn’t think of it to say (too many words!), and even if I’d thought of it, I would have chickened out. Must not let anyone think there is something, well, funny, about me! What does all this “touch” business mean, anyway?

Georgia, I don’t know.

But I take my life seriously, and I admit I’m only a beginner at living (you see I’ve never been alive before). So I don’t know what I’m doing writing this letter now—I’ve no idea, really, what it is I’m trying and stumbling so to say—perhaps I am not trying to say anything.

Still, I know my purpose. I want you to know that I don’t want to follow the normal path and degrade our touch—and our touches—into the normal jargon and phrases and classifications that most people use in order to dispense with having to handle things too seriously, with too much reverence, awe. They’d much rather turn it into “entertainment”, “a good time”, “love”, “making out”, this, that &c. All of which, to me, is just a bunch of lies—the things I do (if I’m honest with myself) just never fit such categories—or any of the other thousands of categories people have set up like bins for them to toss their experiences into, and not have to worry about them.

I touched you. You touched me, I think. So it was a touch. At least of some sort, to some extent, and in myself I know it was important. Like that street-washing machine with all its noise going by, which was of no importance in the scheme of things—in contrast to our kisses, which were.

But how important, is for us to decide.

I’m a person of instincts. It is my instincts and my sensibilities that I’m most interested in. I don’t want to deny them; I don’t want to treat them as of no account. That’s why I’m writing what I know must be an awful confusing, tentative letter.

I hope the confusion and tentativeness doesn’t frighten you off—or simply confuse you. Or lead you to standard conclusions.

I don't like standard conclusions.

I guess I’m in a strange mood tonight. I think this is a brave, unexpected (and probably weird) letter—but then I feel I owe it you! (If only I knew what it was I was saying!)

You touched me! I accuse you of that.

I touched you,—I’m willing to stand accused.

You didn’t sting me, by denying it was really touch—that’s what most girls do, and boys too; they deny (always later, by words, gestures) that it was really intimate touch, because they are afraid if they admit it was for them really touch, that they will be stung by the recoil of the other.

I’m not afraid of being stung—I know that’s the chance I take, when I choose to live by my instincts and sensibilities.—And yet, when I recognize stingers, I back away.

But after this last weekend, I know you’re not a stinger. —though this letter may frighten you, it is so strange. Just what does it mean? you must be thinking.

It doesn’t mean anything. I just thought it would be fun for you to get a strange letter, and yet one that is in some way gasping to be honest (I admit, gasping). I want the deeper things of life, the deeper knowledge. I know my sort of deep knowledge, my sort of path, may not be for you, or yours for me, but that’s what we’re to find out.—and to do it without me denying you or you denying me, of being special. No stinging. Just honesty, even if it means pain, or whatever.

I must call on Pan, and Isis, and Osiris, and Artemus, for what to do. For I'm just a beginner in life, an amateur, and they are the generations of the world.

It is mystic language, I admit; but I know what it means. How to tell you, I don’t know.

You touched me, and so my sensibilities, and instincts, and intuition, will not let me pretend it was nothing—like spirits from the underground, they come up and haunt me, when I begin to. Does that make any sense?

Oh well. . .

There is a girl named Georgia who seems to me sincere, silent, capable of sincerity and silence, and physical touch, without degrading it with her words, making something trite, or typical, of it. Yet I think you are a little afraid, which is good, for that shows you also have sensibilities, and true intelligence, that isn&’t alienated from your emotions.

Still, I think to myself, I don’t know this girl, though we’ve been intimate. I know (I think) that she is softly genuine, but I don’t know if she’s of my intrinsic sort, quite. I am very uncertain how far I should go with her—how far I could go without deceiving her, deceiving myself too, and betraying touch. I don’t want to hurt her, or be hurt by her. At the same time I know I must, must not cower in fear from touch. I don’t know this girl Georgia; she doesn’t know me; so lets don’t be afraid. Let’s give openness a try.

That is how I am thinking.

Do you think I’m a “strange one”?—I guess I am.

I don’t expect every girl to be acceptable; and I certainly don’t expect every girl to find me acceptable. So I’m a cautious thing—usually.

This letter doesn’t seem too cautious to me, though. I hope you will forgive any transgressions.

I know it puts you in unusual shoes, to have to answer such a letter as this! I wouldn’t know what to do, if I got a letter like this. (I think I would be speechless. I’d probably wonder: Was this sent to the right house?)

This letter was sent to the right house, wasn’t it?—You are Georgia reading this, aren’t you, and not some other girl? I would die!

So please don’t be afraid what you write to me. Let me know about yourself—who you are—what this summer hammock hung between the trees is like—it is up to you entirely to choose what sorts of things we shall and shall not tell each other about.

You make what rules up you want, for between us, and I’;ll make up the rules I want, for between us; and then we’ll arbitrate. How does that sound? Let’s not be afraid.

(I am a little afraid, though—Just what kind of a letter is this to write to a girl, I keep asking myself?)

No, be brave, trust. (I must tell myself.)

When we stood there (remember?) and I held my hand on your neck, I could feel how womanly a neck it was, a real, living, sincere neck, and it trusted me, with its vulnerability in my hands. And I trust you, don’t want to be afraid of you. A man puts himself in the careful trust of a woman, just as much as a woman puts herself in the careful trust of a man, don’t you think that’s true? (I’m very big on the importance of trust.) I trust you.

I think you trust me.

I’m worried this letter may seem “pushy.” I really ought to have written you some short “Hi, there!” letter, that took no chances. As I said, it would only have seemed a lie to me—because, well, we were sort of intimate with each other.

Don’t neglect to tell me your honest reaction to this letter (—if you can figure out what your honest reaction is), because I’m eager, and afraid, and curious, to know.

From Athens, May, 1977, with love.

Dwight

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Me & Georgia

May 16, 1977 at 9:00 pm (1977)

“Thanks,” Charlotte said Sunday night “for keeping my little sister company, and giving her a good time.”

I hadn't realized that was what I was doing—it hadn't seemed like that.

But then Charlotte wasn't there. Charlotte doesn't know. Charlotte knows only that her sister didn't come in until 7 in the morning, and until some early hour like that the morning before. I guess that's “giving a good time,” alright.

And my own impressions—no, feelings—are rather uncertain. I don't quite know what has happened. We had a touch: what will it mean? Was it too much willfulness on our parts—so it seemed to me after Friday night, to an extent. Despite the seriousness of the kisses—or rather the total seriousless abandon of them—somehow I couldn't find myself being drawn in completely enough—like I was touch, but wasn't touching, quite enough. I remained too conscious, and I knew it. And yet, I let myself go, I lent myself completely to touch, and didn't really feel touch, nor that I was really touching. Yet it seemed to me that Georgia, in the way she seemed to close her eyes and be quite abandoned in kisses, really was taken. And yet, it all centered around the face, the arms, and not the rest of the body.

Somehow, after all was done, it seemed to me it was all willful, rather than spontaneous, on my part, or on hers. That was Friday night / rather Saturday morning.

Yet I was certainly attracted, was certainly delighting in her. Because as it got towards morning I seemed to lose my conscious awareness of her, my resistance. I would guess, too, that she began to lose her resistance, for she had clearly wanted touch to center on the face and arms, not elsewhere, as I realized later. And so her answer to my, I admit, conscious, willful desire to pull down the zipper of her dress-suit, to expose her breasts. I made to ask if I should unzip it—and she indicated no. (We were after all, on the side of a gradual hiss, of leaves, in a park, with a highway on one side, a road on the other.)

And yet later, less willfully perhaps it seems to me, just that happened. And I uncovered her breast, and her neck, and her shoulder, so that my hand could feel from neck to shoulder to breast, and so accomplish what kissing alone could not seem to: touch. And with my lips I did what my hands had done, and I tugged at her breast-tit, like a carefree baby, and light had come into the sky, and it was morning. Yet we lingered, especially I, having, I think, lost much of my willfulness. She had a but to catch at 3. We never did finish our ice cream, and it was cold, but the ice cream had melted, with only a few lumps.

Skip to Saturday night.

As we headed from Ken's dorm room toward Rutherford, I knew she wanted to stop, sit somewhere, kiss like the night before, and I really didn't want to. I didn't know what I wanted—I wanted talk, not physical touch, willful physical touch, which it seemed to me, had been the cause of the night/morning before. So we walked, talking. Finally, we began to approach Rutherford, where the party still (or rather, the bridge game, that constituted the party) still lingered on, even at 3 in the morning. Slower and slower, Georgia wanted to walk, as we approached the dorm, and when I impulsively stopped a second to read the poster at the bus-stop shelter, with seats inside, she even more began to try to linger, hoping without doubt we would sit there—whereas I knew if we sat there, we would kiss, and I didn't want it, didn't feel like it.

But I wanted to keep on walking, and thought of an excuse to do so, head off in a new direction. Instead, as if neither of us had noticed, we merely followed the sidewalk along its bend, never crossing the street to Rutherford. And so we went up, to the high grounds of our campus, and out to that old wooden bridge, that seems to end, at night, in sheer drop. Georgia didn't like the bridge, really, and neither, really, did I, and glad I was not to have to worry about kissing on the bridge—besides, cars came beneath, and their lights blinded. So we left the bridge, and walked on a sidewalk that circled round, and found ourselves going back the way we had come. So I offered to show her north campus, where two greens were, and the law building.

And so down, down, down the steps, from high ground to low, across the bridge, and up again, climbing to north campus.

And I took her up the steps of the Administration building, because it was such a strange architecture, and took her to the two balconies, where the tables and love-seats were, and we didn't sit down, but whether she had hoped to, I don't know. I didn't want to. I don't like chairs, or kissing in a sitting position, because it is all heads, and a funny angle. So down again and out we went, all the time talking, I guess, with perhaps some silences. And out the gate, and by the iron fence, and she was getting tired of walking. “Perhaps,” I suggested, “we could sit in the grass somewhere,” and she could rest. And I knew it was what she wanted. And I was ready for it again, and wanted it too, since we had talked.

So we took a tree, as much as possible in shadow, and put our arms around each other without much delay, and kissed, and found a comfortable lying position. But it was all much, much less willful, this time. Spontaneous. I was much more non-conscious. I didn't have to talk and talk, spewing out strange, absurd phrases, in order to supplement our physical touching, in attempt to make the touch. It wasn't—apparently—necessary.

We were so much more silent and genuine: it was touch. I held my hand to her neck, feeling the soft vulnerability of her neck, and it was touch. Still, I won't say that it was complete touch, that our trust in each other was complete, that we held back nothing. But it was much, much more sincere, trusting, than the night before.
And as we made that long, slow, hour-long walk back—there! between trees and building, I saw the sliver moon. Thin, sliver crescent, and facing toward Lucifer, the Morning Star. It was just a light tincture of blueness for a sky, and soft crescent of moon, just barely new, and the Morning Star in junction with it.

And I knew, seeing it, it caught how it was, with us. A thin crescent of a moon—a possible beginning.

But, there are repercussions. There are doubts.

We've made our touch, and it is important that we don't, once we are able to think about it, find ourselves unwittingly denying it.

I kept Charlotte's little sister company, and gave her a good time—my good deed for the week. And so denial that it was anything more: say, a touch.

For touch is cheap, is everyday, and should not be taken too seriously—except by the immature.

But like Peter—I say, give me the immature, and not the mature. I'm tired of maturity; since it denies touch, and even, touches.

So I will not be afraid of admitting, it was a touch I had with Georgia. I'm not going to become defensive, and allow myself to deny it, thus mentally destroy my experience—and hers too.

But one doesn't want to sound immature, or too innocent—for no one else (the myth goes) among young people today, is.

At the same time, I do have uncertainties and doubts—definite ones—as to whether Georgia is a girl I should make too final a touch with. For one thing—I hardly “know” her. More seriously, she is not of my philosophy, and whether or not it is one she could come to understand—I can't say. She is not familiar, say, with D. H. Lawrence.

But she seems capable of sincere, silent, physical touch, and a little afraid. She does not sting, for all her intelligence. I hope to God I don't sting her.

I will call on Pan, and Isis, and Osiris, for what to do.

But I can't deny touch. That makes me a stinger. Yet again, I mustn't deceive her into too much touch, and trap myself.

So somehow I will try to write her a letter, that straddles some log in the middle, and lets her know the touch was genuine, and I won't, verbally, act in fear of it; and also, that we must neither of us be hurt—nor be afraid—if one of us cannot accept the final touch.

Why is it dragonflies don't have the problems of people? The circumstances they live in, it must be, haven't been destroyed into perversity.

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Georgia

May 15, 1977 at 3:30 pm (1977)

Almost everyone I know is afraid of touch, or else is one of the ones responsible for making others afraid of touch, and even such ones, if the truth be told, are afraid of touch, more fearful of touch than any. Even I am afraid of touch. I don't want to be plucked like a flower from its stem, and so I am afraid to let anyone get their fingers on me.

Yet there is nothing we want more, than the touch. We want the other's hands firmly, gently to lie on the unprotected, exposed part of our neck, where the windpipe is.

So it is with Georgia.

I want so very much to leave my neck exposed to her, and I am afraid. Afraid, for one thing, that she “didn't mean that at all.” One could have private sexual intercourse with a girl, and still not know whether that were an invitation to intimacy, or whether it was but a false store-front. One has to know what rules are being played. Is it to be the game-rules of the “fast” society, in which nothing sexual is to be denied, but in which it is entirely forbidden to “let it get so personal” that one deposits the full trust of one's very legitimacy in the keeping of the other.

Or is it the rules of complete tenderness and trust, in which just that—the full legitimacy of the one, is placed, with each physical touch, into the tender keeping of the other. For then, each touch means an iron, a blood-binding. And one must be careful not to commit—”pledge”—oneself to a binding that will not work out properly, because of intellectual, philosophical, religious differences of vision.

I want to be able, even if with embarrassment, to say to Georgia, let us play by the rules where each touch is a bonding, and we are not afraid to place the question of our legitimacy in the hands of the other, fearless of the great hurt possible, yet sensitive. The way I touched your vulnerable neck, the tender, delightful way you touched me, the way our lips were not afraid of touch, but rather became careless and inebriated with it; let that be the way we handle our mental intimacy. Let us not pluck the other like a flower from the stem, simply because we've got our hands intimately on the stem, and can do it. Don't sting the face we kiss, with words from the same mouth our tongue darts from. Let's don't forget the sacredness of the other.

This advice is for me especially, but for her also, though, right now, I am not afraid of being strong, since I know that is the gamble I take. I'm willing to choose it for touch.

The important thing is to be clear we agree on the rules, so that we don't have to worry about fears that the other will be playing by “faster” rules, and will find “slow” ones a sign of innocence and ignorance, and inexperience.

I willingly admit my inexperience. Also my innocence. I less willingly admit ignorance.

Then we will be ready for sincerity: for telling the truth of what we each of us want—in the other, or, if the other doesn't fit—then in someone. We must be able, after so much touch, to face the fact, if it so happens, that we don't fit, and still keep each our legitimacy intact.

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Death and Touch

May 12, 1977 at 4:30 pm (1977)

There is no eternity, but in the moment, the momentus. And there is no serenity, but in the moment's very briefness. It is the soul that dies, when the body dies, since the soul is the life-quick of life.

And life is the final truth, since we aren't dead yet.

Death is pure meaninglessness, for it isn't life; to have died is to be worthless to life.

Having once been alive—means nothing. It is being now the living, and only, that carries meaning or value. Life is valuable and death is invaluable. And in the money sense, it is death that becomes valuable, while life becomes invaluable. Money always does it.

To live for death is a rather poor show.

But to live in a deathly way, all you modern children, is as valueless again. To live always destroying touch.

Modern life is afraid of touch. And people who live in modern life are cowards in peace, but brave fools in war.

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Shame

May 12, 1977 at 11:00 am (1977)

Ah shame-faced girl! Be a shame-faced girl, that doesn't care. Come dancing blithe-footedly down the green, and earrings and razors in your hands; pile them on [an] altar of sacrifice to the green-eyed gods of life. Pile mascara and makeup and fingernail polish on the altar of life, then sing your thoughtless song, strike the match. Burn it all on the altar of life. Incense for the gods. And as its stench goes light smoke waving skyward to etheral death, there your shame goes with it. Put your shame as well on the altar, and watch it up, gaily, gaily up!

But you must be a shamefaced girl first, before you can burn your shame on the altar of life, and send it on to its eternity in the realm of the dead. How the city of Dis deserves shame!

Shame. Shame. Let us learn to know our shame. The painful illegitimacy of being but half-alive things, divided selves. Shame, of having abandoned dear life, which is our baby—we abandoned our baby! At the steps of the city of Dis, there we left our baby in the dark night, wailing, squealing away. Shameful mothers we are, to have so limply cast off the little sparks of our pre-life wombs, sparks of life. We sent them up as sacrifice to Dis, and got shame for return. Now we must set shame itself on the altar, if we would have our babies back.

For oh, we have lost our childhood, and now we have come to know what price it is. We abandoned ourselves on the steps of Dis; now we want back out. It is not so easy.

Were there a wise owl in the Catalpa tree, he would tell us we had forgotten how to hoot.

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Balls & Baud

May 11, 1977 at 4:00 pm (1977)

Oh mirror, mirror on the wall
Who's got the most beautiful balls?
Check them here as they sit in the stall
Who is the balliest in Morris Hall!
Is it Mike or James or Philip or Billy,
Charles or Steven or Dicky or Willy,
Who's got the most beautiful balls?
Or do none of them have any in Morris Hall?

There was a grey swan was really Zeus
Who abducted the young Leda for his use
Pushed his web-feet into her loins
Jammed his wet-seed into her groins
And came up for air, outdone by her IUDs!

There was a young maiden from Spain
Who gave her donut to a dog in the rain
Dog entered its dark places
And touched all her bases
But after, she wondered how puppies would explain.

There was a plumber in Stalingrad
Whose wife looked like a horse-bodied hag
He threw at her his two stones
And his six-inch pubic bone
And explained he'd given up as a stag!

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Naked and Shy

May 10, 1977 at 4:00 pm (1977)

I really do feel that the healing of life (and modern life desperately needs healing) must begin with the body, with our attitudes to the body. Not until we realize that the body is us, the body is all we've got, can we begin. To degrade the body is to degrade life, and to try to run away from the finality of our short life. Since touch is that thing we most tenderly desire, it is but insane to run away from it, as we do most effectively when we get into the mask of degrading things, or of turning things into games. It is fear of life.

So we must begin to begin by putting some sort of hood over the socialized aspects of our minds. This, and I'm afraid only this, will enable us to think cleanly about ourselves, and others. It will prepare us for the next step, which is carefree nakedness. But girls will find that nakedness has a lingering feeling of degradation hanging onto it, until the hair on their legs and arms grows back, and until they reject unconsciously all the social norms of human beauty. A woman is beautiful because she is a woman with a woman's body—had she three legs, or a breast turned inward, then she would not be very beautiful.

The important thing is to see the body with the innocence, or rather, the ignorance, of young children who have not been given the notion of it as some “dirty” or “sexy” thing. Let us replace “sex” with copulation. Let copulation be free enough to occur in the grass, in public.

But the main thing is that hood over the sharp-headed, defining parts of our minds.

Until I can walk naked and leisurely across north campus, I will know that we live, still, in a world we don't deserve. Until I can walk unnoticed—or rather, noticed, but only by eyes that see the wonderful human animalness of me. It is such a feeling, such a discovery, to see the natural human animal self-absorbed in its own animal being. This (to be Eastern) is Tao. And as Lao-tzu or one of the others said, you can't bring the shy human animal out of yourself by effort, you can't “make it happen”. It just has to happen, and will only happen when there's nothing to frighten the shy thing away. Effort frightens it away. So does talk that carries with it implied (or unstated) judgments.

For the shy human animal is the natural physical life-awareness come blindly, adventurously out. It is physical, and directly, physically mental rather than causically mental (i, e., mindedness that sings, not judges). You can't will the physical out, nor can you think it out. You just have to resign yourself gaily to your physical body, and then, if the coast becomes clear, your body will slip out, look gaily, joyously, blindly around, and so be life.

That is the object: not to live, but to be life.

Again: not to be Life, but to be a life.

We must begin with nakedness and with shy blindness.

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Around Machines

May 9, 1977 at 3:00 pm (1977)

I admit I am very self-conscious around machines, even a sort of illegitimacy. I feel somehow I am indicted, somehow I am guilty of not belonging.

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Blooded Anger

May 7, 1977 at 2:00 pm (1977)

I have seen the drunk, wreckless, lion-like trucks screetch by, with a dust of pebbles: boy trying to prove to girl how exciting, important, his life is. And girl, sitting in front seat, looks out with a quick, rouged, powdered, ear-trinketed mask, with eyes painted wide and a fixed grin, as if to say, “How much fun I'm having in life! How important it all is!”

I hope the truck rolls over and kills them all, I'm so tired of such scenes. Or puts them like crippled vegetables into the hospital: then we'd see how fun they thought life was.

Ah, but silly, it wouldn't do any good to give them cracked skulls: they're already cracked. And even as an armless, legless thing in the hospital, they would never think: “maybe life isn't what I thought it was. Maybe in the end, fun with trucks doesn't matter.”

Anyway, they'd probably start being religious, so incapable are people to learn anything about life, no matter how explicit experience tries to make it.

Perhaps, after all, all the swelled-cranium intellectuals are right, that, without its myths and opiums, life is meaningless and only painful. We are all shipwrecked, and without hope for any full life, so entertain us, drug us, fill us with tales of afterlife, give us toys, toys, and toys enough to divert us from our doubts. For without the glittery frosting, we would find there is no cake.

As every Christian, even every Deist, knows, if there's no God, no Afterlife, no world soul, life is meaningless then.

I only know that between the closing jaws of religion, music, drugs, drinks, trucks, afterlife, make-up face-masks, glittery frosting and all, life is made meaningless. The whole thing is become a joke without a punch-line, though a moral of sorts: the dead find the joke was on them, i.e., that they are even more meaningless in the end, than the joke itself.

The more one thinks about how meaningless modern life is, and how religious everyone is in consequence, the more one's head and blood spin. Anger. Real blooded anger. But you can't do anything with it, you can't throw it about, and so soon anger sinks into despair at the pointlessness, the uselessness of life. And then back into anger again.

I want to just say damn them all, and throw off my clothes and all my learning, and tear off earrings on every girl I see, and smear off make-up, and tell them each to either take off their clothes, or cover up their sassy hair-less legs and arms, and be decent and shame-faced for once.

But such things can't be done. Even take off your clothes, and all faces will crane to look, and mental heads will start shooting away, turning it into a joke, a mass-joke, as if to convince you of the pure ridiculousness and meaninglessness of even the naked body.

A human body can't live in modern society, until he destroys himself, and becomes something else: namely, a destroyer of other human beings. And all that is needed to do any of this, is words.

Words pre-suppose “facts”, and views of life. To even talk to other members of modern society, you have to accept their words. Yet, once even that is done, you've already turned yourself into a liar.
The only hope for mankind lies in his cutting off his tongue. Even then, I'm sure he would find other ways to illegitimize the experience of each other.

The truth of the matter is that real life, simple homo-sapiens life, is not legitimate in the United States of America today, to speak nothing of legal. It only exists, if at all, in the counter-culture in the country.

The whole problem is that there are too many people. Our physical space is penetrated by others, all the time. We have to draw defenses (because after all they are strangers, and our natural tendency is to not let strangers too close), and to do this we resort to words. We abstract from our real experience, thus abandoning our real words, to our “common” or “acknowledged” experience, thus using trite and worn-out, standardized words.

So our very choice of words and phrases, being dead ones, ones that have died and no longer contain any quick of life in them, degrades our own lives. We can't talk truly about ourselves; we only use words that are lies.

In the slang at its earliest inception, you notice a meagre attempt to buck having to constantly lie, but as new slang becomes widespread, it too dies, often into an even harder, deader-than-ever shell.

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