Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Sunday, September 25, 2016

On wankery

Dear Son*,

I'm convinced that a major reason Americans are dumber than our ancestors is because so many of us are wankers.  Almost nobody talks about this, but a man's ability to be excellent is directly connected to whether he's spent himself sexually.

In this matter the ancient Jews have beaten us again.  Even Solomon's mom knew that a king shouldn't spend his energy on women; and if it's fair to say a Jewish king didn't need his energy for chopping trees, it's just as fair to say he needed it to think.  And the worst thing is we aren't even spending our energy on women.  Those of us who are spending it on pornography are spending on other people spending it on women.  So to our weariness we've added a layer of underachievement; having all of the downsides of sexual exhaustion, and none of the glory that comes with it.  Solomon, for all that can be said against him, could never really be embarrassed explaining why he was worn out and wrote in short bursts of famous but ultimately understated proverbs.  The average American is dull, and he's gotten so used to being dull, he's begun to pretend that dullness is the norm because nobody is willing to tell the world he's a wanker.
A little personal reflection would do us wonders on this point, but we have become convinced that science is only for laboratories and scientists, like we pretend that liking football is manly while we're watching it from the couch.  The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that like pretenses of manliness in the flabby, couch-jockeying sports-pig, we are not actually living in an age of scientists.  We have a few men doing tests in labs about whether butter is bad for us and lots of nerds talking about things as banal as the size of the universe, and only a few of us are paying attention to what actually makes us tick.  We constantly think ourselves superior to our ancestors because we can drive cars, when our ancestors knew how to run a whole farm and could cross the Appalachians in a wagon.  The age of scientific observation has not meant that we know how things work.  It means we use things that work.  It means that we heard a man did a study, and so we don't have to study ourselves.  It means that everyone is busy wanking, and nobody understands why our men are so boring.

A little observation on this fact will yield the unfortunate conclusion that even reading difficult books is impossible when you're spent (and to this I dare any man to try and really enjoy Chesterton or Burke or Macaulay after "wearing himself out").  Women are less exciting, which means men are less exciting because men are less excited.  Our continuity of thought is broken into meaningless fragments; we think that everything is boring; work feels like it's dragging on forever; and we have a hard time thinking of funny things to say.  Sexual vitality at the bottom of the matter runs so deeply in the male soul, that avoiding two extremes is imperative to our success as people in general**.  Too little and you might end up a menace.  Too frequent and you end up a potato.  And the problem with pornography is particularly in the frequency.  Simply put, you can watch pornography all day every day.   You have to be either impressive or a maniac to have sex multiple times a day with a wife of five years.  You can engage yourself half a dozen times a day without either an interested wife or a suitable erection.  Pornography will eat you alive if you let it, which is why you ought to stay away from pornography.

Christians have been the most vocal critics of a culture of masturbation, but unless they are willing to get explicit in church (which aside from the absolutely horrible Song of Solomon is something like never), they are usually unwilling to speak candidly in public about how it has personally affected them.  The reason is obvious: because talking about  wankery is having everyone imagine you spanking it; and as we're all well aware,  pastors are never supposed to be nasty***.   Yes, Christians have all kinds of conferences disguised as "man retreats" where they can get away from their wives and talk about porn.  But the fact that they are constantly retreating and using code-words like "accountability" in a fight that nobody seems to be winning proves that the war against wankery needs more than just censure.  It needs the conviction that another far-better version of yourself lies somewhere beyond the sermonizing; and that all our spiritual greatness (however unflattering this sounds) is tied almost inseparably to something in our gonads.  It needs the living proof, and probably from experience, that the rush of blood to the brain and the pumping of air through the lungs during actual sex changes something in our neurological makeup, leaving us braver and clearer and healthier in the end.  You have to feel that colors are brighter before pornography and afterwards insufferably grayer.  Men can be told this; but in the end they ultimately have to live it.  And in order to live it, they have to be taught to listen to themselves.

But serious Christians these days are not necessarily known for being good philosophers, because they are taught specifically not to experiment.  The whole of their morality lies in commandment; the do's and don'ts of saintliness and devilry.  And the problem with commandments is that you have to get the cart before the horse.  With the experience of life, people do things and then we draw general principles from the results and then we get moral authority.  With a pretense to a divine authority, you are told things that are indisputable, and then if you want to appear reasonable, you have to try and explain them even if they're ridiculous (the volumes of Islamic and Christian and Jewish apologetics are a testament to this fact). And at the bottom of the matter, Christians are less worried that chronic and frequent masturbation is ruining them personally (whatever they say about wives being neglected), than that it is ruining them legally.  And I think this can be explained with a simple observation.  A man whose every thought and behavior is not only scrutinized, but recorded by an omniscient and omnipresent judge, can never commit an act of the slightest uncleanness without the overwhelming terror of being seen.   And the thoughts that go through our heads as we chase our sexual fantasies are most usually the things we'd never speak about with our closest of friends.  It isn't just that Christians are terrified of being seen at their most embarrassing.  It's the unspoken understanding that anyone who isn't embarrassed about it in front of God doesn't actually have a God to be embarrassed in front of.

And so they get together in their conferences and put on a show of guiltiness without ever getting anything done****, all for the sake of proving to themselves that they really are upset about the thing that's ruining them; not even because it really is ruining them, but because if they aren't upset about it then they're really no better than atheists.  Godliness, in its truest and purest form, is the living of life as though God was personally present.  Masturbation and its censure are almost the marks of any really modern Godly man.  On the one hand, his sexual fragility makes him a man.  On the other, his hatred of it makes him really Godly*****.    

Your father,

PS: I know you're getting this a little later than most, but I discovered only hours after publishing this that it was riddled with typos.  I can't apologize for the content of the essay, but I can apologize for the presentation.  If a man is going to abandon all decency he might as well do it professionally. 

*Some things are better said between men.

**To prove how important our sexual vitality is to God and ourselves, if you end up starving, your body will eat its own liver before going for your gonads.

***Mark Driscoll, a pastor who became famous for unapologetic Calvinism and telling his parishioners that he and his wife do anal, may be an exception to this rule; but he is also exceptional in his ability to ruin the churches he started.  Needless to say, none of the apostolic fathers (to my knowledge) have preached on the subject, and the closest allusion to masturbation we may consider is perhaps when the apostles mention the unclean not getting into heaven; which is enough to terrify anyone sensitive to general and ambiguous proscriptions, but especially damning to anyone struggling with self-flagellation.

****Recent statistics show that the states most responsible for the mass-consumption of porn are the states most responsible for the propagation of the Gospel (and in the case of Utah, the propagation of something like it).  Anyone who reads anything about the church knows that in mass surveys, pastors are just as likely to have watched pornography as anyone outside the faith; and whether this is a result of non-believers living in the church or the hypocrisy of actual disciples is beside the point.  The fact of the matter is that massive numbers of people claiming to be Christian are also claiming to be upset about pornography while funding it.  

*****All through my youth I remember being genuinely terrified of judgment on this issue, even promising God that by my fourteenth birthday I would promise to never sin in this manner again.  As anyone may have guessed, my promises ended in failure; and control of myself didn't come until a much later age, not when I was convinced abstinence would make me holy, but when I was convinced that a moderate pursuit of sex itself was making me stronger in general.  Aside from learning how to please a woman, anyone who knows and follows not only the form, but the timing of good sexual health, can be said to be sexually manly.

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