More strangerous than dangerous

Dear Rose

When I was a teenager, my mother was always warning me about strangers. So I wonder, should I go out with men I happen to meet on the street? What if they are really axe murderers. Or, just turn out to have very small penises?

Dear Ms Paranoid,
Of course you should. They will probably turn out to be lonely millionaires who will want to marry you and take you on cruises to warm places. Next question!
No, really, Ms Paranoid, I see no reason why you should pick up strangers from the internet or from newspaper ads but NOT from outside the bottleshop. I myself was once on the way to a music venue to pick up (I mean to listen to a band) when a middle-aged, not unattractive man stopped me and asked ‘Do you know of any nice places to eat around here?”. I explained that my home town had been personally UN-recommended by Bill Bryson, the travel writer, who says there is NOWHERE nice to eat in it – and then HE says, well, I don’t like eating alone, would you care to join me?
So I say “Actually, my good man, I’m going to the pub to catch some music.” Ok, he says, can I come too? So we walk to the pub together while he tells me about, of all things, how you make paper. This is because he’s a PhD in applied mathematics and used to work in the paper industry. Is that right? I say, and ‘Fancy that!’ or words to that effect. Ms P, you need never be at a loss for words with a man as long as you have a selection of these short but subtly encouraging phrases. In any case, HE won’t be. AT a loss.
We sit down at a dark table and proceed to flirt. He asks me all about myself. I nearly swoon. Only 1 out of 99 men know how to do this – and I have hit on the one (I mean, he has hit on me).
He tells me how lovely I am and adds that I have a gorgeous body and a sexy walk. More, more! I gasp. He goes from touching the tips of my fingers to putting his hand on my arm to a tentative kiss and then to the full exploratory expedition to the lower larynx. Since I’m a talented kisser, this is just fine by me – but wait, you say. Wasn’t I ashamed to snog so unabashedly in a bar full of people, some of whom might have been my cousins’ best friends?
Well, yes, Ms Paranoid, at this point I did feel a bit downmarket – especially as Mr Pickup is now fondling my breasts, and we are both breathing heavily down each other’s necks. In case I should wrongly assume that he only wants one thing, he tells me, huskily, that he’d love to take me to dinner and the movies.
Well, I think, YOU might like that, but what I would like is, to get our gear off, NOW. I felt, how shall I put this, agitated. Never wear tight jeans in an erotic quandary, they squeeze you in just the right places.
“Let’s go to my place,” I suggest to the latent axe-murder cum plastics expert, but we’re barely halfway to the parking lot before Mr Pickup pins me against a convenient wall (David Jones, I think it was), sticks his tongue down my throat, his hand down my jeans, and his throbbing maleness up against the yielding core of my….

All the same, I think – suppose some colleague of mine from work just happens to be strolling by! This could be worse than that saucy picture on Facebook! So we hurry to his car – an arousingly large pickup truck – and somehow we make it back to my place, discarding buttons like autumn leaves along the way.
Is he an axe-murderer? Well, no. But he does have some unusual interests. He wants to know all about the other men I’ve invited home, and what they did, and what I did, in graphic detail. He wants me to touch myself. He wants to stare at my crotch and use indecent language. He wants – and this is the weirdest thing – to TALK after sex.
But what has this got to do with my original question, you ask? Well, you can learn a lot from these encounters. For instance, how to be an exhibitionist. How to ‘talk dirty’. How to make a middle-aged plastics engineer from Sydney go into transports of joy, with very minimal effort. All sorts of useful things.
So, just remember this. When it comes to picking up strangers, what doesn’t kill you makes you much better in bed.


Stalkers get more sex

Dear Rose,

What does it mean when a man says he’ll call you, and then doesn’t?  Is it appropriate to track him down to his house and leave him love letters? 

My friend says I should read ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’?  but I said to her ‘If I wait for someone who’s THAT into me, I’ll NEVER get laid!’.

Dear Stalker,

The short answer is, when a man says he’ll call you and he doesn’t, find another man.  There are plenty lying about on the street, and a woman with initiative need never go hungry.

Indeed, this is a perennial problem, about which many films have been made, to heartbreaking effect.  Let me relate my own experience on the subject, as general guidance.

You may remember that in a previous post I mentioned an African-American gentleman with whom I went home one night.  Well, at the end of the encounter, I gave De Wayne (as I’ll call him), my phone number and assured him that I would be happy to hear from him again (just as soon as the friction sores had healed).

A week went by and I heard nothing.  He had said he was going to Melbourne to visit friends, so not to worry.  However, as time went by, I began to feel cross.  I called him rude names.  I cried to the heavens (at least, to the dog) ‘Why? WHY????’.

Was I too old?  Was he allergic to cats?  Did he dislike my friends? Was my house too messy?  Did my refusal to participate in the tenth act of congress in one night disappoint?  Or was he, even now, at a bar in my home city using the same line on another innocent divorcee??

Eventually my resolve broke.  I went around to his friend’s house (where he was staying during his Australian holiday) and put a note in the letter box.  Then I decided to forget all about it, so I made another date with someone else (as the only reliable antidote to one man is ANOTHER man).

The next day I was having dinner with friends and, guess what, who should ring but Tarzan, fresh from the jungles of Melbourne.  At this point, the usual rule is to sound studiously cool (‘Who? Oh yeah, I remember now. I’ve been terribly busy..’).  However, since I had left THE NOTE, this option was closed off.  So instead I greeted him enthusiastically, accepted all excuses offered, and made myself available at the first opportunity.  You may think this was undignified, dear Stalker, but let me tell you, if you had SEEN that body, you would know that a man in the hand is better than one in someone else’s bush, no matter how much bullshit you have to swallow first.

Yes, there were a few issues.  For instance, looks aside, De Wayne was one of the most unfit men I have ever met.  This may have been because he drank vodka for breakfast.  In any case, there is nothing like a man who can barely drag himself up a short flight of stairs without panting heavily and asking for rest stops, to make an ageing chick feel like superwoman.  Don’t underestimate the pleasure to be got from feeling physically superior to your man.

For another thing, he was seriously ‘fucked up’.  Look at it this way though, Stalker, when you date a man with a split personality, what you are REALLY getting is two for the price of one.  For instance, with De Wayne, not only could I enjoy the staid, academic, anal retentive middle-class mathematician (his job back in the US) but I ALSO got a chauvinistic, domineering, womanising, callous and foul mouthed brother from the hood.  While the one buys dinner (and informs me that he doesn’t mind bad table manners in a woman (on the contrary, I can ‘rub my pussy in it’ if I feel like it) the other wants to ask my sister in for a threesome.

A little walk on the wild side is usually worth it, just to broaden your experience of the world, dear Stalker.  However, don’t attempt to form a longer-lasting relationship with a man of this kind unless, of course, you like being treated like a doormat..  De Wayne once told me that he had three rules for all his women.  Rule One was ‘do what I say’.  Rules Two and Three were ‘Refer to Rule One’. This is three too many rules to remember, in my opinion.

When playing with a strange man, remember that you are not his mother, nor are you Emergency Services, poised with helicopter and defibrillator to rescue him from his tragic life.   When he tells you about his abusive upbringing in the deep South, his crack-whore mother who overdosed at 16, his chronic lung disease, his lifelong struggles to climb out of the criminal underworld, and the fact that he had to eat grits for breakfast as a child – and when these tales are accompanied by prolonged and satisfying congress – you may feel a tide of love and pity welling within you.  Crush it.  It will all end in tears.

Did I crush it?  Of course not.  Did it end in tears? Yes it did, Ms Stalker (though, as he left for the US, not for some time). Still, the tank was well and truly filled up, the horizon widened, and you know what, when De Wayne got back to the US, he RANG – just to say those three little words (got any cash?)

So my advice to you, Ms Stalker, is that if you feel inclined to pursue your man, you should do just that – a shitload of hot sex can be worth a little damaged dignity, in the end.


Corny but hopeful

Dear Rose,

I have heard that corny pickup lines such as ‘what’s a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this without her boyfriend?’ don’t work on real women? Is that true?

Dear Corny,

Like so many things, Corny, it depends. If you approach an attractive, sophisticated woman of the world with this intro, she will probably choke on her drink, or tell you to get lost.  On the other hand, if you trot out this line to a recently divorced woman who thinks she’s approaching her use-by date, you may well be exchanging heavy pillow talk before you can say ‘Wait, I forgot my coat!’

For example, some time ago, I found myself sitting in a low dive, contemplating a mineral water, when an African-American gentleman sidled up to me and used this very line.  Did I snort? Did I tell him to go get a life?

No! Instead, I was flattered, as I hadn’t thought of myself as a girl for quite some time, much less pretty.  I was also suddenly reminded of the great joy of being boyfriend-less, and I thought to myself, well, this seems like the perfect time for a little post-break-up risk taking.  The moral of this story is,  choose your prey wisely, and then have a go – you may get lucky.

But were there cross-cultural issues, you ask shyly?  Me being pinkish, and him being brownish.  Well, yes.  Nothing to do with colour though.  He was probably the most stunningly masculine man I have ever met.  Racial issues only matter if one of you is not very good looking.

However, you probably should establish, before you take your conquest home, whether you share the same general rules of engagement – in particular, the kind of talk you are willing up with which to put, and the exact definition of ‘nymphomaniac’.

To wit, we got home to my place at about midnight, and after some brief preliminaries (mainly consisting of me being pinned against the hall mirror), he ripped my clothes off and we started having sex.  He remarked casually at this point that he very much wanted to fuck my arse off.

After several vigorous encounters and some amusing anecdotes about life as a drug kingpin, I indicated, by turning my back and shutting my eyes, that I’d had enough.  He hadn’t. The thing to remember here is, face your enemy, as you will find you are much more vulnerable from behind.

At four in the morning, I said that I had now REALLY had enough for one night, and that I was tired and bow-legged and wanted to go to sleep.  HE said he didn’t care how tired I was, and that if necessary, he would ‘dry fuck’ me.  He also added that he wanted to ‘fuck my brains out.’  You may find, Corny, that some gently-brought up women will not have heard these terms before, so if you are going to use them, you may want to be prepared with a pocket dictionary, for ease of reference.

At five, I was just about to pass into a coma, when he said he needed a lift home because his car belonged to his friend who used it as a taxi and whose shift began at 6am.  At this point, I dragged myself out of bed, took him home, and heaved a sigh of relief.

You are probably wondering, Corny, at what stage of a one night stand should the complete gentleman say ‘I love you’?  Well, of course you can say it at any point, if you mean it – but I have to warn you that saying it after you have known the woman for ten minutes can be regarded with suspicion.

On the other hand, any compliment, no matter how unlikely, can be put in the box labelled ‘Nice Things Some Man Once Said To Me’ and so therefore my advice is to lay it on thick unless she actually tips a glass over you.  For instance, the man I have been discussing told me after the requisite ten minutes’ hand holding outside the pub that he was in love and had been waiting all his life for me, and, well, if you knew me, you too would realise that in some circumstances passion like this is completely understandable.

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Divorced and Desperate

Dear Rose

I am recently divorced from a husband who suffered from extremely low sex drive.  As a result, I am VERY eager to begin a new life, but too shy to frequent bars and clubs.  How do I get the ball rolling?

Dear Eager

Although many modern women will dive right into the dating scene via the internet, I divine that you are an old fashioned ‘lady’ and that a more gentle, mannerly approach may be in order.  I suggest that you put an advertisement in your local paper, setting out your requirements, and I am sure that a number of suitable offers will flow in directly.

I myself was in just your situation some years ago, and here is the advertisement I submitted:

Wild, sweet, different f seeks rock god ono for fun.

I received a number of enquiries, although some (for instance, a young man from the country seeking ‘a good woman, with curves’) were clearly inappropriate.  However, my advice is to interview even the unlikely candidates, as this will give you a chance to enhance your ability to make conversation with dull and stupid men – an important ‘dating’ skill.

Take self-posted descriptions with the proverbial grain of salt.  For instance, one of the gentlemen I met described himself as ‘VERY attractive –  tanned, tattooed, and blond.”  This turned out to mean bald with a sandy moustache, sun-damaged and pot-bellied.  During our little chat it also turned out that he used to beat his ex-girlfriend (‘she deserved it’) and that he was an official of the Wicca movement.

Don’t make hasty decisions in low light.  After you’ve met six or seven ‘hopeless cases’ you may well be feeling dispirited and that dating is not for you.  This is the most dangerous time to make decisions, as you are now officially ‘desperate’.

A case in point.  My seventh – or was it the eighth – date was standing on a street corner in a bow tie when I met him.  He was NOT short and fat, and we met under a streetlight in the early evening.  He was lively, though not intellectual, but – bear in mind that even the most unpromising male is good for target practice.   Thus, I dyed my hair and wore my low-slung hipster jeans with the big belt, a low-cut black tee-shirt, and all the charm I could muster.  We went to a nightclub and Mr Positive seemed fascinated with the hair, and all went well until he said it was time for bed.  Would I like to come too?

Ladies, I did not.  BUT, based on my assessment of HIS charms under soft lighting, and his assessment of MY charms under the same, three dates later, we did.  Big mistake.  Flat full of cigarette butts, left-over dinner that looked suspiciously like dog food, hair-raising tales of orgies past (more of that later), and what’s more he fell in love.  And if there is anything more painful than having an unrequited love for somebody, it is somebody having an unrequited love for YOU – for the soft-hearted, the first hurts much less than the second.

So my advice to you, Ms Eager, is that there are WORSE things than being desperate.

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hey all those other incipient novel writers out there…

I’ve just quit my job, how about you?

Actually I don’t leave for another six weeks, long enough to think about how I’ll be unemployed and no one will want me and my family will go ha ha, and of course I’ll discover that actually I don’t really want to write (another) novel, I just like pretending that I do.  And in any case EVERYONE who has a keyboard wants to write a novel.  Maybe what I should write is other people’s biographies instead, I’ve been asked to often enough. It seems like every third boyfriend reckons his life is worth a book and wants me to somehow channel him into a literary masterpiece – without actually writing me any notes or telling me stuff or anything like that.  Maybe they think ghost writers really are ghosts and therefore know everything about the lives of the living and don’t need to be told the details.  I think I’d like to biographise people.  If only I’d paid more attention to those lovers, instead of just lying around in bed having sex with them.  For instance, I had a lover who spent years in a refugee camp in Kenya – along with millions of other people I guess but then THEY didn’t have great writers to write up their stories.  If only I’d got out a tape recorder and got  him to go through the interesting bits.  Not that there were any greatly interesting bits – it’s just that to him the experience was intense.  THe bits I remember him telling me were mainly about women who offered to take all their clothes off for extra food.  One of them did it once too often and got Aids, he told me – a great pity, as she was outstandingly beautiful. But then so was everyone except me.

The main thing writers need – apart from a small amount of talent – is drive.  That’s what they say again and again.  90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.  Or is it 1%.  Whatever.  The moment of truth is about to arrive in six weeks!

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The more things change…

the more they change (actually it’s the more they stay the same but that doesn’t exactly fit so I’ll have to change the cliche). Anyway I’ve been roundly beaten in the Great Cosmetic Enhancements Debate by my sweetipie, who can get very Oxford-debating-team-crossed-with-Winston-Churchill at times (and very attractive the whole Commander in Chief thing is, though a little scary at times). 

Summed up, his argument goes like this.  A hundred years ago people wore whalebone corsets.  Now they don’t.  Fifty years ago people clung to black and white tvs.  Ditto.  So NOW the people who can afford it get their wrinkles ironed out and their boobs pumped up.  In another fifty years that’ll be a big yawn too.  Seems pretty unanswerable to me.  Still I kind of liked my black and white tv (which we had when I was a kid - I watched War and Peace on it and it was great!).  At one level youth is kind of boring.  I used to be boring when I was young, actually – now slightly less (not much).

On a completely different subject, how many of us would like to give Kevin a big group hug and cuddle?  When he was having a cry the other day after having been made redundant from the Prime Ministership, I really wanted to put my arms around him and say ‘never mind’ and shield him from the nasty world.  So did his wife and kids, to judge by the pats and back rubs.

On the other hand I think Julia will do a better job.  But Ive been wrong before (just about all the time actually) so guess I’ll probably be wrong about this too.

AND – I may be offered a VR. Not because I’m useless (even though I actually haven’t done any work for years) but because they want to get rid of people and I put my hand up.  Hoping hoping hoping…all the things I could do if I only had TIME! and now, just maybe, I will!!!

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what is wrong with botox?

My sweetipie is worried about his wrinkles.  For the record he doesn’t have many wrinkles, just some lines around his mouth and on his forehead, and that’s about it really.  It’s pretty annoying really (to me), he should have more! but to him, they’re a scary sign of ageing to someone who should remain forever young. Anyway I told him I didn’t want to get into an arms race with him about wrinkle treatments – he has Botox, so I have to have Botox, so he has injections, so then I do, then he has dermabrasion, then I do..until we both look like one of those weird Hollywood granmas who are 90 going on 26.  ANd he says, what’s wrong with Botox, people complained about doing up your teeth fifty years ago, and now EVERYONE has their teeth done (at least they go the the dentist and have cleaning and root canals and crowns and so on).  And EVERYONE wears sunscreen – twenty years ago it would have been sissy.

So, well what IS wrong with Botox?  I don’t really want to have any of that.  For a start, it’s really expensive, so you can choose between either, having a life (movies, dinner, theatre, or maybe just food and clothes) or looking ‘young’.  And then, it sometimes goes wrong, so you end up looking like you’ve got in a bitch fight down at the local bogan club.  And THEN, if it goes RIGHT, you might end up looking like Nicole Kidman.  She’s quite good looking, but more than a bit plastic.  The girl at the place where I go to have my moustache taken off (yeah, so!) has all the offerings of the beauty clinic – I guess she’s in her late thirties or maybe forties but her face is strangely plumped out – it’s like when every wrinkle gets filled, and filled again, you end up with slightly too much face, it’s not like it can be sanded back or something.  And then, there’s the sagging.  You get to your forties and I guess your face starts going south a bit, and there’s nothing fillers can do about it – except backfill. 

It’s a bit like trying to fix the Great Wall of China.  You notice some bricks are coming loose on one bit so you fix it up, but a hundred miles down the wall, another bit’s just crumbled off so you rush down there and..Or no, more like facelifting your house.  You buy a new couch and then the coffee table looks crappy by comparison – so you buy a new coffee table only to notice the worn carpet…so you re-carpet but then the old curtains look all wrong…  Anyway I dye my hair, every eight weeks or so, and that’s about it.

But suppose you could keep yourself looking about 25 until you’re ninety? If you could, would you? Say you just popped a pill, or spliced a gene, or something pretty harmless with no side effects.  Personally I don’t so far dislike my lines and all that kind of thing, not really.  But then maybe that’s because ageing has hit me pretty mildly so far, eg I don’t yet have a turkey neck or a collapsed chin or great big bags under my eyes.  Perhaps it’s about the integrity of ‘signals’.  For instance, if you’re angry or sad or whatever, you mostly want to FEEL those things – if you could immunise yourself against feelings, you wouldn’t, because they’re a signal that something needs attention.  You need to change something, or blow your top, release adrenalin, cry, whatever.  Also you need to SHOW those feelings – because if you didn’t, other people wouldn’t have any clues to how you were feeling, and then they couldn’t react appropriately (get the hell out of there, give you a hug, tell you to get a grip, whatever).  So if you’re ageing, you need to show that you’re ageing, otherwise you and other people won’t be able to react to those signals – this is an eighty year old,l so don’t shove them down the stairs, give the seat on the bus, remember they still like Bing Crosby.  Even if you can fix your face, all your emotions and intellectual capacity and physical capacity and attitudes and experience and knowledge are those of a person of whatever age you are, and you and other people need to take account of that.  Otherwise, there’s a disconnect, similar to the carpet-curtains problem but deeper.  N’est pas?

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Sinning and how it’s not (much) fun..

Last night an ‘old flame’ (well sort of, more of an old flicker really) came round to discuss business (writing business that is, yes really) and got carried away reclining by my very nice wood fire.  He started off with the hands (always a good start, I’m sure many guys have found – at least so I’ve noticed) then progressed onto the hair, and by slow stages, got to the kiss, the grope, and the indecent suggestion (pretty indecent, since my daughter was downstairs playing her Ipod at the time).  So anyway, attached as I am, I let this all happen, in fact I participated in the kiss, did a little reluctant stroking of my own (mostly of the ‘ok here’s a pat now settle down, good boy!’ type if only he’d known), and took a rain check on the suggestion (he can renew it when he brings round more wood for my fire, or not, as the case may be).  He started talking about sex, how he thought me and sweetipie (not that he calls him that) made a good looking couple and would probably look great having sex, how he once watched another couple having sex and then had it off with his girlfriend in the same room, how amazing it was, and so on and so forth.  As usual, I said, whatever turns you on – and felt awfully straight, since I don’t really go for this sort of thing.  I’m SO boring – I just like candle light, lots of soft words and kissing and so forth, and then some very straightforward sex, preferably on a bed, in one of the top five positions.  With just one guy, no girls, and no observers (I make an exception for snogging in clubs and on beaches though).  And now I’m getting old, I like it with someone I love.  Which doesn’t describe the Lord (yes apparently he really is a Lord, at least so he says, though unfortunately without castle, mansion, etc).  I think I’d be quite happy NOT to have sex with Mr Experimental, actually.  It’s just that refusing seems to be beyond me.  I don’t know why. I”m sure I could do it if I tried.  I’d just really rather he didn’t ask, or just stuck to hand stroking. 

I also did something else wicked (more wicked than the groping, actually).  I confided in the Lord that sweetipie, while being a lovely man, sometimes gives the impression of being a bit fake.  Ok so he’s REAL nice, underneath the fake nice – but it’s odd, and takes a bit of getting used to.  I think I was trying to temper the Lord’s admiration for my sweetipie, because he keeps telling me what an impression he (sweetipie) made on him.  He makes an impression on just about everyone.  It’s mildly annoying – maybe it wouldn’t be if it was matched by the same number of sweetipie’s friends who were lost in admiration of moi. 

Anyway I know I did the wrong thing, because sweetipie is not to be discussed with third parties, especially third parties who have their hands down your pants.  HE doesn’t care if I’m faithful – so that’s an excuse of a kind – I think it’s more that I’m doing something I don’t entirely want to do – and yet I must want to do it a bit, otherwise I guess I wouldn’t.  Would I?

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what makes you happy?

What makes anyone happy? Is it all much the same? Enough food, shelter, and good relationships? Myself, I’d summarise it as ‘being loved and having someone to love’.  Although, you could have all that, and yet be unhappy – say if the two of you were in prison, or dying, or, of course, if the person you loved wasn’t the same person who loved you.  But requited love would be the main thing – not necessarily the adult kind, could be the love between me and my kids, or me and my mother, or friends, or siblings.  Seems the more of it one has, the happier one is.  Which I guess is why sweetipie is not very happy.  He loves and is loved, but not by many people.  Just by me and maybe his younger daughter, when you come down to it, and even she’s on the fence.  So that doesn’t make for a very safe emotional situation.  No wonder he’s edgy and anxious.

Is it the same for everyone? Do even violent thugs and drug dealers and psychopaths and warlords want to be happy in the same way? I guess some people would find happiness in violence and power – but that’s surely dysfunctional, for humans.  And yet, I read somewhere that most bosses are psychopaths, so it can’t be that unusual.  Maybe the leader of the clan was usually a psychopath, in caveman days.  Or would that be called happiness? or some other rush, more like taking a drug or drinking a lot or running a marathon or scoring a goal. 

Or have I got this the wrong way around? Is it ‘feelings people find pleasant and seek out’ that define happiness?  So that if people got pleasure from pain, pain would make them ‘happy’.  But of course people don’t usually find pleasure in ‘pain’, so happiness is defined by the norm, and dysfunction by the norm. 

So going back to Buddha, maybe all he meant by ultimate ‘good’ (better, best) was a state of affairs which most people would find pleasant.  So to paraphrase Buddha (though how you can paraphrase a guy when you’ve never read anything he’s written is another story) – it’s ‘better’ to perform ‘good’ acts because that creates more ‘good’ in the world, ie a ‘gooder’ world, ie, one which most people will enjoy living in more.  And if someone performs enough good acts, and trains themselves to view the world with compassion but without desire, they will get to a point where they are completely ‘happy’ – defined as, experiencing ongoing (if somewhat ineffable) pleasure.  So THAT’s why you’d want to be ‘enlightened’. 

Ah ha! And I thought it was the world’s worst advertisement for heaven ‘work hard, be good and one day you won’t feel a thing!’.

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hey we’re all just animals..

Buddha says, apparently – and I agree, so he must be onto something – that there is no right and wrong, things just ‘are’. 

So, like, you’re a fish.  A shark.  You see a baby dolphin enjoying itself in the water, its mother is looking at the underwater equivalent of the sunset, so you bite its head off. Anything wrong with that? No, it’s a shark.  But say you’re a monkey.  There’s a rival tribe of monkeys in the next door part of the jungle, and they’ve got better banana trees than you, so you start a war, kill most of them, rape the remaining females, and move onto their patch.  Wrong? Not really, you’re a monkey, you don’t know any better.  That’s what monkeys do.  And lions, and ants, and bees, and snakes, and just about everything alive down to and including viruses.  Why do they do it?  Because at some point in their evolution, it was useful to do that.  You got violent, you ended up with the bananas and the spare females, you reproduced, the other lot didn’t.  You took over the pride, you killed the previous king’s kids, your lot got to grow up, his lot didn’t. 

On the other hand, if cruelty and violence can be useful, so can sweetness and light.  If you’re a monkey, or a lion, and you go round being mean to everyone, someone in your own group is going to get sick of you and bite your head off.  It helps to be cooperative.  To cooperate, you have to have an idea of what the other guy might want, how he might feel.  It helps when you’re hunting, too, because if you know what, say, deer like – drinking, green grass, sex in the mating season – you can catch them more easily.

Which brings me to the point of this small essay, which is, how are people any different? We’re all, to a greater or lesser degree, empathetic, cooperative, sociable, violent, cruel, spiteful – and all these characteristics are built in to come in useful under some conditions or other.  It might not be very useful to be a psychopathic rapist in your average western democracy, but it probably really helps you along in the Congo.  So why is ‘kindness’ a virtue and ‘cruelty’ a vice? Because we LIVE in the aforesaid average western democracy and in our social structure and conditions, generally, cruelty makes the social order break down rather than encouraging us all to work together in a jolly team.

And since humans are a social animal and are designed to get along with each other in groups, most of the time, we have an inbuilt dislike of team-splitting acts.  The other reason that we hate them is because we’re empathetic.  Humans, more than dogs probably or even the saintly dolphins, can imagine what it’s like to be the other – even if the other is a rat, literally.  So things that WE wouldn’t like, we can imagine THEM not liking – and that leads to a natural revulsion in many humans to inflicting pain.  With notable exceptions in people who work in abattoirs, policepersons, and some heavy metal bands.

Anyway so in a nutshell, right and wrong come down to two principles, usefulness, and empathy.  Given that, why the hell am I so concerned about the ‘wickedness’ in the world (especially after reading Robert Fisk) – after all it’s only natural – and why should it matter, cosmically speaking, if I do ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  Buddha says it does.  But why? Sure, right actions might lead to a ‘righter’ world or get you closer to enlightenment – but why should you want a ‘better’ world, or to be enlightened.  Why not be a real meanie and enjoy torturing kittens, if that’s what you’re into – nobody would say anything against it if you were a hyena (at least, I guess I wouldn’t, given the foregoing, though I do like kittens and not so much hyenas).

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