These are unnatural times. Part of this is the fact that the natural human instinct toward wisdom, which has been guiding us since the relighting of the Dark Ages, is now being constantly blocked and thwarted by corporate efficiency (a.k.a. greed), political correctness, and assertions of spirituality (or, as they say where I come from in the Deep South, “spiri-chality”). It’s all about American Puritanism, that basic aggressive march towards virtue and money. In other words, Americans deserve wealth because of their virtue—the ability to forgo natural human drives, pleasures, and instincts, in favor of an approximation of—or, a lot of lip service toward—that 21st century ideal: total brain-dead egalitarianism. This has produced a disconnect between what we used to call “common sense” (something I’m not crazy about, but let’s harken back to it for a moment) and the “nether regions.”
For example, I keep hearing over and over again the great riddle of contemporary life: What were those guys thinking? What were Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Mark Sanford, Elliot Spitzer, and Tony Weiner—to name only the barest, most visible examples—thinking when, as they say back in the woods, their peckers got the most of them?
In other words, bozos, you, the great frequently-washed of the U.S.A. have no private life anymore, and the result is not a Reality Show, but a Realty Show: thrown at you so that you can forget, for a moment, your struggle to pay the rent. You have no more private life, dickheads, and—even worse—you’ve forgotten what that even means. You’ve forgotten how necessary a private life is, how much it feeds you emotionally and allows you to actually do the strenuous work of living, and you’ve settled instead for Black Friday sales. It grieves my heart, you poor schnorers, because what these aforementioned politicians were doing when they got caught, not only with their pants down but with their Facebook pages open, was attempting to stake out some private space for themselves.
It was wicked, it was bad, and they loved every juicy moment of it because it was theirs. Men (and women) have been doing this since the Year Gimmel. The traditional attitude was that it all went along with being an adult, which is something that’s getting lost as consumerism becomes more and more geared toward people not yet old enough to vote and aren’t going to once they are. (“It’s so yucky. You have to actually know who these people are. If only Justin Bieber would run for president. We already know who he is!”)
The private life is part of what I call the “Cavalier Instincts.” You remember the Cavaliers—one side of the bloody English Civil War? It was the Cavaliers, awash in silks, satins, rouge, bustiers, and face powder (those were the men) versus the crew-cut Puritans who valued God’s Word, Rights of Man, and did not drink, snort, piss in public, attend theater (they banned all nonspiritual entertainment in London), partake in birth control or even weather control (the Roundheads once banned umbrellas: if God wants it to rain, you better get wet!), veritably paving the way for the Moral Majority takeover. With John Calvin in Switzerland (a country in love with lucre), the Puritans deserted the Divine Right of Kings and asserted the Virtuous Right to Money. Your private life was now supposed to be dedicated to God. Only He could look inside your frankest moments, so you had better make sure they were vacuum-cleaned of any baser instincts not valued by the State. In other words, don’t pee on the flowers or be caught with the chambermaid, like the 17th century bewigged Cavalier Samuel Pepys was often wont to do.
I am sick of all this. I am a champion of the Wisdom of Desire—the articulate, rising sense that comes from our deepest, most private hungers and feelings, and how we can all begin to restore them.