Sunday, August 19, 2007

I Masturbate, Therefore I Am (Civilized)

Nowadays, at least if one is to judge by the titles of the posts on xtube, you may get the idea that guys jerk off when they are bored. Boredom and masturbation have become, it seems, an inseparable pair. The new mal du siècle and its antidote? [for a classic statement, see here, Green Day's Longview]

A long time ago, a man who had his way with words, thought of it--jerking off, that is--as a powerful force of progress. He's probably the only thinker who imagined, before the moderns and the post-moderns, masturbation as a beneficial factor. What's more, he was willing to attribute the invention of this civilizing act to the gods. To one in particular, Hermes, the patron of
boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of orators and wit, of literature and poets, of athletics, of weights and measures, of invention, of commerce in general, and of the cunning of thieves and liars.

Masturbation and hermeneutics sprang from the same source. This surely explains a lot of things...

Here, then, is the myth that tells in humorous detail and with an obvious parodic intention the birth of masturbation as a force of progress.

"He used to say in jest"--"he" is the Cynic philosopher Diogenes, an illustrious masturbator, if any--that this kind of [sexual] intercourse is the invention of Pan, who fell in love with [the nymph] Echo but could not get her, so he was wandering through the mountains day and night" [bored and horny, I imagine]. "So, Hermes, seeing his son in such a frustrating situation" [divine blue balls], "took pity on him and taught him [how to jerk off]. And when he learned that, [Pan] was relieved of his tremendous suffering" [I bet he was! We all know the feeling...] And from him it was the shepherds who learned how to do it."
(Dio Chrysostom, Or. 6.20)

Well, jest or not, it's refreshing to think of the "solitary vice" as a factor of progress invented by a god out of compassion and transmitted to the world by the shepherds--the apostles of civilization.

Monday, August 13, 2007

In the beginning

καλῶς μοι δοκεῖς λέγειν κελεύων πειρᾶσθαι σὺν τοῖς θεοῖς ἄρχεσθαι παντὸς ἔργου. (Xenophon, Oec. 6.1)

"I believe you are right when you require that in everything we do we should try to begin by invoking the help of the gods."

So, here goes, in the words of a long-dead friend:

"O Mother of gods and men, you who sit by the side of Zeus and share his throne [...], O life-giving goddess, the counsel, the providence, and the maker of our souls [...], O giver of all good things to the intellectual gods, you, who fill with all things this sensible world and who give us all things good! Do grant to all humans happiness, especially that highest happiness of all, the knowledge of the gods; and grant that to the Roman people in all respects, but most of all that they may cleanse themselves of the stain of godlessness; grant them also a favorable fate, lending them a helping hand to steer the helm of their Empire for many thousands of years! And for myself, grant me as fruit of my worship to you that I may discern the truth in all the teachings about the gods and that I may attain perfection in theurgy! And in all that I undertake in the affairs of the state and the army, grant me virtue and good fortune, and that the close of my life may find me without sorrow and with a good reputation, in the good hope that my last journey will bring me to you!"

Emperor Julian, Hymn to the Mother of the Gods 179D-180C