Monthly Archives: December 2006

the pursuit of wealthyness

I find myself of mixed feelings about this blatant appeal to old-fashioned capitalist striving as the key to happiness. The nearly-rags-to-rags-to-riches inverted arc is a potent myth, and there is, no doubt, something archetypal in it that goes beyond the purely material. One can recognize in Chris Gardner a deep passion to do something worthwhile, to reach for something seemingly beyond him, and if that passion happens to attach itself to something seemingly vulgar and materialistic, still, one can hardly blame a man for wanting to work hard and be rewarded for it, nor for wanting to provide for his family.

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suffering

Soldiers have an ambivalent relationship with their equipment and the conditions in which they work when it comes to suffering. On the one hand, we are proud of our strength and our toughness, proud of our hardness, proud of our ability to withstand pain and discomfort and annoyance. On the other hand, soldiers are always scamming a way to be more comfortable. They take every advantage of their cold-weather gear, as well as buying and improvising other gear. (There is, of course, a small industry around providing better and better gear to soldiers — to the point that, for example, our squadron handbook mentions by name which brands of eye protection and sunglasses are authorized.) Soldiers sleep on the hoods of running Humvees for warmth; they use the Stryker’s MRE heater to boil hot dogs or to warm water for shaving; in hot weather, they cut the sleeves out of their undershirts. Food that you buy and take with you to the field or on a mission is contemptuously referred to as “Pogey Bait,” but everyone carries it, and no one more than the experienced NCOs who’ve been to war. Everyone hears about the soldiers who spend weeks or a month at a time on mission without a shower, but reporters rarely seem to cover the way soldiers bathe — baby wipes bought in bulk, head-showers using the Hot Beverage Bag from the MRE, and “Febreze for Men,” the Army’s number one fragrance.

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chastity is optimism

Chastity is optimism. Chastity looks to the future. Chastity believes things will last. Chastity will never take the sex of the moment, because chastity always insists that the relationship has more to offer, that there is more to come. Looking to the spiritual existence above all, chastity believes that we can never go wrong by getting to know each another first, that we will never be disappointed by cultivating love first.

This is not mere pie-eyed idealism, a schoolgirl’s sweet, weightless dream of a perfect first time; it is a radical act of faith, given the tenuousness of existence. Things change all the time — we fail to continue to love each other; we fall prey to old habits; we cannot sustain trials of distance and disease; we die. We are always leaving each other, and yet even at the most extreme end chastity must make the argument that we have loved each other better in this short time by not having slept in the same bed. I love you, deeply, joyfully — and yet if I died tomorrow, chastity argues, I would have loved you more truly by never having pressed my teeth and lips to yours, bruising you in desperate passion; by never having kissed all the different textures of your skin; by not knowing the smells of your hair after one, then two, then three days without washing.

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