"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

In The Face Of Eternity, Does It Really Matter Who Does What To Whom?

Liggett Dodd stretched out on the cool, newly-cut and fragrant grass of the 15th fairway, found a comfortable spot to rest his head on the lip of the bunker in front of the green, and gazed up at the late August night sky.

Golf course Fall


“In the face of eternity”, he said to his girlfriend, “Does it really matter who puts what where?”

He was referring to the current media focus on LGBT issues. “If the shoe fits, wear it”, his mother who was fond of homilies and aphorisms would have said”. What two gay men did between sheets was simply a matter of “live and let live.” 

Liggett knew that his mother would have been flabbergasted at the endless variety of gender variations today.  New Brighton had no homosexuals to speak of in her day, and her speculation never got farther than broad-stroke guesswork; so the idea of a transgender romp in the hay would have been mystifying to say the least. Yet she would never have been judgmental.

Even now, many years later and in a far more open society, Liggett couldn’t quite get a handle on sexual diversity especially transgenderism. Which parts are removed, which replaced, and how couples pair off?  Would a man who became a woman prefer sex with a woman who had become a man? Or would it not matter? And what would it be like?

“You’re too monochromatic”, said Liggett’s girlfriend, Annie.  She was not very deep, knew that Liggett was always very impatient with her, and tried to cover up her intellectual shallowness.  Her aphorisms, cute tournures de phrases, and big words, however, never came out right and were always off-point, non sequiturs, and irrelevant. No matter how hard she tries, thought Liggett, she can only manage a few ripples on the mill pond.  She has a great body, he thought, and she should leave it at that.  Unkind, perhaps, but true.

“The only in excitement in life is right down here”, she said, sweeping her arm over his head toward the lights of New Brighton beyond. “You think too much.”

She wasn’t the first person to tell him this. His mother had been worried about him when he was little; and unlike most parents who boasted of their children’s precocity, Helga Liggett thought there was something wrong with a little boy who pondered unnecessarily. Unfortunately little of her breezy, devil-may-care nonchalance rubbed off on him.  He kept asking more and more unanswerable questions, spent endless hours in the dark and dreary New Brighton Public Library, and turned down the birthday parties and cookouts that all his friends went to.

Image result for images library stacks


“What are we going to do with him?”, Helga asked her husband.

“He’ll grow out of it”, he said. “Wait until he’s thirteen.  Then all he’ll be able to think about is pussy, pardon my French.”

Thirteen came and went and Liggett was still after his imponderables. “How could anyone not wonder about the meaningless of life in an infinite universe?”, he asked his father one day.

His father, who was grilling London Broil, smoking a cigar, and listening to big bands on a crackly New York station said, “The question itself is meaningless”.  Two could play that game, his father thought, and maybe a little philosophical doubletalk might shake some sense into him.

“No, I mean it, Dad”, said Liggett. “If the universe is infinite, and if there are an infinite number of possible worlds with an infinite number of possible events taking place on them right now, then how can anything we do on Earth have any special meaning?”.

“I have no idea, said Barney Liggett, and went back to the grill and his flank steak.

Image result for image man cooking on grill fifties


Most people, even the most intelligent quickly figure out that regardless of infinity, London Broil tastes good, and shelve the imponderables until after dinner; which was why Annie got on his nerves. She didn’t even have a shelf to place ideas on reserve while she ate or had sex.  She was nothing but the here-and-now, and this unsettled him. Do we all need intellectual lobotomies to be happy?

For much of his young adult life he was as diligent as Tolstoy in digging for the meaning of life. For most of his life Tolstoy read everything that might provide answers.  Philosophy, theology, mathematics, logic, and anthropology, however, only led to dead ends.  Priding himself on being a supremely logical man, he found that logic was failing him.  Yet those who never asked questions and slavishly worshipped God provided no insights either.  There was no way that these obeisant, unthinking religious devotees could possibly lead him to the truth.  Tolstoy’s character, Konstantin Levin in Anna Karenina is his alter ego.  How ironic and cruel, Levin thought, that Man was created with intelligence, wit, humor, and creativity; and then after only a few short years must spend eternity in the cold, hard ground of the Steppes.

Tolstoy A Confession

“Are you still into that shit?”, his girlfriend Annie asked him a number of years after the golf course episode, and started to unbutton her blouse.  For all Liggett’s intelligence and persistent logic, he went as wobbly-kneed and gaga at the sight of a woman’s breasts as any man.  Thanks to the early Tolstoy, Liggett was going through a nihilistic phase where he was able to square meaninglessness with fuck-it.  Live on two planes like Wallace Stevens did.  He was an insurance salesman by day and a poet by night.

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly. (From Sunday Night)

Image result for images wallace stevens


Is there no change of death in paradise?”, Stevens wondered; but went about his business selling term insurance, writing slow-maturing annuity policies, investing the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company’s monies in housing and off-shore high-yield funds.

So when Liggett met Annie again, thanks to this ‘duality phase’, he was able to smother himself in her warm breasts and think about nothing else.

Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist said, “The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.” Others have concluded that man has simply not evolved far enough to be able to understand the imponderables of the universe.

It took a lot of sexual healing and some mini-aha experiences like reading Dawkins and Steven Hawking to shake some sense into Liggett before it was too late.  It was OK to conclude that there is no meaning to life in an infinite universe; but since in only a few short years he would be spending eternity in the cold, hard ground of New Brighton Memorial Cemetery, it was OK too to screw around and be silly.

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