Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Looking", part 2: for you who are old or think you may be some day

A guy who bunked with me at Ft. Ord used "peering" for "looking," as I have used the term. Every leave day, he would declare his intention to go out "peering at girls."

I had not heard "peer" used in that way. My only recollection of the word is from Pirates of Penzance:

Ladies, do not shun me!
This evening I renounce my vile profession;
And, to that end, O pure and peerless maidens!
Oh, blushing buds of ever-blooming beauty!
I, sore at heart,
I, sore at heart,
Implore your kind assistance.

I have not heard "peer" used as my comrade used it since. I thought it touching. I find the whole "looking" or "peering" matter delicate and touching.

But I digress, though digression without a theme is -- well -- play.

This painting

by Paul Cadmus reminds me of Stare's No Exit, a play. "Hell," Sartre says, "is other people." Unfulfillable desire [and how many of you haven't experienced it?] is nearly as painful as vain regret, but more delicious. Bah! Abolish both!

So must we stand with Sophocles, when all we can do is look? [Plato, The Republic, Book l]:

Cephalus: . . . I was present . . . one time when someone asked the poet Sophocles: "How are you in regard to sex, Sophocles? Can you still make love to a woman?" Hush man, the poet replied, I am very glad to have escaped from this, like a slave who has escaped from a mad and cruel master." I thought then that he was right, and I still think so, for a great peace and freedom from these things come with old age . . . .
And I still like to look.

Sophocles overstates: sex, when couple with intimacy, is the greatest sensation the human animal is capable of achieving. When looking is all that is left us -- even when eyes fail and looking must be done with the mind's eye, I would not stand with Sophocles.
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die!

Of course Wordsworth was thinking of rainbows while I think of Rainbows (local joke) -- while I think of guys, but no difference that I can see.


Sophocles' observation that "a great peace and freedom from these things come with old age" is interesting and deserves a separate treatment, which I'll give it later, unless one of you beats me to it.

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