Coffee, Sex, and Onions

Coffee, Sex, and Onions January 16, 2018


This is a great article. And ironically, explicitly says what Ansari accidentally, and in muted poignant tones, illustrates in the first season of Master of None. I can’t help feeling sorry for him and for her and for everyone. The cultural custom of going from coffee to bed is a heartbreaking one, a shattering one, a tragic one.

I’ve been listening to Anthony Esolen’s Out of the Ashes, the substance of which I am finding I have a thousand quibbles, especially over the golden hued lens with which he views every historical age before this one, but the best part so far is his screed about how we are not material enough. Lewis says the same thing all the time, in many and varied ways, and yet I have a hard time ever really hearing and assimilating this obvious truth.

Technology, probably, but also human inclination wants to get past, very quickly, the troubles and trials of the body. One wants to experience physical pleasure for some number of moments–the time it takes to eat a piece of toast, or drink a glass of wine, or put on a new dress, or, and this is the world’s favorite, engage in intimate physical contact with another person–and then return without sorrow to the immaterial and emotional life of the mind, but more usually what one imagines to be the heart. The body is there for pleasure that produces spiritual happiness. But I shouldn’t have to always live in my body. It’s limitations, its parameters, its chemistry and hormones, its various unhappiness should not always rule me.

Esolen, by way of practical cure, thinks that we should all be on the beach learning about the tide and picking up shells and attempting to classify plants (I jest, just a little), and later on he paints a rather too rosy picture of young people dancing in the old fashioned way, and not having too much contact with each other (hard to argue with that point, honestly), but I think we should stretch out our pleasure seeking hands towards capitulating, surrendering as it were, to the reality of the body.

A body that is, nevertheless, mysterious and hard to manage. It is at once both oneself and an alien property. It does what you want and yet it doesn’t. It is the vehicle of love and transcendence, and yet it suffers the terrible limitation of time–once it peters out you are forever separated from everything in this life. Only your soul goes on, until Jesus finally decides to come back and sort everything out. Indeed, I am always surprised to find that the frailty of the mind is amply and pitifully reflected in the frailty and hurts of the body.

And so of course sex should be something cautiously and carefully considered. It shouldn’t be the first thing that you do when you make somebody’s acquaintance. The reason being that sex is that strange moment where the body and soul seemingly collide. The spiritual and the material tangle more terribly than at all other moments. If you were confused about yourself at all, and then you have sex with someone, you’re not going to come away less confused. Having that be the way that you know yourself, rather than a self giving expression of love for another person, ruins it. It’s like trying to chop and onion with a spoon–painful, frustrating, futile, ridiculous.

The onion, the coffee should have oriented you in yourself enough–the warmth of the cream beating back the bitterness of the actual coffee, the sharp tears of chopping the onion melting away into sweet translucent depth–so that you, knowing the wonder of your fingers, toes, stomach and heart, would have something to freely give to another person. Instead, the coffee is knocked back, the onion rots in its bin, and you, broken, fight against a well of sadness. The only cure is the mystery of an immaterial God who limited himself to a body. Just like you. Indeed, just for you.

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