Friday, 30 September 2011
Of Love, etc.
by Theodore Dalrymple (October 2011)
The government makes me angry, but my wife makes me much angrier (as well as much happier, of course). This is yet another illustration of the truth of Doctor Johnson’s dictum that public affairs vex no man, at least not very greatly and not within quite a wide range of government policy. The personal may or may not be political, but it is definitely what concerns us most. Let the heavens fall, so long as we are happy at home.
Paul Hollander’s new book, Extravagant Expectations (Ivan Dee), is not only about the personal, but about the personals, those small-ads in various publications in which people seek what used to be called a lover, paramour or consort, but must now be called a partner. more>>>
Posted on 09/30/2011 2:29 PM by NER
30 Sep 2011
Re-posted from July 7, 2005:
From the Tehran Times:
MWMM, financially secure, seeks SW aged 9 to 19, for fun and fourth wifedom, to make my family life complete. Friends tell me I have smoldering come-hither looks, and am incredibly handsome; wives unanimously insist I am Ghassan Massoud look-alike. Piercing brown eyes, nicely-trimmed beard, athletic and fit. Very careful about watching what I eat. South Tehran sincerity, North Tehran income. Widely-travelled (chiefly European capitals, including Vienna and Paris, but also within Middle East) in the past, but really prefer to stay at home with a good book (last book read: Qur’an). Enjoy halal cooking. Wives 1, 2, and 3 have all won pistachio-and-honey pastry bakeoffs. Hobby: haggling for bargains with the bazaaris and haunting old bookshops (last purchase: leather-bound Qur’an with silver metalwork from Meshed). Collect old tapes of Qur’anic recitation, also examples of Qur’anic calligraphy from Qom. Secret dream: being put in charge of redecorating Andalucia as long-term project on popular television series This-Old-Dar-Al-Islam. Outgoing, solid citizen, long-time member of Oversight Council for the Guardians of Virtue. Much-decorated Revolutionary Guard and Basij veteran. Accomplished hands-on former mayor of major metropolitan area, not a thinker but a doer. Proven track record of following through on special projects, from earliest planning stage to final execution.
Unpretentious, good father, history buff (special interest: 7th century Arabia). Solid Mideastern values. Grew up on a farm outside Tehran, like to think I retain that basic rural outlook. Still passionate about most large animals (Ayatollah Khomeini’s “How to Treat Your Barnyard Animals” was favorite bedtime reading during teenage years). Famous for my irreverent humor (jokes about the weather a specialty). Adventurous in spirit, yet thoughtful and quiet in manner, with a truly global approach to the world’s problems. Strong proponent of nuclear program as environmentally-friendly alternative source of power for Iran. Believe that family, tribe, and Umma come before all else. Successful, strongly motivated, never satisfied until all goals completely achieved no matter what the sacrifices.
Hoping to find that special someone of similar background, submissive and quiet, content to be good cook and house-cleaner, happy in her chador, who cannot drive and understands that for women, even more than for men, thinking is greatly overrated.
Pet peeves: sculpture, painting, music, wine, dogs, Infidels.
Marriage first, then possibly getting to know each other, just a little bit, later.
If interested, please send picture (eye-slit only), and contact information (if under the age of 11, please include parents’ contact information) to: Office of the President, Big White Palace With The Gold Leaf Domes and Carpets and Vases and Other Stuff Inside, Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, Iran.
1 Oct 2011
We live in an entertainment culture Theodore. People no longer ask "what can I do for others", they seek entertainment and amusement rather that goodness in relationships.
People have always exercised self interest in choice of spouse, particularly financial interestm and social standing. However, the flavour of many contemporary relationships points to a perpetual childhood and a desire to amuse before slipping into the void.
I think the waning of Christianity is leading to decline. People no longer connect to a great cultural tradition which stressed goodness and sacrifice, instead they obsess about reality TV and listen to Dr Phil. They are losing the ability to think about anything but self caressing platitudes.
6 Oct 2011
I think most depressed people blame their unhappiness on lack of a spouse, wrong career, wrong location, etc., but when these things change, most will find that they are still depressed. I don't think this is a modern innovation.
7 Oct 2011
Very wise and well said, as usual. There seems to be a paradox here. We are aspiring individualists because of the nature of our society, but what that seems to have given us most wonderfully are such common goods as good heath (from decent food, clean water, modern medicine, etc.) and security, the great basics, which most people never had. Considerable private unhappiness delivers great public goods. Alas, it may be worth it. The private unhappiness is like the grumping I hear (and mock) over loud sirens and lots of street construction. Those are delivering great goods and one should as they say, suck it up, perhaps even be grateful. (Loneliness I admit is another matter).
7 Oct 2011
In 2008-09 I spent time posting and replying to personals ads at an online dating site ( I eventually met the right someone). My experience was that many, perhaps the majority of the women I met, were so selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed that they could not possibly carry on a real relationship. As an older person, I learned that a potential partner my age who had never been married or had a long-term relationship should be avoided like the plague. I think the extensive loneliness out there, thick enough to cut with a knife, is largely the result of our self-obsessed society which fosters widespread narcissism.
7 Oct 2011
The compact personal ad seems like such a relic in the age of online, fully illustrated profiles. I'd still like to read a good book on the golden age of the personal, but for me it's now part of history.
7 Oct 2011
My wife and I would never have been matched on the basis of our religion, caste, level of education, or knowledge of English. Perhaps we're just a fluke, rarae aves who lucked out in this barbaric practice of choosing your own partner in life.
8 Oct 2011
Also, I'm amused that Dalrymple hopes to overhear profound personal revelations on the bus.
Because an enclosed public space, surrounded by strangers, is exactly where I reveal my innermost self. I'm sorry that the rest of us are too vulgar for Theorore Dalrymple's sensibility.
9 Oct 2011
For as I turned, there greeted mine likewise
What all behold who contemplate aright
that's Heaven's revolution through the skies.
9 Oct 2011
Finding myself desperately lonely in an unhappy marriage but with my children to consider, at middle age I made the acquaintance of a beautiful young, highly intellgent, highly educated and high class escort.
She makes me, and a few other men, gloriously happy. The last two years of my life have been blissful, making even my wife and children happier.
But, if Mr Daniels had his way this escort (let us not mince words, as Mr Daniels thinks a rose by any other name is significant; this hooker, whore, prostitute, call her what you will) would not be able to do as she does, and I would be confined to misery, as he has written recently how sordid a business this is.
For Mr Daniels, humanity must be looked at in all it's misery, but no further. Where happiness springs unexpectedly, then this relief from loneliness must be dismissed as sordid. Perhaps Mr Daniels has a solution that allows us happiness, social connection, and moral purity all at once - all we need do is think the right thoughts, follow the right practices, and we will be fine. Or then, perhaps Mr Daniels is a Buddhist; lower your expectations and never be disappointed.
Or maybe he has no answer, and there is no hope for happiness even with sound philosophical thoughts. Perhaps he is simply pointing out how benighted we all are.
But, if that is the case, why does he bother?
11 Oct 2011
The truly pathetic (in the older sense of evoking sympathy) quality of personal ads is how the advertisers convey their desperate presumption of knowing what will make them happy. "If there's someone out there who appreciates all these qualities about me, I'll be happy." It seems happiness and fulfillment are evolving mysterys rather than elusive destinations.
15 Oct 2011
The first conclusion one might draw, from the limitations of the personal ad that the author himself points out, is that "the medium is the message". The same remark can be applied to most self-help books, which sell in large numbers only if the reader feels the book has given him/her control over circumstances that may in truth be uncontrollable.
The author concludes "We are in revolt against what Hollander calls ‘the limitations imposed by our mortality, genes, social and physical environment, and chance,’ as Satan was in revolt against God."
My first thought was that this is sometimes true - for people with quite unrealistic ambitions. Consider, for example, the 55-year-old man who is interested only in women under 30, or the woman who is looking only for a millionaire. But in fact both those people are driven by biological imperatives: they are slaves of their mortality, genes etc, and are not in revolt against them, even though their quest will nearly always be futile.
Most of the people who use personal ads are clearly not in revolt either, they are knowingly using the medium for their maximum advantage.
A few of the people who place personal ads are faithful, honest, hard working, giving, not already married, not a secret alcoholic or drug dealer, and merely seek, against the odds, to find a partner with the same qualities. Are such people "in revolt against [nature] as Satan was in revolt against God"?
If so, should the same criticism be applied to anyone who undertakes a noble but dangerous endeavour without the guarantee of success?
17 Oct 2011
How did you manage to explain this neurotic social phenomena without resorting to the most stifling of modern expectations: the quest for the soul-mate?
21 Oct 2011
Comment on marrage advertiment in Indian newspaper are misguiding.Most advertiment appeared in newspaper in India are misleading.. Those who are successful to arrainge their marrage in rotune way they place advertiment.Very few youngerest are sucessful to get bridegroom or husband from these advertiment .In most cases people are cheated..
24 Oct 2011
Chance and Contingencie--the twin gods of destiny--unite the sought with the seeking in flexible and inderminate polarities. That, and a huge amount of common sense (always-rare) when the inexplicable occurs --all else is a waste of spirit in an expense of shame. The good doctor is brilliant as usual.
A tough proposition. Anyone for arranged marriages?
24 Oct 2011
The problem is the open-ended definition of an abstraction: "happiness." The same ambiguity trammels the U S Declaration of Independence. ". . . life, liberty, and the pursuit of (you know what)."
What a trap. Initially the D of I read ". . . pursuit of property."
Idealists turned that sensible pursuit of something tangible into the vaguest, most ambiguous, most abstract of terms: "happiness".
Idealists, idealism--all that ilk--are precipitants of tyranny, one sort or another. "Happiness" (see "pursuit of") eventually disintegrates the personality. For it is the pursuit of a chimera, a fantasy, a dream--an illusion, a myth, right out of 18th- and 19th- century Romanticism, ". . .A man's grasp must exceed his reach, ere what's a heaven for?"
Sad stuff--and nonsense
Voltaire got it right: cultivate your garden, and be reconciled to the reality that, as Pascal observed, the common thread uniting all sentient existence is. . ."misery." So be as virtuous as our sad human limitations permit (Zeno, and the Stoics generally). I am certain the good and wise Doctor D would agree.
And forget about that phantom that flees before you even as you think you are about to grasp it, "happiness". Unless, like Candide (pre-experiential) you think "happiness" lies just beyond tomorrow in the best of all possible worlds.
It doesn't. And it isn't.