Saturday, May 15, 2004

Advice on Sex from Epicurus

Epicurus (circa 341-271 B.C.) wrote the following to a disciple:

I understand from you that your natural disposition is too much inclined toward sexual passion. Follow your inclinations as you will provided only that you neither violate the laws, disturb well-established customs, harm any one of your neighbors, injure your own body, nor waste your possessions. That you be not checked by some one of these provisos is impossible; for a man never gets any good from sexual passion, and he is fortunate if he does not receive harm.(Italics added, Letters, Principal Doctrines, Vatican Sayings, trans. R. M. Geer, Macmillan, 1987, pp. 69-70)

Had Bill Clinton heeded this advice, kept his penis in harness, and his paws off the overweight intern, he might have left office with an impressive legacy indeed. But instead he will schlep down the centuries tied to Monica like Abelard to Heloise -- except for the fact that he got off a lot easier than poor Abelard.

Closer to home is the case of Robert Blake whose lust led him into a tender trap that turned deadly. Then there was the case of the dentist whose extramural activities provoked his dentist wife to run him down with the family Mercedes. The Bard had it right: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

This litany of woe can be lengthened ad libitum. My motive is not Schadenfreude, but a humble desire to learn from the mistakes of others. Better that they rather than I should pay my tuition in the school of Hard Knocks.

Heed me, muchachos, there is no more delusive power on the face of the earth than sex. Or as a Turkish proverb has it, "Erkegin sheytani kadindir," "Man's devil is woman." And conversely.