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Alone in the Universe

I won’t be posting for the next couple of days, so let me just add one more thought about the issues Noah, Rod, and I were discussing last night. When you listen to people explain why they get involved in extreme sexual experiences — whether on the stage or in private — they often sound exactly like ultra-marathoners or long-distance swimmers, people obsessed with discovering the outer limits of their bodies’ ability to perform. But whether they’re in public or not, it is indeed performance that such people are pursuing: they seek an arena in which they are both actor and audience, observed and observer, while others serve as mere instruments to enable the self-testing. All these endeavors strike me as incredibly lonely.

“Sex Without Love”
Sharon Olds

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other’s bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health — just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

about the author

Alan Jacobs is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the author most recently of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography.

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