Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pleasure Is A Good Thing

It is an amazing thing that people, with just slight pressure on just the right point, will offer up their greatest hopes, dreams and desires to perfect strangers. In talking to so many people, I have discovered a scary truth: despite all we come up with to the contrary, all the elaborate ruses to justify ourselves, we all want the same thing: pleasure. How to get it, though. How not to feel guilty about it in our productivity-oriented society. Now there is the problem. Some people have given up trying. Some people haven't.

Yesterday, after my recharging cartwheels, I was ready to get back to the business of giving out gold stars. I sat at the bar at a great Middle Eastern restaurant in Fort Greene, the cool spring air coming in the open door, the potted palms reaching almost to the exposed rafters, and I wrote. And talked. And ate bacon-wrapped, date- covered almonds and falafel-coated fried artichokes with a glass of red wine. And wrote some more.

A woman came in who had spent an hour with Verizon to try to fix a problem so she could get her work done, to no avail. She was happy. She couldn't do her work and didn't have to feel guilty about it. She ordered a mimosa and sat, smiling as the sun shone on her from the skylight above, telling her tale of jobless woe, the many applications that had been rejected.

"I met someone, though, so my personal life is good," she told the owner behind the bar with a shrug. C'est la vie.

I had to pipe in. "That's all that really matters," I said.

We all agreed. But there was that pesky problem of how to make money...I threw out my concept of a utopian barter system, where we didn't all just have to sit around doing pointless tasks, waiting morbidly for a rich relative to die.

"We feel we're not on farmland," I said, looking around as if the elaborate construction of buildings and roads we'd set up had disappeared or could, "but we are. We need to get back to basics."

"I have nothing to barter," the girl said, pride wounded by the many rejections.

"Of course you do! You're totally upbeat and that is very valuable," I said. It was the perfect moment to pull out the gold star. She smiled bigger, very pleased, and placed the puffy star right on her cheek.

"I feel so special," she said, shrugging into a self hug.

She guessed, she said, she had her body. I laughed. Sex is one of the few things we do still barter in a capitalist society, and even that has become extremely monetized in so many ways.

The owner had stepped away momentarily and come back. "How did we get to talking about prostitution?" he asked, amazed at the turn. We explained that it was something she felt she could offer up in the new, better barter society. Without skipping a beat, he offered up his own fantasy: "I could be a porn star, I think that'd be great!"

We laughed. When I questioned him, was he really sure he would enjoy it, there is a lot of waiting around, he offered up an emphatic yes. He was sure. Every open conversation seems to come down to this, to sex, to pleasure. In the midst of economic crisis, it is the one thing people know for sure they can afford. It is natural, free in every sense if we are willing to open ourselves up to it.

This morning, as synchronicity would have it, I met a sex consultant whose given last name is Love. She is in the midst of writing a tounge-in-cheek sex manual in between gigs assisting expert sex gurus like Barbara Carrellas, the author of Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century. She is living in Brooklyn and loving it, reaching out to people to help them understand how to find their way back to pleasure. She definitely deserved her gold star, took it graciously and recognized it exactly as it was intended, as a moment of connection that would stay with her throughout her day. Like good sex.

In an interview I watched on YouTube with Barbara Carrellas, whom Ms. Love loves and greatly admires, she offered up the concept we all sometimes forget: ecstasy doesn't come in a pill. "Forces of nature are moving through you, there is no goal," she said. "It is all about staying in the present moment and taking the journey."

She offered up that "Pleasure has been so dismissed, so denigrated, so put in to a place of shame in this culture. It is all about consciousness: are you really paying attention to what you're doing and where you are?" Are we? I think we have strayed too far. What's happening now is a necessary correction I like to say.

The New York Times wrote a story in the Style section recently about orgasmic meditation or OMing. I was surprised to see such a long, open story about sex in a major, one might argue The major mainstream publication. But we, all of us, are primed for the message. Our measures of pleasure have failed us and, even if they hadn't, we can surely no longer afford them.

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