Sunday, May 01, 2005

Acknowledging the decency of an insult

I've started to think better of the label "mental masturbation." I used to think that it was only incidentally pornographic, and for that reason I found it unsavory. Now I've noticed that the pornographic aspect actually touches something profound--at least, if we're imagining male masturbation and things running their natural course. Ala "meme" theory, as well as ala ordinary scholarship, a person's ideas really can act as seeds; and who can deny that contemplation can be both pleasurable and self-indulgent?

Assuming there's an intellectual product or two you actually admire, calling things "mental masturbation" carries a risk of hypocrisy. e.g. By what activity did Goethe produce his poems? Well, maybe that's a bad one. How about about Einstein's relativity? Do we give Einstein a pass just because post-musing he published? Is it because we liked the stuff that came out? Or is it irrational: When maestros muse it doesn't count as masturbation.

I think all of that's going on when we honor the reflections of acknowledged geniuses; and yet publication really is a lot like dissemination, without which the presumptively male muser is just spilling seed for his own pleasure. So I think publication in particular is a key.

Somewhat incidentally, that suggests that while blogging does appear to foster mental activity of the kind in question, also it tends to exculpate or elevate it. This exculpatory effect is intuitive and in fact the very thing that fosters the activity ("I'm publishing this, so it can't be pure self indulgence").

Now actually I'm inclined to say that self-stimulation of the genitals isn't intrinsically more self indulgent than self-stimulation of the mind, and so I don't think the mental activities are any more in need of exculpating than the genital. So, as long as we all remain wary of the risk of excess ("Reflect too much and you'll go blind!"), I say masturbate away.

Or was that implicit in my posts already?

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