Thursday, May 21, 2009

Getting sex right

I don't claim to know the sense of the concept of "getting sex right". We humans, like many living creatures (those that exploit sex to procreate), have always been obliged to take sex seriously. A priest, accompanying tourists to the Holy Sepulcher, was faced with a naive question: "So, the tomb's empty?" He replied: "Madame, if He's in, then we're out." Similarly, in a fabulous creationist Procreation Park, in the midst of joyful evocations of rustic Neanderthals getting sodomized by randy dinosaurs, we might imagine a profound question from a troubled visitor: "Is sex serious?" The guide, if he were truthful, would be obliged to reply: "If sex stops, then so do we."

On the other hand, I know what it means to get sex wrong... and that's apparently what has been happening for decades, according to a damning report, in Catholic-run Irish institutes for children. The situation involved sexual abuse that was so disgusting that I refrain from evoking it explicitly. If you happen to be interested in Ireland (for genealogical reasons, say), I advise you to touch this sad land (which I have never visited), like I do, with antiseptic gloves, with a long pole, or maybe solely through memories... by means of the Internet.

Soon, in a final chapter of my document called A Little Bit of Irish, I'll insert the following anecdote, which I've often related to various friends in emails. Long ago, in Paris, I got to know a charming Irish girl named Marie. This happened during a period of my life in Paris when I used to spend my evenings playing the guitar and singing folksongs in a café called Le Petit Gavroche. I seem to recall that Marie had probably married a French guy, but I forget the details. In any case, during my short but delightful relationship with Marie, she talked to me a lot about her home land, since she realized that I was intrigued by the Ireland of my ancestors. One day, lovely Marie decided to teach me a wonderful lesson, which she prefaced, almost solemnly, in the following terms (approximately, as well as I recall her words, and supplemented by facts):

William, I'm going to give you a little novel: The Poor Mouth. It's the English translation of an Irish novel, An Béal Bocht, written in Gaelic by an Irish journalist named Miles na Gopaleen, who calls himself Flann O'Brien in English. Knowing you a little, William, I'm fairly sure that you'll be thrilled by this little novel. In my opinion, William, you happen to have an Irish sense of humour, and I'm convinced that you'll find The Poor Mouth one of the funniest stories you've ever heard. But I'm not giving you this little novel to amuse you. I want you to read it for far more serious reasons. This novel will tell you, in a way, the story of your ancestors, William. You don't know exactly who exactly these ancestors were, and where they lived. Besides, you'll never be able to know such things. For all traces of them have disappeared forever. Your Irish ancestors have left no records, and their places have disappeared. But The Poor Mouth will tell you exactly how they lived, and how they thought. The novel will tell you everything you need to know about the spirit of your ancestors. One final word: If you're sensitive to The Poor Mouth, as I predict, I hope you'll never make the mistake of wasting your time and energy by setting foot in modern Ireland. That would be totally unnecessary, and it could only have a negative effect upon all that you've learnt from the novel by Miles na Gopaleen.

Marie was a prophet. I lost track of her. But I read the amazing novel. And I learned the nature of my ancestors. I've avoided visiting modern Ireland, because we descendants have nothing to learn there (on the contrary)... because our likes will not be there again.

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