Tuesday, August 27, 2019


     This one is “off the top of my head,” so expect more extreme lunacy than usual. (Yes, I know that’s asking a lot.)

     Every now and then, I’ll encounter a picture that triggers a moment of reflection. Such moments are frequent in these days of universal Internet access and broadband media. Such reflections are sometimes accompanied by a surge of gratitude...or of regret.

     Courtesy of Kenny “Wirecutter” Lane at Knuckledraggin’ My Life Away, here’s the most recent example:

     Yes, it’s a beautiful picture. Yes, the woman is beautiful: beautiful face, exquisite figure, long hair, and long, smooth legs. Fetchingly poised in a window box, striking a contemplative pose as she gazes outward. And in sexy lingerie and five inch heels! My word! How much more could a man ask for?

     The odds are pretty damned high that this wasn’t a “candid” shot. The woman is likely to be a professional model. The photo was likely taken in a studio. Householders are very seldom interested in black-and-white photography. And all of that is secondary to this:

Have you ever known a woman of any age or degree of pulchritude to sit around her home wearing only sexy lingerie and high heels?

     Nope. Me neither.

     Desires and dreams are important. We all have them. But realism is even more important...and it’s becoming a critically scarce commodity.

     It’s good to dream. It’s good to have grand ambitions. But the universe has laws no one can break. Among the most important of them are the laws of probability.

     The gal in the photo above is one of the most beautiful women in America. That’s a small group. Needless to say (though, as is my wont, I shall say it even so), there’s no guarantee that her beautiful face and body are united to a beautiful character. Indeed, that’s the case less often than not, as a concentration on achieving and maintaining physical beauty usually accompanies a lack of attention to character and deportment. Moreover, membership in the Raving Beauties Club seldom lasts more than a few years...and as beauty fades, those other matters become even more important.

     Gentlemen: If you were offered the opportunity to be married to that gal, sight unseen and knowing nothing else about her, would you take it? If so, why?

     You’d be taking the short end of a bet, my friends. Especially considering what family law has become in our time. Yet she’s the image in a hell of a lot of men’s dreams.

     Of course, certain risks and sacrifices go along with marriage to anyone. But even should Mr. Smith find a supernaturally lovely Miss Jones to woo, what are the odds that he, a more or less average American with an average American’s life prospects, would win her heart? Should he succeed in doing so, how long would the physical gifts that attracted him endure? And what sort of character, children, and wifely and motherly devotion would he acquire with her?

     It’s the same for women pining for the sort of men featured on the covers of romance novels, so the ladies in the audience shouldn’t imagine that I’m omitting them from the unrealism derby.

     By making professional entertainers a part of our usual evenings, television in its early years introduced dreams of the sort alluded to above to our aspirations. The images have grown steadily brighter, sharper, more glamorous, and more enticing as the decades have rolled past. But they remain images, not realities to which ordinary people can seriously aspire.

     The same could be said of typical fantasies of great wealth. It comes to very few persons, and in many cases it doesn’t last long. Casinos and lotteries cater to those fantasies, which is how they make their money. But the man who heads to Atlantic City with his savings in his pocket, hoping to come home rich, is in serious need of a reality check.

     Yet we all dream. We’re encouraged to dream by many forces. Dreams are not entirely unconstructive; they can serve as a spur to effort. However, a tragic fraction of us make unrealistic dreams into goals we imagine we can realize, with the right breaks and enough effort. Failure to realize such unrealisms is at the root of a lot of unhappiness. It’s a notable component of the envy plague that’s beset our society.

     When dreams displace values is when we’re in real trouble – and that, too, has become an epidemic of sorts.

     A still worse outgrowth was the increase of speculation and gambling. With the plethora of paper currency in 1791 appeared the first evidences of that cancerous disease which always follows large issues of irredeemable currency,—a disease more permanently injurious to a nation than war, pestilence or famine. For at the great metropolitan centers grew a luxurious, speculative, stock-gambling body, which, like a malignant tumor, absorbed into itself the strength of the nation and sent out its cancerous fibres to the remotest hamlets. At these city centers abundant wealth seemed to be piled up: in the country at, large there grew a dislike of steady labor and a contempt for moderate gains and simple living.

     [Andrew Dickson White, Fiat Money Inflation in France]

     "These people, it's no mystery where they come from. You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire. You build egos the size of cathedrals. Fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse. Grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green gold-plated fantasies until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own god. Where can you go from there?" -- "John Milton," played by Al Pacino, from the movie The Devil's Advocate

     Dreams that displace values are responsible for wrecking many lives, many marriages, and many careers. Political dreams, the sort that afflict many an occupant of high office or an aspirant to it, lead to self-betrayals that are often bitterly repented later on. Just now some twenty dreamers are vying for the Democrat Party’s 2020 presidential nomination. No more than one of them can succeed, yet all are making promises that no man, even one installed in the Oval Office, could possibly fulfill. To cap the ironies, they seek to challenge the first president since Grover Cleveland who’s making good on his promises, as far as human ability and the vicissitudes of federal politics will allow.

     There’s a moral in there, somewhere.

     “It is good to dream...but be sure to wake up.” – Gregory Benford, Timescape


Ed Bonderenka said...

Well said.
"The stuff dreams are made of."

Linda Fox said...

A lot of ambition is behind most of the candidates - they wake and go to sleep with the mental image of THEIR face on the news, captioned by the words "President of the United States". They become so wrapped up in that idea that they willingly sacrifice any ethical consideration, moral base, or principle they ever held - IF they did, in fact, hold any.

Most of us - at some point in our lives - are a little like that. In time, most of us weigh the cost, and choose to let the ambition go. We choose to settle for a less-than-rich life, for the benefit of being there for our families and friends.

Some can never let that raging ambition go - I've personally known a few. They head into the 'long twilight' still angry about not having hit that goal.

I won't mention one of the most unhappy women I've ever seen, furious about being denied what she thought was her due place in the sun. You know her.

Paul in Boston said...

Hmm, five inch platform heels, my first thought is a hooker parading her wares.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Naah, these days hookers prefer even higher ones. Typically strappy sandals made of Lucite.

HoundOfDoom said...

As as married man of several decades service, I can say that when I see my bride in that outfit, I know it must either be my birthday, or there has been an automobile accident.