Tuesday, September 2, 2008

La Petit Mort

I suspect that this post is going to make some readers uncomfortable. That's not my intent. But it's important to the story -- critical really. If you "can't handle the truth," then I suggest you skip it and wait for my next post. While you're waiting, check out this video and then this one.

In the fall of 1989, I was 24. To that point in my life, I'd never had an orgasm. At least, not a conscious one.

Until now, I've tried to hint at this in the blog with Seinfeldian euphemism. At 24, I was still "master of my domain," which for those non-Seinfeld fans, simply means that I had not only abstained from sex up to that point, but that I had also abstained from "auto-erotic activity." (Here's the classic opening to "The Contest.")

In other words: to that point in my life I'd never masturbated. Ever.

I had simply never learned how. Sure, as I've already written, as a teenager, I had been sexually active (though I'd never had intercourse). And I'd heard all the slang references to masturbation that kids threw around. But I had never learned the mechanics of the act. As a horny 24 year old, I'd thought that I had been masturbating when, in fact, I had only been fondling myself. (If only there had been Wikipedia in the late 80s.)

Through the magic of videotape, that was all about to change.

One night that fall, a couple of older disciples brought a video over to our place to watch (not all disciples had TVs, let alone video players). The video was Pink Flamingos, by John Waters. I'd never heard of it or John Waters before and I don't remember whether the guys who brought the video over had given me any warning about its content beforehand, but the movie was disturbing and I found it in poor taste. Among many other things, however, the movie showed a scene of a man masturbating.

That night, alone in my room, I had my first conscious orgasm.

The experience was completely unexpected and unforgettable. One minute I was practicing the technique I'd just seen on the video, and in the next moment I was thrown into ecstasy. I was so overwhelmed by the rush of pleasure that shot up my spine and exploded in my brain that it took a few seconds for me to realize what had happened.

Some years later, I came across the French phrase "la petit mort" or "the little death" which, for me, is the most elegant and apt description for this most personal of human experiences. In any event, my life changed that fall night. I couldn't go back. As nature intended, my desire for sex -- to re-experience that pleasure -- had been fully unleashed. It would demand satisfaction and, by extension, my exit from the Center in a few short months.

With the benefit of hindsight, my masturbatory naivete served an important occult purpose: it had left my mind susceptible to yoga, to trance. As I noted earlier on, had I slept with the first girl I had had a shot at (at 14), I no doubt would have become a more confident teenager. But it would have been at the expense of my spiritual life. I'd like to think that I would have still turned out okay, that I would have remained philosophically inclined, but I'm not at all sure that I would have.

If I had experienced a conscious orgasm when I had been a teenager (as opposed to nocturnal emissions), it's almost certain that I would not have joined the Center, whatever my spiritual leanings might have been. Adding sex to the volatile mix of my teenage drug and alcohol use and rock and roll (or jazz fusion) would not have led to any foreseeable good.

In a real way, it was my sexual dysfunction and associated feelings of shame that led me to the Center. It was my sexual naivete which left room in my being for a dominant psychic force to play its role. And it was my fledgling sexual maturity that would usher me -- not always gracefully -- back into the world.

The image of Mary, above, was taken by my sister and posted at her "All Things Death" blog here. Mary presides over our family's mausoleum in Queens.

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