Relationships in a World of Individualism

  • rWorld

    The rWorld is about more than Dale Kuehne's book Sex and the iWorld.
    The rWorld is a New England based, non-profit (in formation), that is composed of a growing number of people and organizations from many faith and ideological backgrounds worldwide. We believe that much of the fulfillment for which women and men are looking can be found by enhancing the quality of our relationships. While the individual freedom we enjoy in the West is a gift, the love and intimacy for which humans yearn will not be found in self-serving materialism or hedonism, but in a variety of healthy relationships.

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  • Dale Kuehne

    Sex & the iWorld

    Professor of Politics and The Richard L. Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH.

    In this blog I'm highlighting signposts of the world in which we presently reside as a means of helping promote a civil, and meaningful dialogue about what kind of world in which we wish to live. I am particularly interested in exploring how might we reconcile the individual good and the common good, and where reconciliation isn’t possible, which should take precedence and why.

    I also blog at

    [Content Caution]

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Many Mad Masters (Sexual Freedom, Take 1)

Posted by Dale Kuehne on February 23, 2010

Take 1 comes from Ancient Greece and a conversation between Socrates and Cephalus about sex and freedom. Cephalus says,

“Now then, when they meet, most of the members of our group lament, longing for the pleasures of youth and reminiscing about sex, about drinking bouts and feats and all that goes with things of that sort; they take it hard as though they were deprived of something very important and had then lived well but are now not even alive. Some also bewail the abuse that old age receives from relatives, and in this key they sing a refrain about all the evils old age has caused them. But, Socrates, in my opinion these men do not put their fingers on the cause. For, if this were the cause, I too would have suffered these same things insofar as they depend on old age and so would everyone else who has come to this point in life. But as it is, I have encountered others for whom it was not so, especially Sophocles. I was once present when the poet was asked by someone, “Sophocles, how are you in sex? Can you still have intercourse with a woman?” “Silence, man,” he said. “Most joyfully did I escape it, as though I had run away from a sort of frenzied and savage master.” I thought at the time that he had spoken well and I still do. For in every way old age brings great peace and freedom from such things. When the desires cease to strain and finally relax, then what Sophocles says comes to pass in every way; it is possible to be rid of many mad masters.”

Plato, The Republic, Book 1

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? … am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
My god! … what have I done?

Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads) “Remain in the Light” (1980)


2 Responses to “Many Mad Masters (Sexual Freedom, Take 1)”

  1. Hmm,

    And so, I suppose, even if where we are going is not where we want to go, once we are there, since we cannot return, we call it where we had always intended, or if nothing else, at least where we would have otherwise have intended.

    Similarly, we relish our regrets as stepping stones to the present – claiming no desire to change the past as it has brought us to where we are. We assume with diluted wisdom that where we are is where we want to be. It is not only easiest but effortless, as change is a tiresome burden – for the past can be undone as the present can be made to reach back to it, but the labor alone is dispelling.

    And so, likewise, in the passing of those things that filled out lives with passion and excitement, we change their particular persuasion from that of pleasure to one of prison from which we may “be rid of many mad masters” which retrospectively only appear so in the realization that they are no longer available to us.

    Through the passing of time new pleasures and lifetime joys might arise, this is true. The older I get the more I understand certain truths and the more I am exposed to certain joys like family and fruition.

    However, it’s a struggle to be honest with myself and also try to re-categorize those things I once experienced as pleasure and joy as some type of masked vice I am only now recognizing as pain. They weren’t to me then. How could they be so to me now?

    Some pleasures may be “once in a lifetime”, but I don’t think that that give me, personally, license to unwind their value from so much then to worthless now. I think you can be allowed to both miss the good ole days with a sense of lament, while appreciating the inevitability of the present.

    Thank you for bringing me to reflect on this.

  2. I have sadly concluded that the wisdom and perspective I give myself credit for is mostly just loss of energy. We have too much when young, and it leaks out of us in a thousand ways. Likely, we needed that ready supply for emergencies to survive as a species.

    Jerry, I agree that we easily rationalise the course of events which brought us to our present state, in this best of all possible worlds. I take some comfort in the knowledge that, after much serious reminiscence (to answer a specific question rather than simply engage in nostalgia), I concluded that most of the people in my life would make similar decisions if they had a hundred repeats. This suggests that I, too, would have made pretty much the same decisions, however much I might fantacise about betting on the Red Sox to win the pennant in 1967, or investing in Microsoft’s IPO. Sumus quod sumus.

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