We say it isn't so, but the evidence of our behavior contradicts the tongue: For most of us, the measure of a man is the size of his wallet.
Let a wealthy man enter the room, and everyone dances some version of Tom Lehrer's Vatican Rag. They may not call it that, but it comes to the same thing metaphorically. First you get down on your knees. Then bow your head in deep respect and genuflect, genuflect, genuflect.
More than anything we want the benediction of money. Our daily gimme, gimme gimme to God is that money will wrap us in its grace. Use its influence to open doors, grease palms, deliver jobs, pay the campaign debt.
Then one day the repulsive hidden life of a Harvey Weinstein is thrown open to the wolfish daily news feed, and suddenly everyone is appalled. The grotesque and possibly criminal allegations against him differ from other big-fish harassers only in the details.
Thus Cosby, Ailes, O'Reilly, Weinstein, and too many others like them prove the lie. The one we say we don't believe but to which we pay homage daily. The common denominator in each of these much publicized cases is wealth. You'd think the dough would be enough, right? That and the pretty wife, the big car, the private planes, not to mention the power that comes with it.
So why isn't it?
How about this answer: No one understands the lie we live by better than the man who embodies it. The Big Lie possesses him more than anyone else.
All that wealth is supposed to be nirvana, right? So how come you're still hungry after you get it? How come you're willing to gamble the whole kit and caboodle on a few unseemly moments? Could it be that the identity you've forged with all that cash is in fact a prison? That maybe you've designed the perfect labyrinth for the Minotaur that is also you?
Could it be that all you really want is a few moments of freedom, the space to feel truly alive for just a little while, the time it takes to get out on a limb, risk it all, hoe the bomb-strewn adrenaline row - and get away with it?
Too bad your way of going about it victimizes women. Too bad the power you hold over them diminishes you even as it demeans and repulses them. See how the act reveals you to yourself in the worst possible light? Bad side only. And don't you know, haven't you known all along? Sooner or later one of them will tell. Hasn't anyone learned anything from Monica Lewinsky?
But even if every assaulted and abused woman never opened her mouth, you would still be unable to escape the painful truth her very presence reveals to you. The lie you live by will never be enough. The elusive mystery of the feminine, that wellspring of unconditional love, which you are most hungry for, will forever elude you.
Because it's not something you can get by grabbing. It's not something you can own. Though all your other possessions and the daily genuflection at your feet say otherwise. It can only be had by way of a path completely unknown to you. The path of having without possessing. Anything other than that is obscene, pornographic. And so are you.
The first time I heard Lucinda Williams sing “Blue,” emotion kept me from getting the lyrics right. Instead of hearing, “We don’t talk about heaven, we don’t talk about hell,” I heard: “We don’t talk about heaven, we talk about hell.” Even now, whenever I listen to "Blue" that’s how I hear it. I remembered the wrong words and made them fit my meaning.
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