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Whatever's Clever

Taking Shots of Rum on the Morning of Your Wedding

from My Life's Work by Ben Seretan

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Galatians 6:8
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

I have always felt the unshakeable burden of desire. I have always lived squarely within the notion that wanting for anything carries dire consequences, that those who slake the thirst of their baser instincts will one day suffer, forever, amen. Something out of the oldest testaments, a karmic equilibrium, eyes for eyes and slights for slights. Something picked up from a long lost religion but very much still in my blood, nestled in the primordial regions. But rather than cause me to shy away from the things I want, this phantom notion of retribution causes me to overindulge, to shove fistfuls of whatever it is in my mouth, and then brace myself, like standing in a doorframe during an earthquake. I wait for the pendulum to swing and when I receive my punishment - and I can always find something that counts as punishment, no matter the psychic leaps required - I savor it. In one sense it’s reassuring to have my biblical notions confirmed - I recognize that it’s a superstitious belief, one derived from a wrathful God I no longer hold dear (and haven’t in decades), but nevertheless it is one in which I am rooted absolutely. I have tried and failed to change my thinking. Not thinking, more of an intuition.

A tweet from June 24th, 2012:
"NO ONE CHILLS OUT IN HELL'S FLAMES" -a sign I read in Virginia today

It’s been my great project in life the last little while to try and take hold of what I want, to unapologetically satisfy my various hungers with less accommodation of others. Not that I haven’t been considerate of other people, not that I don’t do things for the sake of others, but I sublimated my wants for what feels like a lifetime, let them evaporate before whoever’s will. Because it’s safer and beyond the reach of punishment to accommodate someone else’s desires. Accommodating others eschews my responsibility, the weight of my own actions and, conveniently, allows me the opportunity for being “good,” that golden-retriever-like good boy pat on the head. That reassurance I so desperately need at all times. Taken further it allows me to be a martyr, to sacrifice something when it is not demanded of me.

A tweet from March 25, 2013:
Have you ever been around someone who was so beautiful & magnificent that you fear their touch because your heart would definitely explode?

I’ve made real concerted efforts in recent months to escape this, to feel really and truly that it is generally okay to want things, that it is okay (in fact, good?) to satisfy the want of those things. May we all get what we want at minimal cost to others.

A tweet from July 15th, 2012:
a dog is hard to kill, his spirit clings to life

I realize at this point that I have been indirect. What I’m talking about specifically: lust (who I take to bed), personal praise (popularity, acclaim), gluttony (indulgent food), intimacy (boundary breaking) and in my most hungover moments sloth (watching television). The various hungers. Universal themes but still I am frequently bowled over by a strong need for penance every time I breathe any of that air a little too deeply. Which I think is how I had such a penchant once for enduring situations that made me unhappy - I deserved whatever unhappiness I got because of my desires, my hungers. Destruction, reaping.

A tweet from August 11th, 2013:
Somebody for the love of God please notice that I am happy

Even this, your attention, the belief that I am interesting - - perdition awaits and I welcome it.

Decal on the grill of a dirty white van seen around SoHo as of late:
As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap

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from My Life's Work, released August 30, 2018

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Ben Seretan Troy, New York

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