Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s first published novel, 1811, (beautifully portrayed in the 1995 movie starring Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Kate Winslet), is one of the many successful stories that have made her one of the most widely read writers in the English language.
Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her work on the screenplay; and critics deem it well deserved.
Of course, some book/movie titles just have that ring to them, don’t they? That sometimes alliterative and arresting name that just sticks with you, or compels you to investigate further.
Comedians often make use of familiar titles and expressions, adding a syllable or taking away a letter, thereby forming a whole new word or phrase that reminds the listener (or reader) of the familiar expression while at the same time providing a new twist for their minds to entertain. A comedian might tell the story of “The Pee Little Thrigs,” for instance. Or Archie Bunker might talk about “the sperm of the moment.”
And that is exactly what happened to me Friday night as I sat (and sometimes stood) at an open air, country music concert, surrounded by thousands of country music fans; Bud Light and other variations on a theme by Dionysus were in the hands of many. Dirty dancing was engaged in by countless individuals, and women were adorned in a way that would entice even the most pious (and puzzle authentic country/western people no end).
As country music star, Jason Aldean, proclaimed from the stage, “country music can make anything sexy: tractors, pickup trucks, and drinking beer.” A truism indeed.
My daughter and I were standing at the top of the concrete steps where droves of persons had to pass to enter the amphitheater. A young man went by us carrying a tall can of beer topped with a plastic cup, and as he did he said, “I love you guys! I don’t know you yet, but . . . I love you!”
And the night was still young. Not sure if he came to the show slightly pickled, or if he was just anticipating how he would feel once he got loosened up a bit.
Beer. Loud music. And thousands of people all mashed together in an enclosed space.
Sounds like a recipe for combustion, doesn’t it?
That may be why numbers of security personnel were traversing the grounds all night, sifting through the crowd, scanning the sea of country music enthusiasts, sniffing out pot smokers and other infractors.
Now let me be clear. I love country music. I love having a good time. As a musician I also am impressed with musical excellence and instrumental prowess. In addition, I am an ardent fan of great beauty. And I like the taste of beer and wine.
But something odd happens when large groups of people drink alcohol, listen to loud music, and dress a part. Articles on crowd control theory and crowd management abound. So, I will not labor to present the basics of that field of study. Let it suffice to say that is is a phenomenon well documented, fraught with predictable results. Often negative. Or to borrow (out of context) from a favorite writer of mine, they become “incompetent groups of competent individuals.”
What caught my attention at the concert is a subject I have been mulling over for some time.
Sensuality: “relating to, devoted to, or producing physical or sexual pleasure,” according to Merriam-Webster.
As human beings, we are hardwired with the ability to enjoy physical pleasure, sexual and otherwise. The desire for pleasure is a mighty force within each of us. Learning to keep our gratification gyroscope (if you will allow me to use that expression) upright is a part of our maturing process.
The absence of sensual parameters and boundaries is the very definition of licentious. All license – nothing disallowed or banned. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? In the fantasy world it most certainly is; but in the real world it loses its luster (sorry for the pun).
And it prompts me to ask the question: what sense is there in sensuality?
Although I thought I was being original with this apparent contrasting title, Sense and Sensuality, there is a book published in 2010 by Ravi Zacharias with this title (providing an imaginative dialogue between Jesus and Oscar Wilde), and a number of blogs and/or articles where authors have availed themselves of the same expression.
So . . . I will join the crowd (so to speak), and become one of the many, I suppose. For I feel compelled to point out that sense and sensuality seem to be at polar opposites in the human psyche. Are they compatible?
When Greeks spoke of sensuality in the ancient world they used the word aselgeia. In Plato’s Republic it is used to describe the “sheer impudence of lawlessness.” In the New Testament it is used to describe an attitude of open, shameless, undisciplined, and indecent action wherein the individual is indifferent to the opinion or rights of anyone else.
Sounds somewhat like the venue I was in on Friday night.
By the way, there were some really nice people at that concert. Courteous, patient, respectful, and kind; I’m sure they had a good time. And there was the guy near us who out-of-the-blue offered a hearty high-five to my wife and I; he was joyous, gregarious . . . and inebriated. And I’m sure there were many more who would have acted more decently had they not been rendered inhibitionless by drinking.
A picture of the amphitheater after most of the attendees had left is revealing: a field covered with empty beer cans, plastic cups, dropped food and paper plates (and probably some puke in there somewhere, too). There are no trash cans available, because management knows they would not be used. So, part of the ticket price includes payment for clean up (much the same as you see in the bleachers or stadium after a high school football game). It’s part of the reason public bathrooms are now equipped with automatic flush on the toilets, right?
How many folks woke up the next morning with regrets over the effects of following their need for sensuality?
Never fear! I will not wax moral on anyone. That is not my point at all!
I do not endorse the sanctimonious, the people too good to mix with the crowd, persons who cannot bear to be seen with the masses.
What I am talking about is regret. The regret that comes when I allow sensuality to make sense. When the rudder of my life is the next good feeling, the next fun meal, the next titillation. It fits well with our movie culture, our country music culture, the “no holds barred” and “full throttle” approach to living the good life. But it fails miserably when it comes to family, citizenship, and making the world a better a place for people.
It is almost as if we reserve this tangent, this sensual excursion, this sensory depot just off the main track of our lives. If we tried to actually LIVE there, we know how stupid we would look and act. So, we live elsewhere most of the time . . . but allow ourselves to take a well-deserved vacation to Crazyville from time to time, especially when lots of others around us are going there, too. And the alcohol helps us all get there, of course.
By the way, there is some sense in sensuality; that is, when the sensuality does not govern our lives but merely adorns it. But when sensuality reigns supreme – LOOK OUT!