Free Sex and Comfortable Assurances

Just for interest’s sake, I took a look at the Amazon listings from the NYT Bestseller list over the weekend. The trade paperbacks were interesting cultural markers. [Ed. note: Article is from November 2012.]

In fiction: Sylvia Day and E.L. James held the top three slots. Effed-up characters doing outrageously naughty explicit things for the vicarious titillation of readers.

In nonfiction: Proof of Heaven and Heaven is for Real held the top two slots.

So, let’s see. Sin as the panacea for sin for entertainment, and a comfortable assurance that we all go someplace nice in the final reckoning for the next day’s hangover.

Or are they both just symptoms of escapism?

To put this in context, there are also a lot of political volumes on the list as I write this, just under a week after the election. That smacks of engagement, not escapism. I think it would be simplistic to suggest the porn penchant and interest in the hereafter are somehow analogous fictive dreams.

As a cynic about human nature and our ability to delude ourselves about our own goodness, it seems to me the common thread is more likely, “I did it my way.”

Whether gratification or anticipation of final reward, we like to think we’re entirely autonomous determiners of our decisions and our destiny. But even in the degradation of pornographic “redemption” tales, there’s still some concept of good and evil. No matter how screwball and codependent, the thought is there.

If good and evil exist, then we have a problem with this whole self-determinist scenario. What is good? How do we overcome evil? Does anyone actually want evil to continue in heaven? If not, then how serious are we about looking it in the face, here and now?

What happens if it turns out I am evil?

It’s more comfortable, I’m sure, to leave the question cast in shades of grey, and the hope of eternal life in the hands of nebulous personal anecdote. Our way is the highway.