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Second Start, Ten Reasons, Five Significant Facts


Prologue as well as Special Pleading: please don't be put off by the relative length (about 2,200 words) of this piece! I spent a fair amount of time on it, and I'd like you, Gentle Reader, to do me a favor and read this through. My future posts will almost invariably be more specific and much shorter.


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Hulloos again. I've been on a hiatus from this blog for a while. Quite a long while, nearly two years. (My last post, on 2 February 2011, was titled "Alphabeticalist 2.1.") I'd like to think of this, this return, as a second start. I hope that everyone is over being hung-over, after celebrating the first few hours of 2013 (or saying "Good riddance!" to 2012 in that year's final hours). I hope, too, that the list-making and resolution-forming phase, a ritual many of us perform in the early days of every January, is over too. I just finalized my list tonight. On Saturday, a little before midnight. One of those resolutions, you will be right in supposing, is to have a livelier (or at least not comatose) social life this year. To plagiarize a little from my favorite poet, Philip Larkin: Last year is dead: Begin afresh, afresh, afresh. At any rate--Happy New Year, y'all!


I'll be writing about "stuff" again of course -- that is, whatever's on my mind, as long it has, most of the time, some relation, however tangential or penumbral, to the overarching "theme and variations" of HIV/AIDS. "Tangential, "some relation," "most of the time" -- I do not mean, by using these qualifiers, that I'll be writing about literally anything at all: the Duchess of Cambridge's morning sickness, a maddeningly overpriced book, or developments in patristic scholarship...


But hey, wait a minute. I might write about patristics--the study of the early Fathers of the Church, some who wrote in Greek and some in Latin, all men, most of whom have been dead for a millennium or much longer--since there could be "tangential" (perhaps revelatory?) connections between our concerns today and those old moral and  theological preoccupations. For instance: what role does society in general, and the government in particular, have in caring for the sick and the poor? Does the nature of the sickness matter? Or how it is acquired? Is compassion a moral imperative--and if so, why? How can discrimination (against prostitutes and lepers, let's say) ever be justified? What about practical, therapeutic actions--tested ones, before the scientific method was articulated? Should quacks, peddling salvation and "cures," be allowed to do their peddling (the First Amendment was ratified only in 1791)? What about end-of-life care? Ambrose, Aquinas, Augustine, Gregory, Jerome, Irenaeus--all of them, and scores of others, were deeply concerned with all these questions. So: some tangents might not be irrelevant after all--or at all.


I suppose what I'm saying is: allow me some latitude. I should add that I do not plan on posting many longish essays such as this in the future. Shorter pieces, mostly: better for me (I think) and better for you (I hope).

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Five reasons you should NOT, I repeat NOT, read my blog:


(1) If you like short sentences and really easy words. I aspire towards clarity, always, in my writing, and never (well, almost never) indulge in, (i) trinket-tinsel flashiness, (ii) anxious and cheap lyricism, (iii) mind-numbing minimalism as well as the baffling kind, and (iv) sham displays of ersatz erudition. But clarity can sometimes involve complications. Of ideas as well as, correspondingly perhaps, of syntax and vocabulary.


(2) If you don't like allusions--to poetry, philosophy, physics, my various pet peeves and passions. Or if my idiosyncrasies of tone and topic bore or irritate you. Or if you think that being "high-brow" and "literary" mean being snotty and snooty and condescending and ignobly elitist. (They do not.)


(3a) If you want ghastly writing, writing that is explicitly designed, in lazy and trite ways, to Make You Feel Better About Yourself.  I am not condemning, in one fell swoop (lazy and trite phrase, that one), the impulse to seek pleasure and comfort and solace from words. Far from it. I know the healing power of words all too well. Daily. Wise or funny or moving words, in books called scriptural, in children's fairy tales, or simply in random passages read in a magazine while waiting at the dentist's office. I know that I can face some of the horrors one reads about in the newspaper every single day--twenty children and six teachers murdered, the systemic rape and abuse of women in India and elsewhere, the endless wars and the seemingly endless pain--because the World War I poems of Wilfred Owen, or the science-fiction novels of Arthur C. Clarke, or the Doonesbury comic strip... I know that these works and words are there, when I need them; and that they are there, at least in some small part, to help me. Art for Art's Sake?--well, OK. But Art for Life's Sake--well, OK to that too.


(3b) What I was referring to earlier was to a specific blight. Dwight Garner, a book critic for the New York Times and not someone who sneers at something just because it's popular, or has plebeian and practical rather than a patricianly paltry value, wrote, just a couple of days ago about this danger. The "peril," he said, lies in this: Given "the subprimate level of intelligence and wit in most self-help books," you are "leading millions of your innocent brain cells into the killing fields." Garner, and I, are talking about the miles of Self-Help Aisles in bookshops, the Motivational Seminars that fleece you, and the You-Can-Achieve-Anything columns (or bogus nostrums). Some of them are simply cynical franchises. (Chicken Poop for your Tired Soles? Men are from a Marred Planet, Women are from a Venal One?) However: many of them are sincere and well-intentioned-- but composed entirely of maddening, and ultimately unhelpful, banalities or even cruelly "uplifting" lies. There's acres of that, all over the Interwebz--and even on this site, POZ. It is practically illiterate prose--that's harsh I know, but it's the truth, certainly as I see it. Prose that is generally platitudinous bullshit (yuck). It's all about easy-peasy healing--though there is always the obligatory mention of this pseudo-Nietzschean crap: that which does not kill you makes you stronger (ugh). And--what else?-- about making lemonade from life's lemons (ew, so not tasty). Nuff said about all this. But, caveat lector: I do like the wisdom of that adorable sage, Phil Dunphy, of Modern Family: "When Life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be all like, Whaaat?"


(4) If you want an intimate look into my personal day-to-day doings, if you want a confessional-diary type blog. Of course I'll be writing about myself, very often, but this is not a warts-and-all, open-wound, come-inspect-my-soul sorta series.


(5) If you want an excuse to moan and groan about, both, what I am doing but also about what I am not doing in my writing. Honest and civil comments, in the Comments, are obviously always welcome. (And, time permitting, I'll get into some debates there, or introduce an interesting  disagreement in a new blog post.) But absurdly adversarial ad hominen attacks, and random rants, or questions about when I'm "available"--well, these comments will likely be deleted.


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Phewph. And here, on a much more positive note, five reasons why you SHOULD, I mean REALLY should, read my blog:


(1) I'd like to think that I'm able to alternate between the topical--a new report, say, on the efficacy of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), or the shenanigans that went on in a Caribbean cruise for poz folk--and the abstract. Even somber abstractions such as the right--the morally justifiable or unjustifiable right--to medically-assisted suicide. Or even mix it all up a little. Topical, shmopical; abstract, shmabstract; the divisions can be artificial, arbitrary; and the business of living and of thinking, too, is messy, not antiseptic, hermetic. (As Oscar Wilde, or his creation, Algernon Moncrieff, famously said: "The truth is rarely pure and never simple." A pedantic digression: there is some dispute as to the truth of this simple quotation: should there be a comma after "pure" or should there not be one?)


(2) Shorter, and more frequent posts. Not essays that can seem--to some people--verbose. (Sometimes, though, I won't be able to help myself. Not that a thousand words--barely a newspaper column!--is that long.)


(3) Writing that is personal but not self-absorbed navel-gazing. Posts that are about myself, and posts, also, that are not about myself but thoughtful (I hope) responses to what's going on around me: in my backyard as well as all around the world.


(4) If you'd like to follow me--follow me, that is, through my muddles, and this blogging process and project. I've had a weirdly eclectic, or assorted, life (in far too many ways). Or so I think. In some moods. Whether that's good, bad, ugly, or just plain daft--I don't know and don't really care. Lots of opinions, some truths I should think--and also, sometimes, opinions by way of the truth. (That's a Shakespearean allusion, by the way.)


(5) Just watch me have some Serious Fun. Serious, but not sententiously Solemn. Fun, when it's appropriate, but also not the all-too-common HIV/AIDS gallows humor I read all-too-often. 


*        *        *


What's been going on in my life over the last two years. Here are five significant facts, in descending order of importance.


(1) I am now a married man. Been hitched for just about 16 months as of this writing. He's a pretty private guy, so I won't be talking about him much. He asked me to say to my blog readers, if there are any, that he never gives interviews. Which was very sweet of him. Just a few things, though. He is seronegative. He is a passionate Red Sox fan. (I mentioned, once, that a certain Yankees player was kinda cute: I will never commit such a folly again.) He knows every obscure band that ever played at Glastonbury. He falls asleep during a classical music concert. We live in the Boston area, we have a shy cat named Manny (a 25-pound ginger fella), we share a taste for schlocky TV. And yep: the wedding was fantastic (I will testify to that as will most of the guests) and so was the honeymoon. We scream at each other only about once a week.


(2) I turned 40 a few months ago. So far, I have nothing but good things to say about this, the fifth decade of my life.


(3) I was gaybashed last year. Pretty badly. In a neighborhood where gaybashing... well, a neighborhood where kicking and punching and choking a guy, just because he's gay, seems almost unimaginable. In the most liberal part of the most liberal town in the most liberal state in America. (My honesty about my wedding ring had something to with the awful brutality.) The police were fantastic, I have to say. Two detectives assigned to my "case." I even sat with a sketch artist--watching him work was astonishing. Just for one surreal moment, I felt as if I was in an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Well, as for the two guys who did the kicking and punching and choking? Not been found yet. Damage to my right eye (minor, but almost certainly permanent) and to my neck (temporary) and to my clothes (burned--which I regret now, I really liked those trousers).


(4) A few bouts of idiopathic insomnia--sleeplessness lasting for a day or three. Lawd, I do dislike that word, "idiopathic"!


(5) And finally a jumbled set of miscellanea. I'm still in academia (sort of, but never mind the niceties), and I still watch a lot of so-called bad TV and bad RomComs (a tough addiction to beat, as I've said before). I loathe American football more than ever. No one seems to understand, still,  my crystal clear expositions about the rules of cricket. I still follow American politics and jurisprudence minutely, but not as obsessively as I used to. I have discovered, anew, that Judd Appatow and Nate Silver are geniuses. I believe, now, that opposition to same-sex marriage, or, more generally, an expression disgust towards homosexuality is vile. In the same category of "vile" as the Klan's murmurs or shouts of "putting down" niggers and kikes. In the same category as the neo-Nazi cry for the blood of non-white immigrants. And I am still in excellent physical health (numbers, numbers, numbers).    


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I've been rattling on for long enough. But I feel comfortable doing it here, in this corner of the Interwebz, and at this time. If it wasn't clear enough from the preceding words: I'm glad to be back. Very glad. And since I find it difficult to find clever closing words to most essays that I write (and this one, in particular, attempts to cover a lot of ground, and two years too), I'll just steal some lines from my second-favorite poet, James Merrill. I...


            Invite the visitors to sit.

            If I am home at last

            It is of little more than my own past.

            May others be at home in it.


And... scene!



Sean on:


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Comments on Jay Vithalani's blog entry "Second Start, Ten Reasons, Five Significant Facts"

Welcome back, Jay.

Excellent stuff! Really looking forward to what you might write about ancient preoccupations with medical theology and ethics. The ethics of clinical trials is such a hard (but fascinating) question, and it would be all kinds of wonderful if the ancients had something interesting to say about that.

PLEASE tell me I am missing the link/info somewhere and that you have more writing than this blog published somewhere? anywhere?

Click on his name at the top to find his other blog posts...

Welcome back to the's nice to have you back with your thought provoking insights.

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This page contains a single entry by Jay Vithalani published on January 9, 2013 9:19 AM.

Alphabeticalist 2.1 was the previous entry in this blog.

20 January 2013, late afternoon is the next entry in this blog.

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