The dying animal


The film based on this novel by Phillip Roth was on the plane on the way up from Melbourne but I couldnt bring myself to watch it seeing as it didnt have anything to do with scifi.

However, I found the novel in the library the other day and am now reading it slowly. Slowly because even though it is a short novel, it has the sense of a lifetime of experience distilled into it and every sentence rings as true as a bell. I am enjoying this novel in a way I havent enjoyed a book in a long time. I like Roth’s meditative reflective style, I like Roth’s unyeilding unsentimental inspection of the narrator.

And then there’s the fear that when I hit sixty I will somehow be like this man, endlessly desiring of women, besotted by one 40 years younger, jealous and obsessive – the epitome of unskilful behaviour, the very definition of dukkha. It doesnt help that i am surrounded by reminders up here in Darwin. The caliber of men I work with, all truly in their middle ages, are of the sort who leer when looking is sufficient, who comment and over-share when silence is required.

But even though I find it uncomfortable and embarrassing for them* at least it strengthens my own custody of eyes practice surrounded as I am by counter-examples. I am not so successful with my compassion practice though.

* The undignity of it all! Surely men as they get older must gain in wisdom, benevolence and regalness. Havent they seen Benny Hill and realised the short fat man with the squinty eyes is not a role model?

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