I remember quite clearly, when I was 10 or so, a television commercial for Tylenol. The message went something like this:

“Extra Strength Tylenol has more pain-relieving medicine than Regular Strength Bayer Aspirin.”

I was only 10 years old. I shouldn’t have even been paying attention to the commercials. I should have been playing with my Rubik’s cube while I waited for Magnum, P.I. to come back on. But that commercial pissed me off.

How can they think people would be that stupid? I wondered. Any human being with half a brain isn’t going to be fooled by a statement so clearly misleading.

It turns out people are not only susceptible to misleading marketing, they seem to be drawn to it. Unsubstantiated superlatives appeal to our inner nature. But what nature is that, exactly?

Or consider a study done recently on human adaptive behavior, where groups of people were placed in a room and given a special thermostat to regulate the temperature of the room. The thermostat was set up in such a way that it was not immediately obvious how to regulate the temperature. Most groups did not set up a test to try different methods and use logic to arrive at the correct method. Instead they began to develop almost superstitious beliefs about the thermostat, like if they held it in a certain hand it worked better than another hand. Or if they tapped it three times it would set off a special chip inside that would correctly regulate the temperature.

There are people in this world who want to know how things really work, and they have developed logical ways to arrive at good answers. Many more people, however, just want to feel their way through life. Why is that?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by people that I think too much, analyze too much, that I am too literal. I’ve always been this way. In school I was excellent at math because the methods to arrive at the correct answer were clear. I also took advanced English and composition classes, and I was good at that, too, but when it came to interpreting literature I was not as good, because the answers weren’t discrete. The answer was smeared across a range. The truth could change depending on your position, and this did not come naturally to me.

So, of course, instead of becoming an engineer I decided to be a writer. What? What sense does that make? Well, I always loved to read and was naturally good at composition, and doing math all day sounded really boring to me. But even though I’ve had a little success, I’ve struggled to create great characters because I seem to be missing some understanding of how to render the “feel” part of life.

It’s not that I don’t have emotions. I do have them. I feel them. I often have to look away from people
during sad movies because they make me get all, you know, teary and whatever. But that looking away doesn’t just happen in the movies. I control my emotions in real life as well. I don’t know why. They just seem to add unnecessary complexity to a situation. You ever had a moody boss? An angry parent? Wouldn’t you rather have had rationality in those situations?

When I was single I used to go to bars with a friend of mine who had moved here from Austria. This guy was really literal…I’m talking Vulcan literal. We would have these long conversations about the inherent absurdity of picking up a girl in a bar. Either one of us could chat up a girl in a normal life situation, where there was some inherent subject to discuss. But in a bar there is no context other than “Hi, I’m going to try to pick you up.” We knew the idea was to make small talk, but that was the problem. Neither one of us cared to make small talk. If you didn’t have a concrete reason to talk to someone, why would you? Eventually, of course, I would have enough drinks that I finally would talk to a girl, about whatever, nothing, anything. And it was fine. But why did I have to wait for alcohol to kick in before I could disregard my need to be literal?

To me, information is the most valuable commodity there is. It’s the currency we use to interact with
each other, with the world at large. Without information you can’t do anything. All the stimuli that are
processed by your senses are comprised of information. Without information you don’t even know if you exist.

But when is it good idea to have less information?

I play my best golf when I stop thinking about the mechanics of the swing and just feel it.

We can probably all agree that you can’t have good sex when you think too much.

You can’t enjoy a slice of pizza if you’re worried about how many calories are in it.

There isn’t a math equation to describe love.

Does that mean there are situations in life where we willfully suspend our disbelief?

Love exists in our brains, after all, and while a lot of people may not believe it, there will come a time when that electrochemical process can be mapped. Unless you think God is yanking the strings of the universe and routinely breaking the laws of physics, everything we know can be described by a physical process. Which means everything could eventually be known.

I can hear you right now: Well, I don’t want everything to be known. I don’t want love to be understood discretely even if it’s possible. I want there to be room for magic.

But you must agree we want some things to be known. Before we had knowledge of pathogens, people routinely died for reasons that today would seem absurd. So that sort of information is good, right?

We used to believe the sun was drawn across the sky by a guy in a chariot. We used to believe the Earth was at the center of the universe. But when scientists suggested we weren’t at the center of the universe, they were tried for heresy. Heresy!

Even today there are people who reject mature fields of science like evolution and geology because it doesn’t jibe with their religious beliefs.

I suppose this need to occasionally blot out rational thought emerges from the way our brains are wired. In some ways we are like computers, passing and parsing bits of information, but we also incorporate emotions, which current computers do not. Those emotions can completely override normal information processing, like when you have an orgasm, or when your favorite team wins the Super Bowl. In the most literal sense it may seem absurd to rub your private parts against someone else’s, it may seem ridiculous to watch a bunch of strangers on television throw a ball to each other, but no one can deny the euphoria that can be produced by these activities.

Which is one of the most interesting conundrums of being human. You can try to reduce the world to a
discrete, measurable system, but your brain will always rebel against you, because it cannot divorce itself from emotion.

And what would life be like if it could?

Yesterday I bought some Nike golf balls, and the girl at the cash register asked, “Why are these golf balls so expensive?”

Normally, I would have answered her literally, something about the attributes of the golf balls, or just
smiled and said I didn’t know. But instead I said, with a gleam in my eye, “Because I’m so good.”

She got a kick out of that.

Which I suppose is a small but fitting example of what it means to be human.

What’s the most unconventional way you’ve met a romantic partner? See how this compares.

2 a.m., local public channel:

SUBTEXT – THE DATING SHOW

The hostess, a clear-skinned brunette of +/- 24, whose wardrobe is ostensibly provided by the Urban Outfitters sale rack, appears to have eschewed formal on-camera training. It may be that she was one of few adventurous souls who responded to what was undoubtedly a Craigslist ad in search of local on-air personalities for a unique new “cross-media dating show” but in any case it will turn out that neither training nor talent are integral to the show’s popularity.

Brunette Hostess hangs out in the small left corner of the screen on a Scandinavian sofa and greets the 2 a.m. viewing audience colloquially, heavy on the mascara and sarcasm, getting down to the business of cross-media dating within 9 seconds. Her behavior is not consistent with drug or alcohol consumption but she doesn’t seem sober, either.

Brunette Hostess’s post postmodern job description is wondrously brief: saying many times the number viewers should send a text to, reading verbatim the texts received which appear onscreen, and outrageously bad attempts at witticisms.

Actually 4 duties, if looking mall-hot counts.

Participants in Subtext text the host-recited number, reply Yes to the Terms and Conditions, get a User ID and then their message with User ID appears on screen.

Representative sample text:

Yo ladies! 26 SWM here. Hit me up!

Even if, like me, you find texting mostly feeble, Subtext is conceptually transfixing.

And the number of participants (assuming all the texts were from legit breathing people in their homes or apartments or condos or trailers) – flabbergasting.

Subtext participants incur $0.99 charge from their carrier, which effectively makes a shot at true love or at least a semi-decent hookup the same going price as a Value Menu Item at Wendy’s.

It’s hard to tell if being on at 2 a.m. means the show’s core audience is drunk people who struck out at the bar or if public television is just random like that. But by the sheer volume and speed of texts coming across the TV screen, you’d have to be pretty drunk not to perceive your own potential visibility as nil. Or you’d need to strategize and flood the screen, sending multiple messages declaring your availability, in order to get noticed and garner some sort of response. To be successful either way, you must paw the keys super fast while also giving yourself time to read the screen for possible bait and scan for responses to your messages. Like trying to man 10 slot machines at one time.

Occasionally (maybe in an attempt to heighten visibility) a participant will hit on the hostess.

Hey Candice, u lookin hot 2nite girl luv ur hair

Candice acknowledges such flirtations with deflective phrasing that’s a stark throwback to the 1950’s “you sly dog you” style of rejection so obviously incongruent with the futuristic or at least incredibly temporal nature of Subtext it almost destroys the show’s credibility.

If the maintext of Subtext is that text-dating is the best (being easiest), newest medium to meet people, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for Candice to respond directly with, “Not interested, thanks” or “Let’s meet at the Starbucks on Guadalupe” or at minimum confess she has a serious boyfriend who she gives early Sunday morning blowjobs to after getting done at the station, a serious boyfriend who she loves making buckwheat pancakes for and going running around Town Lake with? Shouldn’t she affirm the medium’s legitimacy by participating in it, or candidly divulge her inability to participate due to a present off-screen romantic involvement (which does include high numbers of off-set texts)?

Having a host on Subtext comes off as archaic and unnecessary, not to mention irritating beyond belief in Candice’s case, but not having one would render the format lifeless, little more than televised classified ads arriving on the screen in real time. The hostess’s unspoken role is to infuse the show’s digital nature with reality potential.

But perhaps unbeknownst to them, it turns out the Subtexters’ shot-in-the-dark approach to mating isn’t so stupid.

Researchers cannot identify a single attribute that distinguishes couples who stay together from couples who break up.

The ones who stay together don’t make more or less money.

They are not rated as more or less attractive.

They don’t have more or less education.

They’re not more or less religious.

They don’t have better or worse communication skills.

They don’t have sex more or less often.

They don’t fight less.

They just stay together.

For some unknowable unquantifiable reason (sure, of course, it could be some as-yet-undiscovered triangulation of factors, but let’s not distract from what we do know for the moment).

This level of simplicity frightens me. I don’t want to believe I’d be reasonably happy now if I had just battened the hatches instead of jumping ship in certain relationships. Yet that’s what the evidence shows.

Who you pick matters less, in a way, than your singular dedication to not leaving them.

When we reduce the complexity of relationship success it compels us to begin a laborious return to the truth.

Pick someone out of a crowd.

Respond to a text on a crowded TV screen.

Go meet that person at the Starbucks on Guadalupe.

Maybe that’s the subtext of Subtext: here’s a bunch of somebodies. Pick one. Stay with them. Make it work. Hold on.

Text now!

Given the hyper-capitalistic drive to sodomize every American, it’s a wonder gay marriage and anal sex aren’t condoned. In fact, I suggest that we all bend over in front of the nearest flag and wait for the creditors to bang us in the ass three times, once for the interest and twice for the mysterious penalty charges. Freed from criminal liability, the banks have managed to legalize ass rape. “Oh,” they cry, “but the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the plaintiffs’ attorneys!”

Now, let me guess: It’s our personal responsibility we’ve landed in this doggie-style position, perhaps because we made the mistake of returning to school to complete our useless educations and become slaves of the fed, or we re-mortgaged our homes to buy, you know, food.

This is a recession song, and very soon it will be even more depressing. If you like that kind of music, finding it cathartic, you need only say, “Brother, can you spare a dime?” and you’re 1/99th the way to purchasing it from I-Tunes.

I don’t mean to complain. I would never do such a thing because I have great faith in this country, faith so deep that I know what to expect at every moment: the worst. “Our system may not be perfect, but it’s the best in the world.” Sounds like Microsoft explaining Windows.

Yes, let us count our blessings… -1…-2…-3… That’s in Fahrenheit. Were it Celsius, the U.S. dollar might be worth more than a Dorito. And that’s what you’ll be living on soon, so be thankful. It could be worse; it could be a pork rind.

Now, I don’t want my atheism to get in the way of my faith, but let’s paraphrase John Lennon and put it simply: Atheists are the niggers of the world. I don’t want to be a nigger, nor a Negro, nor black, nor African-American, because I’m screwed enough as a cracker; that’s the way it goes, so watcha gonna do? I gave up Lent for Lent.

I tried lying to myself. I almost gave prayer a shot, but the pennies kept falling from my hands, and I dropped the gun. Besides, the pennies might have come from heaven, for they proclaim, “In God We Trust,” although a better motto would be, “In Trust Funds We Trust.”

Why anyone comes here, especially legally, ’tis a mystery. It’s the height of governmental irresponsibility not to force immigrants into watching five episodes of Cops, then telling them, “That’s going to be your neighborhood…It’s up to you.”

Yet again, I say unto thee, “Do not lose faith.” Good News is on the way, in the form of a depression not subject to the effects of SSRIs. It’s even possible the wealthy might suffer by having to sell a fourth home. I know how that goes; I just had to move out of my first home. Imagine moving out of your fourth home! It’s too much to comprehend such misery; it confounds the imagination.

Before I moved, I lived on Sanibel Island, Florida. It’s enough to make a normal person sick to watch four retards pedaling a canopied contraption as if they desire to be ridiculed, but I never judge others. I love my neighbor from a distance of five miles or more. I do unto others as they do unto me. Isn’t that how the Copper Rule works? If so, it should count its blessings; at least it has a job.

I might as well admit that I’ve abandoned my quasi-socialism and become a God-fearing capitalist. I am doing quite well capitalizing on myself and have already earned a healthy profit for someone else. Soon, I will whore myself to myself, in order to pay the holy tax of free enterprise. Every act of fellatio would put a quarter in the jar, but my back hurts from bending over based on reasons I enumerated in the first paragraph, and the National Endowment for the Arts has yet to contact me.

Still, I am taking personal responsibility for myself. I, in fact, am responsible for everything. I live in Sarasota, Florida. Kill me, if you like; the PR might allow me to leave an inheritance. After all, Personal Responsibility is my middle name. It’s such a thin line when forty is the new twenty, which is the old ten, which is the new eighteen. By these calculations, my age of 43 years varies from fifteen to sixteen. I’m proud of it. I stand with a torch held high and call myself the Statue of Puberty. I was sent by France, as a gift, bought on the cheap with American dollars.

In life, giving is the main thing. Why, even the Canadian dollar buys more than the American version. That’s because Canadians drink a lot of beer and generate better hockey players. They give us good hockey, and we give them dollars worth 1923 German marks.

But there is hope. Raise your heads. Our God is an awesome God, and man-made miracles wait just around the bend. This morning, a pigeon delivered to me a prophesy: The sun shall melt the human race into a puddle of flesh, and verily the heat-resistant insects will control the earth. They’ll take a bigger bite than bankers, but at least we won’t be present to feel it. I told you the Good News was coming. It’s here; it’s there; it’s everywhere.

It’s 2008, and you’re a 27-year-old white girl in Texas. You have a mid level professional job. You rent an apartment with amenities including but not limited to a pool, gym and business center. You have your own credit history, your own car payment, your own vibrator.

You are more affluent and liberated than any woman in history.

Read Kay Hymowitz’s unflattering portrait of the twentysomething male here.

While it may be true that your male counterpart often fritters away his free time with basketball, gadgets and clubbing, replace ‘basketball’ with ‘shopping’ and both sexes are mirror images of each other.

It’s doubtful Hymowitz has walked into Forever 21 any given Saturday afternoon and seen the appalling lineup for a dressing room. Young women 17-37 endure the wait and the madness for cheap going out shirts/dresses/skirt-top combos. Disposable incomes thrown away at discount retailers, disposable dresses for a disposable Saturday night at the bar repeated ad nauseam, all to snag a guy (Cosmo speak). It’s acceptable, encouraged even, and females have all but given up questioning the power retail holds over their lives.

Most young women today invest a significant portion of their hard earned paychecks on a series of beauty rituals that make Cleopatra seem low maintenance: eyebrow threading, highlights, tanning,
manis/pedis, fake eyelashes, bikini waxes, aromatherapy facials, hot stone massages – I’m going to stop where my list ends but be assured it goes on and on…and it also adds up. So while men may be spending frivolously on iTunes, at least the songs they buy don’t need to be purchased again in 4-6 weeks.

Let’s take a moment and genuflect to Naomi Wolf who wrote, “As women released themselves from the feminine mystique of domesticity, the beauty myth took over its lost ground, expanding as it wanted to carry on its work of social control”.

What is the male equivalent of Sephora?

Sure, more men today use moisturizer and hair products. But our products still outnumber theirs, by
(my) estimates of 30:1.

Why doesn’t Hymowitz call out women for this “hyperfemininity crisis”, the Appearance Myth 3.0? If young men exhibit “general passionlessness”, women exhibit extreme overzealousness with their appearance, ostensibly to attract men. Yet these expenditures of time and money receive none of her scrutiny.

I have struggled personally with the Peter Pan type, the ultimate sports fan, the video game addict, the slacking stoner from Knocked Up – all rolled into one person. But he could also debate foreign policy while cooking a gourmet dinner for two using his own Calphalon. And he knew more about my clitoris than I did (do). He was not averse to deep attachments. He just wasn’t sure if he wanted to marry me. He wasn’t sure he ever wanted to marry anyone. I consider that prudent, not fucked up.

In Hymowitz’s eagerness to lay bare what she perceives as new and harmful character flaws young men have developed, she doesn’t leave room for the complex, personal contradictions most human beings live with.

Besides, when a love interest does indeed turn out to be a one-dimensional douche we don’t sit around wringing our hands like Hymowitz. The tendency is to bitch to our girlfriends over happy hour for a couple weeks then channel our inner Beyonce and it’s to the left, to the left…

Depicting all young women as lonely powerhouses killing time in silent desperation as they wait for scores of baby-men put down the Wii controller and fork over 2 months’ salary for a half carat stunner from Zales is a ghastly generalization only an older woman standing behind the Manhattan Institute could make without being laughed at.

“Masculinity crisis” is the cry of an alarmist.

And claiming that women have evolved as men have regressed is just a mortifying oversimplification.

But while Hymowitz’s picture of the modern guy falls flat and conveniently glosses over some ugly truths about young women, I don’t mean this to be a defense of men.

There’s room for improvement on both sides. Both genders could put their free time to better use. Both genders could use less escapism and more pursuits dedicated to intellectual development, social justice, community involvement. Young adults in this millennium are positively rolling in luxury: of free time, of personal possessions and dispositional arrogance. As a natural response to all of the above we are in transition, re-defining what it means to be an adult and re-writing the formula for happiness.

Clearly the formula needs tinkering.

Hymowitz’s most offensive phrase may be the shudder-inducing “reciprocal obligations”. Does she realize she’s speaking to the open source generation? The bisexual reality dating show generation? The no contracts, no enrollment fees generation?

I don’t want a man to be obligated to me.

And I don’t want to be obligated to a man, though I’m painfully aware tradition and popular culture expect me to want to.

‘Obligated’ is such a loaded term. It sounds like bondage, and indeed Hymowitz means it that way. She claims that men need to be legally forced to grow up. She says that marriage and kids are exactly the kind of weighty, unfun obligations a child-man needs in order to become a regular man. Assuming, as she does, the definition of man remains “provider”.

I don’t buy it.

If men “get the benefits of a wife without shouldering the reciprocal obligations of a husband”, then isn’t it axiomatic that women would enjoy some of the benefits of not being a wife?

I know I have. Big time.

Since it hasn’t proved itself to be a sustainable vehicle of commitment and devotion, and not in small part because it excludes a segment of our friends, marriage as an institution reeks of irrelevance to this generation.

As irrelevant as an aging researcher’s provocations on the mating habits of young men.

I will start by giving the straight facts about AA. The program helps many, and adherents attribute their sobriety to it. I take them at their word. As I see it, whatever works, works. Nevertheless, AA is clearly a religious organization, steeped in Christian theology, with many of the meetings subtly reassuring the nonbeliever that he or she will, in time, come to pray on their knees, as I was so often told.

This approach is underpinned by the Big Book chapter entitled “We Agnostics.” It relates the central AA message: The group will accept atheists and agnostics, but unless they eventually accept a higher power known as “God,” failure is guaranteed. “Actually we were fooling ourselves,” the chapter asserts, “for deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there. For faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations of that power in human lives, are facts as old as man himself. We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a part of our make-up, just as much as the feeling we have for a friend. Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but he was there. He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It is so with us.”

The same chapter later relates a story in which an alcoholic asks himself, “Who are you to say there is no God?” That, indeed is the question, or one side of the question. I might just as easily say, “Who are you to say there is one?”

The Christian roots of the AA program are well documented and continue to bloom in its Edenesque garden. I need not repeat the evidence here. It is not my duty to condemn or refute AA.  Rather, I wish only to warn agnostics and atheists that — after the short honeymoon — they will not be accepted by the program unless they accept its language, which irrefutably cannot in any way be interpreted as secular. Just as an atheist and a fundamentalist Christian would be unlikely to maintain a successful marriage, so the atheist and AA are unlikely to form a lasting bond. Exceptions exist, but the AA atheist or agnostic has a big house to build in order to house that much self-delusion.

I shall write from my experience. After much well-meaning advice from friends seeking to help me overcome my hesitation to join AA due to the “God factor,” I thought I had finally found a way around the problem of what exactly my “higher power” would be.  It would involve the infinite universe and the nothingness atheists, especially, and, to a lesser degree, agnostics, face. I would give myself over to nothingness, “turning over” my problems and thereby finding a faithless faith.

More than anything, I sought comradeship.  I found it, at first.  The key to the AA meeting is the common bond between all addicts and alcoholics.  I do not dispute that this is helpful. Indeed, AA could start and stop with that assertion, providing a truly all-inclusive safety net. However, as in all movements, the initial idea of AA was quickly reduced to dogma and a reactionary stance.

I began with the intention to find what I needed and leave out what I didn’t. I discovered what I needed at my first few meetings, which was the simple sharing of common experience.  But during the fifth meeting, the 11th Step was discussed. “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”

While the words “as we understood Him” are often used to support the contention that AA members can believe God to be anything at all, the discussion revealed every single member as understanding God in the very same manner.  All had always believed or later came to believe in a Christian  God.  All had fallen to their knees and prayed. Others nodded their assent.  Oddly, every member understood prayer, but many could not grasp the idea of not praying: Does not compute.

When my turn to speak arrived, I simply restated that I was an atheist.  I threw the bone that I “may change my mind — who knows? — but that’s how I understand things now. I don’t see why this stance should discourage me or anyone else from seeking help here.”  I wanted to add, “By the way, I can teach the basics of meditation in ten minutes,” but I left it there, not wanting to be reprimanded for starting a philosophical debate.

My message was met with weak applause and a few askance glances. “Here,” I thought, “comes the first argument.”  The honeymoon was over.

Immediately after the meeting, I was twice pulled aside and told that I would come to find what all the others had found.  It seemed I must find it, since they had found it.  Just as I find it incomprehensible that anyone believes in a benevolent God, so they find it incomprehensible that anyone doesn’t. I could point to the Holocaust and say, “That event caused many survivors to lose faith or even conclude that God must be evil.  Isn’t that rather strange behavior from a God expecting so much attention?”  They would point to me and say, “You may go, but you’ll come back when you hit bottom again.”

Now, I must give AA its due. Through discussions not involving God, I was able to see how I had undermined myself via self-deception. This was certainly an accomplishment for which I thank AA. The problem, then, begins and ends right there. For me, such discussions were enough. Leaving God completely out of the program would allow anyone to benefit from it. Replacing faith in a higher power with the acknowledgment that the mind cannot always be trusted would achieve similar results.  No one would be excluded or made to feel they were violating the basic tenets of what amounts to faith.

I relate this to a short fling I had with Catholicism.  This occurred in my early thirties.  I found a way around every aspect of Catholicism with which I did not agree.  I discovered authors like Graham Greene, who seemed to harbor so many misgivings regarding the Church that it was nearly impossible to categorize him as Catholic. Graham himself claimed that he was a “Protestant within the Church.”  I had reached a different conclusion: “I am a Catholic even if there is no God.”  Irrational as this claim may seem, I was quite satisfied with it and myself. Eventually, I lost my ability to trick myself around the sticking points of Catholicism and my own “clever” argument.

Just about then, the child abuse scandal broke, and with it my faith finished collapsing.  It had been waiting to fall, and reassurance that the guilty priests proved the exception to the rule of good priests failed to convince me that I could, or should, restore a bridge that would crumble into the river below regardless of repair.

For AA to work, one must either completely accept its basic tenets or find some way to believe its central proposition despite one’s rejection of it, just as I had done near the end of my Catholicism. I am glad that some are able to do the latter, for many maintain sobriety within the program.

Others, like myself, may be as humble as any Christian and believe in transcendence (a scientifically proven phenomena, i.e., a literal state of mind provable by brain scans and other methods).  However, we cannot trick ourselves around praying, nor fail to detect the contradiction between AA and what we disbelieve. We cannot say, “We are not religious but spiritual.” We cannot accept the view that anyone, anything or any force watches over and protects us.

In short, those finding a home within AA meetings do well to make their beds there.  Those finding the same beds uncomfortable should resist complaining to the hotel manager and simply depart. If that person insists upon complaining, the manager will state that the traveler “shall find no better bed in the world, and you should thank God on your knees for having such a bed. Why, if you leave, you’ll come back. Until then, enjoy sleeping on beds of nails and knife-like rocks. You’ll be back, all right. You’ll return to see that this is the best and indeed only bed in the world.”  Such a traveler may remain a traveler; better to keep moving than fool oneself that a place in which one does not belong is the best and only place in the world.