Sunday, September 25, 2016

Neglected Important Poets: Henry Vaughn

Poems by Henry Vaughn
Henry Vaughn

Henry Vaughan was born in 1624 in Newton-upon-Usk in Breconshire, Wales. In 1638, it is assumed, he entered 
Oxford University with his twin brother Thomas who gained fame as a hermetic philosopher and alchemist. In 1640,Vaughan left Oxford to study law in London for two years. His studies were interrupted by the Civil War in which Vaughan briefly took the King's side. He is thought to have served on the Royalist side in South Wales sometime around 1645. Vaughan returned to Breconshire in 1642 as secretary to Judge Lloyd, and later began to practice medicine. By 1646, he had probably married Catherine Wise with whom he was to have a son and three daughters. After the death of his first wife, Vaughan married her sister Elizabeth possibly in 1655. Vaughan had another son, and three more daughters by his second wife. He  published a few more works and when he died he was buried in Llansantffraed churchyard. 

In 1646, his Poems, with the Tenth Satyre of Juvenal Englished was published, followed by a second volume in 1647. Meanwhile he had been “converted” by reading the religious poet  George Herbert and gave up “idle verse.” His Silex Scintillans (1650; “The Glittering Flint,” enlarged 1655) and the prose Mount of Olives: or, Solitary Devotions (1652) show the depth of his religious convictions and the authenticity of his poetic genius. Two more volumes of secular verse were published, ostensibly without his sanction; but it is his religious verse that has lived. He also translated short moral and religious works and two medical works in prose. At some time in the 1650s he began to practice medicine and continued to do so throughout his life.

Though Vaughan borrowed phrases from Herbert and other writers and wrote poems with the same titles as Herbert’s, he was one of the most original poets of his day. Chiefly he had a gift of spiritual vision or imagination that enabled him to write freshly and convincingly.

He was equally gifted in writing about nature, holding the old view that every flower enjoys the air it breathes and that even sticks and stones share man’s expectation of resurrection. The Romantic poet William Wordsworth may have been influenced by Vaughan.

Vaughan’s poetry was largely disregarded in his own day and for a century after his death. He shared in the revival of interest in 17th-century metaphysical poets in the 20th Century.

An Old Book of Poetry by Henry Vaughan

The World
I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright,
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d, In which the world
And all her train were hurl’d;

We come and we go
make our noise on holiday,
come back from the wild land
where the caribou ruts
and the eagle streaks the sky,
return to our civil places
with cameras full of photographs
of what we really did not see.

In the distance, eternal and unapproachable,
the mighty mountains wait for us,
majestic in their silence.

*                    *                     *

Vanity Of Spirit

Quite spent with thoughts, I left my cell and lay
Where a shrill spring tuned to the early day.
I begged here long, and groaned to know
Who gave the clouds so brave a bow,
Who bent the spheres, and circled in
Corruption with this glorious ring;
What is His name, and how I might
Descry some part of His great light.
I summoned nature: pierced through all her store,
Broke up some seals which none had touched before:
Her womb, her bosom, and her head
Where all her secrets lay abed,
I rifled quite; and having passed
Through all her creatures, came at last
To search myself, where I did find
Traces and sounds of a strange kind.
Here of this mighty spring I found some drills,
With echoes beaten from the eternal hills;
Weak beams and fires flashed to my sight,
Like a young east, or moonshine night,
Which showed me in a nook cast by
A piece of much antiquity,
With hieroglyphics quite dismembered,
And broken letters scarce remembered.
I took them up and, much joyed, went about
To unite those pieces, hoping to find out
The mystery; but this ne'er done,
That little light I had was gone:
It grieved me much. At last, said I,
Since in these veils my eclipsed eye
May not approach Thee (for at night
Who can have commerce with the light?),
I'll disapparel, and to buy
But one half glance, mist gladly die.

*                    *                     *

Death. A Dialogue


'TIS a sad Land, that in one day 
Hath dull'd thee thus ; when death shall freeze 
Thy blood to ice, and thou must stay 
Tenant for years, and centuries ; 
How wilt thou brook't ? 


I cannot tell ; 
But if all sense wings not with thee, 
And something still be left the dead, 
I'll wish my curtains off, to free 
Me from so dark and sad a bed : 

A nest of nights, a gloomy sphere, 
Where shadows thicken, and the cloud 
Sits on the sun's brow all the year, 
And nothing moves without a shroud. 


'Tis so : but as thou saw'st that night 
We travail'd in, our first attempts 
Were dull and blind, but custom straight 
Our fears and falls brought to contempt : 

Then, when the ghastly twelve was past, 
We breath'd still for a blushing East, 
And bade the lazy sun make haste, 
And on sure hopes, though long, did feast. 

But when we saw the clouds to crack, 
And in those crannies light appear'd, 
We thought the day then was not slack, 
And pleas'd ourselves with what we fear'd. 

Just so it is in death. But thou 
Shalt in thy mother's bosom sleep, 
Whilst I each minute groan to know 
How near Redemption creeps. 

Then shall wee meet to mix again, and met, 
'Tis last good-night ; our Sun shall never set.

Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the 
land of darkness, and the shadow of death ;
A Land of darkness, as darkness itself, and of the 
shadow of death, without any order, and where the 
light is as darkness. 

Is The Earth Flat?

A Flat Earth model depicting Antarctica as an ice wall surrounding a disc-shaped Earth.

Members of the Flat Earth Society claim to believe the Earth is flat. Walking around on the planet's surface, it looks and feels flat, so they deem all evidence to the contrary, such as satellite photos of Earth as a sphere, to be fabrications of a "round Earth conspiracy" orchestrated by NASA and other government agencies.

The belief that the Earth is flat has been described as the ultimate conspiracy theory. According to the Flat Earth Society's leadership, its ranks have grown by 200 people (mostly Americans and Britons) per year since 2009. Judging by the exhaustive effort flat-earthers have invested in fleshing out the theory on their website, as well as the staunch defenses of their views they offer in media interviews and on Twitter, it would seem that these people genuinely believe the Earth is flat.
But in the 21st century, can they be serious? And if so, how is this psychologically possible?
Through a flat-earther's eyes

First, a brief tour of the worldview of a flat-earther: While writing off buckets of concrete evidence that Earth is spherical, they readily accept a laundry list of propositions that some would call ludicrous. The leading flat-earther theory holds that Earth is a disc with the Arctic Circle in the center and Antarctica, a 150-foot-tall wall of ice, around the rim. NASA employees, they say, guard this ice wall to prevent people from climbing over and falling off the disc. Earth's day and night cycle is explained by positing that the sun and moon are spheres measuring 32 miles (51 kilometers) that move in circles 3,000 miles (4,828 km) above the plane of the Earth. (Stars, they say, move in a plane 3,100 miles up.) Like spotlights, these celestial spheres illuminate different portions of the planet in a 24-hour cycle. Flat-earthers believe there must also be an invisible "antimoon" that obscures the moon during lunar eclipses.

Furthermore, Earth's gravity is an illusion, they say. Objects do not accelerate downward; instead, the disc of Earth accelerates upward at 32 feet per second squared (9.8 meters per second squared), driven up by a mysterious force called dark energy. Currently, there is disagreement among flat-earthers about whether or not Einstein's theory of relativity permits Earth to accelerate upward indefinitely without the planet eventually surpassing the speed of light. (Einstein's laws apparently still hold in this alternate version of reality.)

As for what lies underneath the disc of Earth, this is unknown, but most flat-earthers believe it is composed of "rocks.

Then, there's the conspiracy theory: Flat-earthers believe photos of the globe are photo-shopped; GPS devices are rigged to make airplane pilotsthink they are flying in straight lines around a sphere when they are actually flying in circles above a disc. The motive for world governments' concealment of the true shape of the Earth has not been ascertained, but flat-earthers believe it is probably financial. "In a nutshell, it would logically cost much less to fake a space program than to actually have one, so those in on the Conspiracy profit from the funding NASA and other space agencies receive from the government," the flat-earther website's FAQ page explains.

It's no joke
The theory follows from a mode of thought called the "Zetetic Method," an alternative to the scientific method, developed by a 19th-century flat-earther, in which sensory observations reign supreme. "Broadly, the method places a lot of emphasis on reconciling empiricism and rationalism, and making logical deductions based on empirical data," Flat Earth Society vice president Michael Wilmore, an Irishman, told Life's Little Mysteries. In Zetetic astronomy, the perception that Earth is flat leads to the deduction that it must actually be flat; the antimoon, NASA conspiracy and all the rest of it are just rationalizations for how that might work in practice.

Those details make the flat-earthers' theory so elaborately absurd it sounds like a joke, but many of its supporters genuinely consider it a more plausible model of astronomy than the one found in textbooks. In short, they aren't kidding.
"The question of belief and sincerity is one that comes up a lot," Wilmore said. "If I had to guess, I would probably say that at least some of our members see the Flat Earth Society and Flat Earth Theory as a kind of epistemological exercise, whether as a critique of the scientific method or as a kind of 'solipsism for beginners.' There are also probably some who thought the certificate would be kind of funny to have on their wall. That being said, I know many members personally, and I am fully convinced of their belief."
Wilmore counts himself among the true believers. "My own convictions are a result of philosophical introspection and a considerable body of data that I have personally observed, and which I am still compiling,” he said.
Strangely, Wilmore and the society's president, a 35-year-old Virginia-born Londoner named Daniel Shenton, both think the evidence for global warming is strong, despite much of this evidence coming from satellite data gathered by NASA, the kingpin of the "round Earth conspiracy." They also accept evolution and most other mainstream tenets of science.

Conspiracy theory psychology

As inconceivable as their belief system seems, it doesn't really surprise experts. Karen Douglas, a psychologist at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom who studies the psychology of conspiracy theories, says flat-earthers' beliefs cohere with those of other conspiracy theorists she has studied.
"It seems to me that these people do generally believe that the Earth is flat. I'm not seeing anything that sounds as if they're just putting that idea out there for any other reason," Douglas told Life's Little Mysteries.
She said all conspiracy theories share a basic thrust: They present an alternative theory about an important issue or event, and construct an (often) vague explanation for why someone is covering up that "true" version of events. "One of the major points of appeal is that they explain a big event but often without going into details," she said. "A lot of the power lies in the fact that they are vague."
The self-assured way in which conspiracy theorists stick to their story imbues that story with special appeal. After all, flat-earthers are more adamant that the Earth is flat than most people are that the Earth is round (probably because the rest of us feel we have nothing to prove). "If you're faced with a minority viewpoint that is put forth in an intelligent, seemingly well-informed way, and when the proponents don't deviate from these strong opinions they have, they can be very influential. We call that minority influence," Douglas said.

In a recent study, Eric Oliver and Tom Wood, political scientists at the University of Chicago, found that about half of Americans endorse at least one conspiracy theory, from the notion that 9/11 was an inside job to the JFK conspiracy. "Many people are willing to believe many ideas that are directly in contradiction to a dominant cultural narrative," Oliver told Life's Little Mysteries. He says conspiratorial belief stems from a human tendency to perceive unseen forces at work, known as magical thinking.
However, flat-earthers don't fit entirely snugly in this general picture. Most conspiracy theorists adopt many fringe theories, even ones that contradict each other. Meanwhile, flat-earthers' only hang-up is the shape of the Earth. "If they were like other conspiracy theorists, they should be exhibiting a tendency toward a lot of magical thinking, such as believing in UFOs, ESP, ghosts, the Devil, or other unseen, intentional forces," Oliver wrote in an email. "It doesn't sound like they do, which makes them very anomalous relative to most Americans who believe in conspiracy theories."
*                  *                   *

Pictures of the Concept of a Flat Earth

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Week of Lies Made by Donald Trump

This Is Just One Week Of Lies, Falsehoods, Exaggerations, Distortions and Whoppers Made By Donald Trump

by Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns
All politicians bend the truth to fit their purposes, including Hillary Clinton. But Donald J. Trump has unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random and even compulsive.

However, a closer examination, over the course of a week, revealed an unmistakable pattern: Virtually all of Mr. Trump’s falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction. Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, described the practice as creating “an unreality bubble that he surrounds himself with.”

The New York Times closely tracked Mr. Trump’s public statements from Sept. 15-21, and assembled a list of his 31 biggest whoppers, many of them uttered repeatedly. This total excludes dozens more: Untruths that appeared to be mere hyperbole or humor, or delivered purely for effect, or what could generously be called rounding errors. Mr. Trump’s campaign, which dismissed this compilation as “silly,” offered responses on every point, but in none of the following instances did the responses support his assertions.

Tall Tales About Himself

Mr. Trump’s version of reality allows for few, if any, flaws in himself. As he tells it, the polls are always looking up, his policy solutions are painless and simple and his judgment regarding politics and people has been consistent - and flawless. The most consistent falsehood he tells about himself may be that he opposed the war in Iraq from the start, when the evidence shows otherwise.

1. A supportive crowd chanted, “Let him speak!” when a black pastor in Flint, Mich., asked Mr. Trump not to give a political speech in the church.
Fox News interview, Sept. 15.
There were no such chants.

2. “I was against going into the war in Iraq.”
Speech in Florida, Sept. 19.
This is not getting any truer with repetition. He never publicly expressed opposition to the war before it began, and he made supportive remarks to Howard Stern.

3. Any supportive comments he made about the Iraq war came “long before” the war began.
Fox News interview, Sept. 18.
He expressed support for the war in September 2002, when Congress was debating whether to authorize military action.

4. He publicly opposed the Iraq war in an Esquire interview “pretty quickly after the war started.”
Fox News interview, Sept. 18.
The Esquire interview appeared in the August 2004 edition, 17 months after the war began.

5. Before the Iraq invasion, he told the Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto something “pretty close” to: “Don’t go in, and don’t make the mistake of going in.”
Fox News interview, Sept. 18.
Not remotely close. He told Mr. Cavuto that President George W. Bush had to take decisive action.

6. When Howard Stern asked him about Iraq in 2002, it was “the first time the word Iraq was ever mentioned to me.”
Fox News interview, Sept. 18.
Mr. Trump expressed alarm about Saddam Hussein and the situation in Iraq in 2000 in his own book.

7. “You see what’s happening with my poll numbers with African-Americans. They’re going, like, high.”
Speech in North Carolina, Sept. 20; made same claim in Ohio, Sept. 21.
Polls show him winning virtually no support from African-Americans.

8. “Almost, it seems, everybody agrees” with his position on immigration.
Remarks in Texas, Sept. 17.
Most Americans oppose his signature positions on immigration.

9. He has made “a lot of progress” with Hispanic and black voters, and “you see that in the polls.”
Fred Dicker radio show, Sept. 15.
No major poll has shown him making up significant ground with black or Hispanic voters.

10.  He was “never a fan” of Colin Powell.
Fox News interview, Sept. 18.
In his book “The America We Deserve,” he named Mr. Powell as among the “best and brightest” in American society.

11. “All the women came out and said they think Donald Trump is terrific” after The New York  Times published an article scrutinizing his relationships with women.
Fox News interview, Sept. 18.
Only one woman who was quoted in the article came to his defense after its publication.

12. “Unlike other people” who only raise money for themselves during presidential campaigns, he also raises money for the Republican Party.
Fox News interview, Sept. 15.
Every presidential nominee forms a joint fund-raising agreement to share money with his or her national party.

Unfounded Claims About Critics and the News Media

It’s not just Mrs. Clinton whom Mr. Trump belittles and tars with inaccurate information. He also distorted the facts about his Republican critics, including President George Bush and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. And he claimed that Lester Holt, the NBC anchor moderating the first presidential debate, is a Democrat but Mr. Holt is a registered Republican.

13. In the primaries, Mr. Kasich “won one and, by the way, didn’t win it by much- that was Ohio.”
Fox News interview, Sept. 19.
Mr. Kasich crushed him in Ohio, winning by 11 percentage points.

14. Lester Holt, the NBC anchor and debate moderator, “is a Democrat.”
Fox News interview, Sept. 19.
Mr. Holt is a registered Republican, New York City records show.

15. The presidential debate moderators “are all Democrats.” “It’s a very unfair system.”
Fox News interview, Sept. 19.
Only one, Chris Wallace of Fox News, is a registered Democrat.

16.  It “hasn’t been reported” that Mrs. Clinton called some Trump supporters “deplorable.”
Speech in North Carolina, Sept. 20.
It would be difficult to find a news organization that didn’t report her remark.

Inaccurate Claims About Clinton

Mr. Trump regularly dissembles about his opponent, attributing ideas to Mrs. Clinton that she has not endorsed, or accusing her of complicity in events in which she had no involvement.

17. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.”
Remarks in Washington, Sept. 16.
Mrs. Clinton and her campaign never publicly questioned President Obama’s birthplace; Mr. Trump made it his signature cause for five years.

18. Mrs. Clinton had “the power and the duty” to stop the release of unauthorized immigrants whose home countries would not accept their deportation after they were released from prison.
Numerous speeches, including in Colorado, Sept. 17, and Florida, Sept. 19.
The secretary of state does not have the power to detain convicted criminals after they have served their sentences, and has little power to make foreign countries accept deportees.

19. Mrs. Clinton has not criticized jihadists and foreign governments that oppress and kill women, gay people and non-Muslims. “Has Hillary Clinton ever called people who support these practices deplorable and irredeemable? No.”
Speech in Florida, Sept. 19.
She has denounced jihadists and foreign countries on the same grounds, if not necessarily using the same words.

20. “Do people notice Hillary is copying my airplane rallies — she puts the plane behind her like I have been doing from the beginning.”
Twitter, Sept. 20.
He did not invent the tarmac rally or the campaign-plane backdrop.

21. Mrs. Clinton destroyed 13 smart-phones with a hammer while she was secretary of state.
Speeches in Florida, Sept. 15 and Sept. 19.
An aide told the F.B.I. of only two occasions in which phones were destroyed with a hammer.

22. Mrs. Clinton is calling for “total amnesty in the first 100 days,” including “a virtual end to immigration enforcement” and for unauthorized immigrants to receive Social Security and Medicare.
Speech in Colorado, Sept. 17.
She has never proposed this.

23. Mrs. Clinton is “effectively proposing to abolish the borders around the country.”
Numerous speeches, including in Texas, Sept. 17.
She is not even proposing to cut funding for the Border Patrol.

24. “Hillary Clinton’s plan would bring in 620,000 refugees in her first term alone,” and would cost $400 billion.
Numerous speeches, including in North Carolina, Sept. 20.
She endorsed admitting 65,000 Syrian refugees this year, on top of other admissions. Mr. Trump is falsely claiming that she wants to do this every year and is estimating the cost accordingly.

Stump Speech Falsehoods

Some warped or inaccurate claims have become regular features of Mr. Trump’s stump speech. He routinely overstates the scale and nature of the country’s economic distress and the threats to its national security, and exaggerates the potential for overnight improvements if he were elected.

25. “Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before — ever, ever, ever.”
Speech in North Carolina, Sept. 20.
No measurement supports this characterization of black America.

26. Fifty-eight percent of black youth are not working.
Numerous speeches, including in Florida, Sept. 16, and Colorado, Sept. 17.
This misleading statistic counts high school students as out of work. Black youth unemployment actually was 20.6 percent in July.

27. Many dangerous refugees are being welcomed by the Obama administration. “Hundreds of thousands of people are being approved to pour into the country. We have no idea who they are.”
New Hampshire speech, Sept. 15.
The Obama administration has admitted more than 10,000 Syrian refugees, using an extensive screening process.

28. “We have cities that are far more dangerous than Afghanistan.”
Numerous speeches, including in Florida, Sept. 16; Colorado, Sept. 17; North Carolina, Sept. 20; Ohio, Sept. 21; and a Fox News interview on Sept. 21.
No American city resembles a war zone, though crime has risen lately in some, like Chicago. Urban violence has fallen precipitously over the past 25 years.

29. Ford plans to cut American jobs by relocating small-car production to Mexico, and may move all production outside the United States.
Fox News interview and New Hampshire speech, Sept. 15.
Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said it was not cutting American jobs.

30. “We have a trade deficit this year with China of approximately $500 billion.”
North Carolina speech, Sept. 20.
He has made this claim repeatedly, but the trade deficit with China is significantly smaller.

Esoteric Embellishments

Mr. Trump often dissembles on subjects of passing interest, like the news of the day or the parochial concerns of his local audiences. But his larger pattern of behavior still holds: These misstatements, too, accentuate the grievances of his supporters, and cast his own ideas in a more favorable light.

31. Senator Bernie Sanders fell victim to “a rigged system with the super-delegates.”
Speeches in New Hampshire, Sept. 15, and North Carolina, Sept. 20.
Mr. Sanders did not lose the Democratic nomination because of super-delegates. Mrs. Clinton beat him in pledged delegates, too.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Two True Penis Stories

Penis Envy: How Size Influences Self-Esteem

Penis Envy by Stanley Siegel was published in February, 2012 on and removed two weeks later after public controversy.


The center of a man’s existence is his penis. At the root of his self-worth is how he feels about the size of his penis and what he thinks about its ability to please his partners.

At least that is how many men seem to experience life.

As men, our relationship with our penises is a complicated affair related to our sense of power. For some, life is a dick-wagging contest, a competition played out in the boardroom, bedroom and on the playing field. The guy with the big dick proudly asserts his entitlement with authority while the guy with the small dick bullies co-workers and acts like a-know-it-all.

There isn’t a man who hasn’t compared the size of his penis to other men in the locker room or at the urinal, a sizing-up that leads to either a prideful smile or a sense of inadequacy. It’s the shame, that’s coined a catch phrase: “I’m a grower, not a shower.”

One handsome, straight, young man told me, “Men think about their penis at least ten times a day.”
How often have men worried if they are going to measure up, literally, when getting naked with a new partner’s previous lovers? Will a grin or a smirk greet the bared private part? And when it’s two men about to have sex, isn’t there always that moment of anxiety when they wonder whose dick is bigger?

Then there is the foreskin. Prefer cut or uncut? Do you want to change that ?

Of course, if a guy deals with all these size issues and actually starts having sex without a panic attack, there’s always the matter of sexual performance nagging at him. Will he be able to sustain his erection? Let’s face it. There isn’t a man whose uncooperatively limp penis hasn’t embarrassed him at some time during sex.

All of this pales in comparison, though, to the mortal fear of premature ejaculation or taking too long to come and boring, no pun intended, one’s partner to death.

It’s a wonder any man ever has sex.

A penis is tied to a man’s sense of his virility. Beyond athleticism, job prestige or earning potential, the powerful penis is considered the true physical manifestation of masculinity. A man is supposed to spread his seed and have the proper tool to do it with.

Perhaps the anxiety begins in boyhood when, all too often, the first unforgettable penis comparison happens with a much bigger one – a father’s or older brother’s.

Into adolescence, popular films and television shows like Hung and Sex in the City, where attractive women vocalize their preferences for well-endowed men, doesn’t alleviate the anxiety.

Watching pornography – as do most men – can set off alarm bells. The average human penis is about six inches long, but porn stars set the gold standard higher, at a whopping eight-plus inches.

The rationalization that “It’s not the size of my penis that matters, but who I am as person” doesn’t really seem to put the matter to rest.

To find out more directly what women think, I spoke with my daughter Alyssa, a fellow psychotherapist in Portland, Oregon, whose practice is largely female.

“Most men don’t speak about their penis to their partner, so most women take it for granted that men don’t worry about their penises until they come across the man who asks more than once for reassurance,” she told me. “My male clients express their concern more about maintaining an erection or pleasing their partner at first, but then as they get more comfortable with me, they might acknowledge that size is a concern. There’s isn’t a man with whom I’ve discussed this who hasn’t measured his penis and then gone online to see how his size stands up against others. I think the insecurity comes from a deep sense of male competition that’s inbred in our culture. Most men fear that that they will not be able to attract and keep a mate. Will she will fantasize about another man and leave me for someone better endowed?”

Some female patients have told Alyssa their partners’ sizes was not something they remembered except for those penises outside the average range. One woman said, “The really thick or really small ones are hard to forgot for different reasons, but, personally, I place more of an interest on our emotional relationship than on the size of his penis. When I see a nice one, I think it’s a lovely bonus.”

“I once had a patient who came to therapy,” Alyssa said, “because he felt that his penis was betraying him. When faced with the opportunity for intercourse, his penis would rarely comply. He was erect during masturbating but limp when faced with the actual prospect of intercourse with a woman. Until the therapy progressed, he did not make the connection that his emotions influenced his performance. Instead, he thought his penis had a mind of its own.

“Some women envy men for their ability to become quickly aroused and reach orgasm, but most don’t envy what Freud assumed: that women envy men simply because they have a penis.

Sigmund Freud

“One women had the perfect rejoinder: ‘Men can’t fake it. We can. So we have the power.’”

My own patient Sam, 30, worried about the size of his penis for as long as he could remember. He felt ashamed and depressed because of it.

By the time he came to therapy, he believed his penis was shrinking. He measured it regularly, his findings showing daily fluctuations. On some days, it even grew. Yet this is what he told me: “Overall, the data proves it’s getting smaller.”’

I had once read about Koro, a culturally specific syndrome from Southeast Asia in which there’s an overpowering belief that an evil spirit has the power to shrink a penis until it eventually disappears. But that was not quite Sam’s case.

When I asked Sam about his sex life, he told me he was still a virgin, too shy and self-conscious to have sex. He said he masturbated excessively and wondered if that might be the cause of his problem. When I asked what he thought about when he masturbated, Sam told me that he fantasized having an enormous penis that every woman admired. Unfortunately, though, Sam’s penis embarrassed him.

Naturally, the first thoughts I entertained were that Sam felt deeply inadequate and was metaphorically expressing his obsession with the small size of his penis.

But the truth was actually more interesting.

Sam’s father, a warm and affable fellow, worked as a rabbi in a local synagogue. To earn extra money he served as a mohel in the religious ceremony called a bris when baby boys are circumcised eight days after birth.

A Jewish Bris

After performing a bris, Sam’s father would make jokes at home. “That boy was hung like a horse. 

Not anymore!” Sam’s mother, Paula, a math teacher, stifling a big laugh would reply, “Oh, Murray. How many centimeters?”

Sometimes in jest, his father would chase young Sam around the table with his “butcher’s” knife.

Sam was a handsome boy who did well academically. But even his popularity in school didn’t spare him some needling about his father’s religious duty. Sam took it all very personally. He internalized the teasing and began to taunt himself. He focused his attention on his penis and increasingly lived in fear of losing it.

Obvious, right? But when you’re caught in an obsessive spiral, it really is not so clear.

It took several sessions for Sam to make the connection between his past experience and present concerns, and when he did his family’s sense of humor returned.

During the fourth session, I handed Sam a ruler and asked him to go into the restroom and measure his penis. “Four-and-a-half inches flaccid,” he said when he returned.

I took the ruler and went into the bathroom to measure myself.

I came back and sat in my therapist chair. “You’re bigger than I am Sam.”

After a moment he said, with a hearty laugh, “I belittled it.”

It was the perfect beginning to our therapy.

Now Sam could learn to have sex.

As for myself. I have an average sized penis that has certainly changed with age. Like every other part of my 67-year-old body, it has more wrinkles than it once did and works better sometimes than others.

But, of course, it has something that a younger penis does not have: years of experience and the wisdom that comes with that.

*                     *                    *

Unhung Hero: A New Cultural Dictum

Following a failed marriage proposal seen on YouTube ’round the world, Patrick Moote was suddenly confronted with a life-long insecurity of the largest proportions: a “small” penis. In a society that promotes the bigger-is-better ideology at every level, Moote decided to take matters into his own hands. If society feels he truly is too small to be a sufficient man, he wants to expose the reasons why and see if it can be resolved.

Like most children, Moote endured an adolescence of torment. Unfortunately, whereas many of those hurtful comments remain unsubstantiated or resolvable (e.g. too fat, too thin, braces, glasses, et. al), having an undersized penis may be the most psychologically damaging of any irreconcilable body feature.

To make this documentary, director Brian Spitz follows Moote on a much-needed journey of self-discovery, starting with trips to each of his ex-girlfriends to see if their dissatisfaction with him was linked to his manhood. Surprisingly, many of his former flames seemed more offended at the question than interested to answer. For Moote, his would-be fiancĂ©e’s rejection tapped into a well-known source of cultural conflict between the sexes. In general, men believe women are strongly concerned with penis size, and women believe men are too focused on their penises to understand sexual pleasure. For this reason, men with bigger penises often become arrogant with women because they believe their ability to satisfy them is built-in. Men with smaller penises believe women will never be satisfied with them sexually, and so they often view women as innately superficial or emasculating before any sexual contact has occurred. In Moote’s case, the fact that his girlfriend cited his “small penis” as her reason to end their relationship was both unexpected and, as becomes evident, suspect.

The more people with whom Moote shares his story, the more he begins to realize that the problem in his relationship had much more to do with his ex-girlfriend than his penis. One by one, people are shocked to hear that his girlfriend would stay in a relationship with him if she had such a problem with his body. It seems only rational that for a woman to wait until the possibility of marriage surfaces in a relationship before mentioning such a superficial sexual issue, there must be much more to it than that. But Moote needs a bit more reassurance, and so his journey continues.

Spitz follows Moote on a series of rollicking trips to his pediatrician, a urologist, a sex shop, a “jelqing” expert, and a host of other cultures, examining the peen-scene frankly from all angles. Jelqing, by the way, is a natural enhancement technique where the penis is stretched to induce small tears, much the way bodybuilders tear muscle in order to enhance its growth. Moote even visits a porn industry expo and asks both male and female porn stars and directors their thoughts about the hot topic of cock size.

The consensus: There are plenty of ways men can give pleasure regardless of penis size, or even the penis at all.

One actress explains that her foot fetish can be satisfied without any penile involvement, and when Moote asks legendary actor Ron Jeremy, “Do you have to have a giant dick?” Jeremy notes, “A good tongue is more important.”

According to Moote’s research, we spend over  five billion dollars a year in penile-enhancement products. As Moote puts it, “That’s more than the entire budget for the Red Cross.” Within this context, it seems our culture is more concerned with blood flow to the male member than it is with blood flow to those who need it to survive. All of a sudden, the idea that a man’s view of his penis could be of the same magnitude as life-and-death begins to, well, take shape.

Moote then takes his adventure overseas to a place where men apparently have, on average, the smallest penises in the world: Korea. If there is any question about whether his problem is personal or cultural, he will find the answer there. When he arrives, he is surprised to find that, despite the figures, Korea is rather phallocentric. There are sculpture parks dedicated to penises, penis statues outdoors, and animal penises on many restaurant menus. After speaking with locals, he learns that their cultural interest in the penis has much less to do with size than with virility and strength. He begins to recognize the healthier outlook they have developed socially, possibly owing to their generally smaller members. The opinion seems to be that the penis is a source of strength unto itself, regardless of its measurements.

South Korean Penis Statues

Penis Festival, South Korea

Moote also frames the concept of penis size in a biological context, citing Sexual Selection as an evolutionary reason why humans tend to have penises much larger than functionally necessary to survive. As the journey trudges on, Moote appears to find more reasons to obsess about his penis size than reasons why it matters. This paradox begs the viewer to question whether Moote’s exotic adventure ultimately results in a Moote point.

One thing is certain: Moote may have a below-average sized penis, but he has far above-average sized balls. Both courageous in his honesty and refreshingly down-to-earth in his exchanges with others, Moote becomes an essential voice in this ongoing, controversial debate. Unhung Hero may be just the type of necessary dick-tum from which we learn to shed this unnecessary stigma.

Unhung Hero was released on November 26, 2013.