Table of contents


A note on the animal spirit

A boy wishes his teddy bear would come to life. The bear obliges him lovingly &, animated, becomes his lifelong best friend. His father is terrified & shouts for his gun; the mother calls it a miracle. Comparing a talking bear to Christ suggests religion has degenerated somewhat. The bear quickly wins late-night talk-show fame & well-deserved obscurity. America does not dream big, apparently, it just inflates desires, exacerbates them, & then they explode.

If you hug the bear, a squeaky boyish voice offers a recorded ‘I love you.’ The boy wished for the bear when he started fearing thunder. The comic poet offers this understanding of thunder: God’s farting. The joke goes back to Aristophanes. It may be the beginning of physical science. The other thing he suggests is that a vulgar bear may arouse humor where a man would give offense; this also has limits, unfortunately, & decency returns with a vengeance.

The girl thinks the bear is the problem: He makes her boyfriend – whom she also thinks of as her future husband – immature, given to drugs, vulgar jokes, & laziness. When the boy has the bear move out, the bear turns into what is nowadays called ‘white trash.’ The fact is that the boy wastes his life because he sees no future in front of him; his pleasures, drugs as well as sex, are very cheap & comport no danger.

The only sense of nobility or heroism the boy has is Flash Gordon. His bear suggests that this is still truly the American dream: After all, Tom Brady could save the world as well. There is a lot to this, but it depends on boys admiring Tom Brady’s excellence & imitating his great courage & self-control. Boys are likelier today, however, to admire the actor playing Flash Gordon. They cannot tell the difference between the real thing & its image, nor do they have the ambition to pursue real greatness.

Presumably, men who lack the self-control to live their own lives cannot possibly save the world. But the example of Tom Brady, as of all our images of greatness, suggests that only those who desire to save the world gain the self-control to live lives worth living.

The girl, who had so gently allowed the boy to degenerate, always hoping he would realize that he needs to show the strength she needs in order to feel secure, finally despairs of waiting for him & abandons him. The boy likely cannot understand her: He feels no need for security. His plan is to sing a song for the girl at a Norah Jones concert, in front of an entire audience, although he is no greater musician than lover.

A very popular, very vulgar comedy about a juvenile man