If we in America are subjected to one more political sex scandal, we'll all lose our minds. In slightly more than a week, we have had allegations of threesomes with the former governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey, the confession to multiple infidelities by the new governor of New York, David Paterson, and the implosion of Eliot Spitzer over his involvement with a call girl. The usually sober New York Times labeled this madness, "Governors Gone Wild."
It seems that the American male has lost the ability to sustain an erotic attraction to his wife.
Nearly every day I receive an unsolicited email from a married woman who tells me that her marriage is being destroyed by a husband who is a porn addict. Meredith's case is typical.
"Dear Shmuley, for the past few months my husband has seemed distant. By day he barely speaks to me. At night, he doesn't touch me. He spends all his time on his computer. One night, when he was asleep, I went on his laptop and was shocked to find thousands of the most disgusting porn pictures. I woke him up and we had a huge fight. He said he'd done nothing wrong. He didn't cheat on me, he said. Naked pictures are no big deal. I am now thinking of leaving him."
A man expends all his erotic energy on women who aren't his wife, has nothing left to give her as a woman, and then accuses her of overreacting when she flips out.
Boredom is the greatest human disease, the bane of human existence, the rot that snuffs out the joy of life. If is true that the history is replete with endless misery and pain, then boredom is arguably its principal cause. Boredom has killed more people, ruined more marriages, and alienated more children from parents than any other cause. It is also the source of many of the world's wars. Men with too much testosterone and too few healthy outlets fought each other on bloody battlegrounds to find excitement and adventure. Boredom is the cause of most of the world's divorce and the corrosion of family. Why else do a man and a woman fight, or cheat on each other, if not for the fact that their love has died and they no longer exert effort to impress one another. And boredom is the source of children slowly drifting away from their parents, finding an interesting friend far better company than boring parents who do not inspire. And kids are ignored by their parents because their parents love them, but aren't sufficiently interested in them.
The Talmud summed it up best. "When you have nothing to do, you do what you ought not to do."
For most of us, life quickly settles into an endless cycle of monotonous routine. The drudgery of everyday existence means that most men and women have very little to look forward to and accounts for why the entertainment industry in America so dominates all other spheres. Why would we care whether Britney Spears is wearing underpants or whether Paris Hilton is in jail? Because focusing on their train-wreck lives gives us a distraction from our all-too-predictable existence.
It's not that people don't want an erotic charge. They do. It's just that they get it in the cheapest, flimsiest possible way that involves little to no effort. They'll have a flirtatious affair, buy a sexy blouse, bring a third person into their marriage, get drunk at a tawdry party, and download porn. But these are not real erotic highs. They dissipate quickly and leave you feeling empty thereby necessitating an even bigger 'hit' next time, which explains why prostitutes and pornography quickly become addictive.
For all too many people the passion for living is quickly lost and the curiosity for existence rapidly dissipates. When we first marry we want to know everything about our spouse. But after a few years of marriage, our interest wanes significantly.
This listlessness extends into other areas of life as well. Life loses much of its mystery, awe, and wonder. The colors of the rainbow don't fascinate us as much as when we were kids. We are not as interested in sunrises and sunsets. As kids we ask an endless number of questions. But as we get older, the questions recede. Not because we have found the solution but because we are no longer interested in the questions.
Boredom does not stem from a lack of external stimuli. History is replete with examples of kings and queens who were surrounded by incalculable wealth, every kind of novelty, mistresses and lovers, and who were still bored to tears. The lives of our modern Hollywood kings and queens prove the same. A life lived before the paparazzi still cannot rescue them from feelings of restlessness that is the cause of the destruction of so many celebrities. Heath Ledger died tragically of an accidental overdose as he tried to numb himself with sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication. Marilyn Monroe did the same. Clearly, a life lived in the spotlight did little to engage their energies.
Then what is the cause of boredom?
All boredom stems from the loss of Eros. Eroticism, far from being something only sexual, is curiosity incarnate. To be erotically inflamed is to want to know something completely and to connect with it deeply. The foundation of eroticism is limitless possibility. It is built on the premise that all things have infinite depth and require further investigation. When a man is erotically charged about a woman he desires to know her in all her ways, not just the sexual. Her breathing becomes interesting to him. Her thoughts stimulate him. A demon has grabbed hold of him. No matter how much exposure he has to her, it is never enough. Erotic desire has made him insatiable.
All too many men today believe that the end to boredom will come through the accumulation of power and money. They go into politics and assume that with entourages, bodyguards, and private jets life is going to be exciting. Clearly, the fact that so many leading politicians seem so incredibly bored with their lives -- to the point where they will pursue cheap sexual thrills that ruin their lives -- proves that all the power in the world will not lead to a stimulating life unless you learn to find novelty and renewal first and foremost in your personal relationships. That's a good lesson for the rest of us men who so often neglect our wives and children as we put another hour on the campaign trail and another hour in the office.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hosts a daily radio show on 'Oprah and Friends.' His newest book is 'The Broken American Male and How to Fix Him.' www.shmuley.com.