Lipton’s Journal/February 21, 1955/641

From Project Mailer

Tears and semen. Colds are homosexual-repressions, passivity repressions. Which is why I used to get so many colds. And now don’t. Now I start to get sore throats—the punishment I suppose for wishing to suck cock. We leak semen from our nose and eyes in a cold—the cold is always the expression of the need to be promiscuous and orgiastic (seen of course always in terms of what would be the next step). That was why I always hated my colds—I knew they were punishment, er punishment for what I did not do. Colds will be cured when sex is free.

For some time the analysts have been saying that colds are a form of weeping. But what are tears? They are the expression of child makes when a pleasure is cramped. An er expression is being mutilated. So a child weeps when it falls off a tree it is climbing. It weeps not from the pain so much as from the knowledge that the joyous expression of climbing trees is dangerous. So, tears express the sadness, the discharge, of frustration which comes from the outer environment. As we get older we cannot weep so freely, so we get colds more often, just as a child gets colds when it realizes that the thing it wishes to weep for will not be allowed by its parents. So, sexual frustrations, toilet training, etc., are the cause of colds in children.

But there seems some evidence that some of the substances in tears prevent or inhibit cancer. There is an enormous clue here. For tears, while usually a sex substitute a love-rage substitute, are occasionally philosophical tears and thus express a higher faculty, a more noble potentiality. We can weep for others—we can weep for them because we can recognize that they like us live in the terrible situation of man upon the anvil of society and that very little can be saved from the enormous effort of merely keeping alive. Like an army which needs three-quarters, nine-tenths of its men and effort merely to keep the one-tenth or one-hundredth in action, so human life demands that ninety-nine percent of our lives are used merely to keep alive, and few are the creators in a position to advance man. Such tears are noble.

But to get back, tears express a love-rage substitute. As a practical matter one cannot!! always fuck, one cannot always fight, when one wishes to. So one finds substitutes, less satisfying but more safe. Tears are dangerous but necessary—dangerous because they are still close to what was denied, they keep it open; necessary because they are a body expression. Tearless people get cancer, people who deny the soft side of themselves (always relatively to the distance gone—a compassionate person who could have been a saint can also get cancer, although its less likely if he or she start refusing compassion).

The principle in all this can be taken from a profound line by John Dewey: “A bad man is one, who no matter how good he has been, is getting worse, and a good man is one, who no matter how bad he has been is getting better.”[1] So for the sick man, the powerful man, the sexual man, the compassionate man, etc. One gets to be less of anything good—the compassionate, the sexual, even the developing of one’s personal power as opposed to the dominating and manipulating of others—one gets to be less at the expense of one’s health.

So in sex you either screw your own wife better, or you screw other women, or you do both, or else you get sick. Most men live in the condition of doing all four things half-assesdly and so live in a state of doubt and conviction, depression and excitement, joy and gloom. But that’s better than killing oneself with cancer, asthma, or one of the others. You have to grow or else carry more for remaining the same.


  1. The exact quote is: “The bad man is the man who no matter how good he has been is beginning to deteriorate, to grow less good. The good man is the man who no matter how morally unworthy he has been is moving to become better.” Mailer adapts the line in “The White Negro,” as follows: “In the instinctive dialectic through which the hipster perceives his experience . . . one is forever moving forward into more or retreating into less.”