30 January, 2017

July 27, 2017

The colossal bombs went off almost simultaneously: the first at 1 NE Street, Washington, D.C., otherwise known as the Supreme Court of the United States; the other at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles, California.

The smoke hadn't even settled before we heard about the "Muslim terrorists" who had killed over a thousand Americans. Pictures of menacing brown people proliferated on FOX News. Breitbart screamed for revenge. The President tweeted his outrage and vowed to "crush the Muslim menace".

CNN had a different story, the scoop of the century. They had footage clearly showing white men with crewcuts placing the bombs in both Washington and Hollywood.

That footage aired once. And then CNN mysteriously went off the air. When it came back on, two hours later, there was a flurry of insincere sounding apologies. Apparently the footage was a hastily conceived put-up job perpetrated by persons unknown.


Stories of a false flag operation circulated online. The government response to those stories was to deride them as "fake news", or as President Trump angrily tweeted, "stupid un-American bullshit".

John Davidson, 27, from Bangor, Maine, was one of the people peddling "bullshit". He was quite vocal about it, posting the original CNN footage on several online forums and starting a blog heavily critical of the Trump Administration. That blog has three posts, the last one dated May 18, 2017. Nobody has seen or heard from John Davidson since.

Rumour has it there have been dozens, perhaps scores of other disappearances. It's really hard to state anything for certain: the police will tell you these people have moved away, but so far as I've been able to tell, they've done so without informing their families and friends, without leaving forwarding addresses, and in the few cases I investigated, without taking any of their worldly possessions with them. Odd, that. Disquieting.

But that's the tip of the iceberg. I've been told that fifty miles outside Reno, NV there's now a giant camp, and more are being built in rural areas around the southern states. Some of Trump's infrastructure money is being used to expand the rail network. But the tracks don't seem to go anywhere anyone would want to go.

I've posted this using an anonymizing operating system that runs on a resettable virtual machine running on secure portable media. I'm using ProxyGambit and Tor to remain anonymous. And I'm still worried, because I'm posting from the continental U.S. I didn't get out when I had the chance. I believed that Trump couldn't possibly govern the way he campaigned.

I was wrong. I realized I was wrong just one week in, when a white French Canadian man named André Bissonette murdered six Muslims in a mosque in Québec City, Canada. The White House immediately condemned the attack and cited it as a "terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant". Within a month, there had been fires and gunfire at seventeen different mosques, five of them in Michigan alone.
I realized I was wrong when Trump fucked up and didn't get his racist cocksucker  of an Attorney-General into position fast enough. The acting Attorney-General ordered the DoJ not to defend Trump's refugee ban; she was removed from office the same day. The gang rape a week later was, of course, pure coincidence.

But hey, they're making America great again.






29 January, 2017

Can't Help But Fly

I've been wanting to deconstruct this song since I first heard it, and marvelled at it, almost four years ago. This is the purest expression of polyamory I have yet heard. This song is by "Naima Infinity", and all interpretations are mine.

magnetic attraction 
mutual satisfaction 
first sight, love at eye contact
i love it that our passion is such a high contrast
to the possessiveness that limited our loveships in the past

Love at first sight. Whether you've experienced it or not, you likely know someone who has.
I haven't, oddly enough. Not quite. What I have felt, four times now in a huge way, is an instant connection, a sense of the cosmos slapping me in the face and saying "LOOK HERE, THIS PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU IS IMPORTANT."
And in each case, they were. In each case, that feeling rapidly developed into love as I understood it at that time. Two of those people I have since had to, in the interests of love, walk away from. The other two are at the very center of my life now.
I still love the two that are gone, just as I will always love the two who are here, among many others.
Possessiveness is not love. Possessiveness is a corruption of love. You can be possessive of objects (although that's not particularly enlightened), but of people? Never.


 chorus 1: i'm a bird who sings in the springtime 
 she's a girl who smiles like the sunrise
 though i love the days when she's all mine 
 i don't try to bottle her sunshine

 loving, crushing-she sees me staring
 baby maybe loving is sharing 
 feel the wind of love on the sky
 i'm a bird that can't help but fly 

I wrote a poem in grade thirteen for the second of those bolts of lightning. My love for her was unrequited, at least in the fashion I wanted it. My poem was bittersweet, written knowing perfectly well what her feelings for me were and weren't. But I concluded it "I must, however, sing."
That foreshadows "I can't help but fly." When I feel love, I can't help but express it.
I'm exceedingly cautious how I do that, because my intentions are VERY easily misconstrued. For the record, once again: I will give love in whatever measure it's accepted, and take love in whatever form it's offered--subject to the dictates of other extant relationships. I mean no threat to those, although I understand why I can be perceived to.

i can't fit inside monogamy's philosophies
of one and only constantly  
stopping me from boundlessly
expressing what is possibly
the greatest force in all of me
my heart cannot be property
ownership is opposite
of all that love has taught to me
the infinite capacity
of each of us to happily 
surrender to the majesty
of learning love's true mastery
each one of us a tapestry
anatomy like galaxies 
it’s fallacy i’d need someone
complete the other half of me
reality is many souls reflect my whole totality  
complexity, vitality
my sensual mentality 


Wow, so much here. This is where the concept of monogamy is flipped on its head. Many equate monogamy with security; many others have had their illusion of security spoiled, and/or perhaps spoiled that illusion themselves.
Monogamy is not a guarantor of security. Nor, for that matter, is polyamory. Security, like so much else, comes from within.

The thing is, though, many do tend to wander through life in search of their "other half" to "complete" them. This is done up as a romantic trope and it's TREMENDOUSLY damaging. You are a complete person in and of yourself. So is/are your partner(s). To even suggest otherwise, to think someone else is needed to complete you, is to deny that other person the autonomy to grow and change themselves.

"Many souls reflect my whole totality". This is very much true for me. Interestingly, those souls tend to get along with each other rather well.

rather than analogies
of draining like a battery 
the more and more i practice love 
the more my love grows naturally 
i know a few interpreters
think jealousy is flattery 
I avidly promote we try 
to rise up from the agony
try out a brand new strategy
flip envy into ecstasy 
amplified through alchemy

I can sense people wanting to ask me how it is I have room in my heart for so many. It's no big secret, really; nor is it particularly difficult if you put your mind to it. It goes like this:

Love.  And then love again. Don't try and tell yourself that a second love must cancel the first. Just...love both. Cherish both. For all that they are. And if a third comes along, love him or her too. Come at every relationship from a position of love, and inevitably you will draw love to you. Just as inevitably people will settle in concentric rings around your heart.

"Jealousy is flattery"...really? Jealousy is pain at another's happiness. How is that in any way flattering? Jealousy is wanting, not to share, but to take someone from another. How is that in any way flattering?

(chorus)


if a girl ask you to dance-
then dance with the girl
if it feels right,
then you should hold hands with the girl
cuz i believe that god is love and love she keeps telling me
to step back, relax and deconstruct your jealousy
cuz jealousy is fear-some days i'm scared of losing you
but you and i are free to leave if we choose to
i'm taking down the bricks of this invisible wall
and when the wind of love blows, now we both can feel it all

I want to expound particularly on the "you and I are free to leave if we choose to". This statement, which ought to be self-evident -- love is not a prison -- is often misconstrued to mean that the relationship can't possibly be serious/committed. This boggles my mind. Just because someone is free to leave does not mean they will.
I see relationships as continuing acts of mutual choice. Such choice is not always conscious, but it's there. Mono or poly, you CHOOSE to remain with your partner, just as you CHOOSE to leave him.
And to repeat a poly truism: "the people in the relationship are more important than the relationship". That means, in a nutshell, that if a relationship no longer serves both parties, it should transition into something else. No drama, no acrimony required.

The thing about poly--the thing I love most, really, aside from abundant love itself -- is that "losing' is not necessary. Why would it be? We are free to explore other connections; we need not lose one to take up another.


cuz you love to hear me sing, even if you didn't write the note 
i love to hear you laugh, even if i didn't tell the joke 
you know i love to cuddle, love to pull your body close
and i love it when you're happy even if i have to let you go
cuz if you need your space then baby you can let me know
i'll love you from afar you my star in a telescope 
i'm not a god, i'm not a fool but I would be both
to think that love was something i could control

The first two lines up there are polyamory in a nutshell. I have repeated them many times and will continue to. This is compersion: joy unadulterated by self-interest. Although, for what it's worth, abundance breeds further abundance, in my experience: allowing your partner the freedom to explore connections with others has, for me, strengthened the connection I have with my partner.

Again, second half, that strange (to mono eyes) seeming dismissal of the relationship. It isn't that it all. It's a full validation of the person: she is free to move on if it serves her. Who are you to hold her back? Who is she to hold you back? Which does not mean that you push each other away. You hold, but not too tight.

Yes, poly can be frightening. New love in particular can overwhelm both individuals and existing partnerships, and "being displaced (note: DIS-, not RE-) is a thing that happens as each relationship seeks and finds its own level. This can happen despite any silly rules you put in place to suppress it: in fact, the more rules you have, the less likely your polyamory will succeed. Rules go where trust is supposed to be.
And yes, this is where the 'threat' of polyamory is, in fact, real. The only way to counter this at all is to ensure respect for ALL parties in the relationship at ALL times. It won't necessarily negate the possibility of displacement, but it will at least make sure that if it does happen, it will happen relatively peacefully.

(chorus)

i love how your empathy finds joy inside my intimacy
with someone else that's into me. Love is limitless, infinity.
i love it how my loyalty dissolves your insecurity 
our love it blooms concurrently you know that's my priority
i'm soaring through an odyssey deep in the realms of honesty
with conscious choreography consensual autonomy
equality, responsibly i feel our trust it waters me 
a love like this is selflessly fulfilling like a prophecy 

"I love how my loyalty dissolves your insecurity"
Loyalty, to monogamists, is sexual and emotional fidelity. There are polyamorists who have this same meaning--those polyfidelitous relationships are just like monogamy, except there's more people involved. To other polyamorists, "loyalty" means honesty, respect and the honouring of commitments wherever possible. Being there to share joy and pain and help each other grow.  Or, as was expressed to me--

I love you as you are, and as you will always be. May we hold hands together and face the future as one, and rejoice in the love we have and share with others. 

The first underlined bit does not exclude the second, nor the second the first. I read sentences like that and my heart leaps with joy: THAT'S IT!

cuz there's no better way to love me than thru honesty and trusting
it's not indiscriminate fucking, it's indiscriminate loving 
it's rising up to realize that love's your greatest gift to me
it's lifting me above the narrow space of normativity
now we are one and i am free and you can take the sky with me
cuz love is phoenix flying rise up above to feel the breeze
some days will be a struggle and some will fly by with ease
but i would love it if you trust to claim this journey with me

I still struggle with this stanza, the second line of it in particular. Intellectually I get it: relationships can be short-lived and intensely loving. I'm not fully sure I am capable of experiencing 'indiscriminate loving', and I am terrified of my partner in those circumstances getting the feeling that I am a pole and she is a hole. Indiscriminate is not for me I'm sure some feel otherwise, but I choose my loves with great care, and for me, at least, great care implies a long-term connection.

(chorus)

look right at me baby let’s make eye contact
you trust in me, i trust in you there’s no doubt bout that
our hearts have grown vast I know our love’s gon' last
'cause soul to soul we touching through this eye contact

Trust. And soul connection. That's polyamory. That's how I live and love.

The Evolution of the Breadbin

We are fundamentally lazy souls, the three of us here. And the house, not to put too fine a point on it, looks it.

I am always just a little envious of other people's homes. All of them. It doesn't matter how little space you have or how humble the decor is, what strikes me immediately upon entering your domicile is that compared to mine, it looks like you're about to show it. No clutter. Surfaces clear. Lots of space to move around.

Our home looks like a frat house by comparison, and complaining about it is pointless because: see first sentence, above.

The kitchen is particularly bad. Like most houses built in 1969, ours lacks for both counter and cupboard space; what little of the former we have is cluttered up by gadgetry undreamed of in 1969, and the cupboards are falling apart. The kitchen will simply have to be redone before we sell, and since we (a) don't plan on selling any time soon and (b) don't have sixteen thousand dollars just laying around, it isn't a priority.

In this house, when we announce something is going to get done...well, it eventually does. We stripped the carpet off our stairs to the second floor several years ago, unsure of what we intended to replace it with. It stayed bare wood for roughly ever, and is at long last recarpeted, thanks to Mark.

Likewise, we have been telling everyone hither and yon for months that the basement's being redone. You think we're cluttered on the two upper floors, you should see it down there. Or rather, no, really, you shouldn't. That's where clutter goes to die. The damnedest things migrate down there and dealing with even a fraction of it is daunting after a hard week.

Now we have a deadline.

On March 6, Waterloo Region is joining the rest of the world and forcing its residents to pay for garbage pickup. I mean, pay above and beyond the property taxes we already pay.

Now, it's not as draconian as (I've learned) it is elsewhere. You get two free bags or cans a week (and since a can holds at least two bags, I'm opting for "cans); after that it's $2.50/bag or can. They also will start collecting biweekly, instead of weekly as at present. (Recycling and organics will still be collected every week). You get double the allowance on weeks after major holidays.

A former colleague of mine was crowing about how he had managed to generate just four bags of garbage for calendar 2016. Highly, highly impressive. The three of us come close to that every week, and that's with two oversized recycling bins absolutely jam packed.

What we don't do, and haven't done aside from a very brief period when it was introduced, is use our green bin. That's going to have to change, and change fast. And ugh, but I'm not looking forward to it.

Again with the added costs: you're supposed to use special bags to line the thing each week (although newspaper is supposed to be acceptable, I fail to see how I'm supposed to craft a bin liner out of a newspaper...) These bags must, of course, be bought. So you're going to be paying one way or another.

Then there's the keeping of all that organic waste close enough to the kitchen that it's not onerous to dispose of more, yet far enough away that I don't puke one day in July when the stuff in there has fermented and smells like a skunk deep-fried inside the asshole of another skunk. With a soupçon of maggot. Blech. Well, lots of people seem to have figured this out, I guess I'm going to have to do it too.

Regardless, though, that basement is going to have to be fully done by March 6, or we'll be paying out the ass. A few months ago I filled ten large garbage bags and it barely looked like I did anything. There's easily thirty more down there: mostly bric-a-brac that nobody's going to buy even at a Value Village.

Once it's done, though, we'll have more living space. A chill room, with another TV, a stereo (Mark has a HUGE collection of CDs), my piano, and oh, yeah, a LOT of books.

When we first moved here in 2004, our living room was originally the basement. It didn't stay that way for long. Now we'll have a second living room down there.

Add that to the new mattresses we bought today, one for our room and one for the guest room. We're downsizing both. Our room currently has a Sleep Number bed, king size, nine and a half years old. Up until very recently it's been providing excellent sleeps, but not so much of late. We've opted for an extra-firm queen, to which we will add a memory foam topper: cheaper to replace that every couple of years. The guest room's going from the queen size mattress that once upon a time got Peached to a full, also firmer. This will free up space in both rooms.

Next up, sometime this year: finally replacing the stove I killed the element on the day I tried to burn the house down, and also replacing our living room couch, ideally with a sectional.

Purge and replace...maybe when we're done I'll feel like I'm living in a grownup house.

22 January, 2017

I Beg To Differ!

I am still getting fundamentally misunderstood.

Not by those nearest and dearest to me: by definition, those people understand what I am about. But people on the periphery have made some wilfully ignorant and frankly insulting remarks about the way I live and love.

Still seething from being completely misread last night, I happened to stumble on an old article called

"Why Polyamory Just Doesn't Work".

Really?

Really?

Such a short, pithy article, that comes across more as an advertorial for the authors' books and seminars. They seem to be 'relationship experts'...which is all well and good, but it should give you an idea of the clients they deal with. Who goes to a relationship expert to say "everything in my love life is going swimmingly, not a single problem in sight?" That's like a mechanic suggesting you should never buy a car because, well, every car she sees in her shop has something wrong with it.

Let's look at the 'arguments' they muster.

First, they say that "it doesn't work in generating the depth of intimacy two people can generate in a committed relationship". The condescension, the deliberate choice of words here, rubs me all kinds of wrong way.
Let me tell you about intimacy. First, let's remove the connotation you probably have, that intimacy is sexual. It isn't. Sex can be, and often is, a SYMPTOM of intimacy, but I'm here to assure you that intimacy exists without sexual expression.
Depth of intimacy. People come to me and within short order they have told me intimate details of their lives to whom few, sometimes no, other people are privy. I don't ask for these details, but I do strive -- always -- to foster an environment in which the sharing of them is encouraged. I do this by means of empathetic listening, the sharing of my own intimate details, and never, ever judging. In short, what I'm going for here is unconditional acceptance.
Keep that attitude in mind for long enough and you find it grows into unconditional love, a growing-closer, a cherishing each person for all that they are.
That's depth of intimacy, and it doesn't magically dissipate just because it's shared. In fact, it can easily grow. Imagine baring your heart to two, or three people who love you. Imagine the healing, the strengthening, that takes place when more than one person concentrates on being unconditionally there for you.

Yes, it's taxing. Sometimes even for me, and the openness and size of my heart has been often noticed and remarked upon. Helping two people through anxiety attacks simultaneously is challenging. Doing that while exchanging sweet somethings with a third and fourth is supremely challenging, and stretches me to my working limit.
But you know what?
I LIVE for this. This is why I'm here, this is what I'm meant to do. This, and convincing others that they too can love and be loved. I'm not special. Check that: I am special, but I'm no more special than you or anyone else is.

So, Mr. and Mrs. Relationship Expert, don't presume to talk down to me about depth of intimacy. I suspect I know at least as much as you do on the topic.

And commitment? How dare you imply that only two people can be committed to each other? It barely merits a rebuttal. One wonders if this couple has kids, and if so, if they're only committed to one of them. Never mind that: how can you POSSIBLY be committed to raising even a single child together and ALSO be committed to each other? Let alone committed to your respective and mutual friends, your siblings, your parents, stop, stop, this is clearly impossible. ONE commitment only.

The next strawman they bring up against polyamory is jealousy. I have deconstructed jealousy here and won't repeat myself.

I feel jealousy. I used to think I came without that gene installed, but it turns out I lacked for triggers. My triggers fire when I can't have an experience with a partner that another partner routinely has. Three things to note here:

  • By "experience" I mean the most boring, everyday life things like shopping together. Sleeping together is a big one, too--and here I'm talking literal sleep, not what you're thinking when you hear 'sleep together'. 
  • I do not feel sexual jealousy. Period. Never have, doubt I ever will. 
  • Third thing: the difference between can't and haven't yet. If I get to shop, or sleep, or do housework, or whatever, with my partner on occasion, it utterly and totally ceases to bother me that anyone else gets that experience as well. 
And what do I do with jealousy? I process it--that's one thing they got right, the use of the verb 'to process', that's a very common poly phrase. I recognize that my jealousy is a choice I'm making, and it's almost certainly the wrong choice to make. I determine why it's the wrong choice (usually because I'm feeling insecure, and my insecurity is not in fact warranted)...and once I've processed that, I'm fine.

What I DO NOT do is blame MY jealousy on my partner or my metamour. I haven't had cause to do that yet: my insecurities have not been warranted. In other words, after that first heartbreaking veto,  I've been treated with respect every step of the way so far. My jealousies have thus been irrational, and relatively easy to work through. It bothers me that the same ones recur, but it becomes easier each time to dismiss them. Mostly, in my case, it's by turning can't into haven't yet.

This is, I'm convinced, the proper way to deal with jealousy. Time and energy to process? Yes, some. In my case, not much.  Is it time that detracts somehow from a relationship? No. I'll either process it silently on my own (and I can do that while attending to anything or anyone), or, at most, it'll be a quick check: "I'm feeling a little insecure because of ____". "Oh, sweetie, you shouldn't. It's entirely circumstantial and I love you." Maybe one more exchange and problem solved. Through the kind of healthy communication that marks any relationship, mono OR poly. 

I don't even know what "emotional-acting out and other complications involving children" means. I've seen a lot more of whatever that might be from monogamous men just lately, to be honest. Man-children. If the authors here are referring to actual children, again they're completely misreading polyamory.  

I have spoken to many poly people, living in various arrangements, who have children at home. The other parters become 'aunts' and 'uncles', or are referred to by name. Children, unencumbered by a lifetime of society drilling into them that only two people can care about each other and them, tend to respond very well to any number of people caring about each other and them. Whodathunkit?

I don't have kids, but from what I've been able to determine, the secret to happy, well adjusted parenting can be expressed very similarly no matter what the family dynamic is. If both/all parent figures are stable and loving towards each other and the child(ren), said child(ren) will most likely grow into stable, loving adults. If your relationship with each other and your kids is marked by drama, acrimony and emotional neglect, it really doesn't matter how many people are included in 'each other': you have a serious problem. 

The last "problem" they cite is the actual time and skill it takes to communicate effectively. Which is ridiculous, because they even admit that any relationship requires this. Here's a little secret: much of the added communication time and energy with a new partner is expended up front. Here's how we work, here's how we propose you'd work with us, and most critically, how would you prefer us to work with you. (Never, ever forget that all partners have feelings, desires and concerns of their own.) Lots of extra time and energy required if your new partner has had no prior exposure to poly...but even then, some mono people take to this like a stream to an ocean. 
Then there's little ironings-out that happen as the relationship builds, but again, that's ongoing in any relationship.
   
Successful people at any kind of relationship have three traits: empathy, communication skill, and an understanding of their own emotions and needs. Adding 'extra' people (I don't like that word, for reasons that should be obvious)...it CAN be challenging, but it doesn't have to be. It can blow up in your face, spectacularly, but it sure doesn't have to. In short: polyamory not only can work: in my own experience, it DOES. Very, very well.





15 January, 2017

The Seven Loves

My grade 13 Classical Civilizations course with Rev. ("Uncle Rog") Roger McCombe affected me more than the rest of my high school classes put together.
We learned a lot about the ancient Greeks and Romans in that course, but we learned even more about ourselves. He was one of the great teachers: passionate enough to jump up on desks and stomp around ("A.D. DOES NOT STAND FOR AFTER DEATH!", he would scream); compassionate enough to offer free hugs to anyone who needed them (and many of us, girls and boys both, took advantage).

Some time before my OAC year, I had decided my purpose in life was to love. This wasn't something I could have articulated so baldly back then; in fact, "decided" is may be a bit of a stretch. I was at the very beginning of the process of taking on my Aspect and raising up my Attribute. It's a process that is ongoing today.

But one particular week of Classical Civ classes kick-started that purpose in earnest. It was the week we covered the four loves.

Greek, we were taught, had four words for love:

  • eros, lustful and passionate love;
  • philia, comradely love;
  • storge, familial love; 
  • agape, selfless love for everyone (translated into Latin as caritas. whence comes the word "charity"). 
It was clear to us students that four words for love made a hell of a lot more sense than one. I have always found it ludicrous that "I love you" and "I love black forest cake" use the same verb. The more I learned about the Greeks, the more I empathized with them. 
Take their religious pantheon, for instance. Their gods and goddesses are clearly humans writ large, with glaringly human flaws and vulnerabilities. The Christian God is the same, but it's blasphemous to even think so. (God's flaws? Read the OT thoroughly and just try to tell me He's not the Prime Asshole. Vulnerability? Like any god, lack of belief. He knows it, too, which is why worship is so important to Him. Needy, clingy, jealous God. He even admits as much (Exodus 20:5)--but also devotes not one but two Commandments to coveting. 

I filed all that away for future study, but in the meantime decided these Greeks were on to something. And so I listened closely when Uncle Rog told us that they did not value Eros highly. Many schools of Greek philosophy prized self-control, and lust is known for the lack of it. 
That revelation resonated with teenage me. I was a walking tripod long before this point: if you were female and shared a class with me, you shared a hell of a lot more in my dreams, going all the way back to fourth grade. But I recognized self-control as a prime virtue (son of a cop), and so...right there you have the root of my disdain for pure lust.

Philia, the love we have for our friends, was, by contrast, very highly valued. It was exemplified by sacrifice, by sharing of emotions, and by loyalty.  I have tried very hard, with varying degrees of success, to  embody this quality. 

Storge, love for family, is a subset of philia, and here I admit I have trouble. Even now.
It's not that I don't love my family. I do. At least my close blood relatives. But all around, my family is so scattered and fractured. There are many, many rifts, some of which I know the source of, others of which I have no clue, and trying to bring them together involves a lot more energy than I have. Selfish of me, I admit. But coupled with this underlying sense I have had since my teens that "my family" and "my tribe" don't necessarily overlap...I find  storge harder to practice than other forms of love.

Agape is the purest form of love. I have a friend on Facebook -- she's the godmother of my nieces--who IS agape, as far as I'm concerned. Every day for the past several months, she has taken three names from her voluminous friend list, handwritten a paragraph praising the qualities of each, concluded that paragraph with "I love you", and posted a photo of her paragraphs. Something tells me she'd be able to do the same thing on short notice with total strangers. I aspire to her level. 

Further research uncovered three more words the Greeks had for love, and all of them have a bearing on the way I love today. 
  • ludus, playful love;
  • pragma, longstanding, mature love. (Pragma in Greek  also means 'deed', from which we get 'pragmatic'.)
  • philautia, self-love, which was subdivided into a harmful variety akin to narcissism and a highly beneficial variety that Buddhists would recognize as 'self-compassion'. Ultimately, of course, to love yourself is to love others, because on a very high spiritual level...there are no others. We are all one.
 Ludus is the kind of affection shown by children and new lovers. It's free-spirited, energetic and bright. Add a touch of eros to ludus and you have what mono people call "falling in love" and 
poly people often call NRE ("new relationship energy"). 
Incidentally, I never said I didn't feel eros, nor that it doesn't have value to me. It's only when it's alone that I distrust it. 
NRE lasts one to three years, and it's a powerful, powerful bonding agent. And oh, is it a beautiful ride. With nurturing and time. it hopefully turns into

Pragma, which is ORE--"old relationship energy". I have this with Eva. This is not "falling" in love. This is "standing" in love. Precious metals come in ores: ORE is precious. It may not have the shininess of ludus, but it has a deep respect, admiration, tolerance, and loving peace. 

One of many nice things about polyamory is being able to give, and receive, so many different forms of love at the same point in time; to give each partner the sort of love that matters most to them. Another wonderful thing is the realization, common in poly and rare elsewhere, that love evolves over time. How many marriages fall apart when the NRE abates? So unnecessary. 

And finally we come to philautia, self-love. I struggled with this mightily for the longest time. It took really recognizing all the love in my life for what it was and is--and I'm currently experiencing all six varieties, several of them hugely--for me to actually recognize a truth I've been espousing about others for decades. 

I am loveable, too. 








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07 January, 2017

Honesty Is Such A Lonely Word

(with extra added bonus material, because I ramble on)
________

I can always find someone
To say they sympathize
If I wear my heart out on my sleeve
But I don't want some pretty face
To tell me pretty lies
All I want is someone to believe
--"Honesty", Billy Joel

A good friend of mine recently wrote a blog about honesty, or rather dishonesty, and her experiences with it in a romantic context.

I have been very lucky to have had honest lovers in my life. (The dishonest ones just lie there...sorry, I had to). Even the one who cheated on me never bothered to lie about it. It just never came up.

I think I'm pretty honest, as people go. I wasn't always. I went through the usual two stages of lying: first, when I discovered it was a thing, and second, about ten years later when truths sometimes became hard to face or express.

That second stage lasted a lot longer than it should have. My parents gave me the standard admonition, that I might get in trouble for something I'd done, but the trouble would be three times worse if I lied about doing it. And I'd hear them, and then I'd do something guaranteed to get me in trouble, and I'd remember what they said... and decide they were lying about it. Every...single...time.
And I'd get in trouble, and lots more trouble for lying (because damnit, the truth would always out)...and I'd convince myself that I would have gotten in just as much trouble without the lie. Or I'd tell myself that the days or weeks that went by before they discovered my dishonesty were worth the price. Highly illogical, that. But hands up, all none of you who think I'm logical.

The last lie I perpetuated was the greatest of them. It was a lie by omission. I just..somehow...didn't tell them I dropped out of university in disgrace.

_________

I think I'll come clean on that here, now. I've alluded to some of it through this blog's history, and some of it is lost in the mists of whatever the hell happened to my life in the decade of grunge, but...well, here goes.

God, it's hard to even describe what I felt, back then. Or didn't.

The numbness wasn't there initially. I still (mostly) enjoyed the classroom, although I certainly did skip more than a few classes, because, well, because I could.

Second year, this thing called the internet arrived on campus. I can't put all the blame on the net and my getting enmeshed in it...that would be...a lie. Oh, the net had a pull, and that pull grew irresistible to me as time went on, but my classes were pushing me, too.
Geography started with the TA showing us a globe and asking us to point out the equator. Really? I thought.  Grade four again? Not long after that there was a 20-25 page essay assigned...by far the longest piece of assigned writing I'd ever had to do. I agonized over that, trying to amass 22 or so pages of original material, lightly salted with supporting citations.
I think it got a C-. I was not impressed. I'd put a lot of effort into that thing. I was even less impressed when an A paper was handed around. Twenty four pages, and maybe...MAYBE...eight of them were original content. One page had, get this, fourteen footnotes.  Well, fuck, I thought. Isn't that plagiarism? I mean, not really, it's all cited neat as you please, but...I thought I was writing an ESSAY, not...gathering pieces of everyone else's essays. 
Wait, it gets better.
How would you react to a professor scrawling on the first page of a twelve page essay, "your thesis is wrong, I don't need to read any further"? With a nice fat D next to it?
I lost my nut, I don't mind telling you. Essay: from the French essayer, "to try", as in, "to try and prove a thesis". At least fucking read my effort. And it's Old English we're talking about here, not exactly a cutting edge field with new theories advanced every other week.  Oh, wait a minute. I had dared to use sources which contradicted the professor's own published work. We must always remember, class, that The Professor Is Always Right.

Any number of other classes featured (?) the professor reading the textbook to us. Verbatim. You know what? I can do that in my dorm room. Why am I paying $1632 in tuition so a professor can read a textbook to me? Especially one I had to buy, at a hideous markup?

Then there was the case of The Philosophy of Love, Sex, and Friendship. I was, as you could probably imagine, drawn to that class somehow. Actually, I wanted to re-write a high school essay and get the opinion of one of those divine tenured entities.

It was a night class, 7pm to 10pm. The first night, I was ill. Legitimately ill, no word of a lie (I haven't quite lost sight of this blog's theme, give me a few more paragraphs). I horked and snuffled and woozed my way to class, and what to my bleary aching eyes should appear but a syllabus. A pile of them, actually, a serendipitous stack of syllabi. No sign of a prof yet. I looked at the pile, wondering if I was going to puke, shit myself, or maybe both...and that decided me. I grabbed it and snorked, wuffled and hoozed my way back to my dorm.
Safely back to Mac 2 West and -- probably the next morning -- a little more in corpore sano, if not quite compos mentis, I studied my souvenir of what turned out to be my one and only visit to that classroom.
It had everything. The details of the assigned reading for each week. Essay topics, with due dates. A note that essays should be handed in to the professor's mailbox, and they would be returned in his outbox within a week. Even the date, time and location of the final exam.
And lo and behold, I saw how I could tweak my high school essay to incorporate a given topic.
A crazy thought was sent up. Why go to class?
So I didn't.
For thirteen weeks.
I walked into that final exam not having the slightest clue what it would look like (the syllabus had been inexplicably silent on this point).

B+ for the class, overall. A-, for my essay.

I am not bragging. Understand me? I AM NOT BRAGGING. I don't think what I did should be possible to do. I find it ludicrous that I did it. If you can do that, it's a pretty short leap to just paying the money and getting the credential. It was a joke. A joke at my (very great) expense. University, it was turning out, was a pack of lies. University teaches critical thinking. BULLSHIT. University teaches you to swallow the utterings of the professor whole, then regurgitate them later the same way. You should spend your first year in residence. No, not unless you're majoring in Hangover, you shouldn't.
I hear they have quiet floors now. Imagine that. I couldn't, not when I was stuck in the middle of what may as well have been Animal House. Our room was an oasis of calm in a bedlam, but said bedlam had a way of  washing in on the boozy tide entirely too often.

So, yeah. Add the Internet to that sense that going to class was a waste of time and....let's just say after a while I stopped caring. About much of anything. The Barenaked Ladies were huge, then, and I seized on this stanza from "What A Good Boy":

I go to school, I write exams
If I pass, if I fail, if I drop out, does anyone give a damn? 
And if they do, they'll soon forget
'Cause it won't take much for me to show my life ain't over yet

Well, I can't say I've done fuck-all professionally with my life. But you know what? I'm happy. Very much so. And I feel like I have a purpose now. Which didn't come from the hallowed halls of Wilfrid Laurier University.

 But no, I didn't tell my parents I dropped out. I accomplished that by basically dropping out of life for a period of several months, after which neither of them brought it up. What was the point? It was all pointless. All of it.

I should have told the truth. I should have told the truth as soon as I felt the pull of the abyss. Mom, John, these classes are stupid and -- you'll find this even more stupid, but, well, you know your computer upstairs? You can connect it to ALL the other computers. And all the people behind them. And it's the most amazing thing in the history of amazing things. 

But I didn't. Because it would have meant a talk about the huge waste of money that first and second year had been, and I couldn't stomach that, not when I had already shocked and deeply disappointed them by blowing through TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS IN EIGHT MONTHS on such necessities as pinball, endless meals out, and phone bills, among countless other things. That was how I thought you filled a soul-hole, back then. With stuff.

How wrong I was.

___________

Lies, even Great Lies, aside, I've always had the urge to tell not just the truth, but too much of the truth. It can scare people, the depth of my feeling on short notice, for instance. Not disclosing that...is that tantamount to lying? I actually wrestle with questions like that, now.

Probably the best treatise on lying I've ever read comes from my favourite work by Robert A. Heinlein, To Sail Beyond The Sunset. I'm going to quote here at length, because even though this is set in the early years of the last century, the parental attitude here is precisely and exactly MINE.

This is an excerpt of a conversation between the heroine of the story and her father, who had asked her to formulate a personal Ten Commandments. (Parents: try this with your teen. I dare you.) They get to the Eighth Commandment:

Maureen: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Until you corrupted me -‘
Her father: ‘Who corrupted whom? I am the epitome of moral rectitude... because I know exactly why I behave as I do. When I started in on you, you had no morals of any sort and your behaviour was as naively shameless as that of a kitten trying to cover up on a bare floor.'
 ‘Yes, sir. As I was saying, until you corrupted me, I thought the ninth commandment meant: Don't tell lies. But all it says is, if you have to go into court and be a witness, then you have to tell the truth.'
‘It says more than that.'
‘Yes. You pointed out that it was a special case of a general theorem. I think the general case ought to read: Don't tell lies that can hurt other people -‘
 ‘Close enough.'
 ‘Father, you didn't let me finish.'
‘Oh. Maureen, I beg your pardon. Please go on.'
 ‘I said, "Don't tell lies that can hurt other people" but I intended to add, "- but since you can't guess ahead of time what harm your lies may do, the only safe rule is not to tell any lies at all."
Father said nothing for quite a long time. At last he said, ‘Maureen, this one we will not dispose of in an afternoon. A liar is worse to have around than a thief... yet I would rather cope with a liar than with a person who takes self-righteous pride in telling the truth, all of the truth and all of the time, let the chips fall where they may - meaning "No matter who is hurt by it, no matter what innocent life is ruined." Maureen, a person who takes smug pride in telling the blunt truth is a sadist not a saint. There are many sorts of lies, untruths, fibs, nonfactual statements, et cetera. As an exercise to stretch the muscles of your mind -
‘The mind has no muscles.'
 ‘Smarty. Don't teach Grandma how to steal sheep. Your mind has no muscles and that's what I'm trying to correct. Try to categorise logically the varieties of not-true statements. Having done so, try to decide when and where each sort may be used morally, if at all... and if not, why not. That should keep you out of mischief for the next fourteen, fifteen months.'
 ‘Oh, Father, you´re so good to me!'
‘Stop the sarcasm or I'll paddle your pants. Bring me a preliminary report in a month or six weeks.'
‘Thy will be done. Papa, I do have one special case. "Don't tell fibs to Mother lest thy mouth be washed out with lye soap." ‘ ‘Correction: "Don't tell any fibs to your mother that she can catch you in." If you ever told her the ungarnished truth about our private talks, I would have to leave home. If you catch Audrey spooning with that unlikely young cub who's been calling on her, what are you going to tell your mother?'
Father took me by surprise on that one. I had indeed caught Audrey spooning... and I had an uneasy suspicion that there had been something more than spooning - and it worried me.
‘I won't tell Mother anything!'
‘That's a good answer. But what are you going to tell me? You know that I don't have your mother's moralistic and puritanical attitudes about sex, and you know - I hope you do - that I won't use anything you tell me to punish Audrey but to help her. So what do you-tell your father?'
I felt walls closing in on me, caught between loyalty to Father and my love for my oldest sister, who had always helped me and been good to me.
‘I... I will... I won't tell you a durn thing!'
 ‘Hooraw! You took the hurdle without even ticking the top rail. Dead right, dear one; we don't tell tales out of school, we don't confess on behalf of someone else. But don't say "durn". If you need it, say "damn".'
 ‘Yes, sir. I won't tell you a damn thing about Audrey and her young man.'

That. That is gold star parenting, right there. And pretty durn...pretty DAMN...fine advice about lying.







06 January, 2017

Man Up

Oh, did this article ever piss me off.

"Dear feminists", it starts, and no good ever came of a beginning like that. "Male vulnerability isn't a virtue."

I know what's coming, said my blood, as it started to surge most unpleasantly. Somewhere in here I'm going to see the words 'man up'.

There are good reasons why generations of fathers have taught their sons to “man up,” and it’s not because young boys are blank canvases on which the patriarchy can paint its oppression. It’s because men in general have essential natures that are different from women. We tend to be more aggressive, more energetic, and less nurturing than women...

Oh, where to start, where to start. How about at the beginning?

I cried a lot as a kid. Too much, really. I don't mean to belabour the point I've made over and over and over again, that other people's pain always seemed as if it was my own, and even the destruction of inanimate objects caused me to break down.

There were a very few other kids in my orbit when I was a young child, and I was raised to be on my best behaviour when I (a) was a guest or (b) had guests. Once school started, though, and I was exposed to other children's unthinking (and sometimes very much thinking) cruelties, well, the waterworks ran overtime. Which became a perpetual cycle. What do we do with the crybaby who cries? Make him cry harder. Cry, crybaby, cry.

Vulnerable. I was the very definition of it. And yes, I got the "stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about". Girls get that too, I'm told, but not with quite the same threat level.

Because boys don't cry, right? It's unmanly. Boys shouldn't express their feelings, because that's weak. Also gay, and that's even worse.

I want to talk about that for a second.

I have had family question my sexuality in hushed undertones I wasn't meant to hear. That questioning has come (I'm led to believe) because of my sensitivity.

Ha.

I know gay guys who are the furthest thing from sensitive. And watch gay porn sometime...the word "sensitive" doesn't (ahem) enter into it.
I have never had cause to question my sexuality overmuch, despite entirely too many of my peers doing it for me. My parents whispering about it made me more angry than questioning. Because just like the other kids, they didn't seem to understand me.

I was really close to a man named Kieron in grade 13. We spent a lot of time together; he even came up north to my dad's place, something only two other people before Eva have had the honour of doing. I wrote in my diary at some point that year that being around him gave me a very warm, comfortable feeling...while explicitly disavowing any sexual attraction. I made the mistake of telling my mom and stepdad about that feeling. Well, you'd think I brought home a signed first edition of The Confirmed Homosexual's Guide to Fellatio, or something.

See, feelings for other guys -- even platonic feelings -- are still feelings, and therefore they're part of the subset of things you don't talk about if you're a man.  No matter what.  Domestic abuse around you? Dying sibling? And yeah, those horrible, pernicious gay thoughts? Turn It Off.

Maybe that's why male suicide rates are 1.3 to three times higher than those for females. You don't have to hold a Master's degree in psychology to figure out that bottling up your feelings out of some engendered need to appear 'strong' has disastrous consequences.

Back to the article.

Here is the key question — what better equips a man to confront a difficult and challenging world? Is it more tears? Or is it more toughness? Is it teaching men to be compassionate or to be objects of compassion? The vulnerable male’s cry is “help me.” The masculine male’s quest is to become the helper. 

There is this tendency. It seems to manifest EVERYWHERE, and it drives me nuts. If you're not one thing--fully and completely one thing--you must be fully and completely the other.  Let's deconstruct:

more tears? or more toughness?

Why not both? Tears have their uses: they're cathartic, cleansing, and above all perfectly normal.  It doesn't mean you cry 24/7. It means you cry when you have a need to cry.  You can be very tough and still cry on occasion. Also, this applies whether you are male, female or any one of 61 other genders.

compassionate? or objects of compassion?

Again, why not both? We should all be compassionate, which makes all of us objects of compassion.

The vulnerable male’s cry is “help me.” The masculine male’s quest is to become the helper. 

I have this to say to that. Or rather, Bill Withers does:

Lean on me, when you're not strong  
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long 
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on. 

Anybody who knows me even peripherally knows that I am a helper. I've had more than a few people tell me that. I'm far from the only one, and one thing all of us helpers have in spades -- we have to have it -- is mental toughness. There are times I'm dealing (at a remove, of course) with the emotional trauma of four or five friends at once. That takes a lot of energy.
That mental toughness comes from making myself vulnerable--which is something a good helper has to do. I share deeply and widely of myself because it helps establish the kind of trusting relationship a helper needs. If I didn't do that, I'd be fundamentally different. Not actually a person I would want to know.

No matter what feminists say or do, boys will be boys.

And so will a lot of middle-aged men.  I've seen something going around Facebook:

BOYS WILL BE BOYS held accountable for their actions, just like girls.


Feminists can’t change hormones and brain chemistry, and they can’t alter the fundamental biology of the human male. Boys will continue to be stronger and more aggressive than girls no matter how many peer-reviewed articles decry biologically based gender stereotyping.

Conservatives seem to believe that human nature is base and brutish and there's no sense in trying to overcome it. Which I find patently ridiculous. Men once had absolute power over women by virtue (?) of that 'strength and aggressiveness'. Again, there is a happy medium between simpering weakness and aggression, and that point is called assertiveness. It's an important quality to cultivate in all human beings irrespective of gender. Aggression? That's not a quality we should be encouraging, much less exalting...and yet we do. Our entire society is structured so the bullies win.  One just won the presidency of the United States. He's not the first bully to hold that office,  only perhaps the most blatant of them.

And I question, vociferously, the notion that men are stronger than women. On what scale? Sure, most men can bench more than most women. And run faster. And punch harder. But withstand pain? Compare men and women sick with colds. Most men I know, we're all ready to call whine-one-one and summon the wahmbulance. Imagine if men had menstrual cramps. Or had to go through childbirth. Or let's talk about emotional strength, and consider that the nurturing role demands considerably more of it.

Here's what the article suggests "being a man" is all about:

Deny self. Don’t indulge your weakness. Show courage. Avoid the easy path. 

The last two, I have no problem with whatsoever, with the caveat that "your" path may in fact be the easy one, and there's nothing wrong with that. But that directly contradicts the first direction, to deny self. No. Don't deny yourself. Shakespeare said it first (to my knowledge) and said it best: "to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Polonius is a Don Cherry level blowhard, but he gets that one right.
And "don't indulge your weakness" is great advice...if we know what "weakness" is. As I have said, I disagree that being vulnerable in any way denotes weakness. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Being vulnerable is, among other things, the only way to love. And loving, to me, is the only way to live.

No matter who you are.