I don't know how many times I've been since July. Not near enough. Despite my comfort in the place, there always seems to be some reason not to go. Groceries need bought, and Sunday morning seems to be the most convenient time to get them. The sermon topic for the week doesn't appeal (and c'mon, Ken, the whole place is about opening your mind and heart, who knows what you're missing out on?) Or just the thought of the 100-minute commute each way is a turn-off.
Eva drove me this morning, which saved over an hour of that commute. I wasn't going to miss a sermon topic like "Love and the World's Religions".
I'm not going to lie and say the entire service spoke to me. The story for the children this week -- this one -- is, while very touching, also distinctly disturbing. What kind of mother creeps into her adult son's bedroom to recite the ritual poem to him as he sleeps? As a woman behind me joked, "a mother with serious abandonment issues".
But most of the rest of the service was very illuminating. The attitudes towards love in four world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam) were covered and commonalities were noted. One of the things that struck me is the importance of love seeing and being seen.
The rituals of various religions, from the simple devotional to what seem, to outsiders, to be the tedious intricacies of Orthodox Judaism, are all about calling God to mind and heart. There are, of course, half a hundred ways of expressing that last sentence without using the word 'God'. But regardless, the insight there had somehow escaped me.
I have always looked upon the 'rules' of religion with a jaundiced and jaded eye. What kind of God really gives a fart in a glove what you eat or what you wear? Is He/She/It really that petty?
Well, maybe it's not about pettiness. Maybe it's about mindfulness. You wear the tassels and touch the Mesuzah in Judaism to remind yourself of God's presence. The calls to prayer in Islam and Judaism have certain cleansing rituals and gestures attached to it, all of which are supposed to remind you that you're (my phrasing) leaving the World behind and entering Eternity for a time. Hinduism has an entire Path to the Godhead based on love. and it is vitally important on that path to love (see) and serve (be seen by) God. And again, if 'God' rubs you the wrong way, substitute Truth/Joy/Love/The Universe/Nature/whatever signifies for you.
Suddenly all that legalistic crap takes on meaning and significance, not necessarily to me, but I at last understand why it would have significance to others. Which means it now passes my inner smell test. For that alone, I'm glad I went today.
I also couldn't help but put my own spin on "see and be seen".
For fuck's sake, I hear you thinking, is he going to make EVERYTHING about fucking polyamory?
No, he isn't. But this he will.
You have to understand that this path has intellectual, emotional and spiritual components for me. Logically, it seems wrong to express unconditional love (which is what many faith traditions call us to do) by placing conditions and limits on it. Emotionally, abundant love is tremendously rewarding both to give and to receive. And spiritually, without meaning to sound cuckoo, expressing love for as many as I can, in whatever form they will accept, is profoundly connective. When I am with a friend or a partner, emotionally or physically, I am seeing and cherishing that person for all that they are and feeling at one with them. That's a powerful feeling.
I wrote a blog yesterday on 'coming out to yourself'. There's one forthcoming on coming out to others. It struck me that coming out to yourself is embracing a new way of seeing love. And coming out to others is being seen to embrace it. Seeing and being seen.
What I see when I look at polyamory is a call to love. I've been accused of making that love sexual entirely too often, which is ironic because sexuality is NOT the focus of my polyamory, never has been and never will be. Connection is. That's not to say sex has no place: of course it does. But as I just said, for me, physical expressions of love are just one more way to connect. I have believed that since I was a virgin.
There is an infamous scene in Stephen King's novel IT. Anybody who has read IT knows immediately what I'm talking about: it's undoubtedly the most controversial thing King has yet written. A group of pre-teen 'Losers' has, in the tradition of King's child-heroes, done battle with an evil they couldn't fully understand. In the sewers beneath their city, they confronted 'It' and hurt 'It' badly, temporarily repelling the evil. But then the kids get lost trying to make it back to the surface, and worse, they feel themselves losing the connection they had made to each other.
Beverly Marsh, the lone female in the Loser's Club, thinks she knows what she has to do. And she does it: offers herself, sexually, to each of the other boys in an act meant to re-unify them. You can read her stream of consciousness as she freely gives herself to each of her friends in turn: she reflects on the power of sex, the way many girls her age and older seem to think of it as some nameless, dreadful thing...they even refer to sex as "It". Have you done It, will I like It...she concludes they're right about the power at least, it feels like it's flowing in and out of her at once. She feels love for each of her friends in turn, tells them she loves them, and when they've finished, they feel bound together again, and they know their way out.
I may have been the only person in existence who read that scene with neither revulsion nor titillation, but simple acceptance: sex unifies. (No, wait, Eva told me -- no surprise -- that was her reaction as well.) Several years later, when I had sex for the first time, I found that to be empirically true. Sex unifies.
Other things unify too, of course. You don't have to share bodies to share minds, hearts, souls, pain, love. I have had more than a few people, with whom I have never been and will never be sexual, tell me they feel connected to me in a way they don't feel with anyone else. I value that. I value that highly. And of course one connection doesn't devalue another.
At any rate, I strive to see everyone as loveable and worthy of love. In whatever form. That seeing has permeated my existence and brought me inexpressible joy. Seeing this, I want it to be seen. That's why I have so doggedly put my thoughts to screen, covering the same ground over and over but adding something new each time, spiralling out in an imitation of how I see my love rippling out from me.
I would NEVER suggest that polyamory is a religious concept. That sounds FAR too much like I'm heading up some kind of cult -- and people who don't know me at all have indeed made that accusation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Polyamory is simply being open to multiple committed relationships conducted without deceit. Religious, no. But (perhaps, for some) spiritual.
I'll be talking about coming out to others -- being seen -- in my next blog. For now, suffice it to say that it's difficult to suppress the wonderful feelings that accrue, loving and being loved by many. Sadly necessary, sometimes, when some people who are determined to misunderstand what polyamory is about, but difficult. Shared joy increases.