Monday, November 24, 2014

The Affliction of Getting What You Want

I frequently hear complaints from polyfolk about OKCupid. Women complain that they get too many messages. While the men say that women never reply to theirs. Leaving the first complaint aside, I want to address the latter.

Backing up a little, I activate my OKC account for short periods of time when I just damn feel like it. I deactivate it because I'm not "out" to my family or the godly community where my children go to school and trick-or-treat. But when I do frequent the dating site I average 30-40 messages/day. Or rather, messages from 30-40 different men, some of them send multiple messages. I reply to most, though I did finally put a disclaimer on my profile specifying that I will NOT reply to messages that only say: "Hi," "How are you?" or "You're hot". (Groan.)

That being said, I think the men I respond to are more than a little surprised that I am returning their message. And given the circumstance, they should be. I mean, let's face it, I am hot. I'm usually more than generous with my alternate-identity email, and they will contact me there usually as soon as I give it to them. I find at this point that their enthusiasm dwindles rather quickly. Is this because I'm boring you? Have I taken away the challenge? I'm confused as to why interest suddenly disappears. Maybe it's because now I'm a real person instead of that sexy, unattainable model they had originally imagined me to be? What they thought they wanted turns out not to be what they wanted after all.

But these are not the guys I really want to talk about anyway. There is another type that I have encountered on more than one occasion. This is the guy that actually does want to talk to me via text or whatever. And we'll have a pretty good conversation to the point where I think that I can tell him what I actually think. (Not that I don't always say what I think, but I reserve the nitty-gritty for when I think someone is actually listening to me.) And this will go okay for a few days.

Then suddenly, POOF! They disappear. I mean, they're still there. I can see when they're online. I can see what you're posting on fb. I know you're there. You've just stopped responding. What exactly the fuck is this about? I mean, you're on a dating website. You complain --more than likely-- that women don't respond to your messages. And here you have a beautiful woman who has similar interests that wants to talk to you, but you ignore her? Why bother to be on a dating website at all if you don't even want what you thought you wanted when you finally get it?

True, I could blame myself. I could say that I'm just not that interesting, or I'm deluded about my looks. Or, I'm one of those crazy chicks who digs her talons into a man the second he shows the slightest interest. But I know that's not true. I have people I trust who tell me so.

The affliction of getting what you want is: now what do I do with it? To be honest, I don't really understand this problem. I actually think through what will or could happen when I achieve my goals. Sure, it might be new and scary, but I've prepared myself ahead of time for this possibility. I might proceed with caution, but I don't suddenly cut someone off because I'm a big pussy!

Conclusion: Boys, make up your goddamn minds.

Also, every time I run up against this Type, it just makes me that much more thankful for my wonderful, amazing partners.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What Pisses Me Off About the Hunger Games

Now, before you get all psycho-fan-geek on me, I'm as Hunger-Game-crazed as they come. My pre-pub paperback copies of books 1 and 2 are respectfully mutilated. And Mockingjay I listened to on audio book, which concludes with a rare interview with Suzanne Collins. Highly recommended, if you haven't yet ventured into the world of audio books.

Additionally, if you're paying attention at all, I've adopted HG's charmingly clueless protagonist, Katniss, as my alter-ego. There may be some Freudian interpretation to my chosen persona, but let's move on.

There are many reasons I believe Collins' trilogy to be one of the finest pieces of recent literature. But for the sake of not losing every reader to my geeked-out drool session, I'll sum up. 

Important themes: challenge the established system, whether it's "good" or "evil"; human connections are messy, but ultimately make life worth living; does the end justify the means?; what you are told should always be run through the filter of what you feel is right or wrong. 

It is this outside-the-established-boundaries thinking that makes HG so popular, like so many cherished iconic stories. The audience has an easier time imagining how "things could be different" because it's someone else's reality. It's much easier to see how some other person, culture, way of thinking is flawed than to evaluate your own, from within the bubble.

This is no easy task. In real life, it can be difficult to recognize that you are even confined within a bubble. Oftentimes, breakthroughs require a catalyst. An event that pushes you beyond your limitations, out on the ledge, so to speak. Or sometimes, you realize the small-ness of your world when you come into contact with someone from another culture. And you start to ask yourself: why do I do it this way? Why do I do it at all? 

The reason is because you didn't know you had a choice. Culture (and oftentimes religion) keeps you within certain restrictions and breaking out of these can mean isolation, rejection, and in mythical contexts, eternal damnation.

Novels like HG help us wake up to our bubbles. Our pre-programmed actions that we run through without realizing it. The structures we use to make our decisions, not realizing there are other structures available, or (wonder of wonders!) that we can make our own!

While I will always have a soft spot for all things Katniss, Collins fails in one very obvious way. She questions the very fabric of society (her's is fictional, but still), but she doesn't question the possibilities of relationships structures. I mean, it's okay if we start talking about equality, peace, (and in the real world) gay marriage, and freedom from religion. But monogamy? This isn't even brought into question. Collins assumes that Katniss will have to choose between Peeta and Gale. Or, at least, that her faux-mance with Peeta means there is no possibility of her being with Gale. A big assumption for a fictional future dystopia.

Oh, Katniss is kissing Peeta on national television? Gale must be sad, jealous. Oh, Gale is sneaking kisses in the woods with Katniss? Because if Snow and the Capitol found out, then it must mean she doesn't really love Peeta. There's no way she could truly love both. (And for Katniss's sake, she doesn't really love either, but realizes she needs both to survive. But that's another story.)

Others have written about the poly/mono implications in HG and more recently Catching Fire. Some have focused on gender issues, and have even made good points. 

But what really pisses me off about the HG is the assumption. The assumption of the author. The assumption of the readers. We're thinking progressively here, people ... oh, but not quite that progressively. You couldn't possibly have a love triangle without conflict. I mean, how much would that bring in at the box office?

As long as these assumptions prevail in our entertainment, it will cement the mass populace in their comfortable bubbles.

In Collins's defense, I appreciate her ending where (SPOILER ALERT!!!) Katniss ultimately chooses neither. She is content to allow things to be as they are, as long as no one is getting hurt, which I would argue was her position all along. 

If I see one more Team Gale or Team Peeta, I think I'll puke.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Embracing Limitations: Or, What I Learned at Polycon

You don’t get to choose your parents, your metamours, or your triggers. Triggers? Those are the people, the situations, the news, the events that cause you to become irrationally angry, jealous, scared. Triggers cause minor or major panic attacks, and often inspire me to lunge for the Xanax.

Some triggers you are aware of. You know when to expect their arrival. When he spends the night at her house; when everyone goes out together on the night I work; getting cut off on the highway; or, mentally calculating the best price on vitamin brands at the grocery while two over-tired children scream at each other, attracting the attention of everyone within a 10 ft. radius. (Not that I’ve ever experienced that before …)

Then there are the times when triggers sneak up on you. Surprise! It’s not okay for you to wear the dress I bought you on a date with him. Surprise! Roses? My stupid crazy ex-boyfriend used to buy me roses! How could you? Surprise! I’m okay with you dating girls but not guys!

Some might call these weaknesses, but instead, I’ve upgraded their status to “limitations”. Limitations are the boundaries (permanent or temporary) within which we can work effectively. Trying to work outside our limitations only brings negative consequences. For example, a food allergy can be a personal limitation. Sure that cake, ice cream, garbage pail full of everything you want to engorge on looks great. But indulging in your personal limitation will only bring undesired consequences. It is the same with relationship limitations.

Working With Limitations

Does this mean it is impossible to move beyond your limitations? Sometimes. There are some limitations you can work on, become better at, adapt strategies for. You can be gentler, more approachable, more intelligible, more knowledgeable. But then there are some limitations you just have to respect.

All my life I have struggled with meeting new people and going to unfamiliar places. When I was younger, my strategy was to avoid them.  As you can imagine, I was lonely and eventually my desire to change was stronger than my fear of the unknown. Recently, I was reading about a condition known as Avoidant Personality Disorder. While I do not claim to have said disorder, I do identify with some of its components.

For Avoidants, being in certain social situations, or even just around strangers, or in public at all, causes stress which produces a chemical reaction in the body. Some become paralyzed with fear, anxiety, or even panic to the point where they cannot bring themselves to go to work or the grocery store. There are different degrees of the disorder. And the goal is to work on strategies which allow the individual to perform the necessary tasks despite the chemical imbalance.

I feel this stress even just thinking about new venues and people. Sometimes the chemical reaction begins before I even get there. In many ways, I have been able to overcome some of these obstacles in no small part with the help of TheLordofDarkness.

But even now, in social situations with people I don’t know, I can feel the panic rising in my chest. Cognitively, I know there is no reason to panic, but I still feel it. And I know I’ve reached my limit when strangers (or people I’ve only just met) infiltrate my personal space bubble. It’s more than I am able to handle. This is my limitation and this is the time for me to walk away.

I’m furious with myself of course.

This past weekend, TheLordofDarkness and I attended BeyondThe Love polycon. I observed how easily he navigates through what seems to me an obstacle course of
anxiety. Him and others make friends, new partners, hookups look easy. Fun, even.  Damn, them.

Someday, with practice and lots of support from partners and friends, I may be able to work past this limitation. But for now, I know this is my stop and I get off the bus.

Embracing Limits

It’s easy to beat myself up over what I can’t do. Instead, I consciously choose to see my limitations as the other side of my strengths, the things I love about myself. I am very sensitive and take things way too personally some of the time. It is also my sensitivity that gives me a deep level of empathy for others, especially those I’m close to. 

It is my sensitivity which causes my relationships with partners and close friends to be deep, meaningful, and life-long partnerships regardless of how the structure of the relationship changes. I love this about myself. I desire and cherish these relationships. And I would never change it.

Punishing myself for not being what others are or what others expect me to be, accomplishes nothing. Forcing myself beyond what I am reasonably comfortable with only makes me miserable.

It is by embracing my limitations, and affirming them as strengths that I create space to grow. Loving and compassionate people inspire us to learn and grow. Negativity and condemnation only cause us to clam up, hide, and give up. Why shouldn’t we treat ourselves, our limitations, with kindness?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Our Collective Subjective: Or, There's No Such Thing as Objective Truth

From the universe's point of view, we are of no more concern than any other atom, planet or speck of dust. The universe does not distinguish the violent ending of a human life from the snapping of a tulip's stem. There is no Universe or God of Tulips who is going to prevent you from clipping those buds in late spring. Because the universe doesn't care. It is indifferent.

In Secular Wholeness, David Cortesi observes: 
This universe regards the murder of one human by another exactly the way it regards an avalanche falling on a human, or a virus infecting one: with sublime indifference. Avalanches fall; viruses infect; mammals prey on one another-- it's what they do
Because the Universe is not a conscious, all-encompassing being--at least there's no indication of this so far--it negates the possibility of an objective reality or truth. As humans, we can only know truth from our own individual and collective perspectives. But as insignificant beings in a vast universe without (so far) other conscious life, there is no objective, fixed and ultimate, truth. 

Even if another conscious species were to come along, that species would be subjected to their own collective subjective. Objective reality, or truth, cannot exist because there is no One who can see every view point. There is no One who is omnipotent, though it would be vastly convenient if there were. 

Does this negate human morality? Far from it. Cortesi continues:
Now, this absolutely does not mean that we should be indifferent! On the contrary, desiring to be moral, trying to be compassionate, and urging other people to be moral and compassionate are also things that we do quite as naturally and with better outcomes for our own survival.
What it means is that there is no objective morality; there is no right and wrong beyond what humanity ascribes as right and wrong. However, the morality invented by humanity will only be from humanity's subjective viewpoint. Because you are human and I am human, This Means You!, we are accountable to our species' definition of morality. In fact, it is this very collective subjective which creates our morality, a code for living.

Religion will tell you that there is only one right way to to be and do. Which we know to be completely false as religion has failed, and continues to fail, at it's own morality as well as the collective morality. 

Additionally, as Cortesi points out, it is the refinement of this collective morality which increases our chances of survival as a species, though not necessarily as individuals. Another excuse to be immoral? Possibly. But consider your probable chances of a happy life if you choose an illegal occupation over a legal one. Consider the quality of your close relationships if you continuously lie and manipulate, instead of treating others with compassion. Yes, bad things do happen to good people, but morality substantially increases your chances of happiness.
What does the subjective collective mean for you? First, it means you cannot view the world in black and white, good and evil. Those are concepts we have created. The same way we have created countless gods, civilizations, and poetry. You will have to look at the evidence and you will have to think. You will have to use all of the tools at your disposal to come up with what you should do, how you should behave, how you can help others. You will have to make the decision. 

Second, it means you cannot judge other humans based on an objective moral code. Judging and convicting criminals is part of our society, but the rules by which we pass judgement cannot be set in stone. In every case, it is the betterment of the species that has to be considered, the collective subjective. As we grow and access more knowledge of the physical universe, our understanding of right and wrong changes. Our collective subjective changes. 

It is by coming together and facing the indifferent universe united as a species that we will progress.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Does the Average 'Sunday Jane' Really Believe This Shit?

My former profession was a female-dominant workforce. I shared a working space with three other women, all Christian, two Catholic. Though we never discussed it, I believe they were aware I did not attend church and was a "nonbeliever". From time to time, I would overhear conversations about various church happenings and promises to pray for this or that personal calamity.

I attended an undergraduate Evangelical college. (Evangelicalism is a branch off of Protestant Christianity which, most distinctively, recognizes the believer's "assurance of faith".) I took many classes on the history of Christianity, the doctrines of the faith, and even entire semesters devoted to single books of the Bible. So I have a heafty understanding of church doctrine. Not necessarily something I'm proud of, but then, you work with what you have. Clergy, pastors, reverends and others like me have a deeper understanding of exactly what is meant (at least according to current century interpretations) by phrases such as "the Word became flesh" (John 1) or "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22).

Now back to my three co-workers, or even just the average church-goer in general. What happens when you try and bring up these tricky questions with them? Of course they can do little more than repeat doctrine they have been told, if they are even able to do that. But more practically speaking, when you are talking about something as important as the meaning of the universe or the final destination of your "soul", isn't it important to actually know what you believe? Even if you can't explain hundreds of years worth of the Popes' memoirs, shouldn't you have your own basic understanding of your religion?

Why is it that the average church-goer (or adherents of any religion) are satisfied with not knowing what the church actually teaches? Why are Christians embarrassed to talk about the important questions of their faith outside of church?

For the sake of argument, imagine me bringing up any of the following topics with my three pious church ladies:
  • The Holy Spirit is God and is all around us. So, you're telling me that God, in spirit form, is right here in the air between my fingers and the keyboard. If I wave my hand over my head, I'm waving my hand through God? If I lay a stink-bomb, will God choke and gag?
  • Those who reject Jesus go to hell. You're telling me that as we sit in this meeting discussing our plans for next quarter, all the while I'm (unknowingly) going to spend eternity in hell? How can you just sit there tapping your pencil? Don't you want to save my soul? 
  • Prayer will bring about divine intercession that otherwise would not have occurred. So, your brother's uncle's sister-in-law is in the hospital and will have life-saving surgery tomorrow and you say you will keep her in your prayers. If you are so convinced this will have such a significant impact, why don't the two of you step outside and pray in the parking lot for this poor doomed lady? Why not? Oh, because you actually know that it's not going to work and you'll look silly in the process ... oh, wait, I'm ruining my own punch line.
Given half a chance, Christians will talk your ear off about the community service their church is involved in. The pious Christian is happy you recount for you Sunday's service as well as who they saw there and the latest gossip. But how often do you hear Christians in the real world talking about exactly what they believe? (And I'm not talking about the loony sandwich board guys. I mean, the soccer moms, PTA presidents, and bus drivers.) Their silence is odd considering how important all this supposedly is.

The first reason: They feel they are uneducated about the finer points of their faith. But even stripping Christianity down to its most basic belief that Jesus died for your sins, the average believer is at a loss to explain exactly what this means. How exactly does the "sin" transfer from one person to another? Once transferred, how does the death of this one individual make the "sin" disappear?  Assuming "god" is able to make all this magic happen, wouldn't it be quicker to just hose everyone down like they do with uncooperative asylum initiates. Even the most uneducated Christian needs to understand this most basic doctrine of the faith, enough to talk about it the same way you explain to your children that thunder and lightning are the same thing.

The second reason: They are afraid of criticism. Or, in other words, they are afraid of looking stupid. (I will skip the arguments for martyrdom, knowing that not everyone was born to be a martyr.) Why would someone criticize your beliefs? If they criticize your beliefs, can you present logical arguments to defend your position? Usually, the religious are able to do little more than repeat what they have been told about their religion. They do very little thinking about it for themselves. This is something to be embarrassed about. When Einstein or Newton or Galileo presented their "beliefs", how did they deal with criticism? They presented logical arguments, and continued to speak out. In the end, it turned out that their critics were the ones embarrassed. Why don't Christians (the average ones, not the educated ones) avoid the criticism?

The answer is that ultimately the every Sunday Jane and Joe know that their religion is hokey. They know they look silly praying outside of church, even though that is what their religion tells them to do. They know that the doctrines about Christ's saving blood don't mean squat. They don't argue with nonbelievers because they know how silly most church doctrines are.

This isn't enough, however, to turn Jane and Joe against the church. This would mean losing their family, friends, support network. Also, they can easily change the subject to the morality the church teaches (which Humanism also teaches) and how the church provides aid to third world countries (which non-religious organizations do also).

Ultimately, average church-goers aren't religious outside the comfort zone of their own church walls because they don't believe it. But they aren't ballsy enough to think for themselves which might actually mean they have to stand up and contradict the religious majority(?). 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Religious Divisions? Science Unties!

This past weekend my Rev. Mother spoke at ceremony for the departure of a Protestant denomination church from its larger national network of churches. In other words, this particular church didn't agree with the decisions the other "like" churches were making, and so, made the move of countless other religious factions before them. They split. 

Shouldn't be surprising considering it's nearly impossible to count even the number of Christian sects. Something like 41,000? Read this if you really want a breakdown. And of course that's just one of the world's Big Six religions. 

Even more impressive is this artistic map of the world's religions. Though as I understand it, it's missing several branches of Islam. Is it even possible to list every version of religion? Since it seems no two people
can agree, we could simplify things by listing each religion by each person who believes it. How many people are on the planet right now? *Sigh* See this is why I don't dabble in statistics.

All of this is to say the longer any one religion exists, history tells us, the more divisions it will have because the more charismatic know-it-alls will disagree with each other.

Consider, instead, science. Mathematics has been called a language all its own. Those skilled enough to speak it (regardless of what language they speak at home) can have conversations with each other. There's nothing about mathematics that ever changes. As it grows, it becomes more refined. And as it refines, experts agree more and more as to what is mathematically right and wrong. That is to say, mathematics unites those who understand it.

We see the same pattern in science. As more and more knowledge is gained about our physical world, scientists agree more and more. Of course there will always be disagreements about what is unknown, what has not yet been proven. But consider human knowledge of the planets. Once thought to revolve around our own planet, today scientists have a more accurate understanding of how celestial bodies orbit the sun and are controlled by gravity. In other words, rather than divide, this knowledge unites scientists. They can agree about previously discovered and proved theories, and move on to other mysteries of our universe. 

In Sense and Goodness Without God, Richard Carrier observes: 
[N]aturalists throughout history, who arrived at their views wholly independently of each other, even in widely differing cultures, have all converged toward the same general conclusions and world pictures, ensuring that our worldview even if always a minority view, will still find more and more uniformity rather than division of views. Yet Christianity a thousand years from now will not be the same Christianity lived today, just as what we have today is not the same as that lived a thousand years ago. In all periods we meet hundreds of sects at fundamental variance with each other. Every other major religion faces the same story.
So, this defecting church, pulling away from its like-minded sister churches, will set out on its individual path of "truth". Once again claiming to have the only true knowledge of "god" and what that god wants. 

If "god" were actually real, don't you think he would step in a do something about all these disagreements? I mean, he could really clear up a whole bunch of shit by giving us Ten Clearer Commandments which actually tell us something about abortion rights, marriage rights, human sexuality, taxation laws. 

I mean, if I were Goddess, I'd want these things cleared up for sure. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thoughts on The Game that Detects a Cheating Spouse

I realize I have been ignoring the religion part of this blog lately. And I was all set to give you another installment of My Favorite Bible Stories. Until this story caught my eye.

It’s a fictional story about a man who successfully maintains a “respectable” job and family life, while sneaking off with a girlfriend a couple times a year. This cliché continues until the development of an app which detects the brain’s instinctual recognition response, something to do with P300. Read more about the P300. In the story, the app is called The Game that Detects a Cheating Spouse.

The point Bruce Kasanoff is making involves easily accessible technology which is able to instantly and accurately tell when you're lying. While there is an obvious connection with relationships and cheating, Kasanoff remarks that such technology concepts could also be applied to situations such as lying at work, or anywhere else you find it easy to be economical with the truth.  Kasanoff says, “What will life be like when the truth becomes inescapable?”

Well said.

But I want to take this beyond obvious lies; cheating, stealing, willful deception. Not a human on earth would deny having told at least a few “white lies” in their lifetime. In fact, I would venture to guess, most of us tell white lies several times a day. We lie to keep from hurting someone’s feelings, such as That is the world’s most god-awful lipstick. A world where you can’t successfully lie about your boss's new plaid blazer would be different indeed.

Then there are the lies we tell, the carefully plotted deceptions we construct, to keep others from seeing our
weaknesses, our insecurities. Like when we laugh at a joke because everyone else is laughing, even though we don’t really get it. Or, we nod along, even when we have no idea what someone is talking about. 

The scarier deceptions come when we’re hurt by someone or something, but we can’t bring ourselves to talk about it. So we pretend it doesn't exist. This may preserve our feelings for a little while, but it’s still lying. And like any lie, you have to keep lying in order to keep it hidden. And keeping anything hidden, never feels good for long.

Even though the story is about cheating, what I’m talking about is self-actualization, fulfilling your mental needs and reaching your full potential. What this story brought to my attention was … how much I don’t lie anymore. To anyone, about anything.

It’s not just about having open and honest poly relationships. Though that’s part of it. I also see how I have finally come to a place where I am comfortable with my weaknesses and my insecurities. I have on occasion taken them out and laid them on the table where anyone who cared could see them. Not for pity, but merely because I had nothing to hide. Here they are! I know they’re stupid, childish, petty, maybe even unnecessary. I acknowledge them. I embrace them. And I don’t expect anyone but myself to deal with them. Though I’m not above assistance every now and then.

Recently, while in the process of making a fool out of myself, someone told me: “I’m not laughing with you, I’m laughing at you.” But here’s the problem with that. As long as I own my foolishness, as long as I think it’s just as foolish as you think it is, as long as I’m laughing too, I cannot be laughed at. When my weaknesses are revealed, intentionally or accidentally, the way I see it, you have only two choices. You can laugh along with me, because I find my stupidity to be endlessly amusing. Or, you can choose not laugh. And neither choice will bother me.

I literally have nothing to lose because I have nothing to hide. Even if I were to lose the people and the things that are important to me, I still have the knowledge that I have nothing to hide. I don’t feel the need to lie about my insecurities or blunders to win someone’s affections. Such people aren't worth my time anyway. And though my opinions about how others dress, or speak, or conduct themselves might hurt someone's feelings, I am not ashamed of them. I do my best to conceal these truths for their sake. But I have no fear of them being revealed.

Are you Liar, Liar, pants on fire! ?
All of this freedom, to not have to lie about my opinions, my feelings, my truly most embarrassing moments … all of this I attribute to the secure sensation of absolute happiness I've had of late. I have nothing to fear, and so the world is my playground.

What insecurities are you hiding? What would happen if you revealed them?