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?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why I Love Wildflowers: And Why You Won't Find Them on OKCupid

Janapnese Meadow Rue
Spiraea japonica
I'm a sucker for wildflowers. In fact, just know, if you are hiking with me: THIS HIKER MAKES FREQUENT STOPS. Classifying wildflowers is one of my favorite reasons to hike. Once identified, I loudly pronounce its name at every occurrence, mostly so I won't forget it. Wood-Sorrel. Rattlesnake Hawkweed. Rue-Anemone. Also, to annoy you.

Why do I love them so much? Probably for the same reason I like polyamory (and variety in general). Wildflowers are amazing because they are unexpected. There I am hiking along, tired, sweaty, thirsty. I come around a switchback and suddenly a hillside full of Brook Meadowrue takes my breath away. Meadowrues are my particular favorite.

I record the flowers I've met in my field guide, as well as the time of year and trail where I saw them. Some flowers I have seen hundreds of times. Thyme-Leaved Bluets are everywhere. Even out of season, I can recognize the wildflowers I've previously identified. In fact, it's hard for me not to see them. Because I'm looking for them.

Relationships can be this way too. (Oh, yeah, I'm also a sucker for metaphors.) What makes a finding a relationship so wonderful is when you don't really expect it. Whether it's that "friend" you've had forever who suddenly notices you, or that cute guy at work, or the ever-so-rare OKCupid matchup (does this ever really happen?!) it feels miraculous. "Wait, you feel the same way I do?"

Then there are those days, usually when it's raining, where it feels like I've hiked for miles and not spotted anything noteworthy. Hunting for the proverbial unicorn, if you will. There are many plants in my field guide that I have never and may never see.

Green Dragon
Arisaema dracontium
This makes me think of the countless hours you can spend on OKCupid and still come up with nothing. Sure, it can be frustrating, but then, most things in life happen this way. The more you look for something, the harder it seems it is to find it. Additionally, you're not going to improve your chances by making your ideal romantic partner the ever elusive Green Dragon (see photo). How I would love to see one of those some day.

Does that mean I cease hiking through the woods? If I do then my chances of spotting the Green Dragon are zero or worse. Whether hunting for plants or partners, you press on. You continue to hike, to search, to tweak your profile to attract just the right mate. And regardless of the results, keep putting one squashy wet boot in front of the other like the happy hiker you are.

What's been bending my ear lately (and I realize this is not a new problem) is the constant complaining (I think it's complaining anyway) on all forums poly about How do I find someone? Where do I meet people? Why doesn't OKCupid work? 

How do you meet someone? That's easy, go out and talk to people! Where? Anywhere that people are. They're not hard to find, shockingly. But they're probably not poly. They won't want to date me. Is this all that people are to you? Potential dates? People are like plants, there are many of them and oftentimes there are far too many of the status quo. (Damn ferns!) But that's what makes wildflowers so beautiful! They stand out. And these people, the ones who stand out, are worth meeting, whether they are potential mates or not. These are the people who challenge you and change you. They are worth endless days of hiking just to catch a glimpse of because they are so rare and beautiful.

When you are lucky enough to find that rare and beautiful flower, do you scoop it up quickly and run away into the night, laughing manically (... clearly I've been watching too much kid's television). Poaching is a real crime that state and national parks deal with, sadly. Besides depriving the plant of it's chosen environment, poachers also deprive the rest of us of their beauty. Even worse than that, in my opinion, is how relocating a wildflower converts it to a domestic flower, essentially detracting the very thing that makes it so extraordinary in the first place. The fact that it's survival does not depend on humanity at all. That it is wild.

Poaching is a dangerous habit with lovers too. Not only will the thing you desire begin to lose its desirable qualities, but, in the end, you will end up hurting the very thing you are trying to love. You will destroy it.

Which brings me to the second reason wildflowers are so beautiful. They aren't controlled, or shouldn't be. They exist for their own sake. If others receive pleasure from seeing or being with them, what a great bonus! But it's not necessary for their survival. In other words, people, the worthwhile ones anyway, are independent of others. They don't need partners and they certainly don't need you. If they allow you to tag along for a while, then count your blessings.

Thyme-Leaved Bluets
Houstonia serpyllifolia
Of course, maybe you're not cruising OKCupid for wildflowers. You'll just take any willing plant that comes along, or that fucks well. (Hmmm ... plants fucking? Evidently, I need to rethink this metaphor.) I will tell you the secret to finding wildflowers, though it only refers to people, not plants. Still trying to concoct a formula for the plants. The secret is to be a wildflower yourself. Be independent. Be the kind of person you are wanting to meet. And be satisfied to sit on a sunny hillside and wait for that determined hiker to come along. There's no guarantee how long you will have to wait, but the more beautiful you are, the harder you will be to miss.

Another secret, once you learn to spot wildflowers, you find them everywhere. Like Thyme-Leaved Bluets.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Philosophy of Love: Am I Doing It Wrong?

Ludwig Wittgenstein

A few weeks ago, The Guardian posted a story written by Giles Fraser, a British priest and journalist. The title really says it all, so here it is in it's entirety: How Ludwig Wittgenstein Helped Me Get Over My Teenage Angst. Needless to say, the title caught my eye.

Wittgenstein, being a cherished philosopher from my undergrad years. Words are a function within a larger system, and all that jazz. Bertrand Russell described him as "passionate, profound, intense and dominating". For me, it was love at first sight! Though, I admit, I have not read much of him since, and at this point he is more fantasy than anything.

In the article mentioned above, Giles details how my dreamy, handsome philosopher actually turned him toward religion. Yes, there are many faulty arguments (if you can call them that) in this article. A hot-bed for atheist bloggers. But one particular section gave me pause:

Moreover, there is no need first to develop a coherent philosophy of something in order to go on and do it. Apropos ... you don't need a philosophy of love in order to be in love.

Say what?!

Let's take that second statement first. Everyone has a philosophy of love, whether or not they realize it. No matter their orientation, kink, number of partners, age, lack of sexuality, etc. EVERYONE has one. It would be impossible to be human and not have a structure of how you approach, analyze, and ultimately behave concerning love.

The word "philosophy" may be a bit off-putting for the uninitiated. But don't run screaming just yet. From the time you were born, you were interacting with the world, developing beliefs about it, and reacting to it. As you got older and could understand language, you may have had particular worldviews and opinions thrust upon you without your knowledge. Religion would be one such worldview. Hopefully, as you became older, you used your knowledge about the world, as well as your own experiences to form a worldview, a philosophy, about what life is, how it functions, and the best way of getting along in it. This is your philosophy, most likely terribly flawed, as everyone's is, but a philosophy nonetheless.

Giles even agrees with this:

Philosophy is ... creating better intellectual maps that reflect what people are doing when they say the things they do.

In other words, there are reasons for your actions. They don't just happen randomly, even if you don't know what those reasons are. Your beliefs, values, and ideals are at the root of all your actions. 

Now let's apply this to the experience of love, whether that be the way you love your partner or the way you love your new car. (I'm looking at you, LordofDarkenss!!!) Every person has some idea of the experience of love, though our ideas about the
experience may differ extensively. We call this a universal experience because it happens to everyone, in all cultures, time periods, across the scales of skill or intelligence levels. To love is part of what it means to be human.

The first time you fell "in love", kissed someone you were attracted to, or had someone profess their love for you, you had a profound feeling, an experience.

And from that moment, you associated this experience with the concept of love. You began developing ideas about what love meant, how you were supposed to act, and ultimately what you wanted your "love life" to look like, even if that means you wanted nothing to do with it at all. This is your philosophy of love.

Giles stated that we don't need a philosophy of love in order to be in love. But human beings cannot help forming a philosophy of love, even if unintentionally. A human's ability to reason ensures that some kind of philosophy will form for all experiences. Therefore, since everyone experiences love (universal experience), everyone must have a philosophy of love. And this happens even if you don't know it's going on.

The second problem with Giles's statement is that he claims you don't "need" the philosophy to be in love. His implication, I believe, is that human beings experience love naturally without needing any rational activity taking place. Falling in love, he's saying, is not like deciding how or if or when to start a business. However, it is naive to think that you can do something well, or that your plans will turn out well, without a solid philosophy about them.

If my philosophy of love is that I am the center of the universe and everyone I "love" has to do what I say, well, it's obvious I am going to fail miserably at my relationships. (Unless of course I meet a really kinky submissive.) That's an extreme example. Let's look at one that's more frequent, and since this is a blog about poly (sometimes, anyway), let's make it a poly example.

I was raised to believe that the only choice for love was a long-lasting monogamous marriage with my soul mate. This was a faulty philosophy given to me by my mother about love. Why is it faulty? For one thing, I do have a choice. Monogamy is not the only choice. Having multiple, simultaneous partners is a choice. Having no partners is a choice. The truth is, if you can conceive it, it's a choice. I didn't know that. For another thing, the word "soulmate" is an invented concept, perpetuated by Hollywood. Letting go of the dream of finding that one perfect person just for us can be brutal. It's a seductive fantasy.
There's probably a host of other reasons this philosophy is flawed, but we'll move on. 

Getting married, then, based on this faulty monogamous philosophy created all kinds of problems for me. I wasn't happy being with just one person. And, my "soulmate" didn't turn out to be "perfect". It's unreasonable to think any partner could be. You can guess, no doubt, this made for some pretty shitty "love". If I had chosen to continue within this faulty framework, I could have gotten divorced and looked for a new "soulmate". And so, the cycle would continue.

When real life doesn't fit our philosophy, we have the option to change it. By adopting a new philosophy, I could make decisions that made me, and everyone around me, much happier. Taking time to research (a fancy word for gaining more knowledge about a subject) and rationalize and do some serious introspection led me to a different philosophy about love. My new philosophy fit the poly lifestyle quite nicely. I was even able to short-cut many poly relationship pitfalls due to my poly Fore-Sisters and Brothers, who made the mistakes for me and kindly blogged them on the internet! (I cannot thank you enough, Fore-Sisters and Brothers. And I could never list you all. Just know that I'm grateful.)

So, to review, a faulty philosophy of love caused me to make decisions which led me to a very unhappy situation. However, a well thought out, introspective philosophy led me to a life where I am happier than I
have ever dreamed. So, yes, Giles, you can fall in love without a solid philosophy, but if you do YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. If you want your love life to be worth anything, you're going to have to put some thought into it. And a lack of knowledge about your personal philosophy (even if you say you don't need one) will cause needless heartache for you and your loved ones.

[A]ttention is properly directed on what one does, how meaning is indexed to behaviour. Neither [psychology nor philosophy] is about the clever answers one can provide under cross-examination. Which is just as well – because I don't have them.

A naive worldview, indeed. Whether or not you like it, Life will throw hard questions at you, and sometimes you will have to address them with "cross-examination" speed. You may not have the "right" answers every time, but if you have a well-thought-out philosophy of life and love, you will have a head start. Life does not accept "I don't know" as an answer. Life deals out consequences anyway. In this case, accumulating as much knowledge as possible about yourself and your experiences will better equip you for Life's obstacle course.