Saturday, September 28, 2013

The sacred place where we meet

Who we are and...
who we are.

When I give you my hand, there is so much going on...

There is the movement of billions of cells entangling each other, protected by soft skin, there is the me and you that will never meet, separated by who we are: different embodiments of histories and memories, brains and perspectives, hormones and directions... we'll never meet, but we communicate: through words, through touching hands and curious eyes...

But we do meet: when I see your beauty, I can't really understand it, grasp it, explain it, even to myself. But I see it nevertheless, not with the eyes of the body, but with what Plato called the eyes of the soul. I "see" you, and I meet you, in a place far beyond what I can sense and explain. In a place where I am, where I am you, and we are part of everything.

In that place there are no frontiers, just beauty, marvelment, togetherness. I don't know how to explain it. It seems to be a place beyond words, beyond the powers of the mind and language. A place that we cannot point to, because it's not a particular thing in space and time. It's not outside and does not reveal itself in any particular behavior.

But when we're there, everything seems one: we are part of everything and everything is part of us. And that is the only time I know of, when we're together as one.

So, when I give you my hand,
there is so much going on: there is the physical us, the situated us, holding hands, and they will never truly mingle. And then there is a much more subtle us, where you and I disappear, into a bowl of love.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Polyamory and an Exposé of Polygamy

Fanny Stenhouse became very well known in the late 1870's for denouncing the unhappiness that Polygamy in the Mormon community at the time made her and other suffer.  Her 1972 book Exposée of Polygamy, was recently reedited by Linda DeSimone, Utah State University Press, in 2008.

She describes how a husband would shine in the ballroom while his previous wives would stand waiting like "wallflowers".

The power difference between man and woman was absolute: the man was seen as the head and the woman had to obey in everything (although the man supposedly decided in function of what was best for the wife, family and, above all, "God").  Coincidently, only men were allowed to have more than one wife, the contrary was deemed absurd, although there could be "proxy husbands" to generate sons for a defunct husband, and divorces were easily conceded on the wife's request.

The marriage was therefore not so much based in communication and sharing of everything but mostly on one directing and the other obeying.

From everything I've read it would seem that the resemblance between the polyamorous relations of today and the polygamous relations of the early Latter Day Saints (LDS) is shallow at best. They both are involved in official non-monogamous sexual relationships and in both cases partners had to deal with "jealousy", but, beyond that, there seems to be little or no similarities.

The Mormon polygamy was endured like a cross in this life in order to obtain "glory" in the next and to fulfil our love and devotion towards the "Heavenly Father". It was not supposed to give pleasure, the main end was to create offspring that would in turn populate other worlds like our worlds were populated by our Heavenly Father and Mother.

In contrast, polyamory relationships are not specifically connected with any particular faith. They result from the simple acceptance that the heart, or at least the human heart, loves beauty wherever it is. Forcing it to love person A while, at the same time, being indifferent to person B, when A and B are similar in very important aspects, is like asking it to lie. And even if the heart lies, it is just a lie. In truth, if it loves, let's say "Amélie", it will love all the "Amélies" in the whole wide world, and the same for Johns and Peters everywhere.

So, polyamory might just be seen as the desire to see the other as he/she really is, without denying hers/his most profound feelings, without creating a fissure between what one feels and what one expresses or, worse, between what one truly feels and what allows himself/herself, to feel.

So, in a very true sense, they are opposite experiences: polyamory attempts to free the inner emotions, to allow for what is considered "sinful" to be perceived, understood, dealt with in a loving way. Whereas the XIX century polygamic experience of the LDS practitioners was not so much centered on augmenting individual expression, but on being absolutely obedient, to the point of almost disappearance, to a divine law.

Notice that these two avenues may perhaps be experimented by the same person, perhaps, in some cases, at the same time (like in BDSM where people freely experiment in the annihilation of their will). But they go, nevertheless, in opposite experiences, although each will bear some kind of fruit.

Other differences came from the asymmetry between the roles of men and women in the relation. We can't help but notice that, although just a coincidence, all the "revelations" of the LDS came from men, and curiously, they gave men the supreme power in their relationship with women. They also established an hierarchy that gave power to the people that had the revelations. But all this is common to most religions and other systems that imply social  organization. Order, social order, is easier to maintain when power is not distributed, although, in the long term, it leads to more rebellion as it seems seems to imply a great deal of suffering.

We must also notice that divorces were (and are) easy to obtain among the LDS, also, it is very easy to apostatize the religion, so no one seems forced to continue. If LDS religion seems a prison to some outside eyes, it is a prison with a very open door. All you have to do is cross it, and you're out. That means marriage and religion. Of course, not all religions are like that, some societies simply kill people who attempt to leave their religions. A practice sometimes associated with some Muslim societies (and countries). But in the case of the LDS, even at the time, all you had to do was just to catch a train or somehow just leave the place and do some other thing.

In any case, even with all that "freedom to leave", you really had to understand a few things in order to leave. Even if the door was open, it demanded the "feet of criticism" to walk it through. And to find those feet is far from easy, as Fanny Stenhouse remarked:
"There is, indeed, a dread in the soul of every good Mormon of entertaining any doubts about their leaders, or criticising in any way whatever they might think proper to do or say. Brigham Young, in one of his sermons, says, “In the days of Joseph, the first thing manifested in the case of apostasy was the idea that Joseph was liable to be mistaken; and when a man admits that in his feelings, and sets it down as a fact, it is a step toward apostasy; and he only needs to take one step more, and he is cut off from the church.” It is this kind of teaching that binds every man in Mormonism. I was, fortunately, not a man; and as women will sometimes persist in thinking for themselves, I kept on thinking and admitting that Joseph Smith was liable to be mistaken, and that Brigham Young even excelled him in this particular. In fact, he was not only “liable,” but I knew that he had been mistaken many times.
The strength of Mormonism consists in the “blind obedience” of its disciples. Let them once question what they hear from the Prophet, and they are gone! The quotation I have already given from Brigham’s sermon illustrates this. He knew what he spoke. Instead of rebelling against Polygamy, had I only read the revelation carefully, and doubted its divine origin, I would have been saved a life of misery. It was only when I came to the conclusion that Joseph Smith never had this revelation from God that I was delivered from my former faith, and became once more happy.
When I saw Mr. S. looking upon Brigham Young and his teachings and actions as he looked upon other men, I knew instinctively that he would finally conclude that Brigham was not only fallible, but even very liable to make mistakes.
Mr. S. had been so long engaged in the defence of Mormonism, that it was deeply grounded in him. Its teachings and observances seemed to him beyond a doubt, and were strongly riveted in his mind. Its weak and doubtful points fled before his faith. When I heard him with others bringing up some of the  questionable teachings of the church, criticising Brigham’s “counsellings,” and doubting some of his measures, and speaking of him as they would of any other of the brethren, I was satisfied that he could not long remain such as he once had been. Long years of submission, and the receiving, without question, a prophet’s teaching as divine inspiration, necessarily benumbs the soul and withers its life, till unconsciously the victim becomes an abject slave — a mere automaton."
What Fanny fails to consider, however, is that, even more difficult to criticize the Prophets, is to have a critical eye on our own personal experience. Because every true believer, whatever the religion, has a testimony that, undoubtedly, X is correct, because he/she has seen it with the eyes of the soul, or has confirmed it by some mystical experience of simply by some physical event. All over the world you find these evidences of the most diverse (and sometimes very strange - to the outsider) beliefs. If it's difficult to critice a Prophet, it is a hundred times more difficult to realize that we have a very developed ability to deceive ourselves for the sake of social integration and pleasure. Only a thorough study of human psychology, of how that deceiving happens in others and in other cultures and circumstances, may help see it working in ourselves.

But, even if we have this power of criticism, which is quite rare in the homo sapiens!, you would still have to muster a great amount of courage to leave, because, being a LDS, you were taught that apostasy was a great sin, that you would be destroyed and many bad things would occur to you, even worse that the ones that were already occurring. The worse part is that LDS' suffering had a purpose, you were going to be rewarded, whereas Gentile suffering (or at least having a "not so good" life) would just go on and on, even after death, for all eternity. Even if that didn't happen you would be criticized by the ones you loved most, all your family and your deepest friends. For instance, when Ann-Eliza Young apostatized  she received a letter from her mother that started:
"My dear child: You can never know how dear you are to your grief-stricken mother. Your death would be far preferable to the course you are taking. How gladly would I laid you in your grave, had I known what was in your heart. I now pray that you may be spared for repentance and atonement; for, as sure as you are living, a day of repentance will come; a day of reckoning and of sorrow, such as you have never imagined." (source, ch. 36)
This is the kind of response you might expect from those that are dear, notice however, that LDS are so faithful that death is usually not felt as such a bad thing, because it means nothing but a passage to a better life. You may miss the other person, but, generally, you are happy for her: she is again with her heavenly family and away from all these earthly trials.

And the union of these preconditions, of critical thinking and courage, seem to demand a third, and the most important: a desire for truth. Not a mere desire among others, but that the desire for truth is bigger than any other, including life itself, all forms of pleasure and social company. If a person values truth among anything else, sooner or later, she will be frustrated with the shallow views of any particular group. She/He will eventually have to accept that man knows very little, and it is in this ignorance that lies mankind's greatest adventure in the direction of the unknown Cosmos.

In any case, in this and many other cases of societies and religions, the door was truly open and it is kind of difficult to criticize any religion or society in which people may freely leave, however cruel and senseless are the burdens that it imposes on its followers.

Polyamory, of course, removes all of this burden and baggage. Whatever you do, you do because you want it to, you do because you are free to do it, and you can change over time, at any time. You only need to respect the others and yourself, all the rest is adventure. In fact, polyamory may be seen as that natural state for those that leave the yield of society's dogmas. For I know of no rational explanation that obliges everyone to have just monogamous relationships. Notice also that someone who accepts polyamory may just do it in recognition that in fact the heart is infinite. He/She does not need to actually go into a complex relationship with many people. In fact, it is easy to understand that such relationships would demand a huge amount of time, effort, commitment. So only a very few people that accept that the heart should know no bounds, would in fact be available to engage themselves in actual deep relationships with several persons at the same time. Just like it is one think to say: I would love to do many sports, play many musical instruments, read many books, travel to many places, and so on... another, completely different thing, is to actually engage in all those things. In fact:

"Love is infinite but time and energy are not."

For me, the important thing in Polyamory is not to actually have deep relations with many people at the same time (I'm kind of autistic - so, for me, that would be hell), but to recognize that we do in fact love many people at the same time, and it would be impossible not be so. My main idea, which renders polyamory so credible is the following:

If each person has a little of everything, if he/she reflects a little bit of everything there is, then to love that person entirely, I would have to love the whole universe, and reciprocally: I can only fully love a single person if I also love the entire universe. Of course, this idea entails polyamory whereas the contrary does not happen. I think this idea is true because everything seems to reflect everything. That is, even a single photon reflects the whole universe, for its particular existence in that particular context is only possible being the universe the way it is, including it's history. So, if that includes atoms and galaxies, it also includes everything else, including human beings.

It is important to stress that understanding that our heart is unbounded as little to do with engaging in relationships with multiple partners. It's very difficult to have a monogamous relation, so either we dedicate huge amounts of time to more complex relations or they become more shallow, which, to me, doesn't seem interesting.

However, although the experience of polygamy and polyamory may be quite opposite in all these respects, that are still some parallels which are interesting to reflect on. I will focus on two: the first is that couples in polyamory relations may establish rules. These rules have no special authority except that the people involved decide that they should follow them. For instance, for me, honesty is absolutely necessary. Although I know that lying is as natural to mankind as any other thing, I have trouble dealing with it. I'm not good at detecting lies and they confuse me a lot. Besides they destroy intimacy and the goal of a relationship which, in my view, is to share everything of importance. A person that lies to me, I have difficulty in considering her/him a friend, much less a deep friend.

Rules are important because, once you decide to strike way that obligation of monogamy, it seems everything else was stricken out too, but other rules may be vastly more important than monogamy.
"Poly relationships often involve negotiating agreements, and establishing specific boundaries, or "ground rules"; such agreements vary widely and may change over time, but could include, for example: consultation about new relationships; devising schedules that work for everyone; limits on physical displays of affection in public or among mixed company; and budgeting the amount of money a partner can spend on additional partners." (source)

The existence of these rules means that the concept of fidelity is also present in the relationship:

"fidelity not as sexual exclusivity, but as faithfulness to the promises and agreements made about a relationship. A secret sexual relationship that violates those accords would be seen as a breach of fidelity. Polyamorists generally base definitions of commitment on considerations other than sexual exclusivity, e.g. "trust and honesty" or "growing old together".(idem)

Here there are similarities with the LDS' experience, although the agreement in polyamory is only human, unique and negotiable. But the similarity, in fact, exists regarding all kinds of "contracts" between people, marital or not, monogamous or not. The fact is: a relationship, with one or many people, seems to involve a set of expectations of what is going to occur. And some of these expectations are so important that, to fail them, is to be infidel, that is, to destroy the very basis of the relation. For me, that would mean someone lying on an important subject. In polyamory as in other kinds of relations breaching of very important rules could put at risk the relation, specially if there was a prospect of it happening again.

But the most interesting point to focus on, for me at least, is the experience that we might call of "jealousy". This is something that is felt by many (but not all) engaged in love relationships either they are monogamous, polygamous, polyamorous, etc. And what determines this feeling is not at all clear.

Fanny Stenhouse equates jealousy with love, for her, if the wife had feelings for the husband, if she loved him, she would feel utterly destroyed, her heart would break, each time he would take another wife. She recalls her own very hurtful experience. From her husband proposing and courting another lady, to the approach of the wedding day, and the fact that the new wife was also "Mrs. Stenhouse", all this was hugely hurtful. More than that, all that hurt had to be disguised, secretly guarded, for it's exposure would only bring unnecessary strife to the household and even more explicit estrangement regarding the husband. Fanny recalls one of her first contacts with a Polygamic family:
"Soon after my arrival in Salt Lake City, I visited a family where there were five wives, three of whom I met on my first visit. They were all three intelligent women; but it pained me very much to see the sorrow depicted on the face of the first wife. [...] She told me of her sorrows. She thought it was very wicked of her to feel as she did, but she could not help it; and she told me that when she saw her husband so happy with the other wives, it was then that she felt most miserable, and could not hide her feelings from him. At those times, he would “sulk” with her, coming in and out of the house for days together without noticing her, and showing more than ever his fondness for the other one. She said, “I bear it as long as I can, and then I beg of him not to treat me so, as I can not live without his love.” I asked her how she could continue to love him when he treated her so? “O Mrs. Stenhouse!” she said, “when he treats me at all kindly, I am satisfied. When he smiles on me, I am only too happy. When I cease to love him, then I must be dead; and even then,” she added, “I think I should love him still!”"
Now, of course, the "sulking" of the husband completely breaks the communicating basis of every relationship, and we might attribute to that sulking the profound sorrow of this first wife, for it render her estranged from her husband, unable to share with him her most deep feelings, and therefore, although the problem might have been initiated by "jealousy", it probably was aggravated by loneliness. Once again the power differences between husband and wife permitted something that, even from the point of the LDS faith is undesirable, for the husband should absolutely respect and thoroughly listen to his wife. But, of course, practice and theory are difficult to reconcile when there is so much of a power difference and everyone that has power in the community is a man. Theoretically, for instance, it was not possible for a man to take another wife without the full knowledge and consent of his first wife, but it seems likely that not even Joseph Smith was up to that promise!

In any case, we can also assume that, even if the husband did fully hear and talked with his wife on all these matters, the suffering might not be diminished. In fact that is exactly Fanny's belief, that you cannot love and share at the same time!

"A gentleman of my acquaintance who has lived many years in Polygamy, a good, kind husband and father, recently said to me that one of his wives suffered terribly from Polygamy. He always avoided any mention of the word in her presence. He told me that he had often seen her happy and gay, with everything pleasant and agreeable around her, when, by some unforeseen fatality, some one present would allude to Polygamy. In an instant a deep gloom would come over her face; and, strive as he might to drive it away, it was impossible. It would haunt her even for days.
Such men as these lose no opportunity of showing their wives every kind attention. If they are affluent and keep a carriage, they may be seen driving out with one of the wives on every occasion. Their sleighs are the first out in the season. They are to be seen at nearly every public amusement. They attend all the balls, and dance only with their wives and other married ladies, except when compelled to do otherwise with their intimate acquaintances.
All this they do to try to make their wives happy and divert their thoughts from their secret sorrow. These poor men do not know that the very means which they take to destroy that feeling only excites it the more. A woman, as she receives these kindnesses, only loves her husband the better and wishes that she had all his love.
There is no possible happiness in Polygamy, even with such men. There can be none! And, therefore, the less love there is, the better are women able to bear it. Brigham knew it when he said in the Bowery some years ago that there should be no love; it was only a weakness. He understood the case perfectly."
This, it seems, was Fanny Stenhouse's firmest belief, and here there is a true divergence from both polyamory's creed (that "jealousy" can be overcome) and from other reports. Fanny acknowledges, for instance, that some Polygamous marriages were happy like, for instance:
"Many such cases of the sisters choosing husbands have occurred, and sometimes with very satisfactory results. When it is really a case of affection on the lady’s part, and the selected husband is a liberally disposed man, the affair goes off as well as any marriage of his own choosing; but when the arrangement is not an “affinity” affair, the lady receives very little attention, and often lives to repent of her choice."
Once again, it seems that at least one of the reasons for so much frustration was the great power difference between man and female.

On the other hand, when Ann-Eliza Young (idem, ch.31) pictures many of Brigham Young's wives their sorrow is sometimes a consequence of material conditions (slave work, lack of space for offspring, etc), other times neglect (Young had time mostly for his at-the-moment-favorite wife, so all the others were visited only very occasionally, is ever), other times jealousy. But jealousy doesn't seem to take the main part of the story, for instance:
"Eliza Burgess, though not the first, and never a favorite wife, used to be terribly exercised whenever Brigham added another to the family. She would go about, crying bitterly, for days, and would sometimes shut herself up in her room, refusing to see anyone. Her sorrow was the joke of the family, since no member of it could see what reason she had for indulging in it."
The unimportance of jealousy in Ann-Eliza depiction might, nevertheless, corroborate Fanny's view, because the most loving wife, the favorite, was in another house, and showed huge contempt for the other wives, and the first wife also lived in another house and seemed to had long ago abandoned all hope of loving or being loved by her husband.

So, in both cases, we can equate the intensity of love with the intensity of jealousness. Also, the existence of such strife between wifes of the same man seem to have existed in many other cases in history (see Daniel Ogden, Polygamy Prostitutes and Death: The Hellenistic Dynasties). But, nevertheless, there is something peculiar and strikingly strange about jealousy. Let's take up again Fanny's insight that:
"A woman, as she receives these kindnesses, only loves her husband the better and wishes that she had all his love. [so increasing her secret sorrow]"
So, what we are saying is that the more love a woman feels toward a man, the more it will hurt her to know that he is also being equally kind and loving towards other women.

Now let's suppose we apply this same idea to children and their parents: so if my mother or father is very nice to me, they will be increasing my secret sorrow because I would wish to have all their love. Now this, for most people at least, would seem a case of unwarranted jealousy, and the same would happen if instead of siblings and their parents we would merely be talking about jealousy about friends. And the some could occur if a spouse would be jealous of the other spouse spending time with family or friends. It may happen, it does happen, but, in such cases we don't approve of such jealousy, why should marriage be different?

For instance, in the many cases of "sibling rivalry", if we do a search on the net, we will information on how to "How to Deal with and Stop Sibling Rivalry in your Home" with tips that would also make sense to a marriage with multiple partners. The advice goes in three directions:
  1. divide time and energy as fairly as possible
  2. avoid comparisons between them
  3. be "enchanted" / "in love" on a one-to-one basis
The first point is simple to understand, but the other two go more into the mysteries of love. What makes love so beautiful and rewarding? Sometimes we are loved as if we are the very center of the whole Universe for the other person. Everything we do is carefully watched, deeply felt and leaves an indelible mark in the person that loves us. We are the most important thing for that person, she might die for us, more importantly, she is probably living for me. And so I "dance" in her eyes, I shine, I laugh and talk and cry and everything I do is the most important thing to her. This, at least, was my experience with my mother, what I felt. It makes us feel safe, meaningful, wholesome. Whatever else may happen in life, this love alone is far sufficient to give my life meaning, and much more than that, radiance, happiness, joy beyond what words can express. Her smile and attention becomes more important than anything else in the world.

But what if someone else enters and becomes the focus of this "beam of love and beauty"?
"Remember those early days of parenting, where things were still somewhat foreign, and yet nothing could bring greater surprise than how insightful, curious, and investigative your child could be? It's not easy to give the same adoration to his or her uniqueness with the new division of time in your life. But even when it seems every second of your day is wrapped up in caring for your newest, try to remain a patron of your child's shared curiosity and inquisitiveness. Be sensitive to their feelings when they are excited to show you or tell you something. Engage them - share in their innocent wonder. It is a difficult balance, but an achievable one." (source)
The problem here is not just a division of time, it is more a question of the "looks" involved, the way the loved one sees me. If I'm not the center anymore, it's a fall, a big fall. And, "to remain a patron" is not the same thing as "adoration to his or her uniqueness".

To understand this better we must go into more detail into what a love relation is. First of all there must be some kind of reciprocity. If I am the center of attention of someone which I dislike, this will be embarrassing or worse for me. So this provides a first explanation: my mother watched everything I do and everything I do touches her deeply, so, if I love her back, I have a simple way, a power, to make her happy. I gain a goal in life (because I love her, I want to make her happy) and, at the same time, I have the power to achieve it (since my actions alone, it seems, have the power to make her smile and be happy).

However, even if love is necessary, it is not sufficient, because, if I loved someone else (a sibling, my father, etc), then I would just have to make that person happy to make her happy, but that's not at all what's typical in ceasing to be the center of attention. By the contrary, one feels neglect, abandonment. Why is that? Well, one of the reasons is that the other serves as a "mirror" to me, my mother's love tells me who I am, if I'm good, or bad, or marvelous or contemptible. In her representation of me I see myself "accurately" printed, I trust her judgment, I believe I am whatever she sees in me, I am what she sees in me (or so it seems at the time). Once that main mirror is directed somewhere else I don't know who I am anymore. Are my actions, my "dances", my creativity, my decisions and choices, going in the right or wrong direction? I'm lost, I don't anymore. Like in a foggy sea I can't see if I'm going nearer or closer to anything, I don't even know where I am anymore.

Although this experience might be typical of children who gain a sibling, it is not so typical of anyone who has very strong references, in our analogy, who has a strong main mirror from another source. That may be the case with religious people, but also with many other people who took their references from friends, politics, etc. For those people, in fact, the redirecting of attention from a loved one might be not so serious.

If we go back to Fanny Stonehouse's experience we may speculate that, had she a strong "testimony" of the LDS' faith, she may have seen the changes in her husband's affections in a much more dispassionate light, perhaps that's what "less love" meant for her and Brigham Young (in the passage above - love as weakness). On the other hand, it is immensely clear by her book that here is a woman with amazing confidence in values that, although they may transcend the LDS faith, are nevertheless strong enough to have guide her safely throughout her difficult life.

In fact, even through our own experience, it seems that there are other motives for jealousy that makes it appear even if someone has strong "references". In my view, just like I never found a good reason for sadism except the one derived from evolutionary theory (source), so I can only see "explanations" for many of feelings if we resort to our evolutionary past. In fact, it seems quite trivial that if a particular feeling of an individual, however absurd, created more of his/her offspring, than that feeling / "trait" would become more prevalent as the offspring that carried that feeling would expand over the ones that did not have it.

So, if we see human history, not just in terms of what happened in the last decade, century or few millennia, but instead look for hundreds of thousands of years, or even, if we can conceive it, to millions of years, it is fairly easy to see how jealousy might have arisen (like violence) since it is a feeling that gives its possessor a certain advantage in terms of number of offspring.

In fact, a non-jealous wife, for instance, will probably share the scarce resources of her family with all the other wives, whereas a jealous wife will try to kick out the other. In the cases where the jealous companion is successful she will be able to have more children and to give them more chances of getting them to reproduce more (by having more resources and, therefore, living longer and healthier). The same with violence and jealousy in men. And, beyond access to resources, a single wife may "control" a physically strong but permeable husband leading him to defend her interests and of her offspring, in fact, the ability of a female to control the mind and heart of a male may be very profitable for increasing the number of offspring.

Note that, just because something was selected to be in our genes it doesn't automatically mean that it is a "good" thing, we might see like a sort of a virus: something that, once it enters into the genes, will likely expand, although it creates misery and sorrow everywhere. And I think we're safe to assume that, although violence and jealousy do have a positive role in enhancing their possessors' number of offspring, they create a worse society, a society in which none of us would prefer to live, if we had the chance. I assume they are like "virus traits", they do expand, but they create worse conditions for everyone.

If this perspective is correct, then jealousy, like rage, anger, envy, etc, are traits that may have been useful in the past context where humankind evolved. But, today, with the emergence of a civilization where the patterns of evolution are based on culture and not on number of offspring (memes, not genes, are the center of evolution of a cultural species like man - they evolve much faster and with much bigger consequences) they are more an encumbrance than an advantage.

On the other hand, if this perspective is indeed correct, it means that, at least for many of us, there is no easy way out of jealousy: we are "hard-wired" into it, just like we're hard wired into violence, having frontiers, liking sex, creating hierarchies, having fears and insecto-phobia, loving to eat fat and sugar in huge quantities and many other things that were great in the past but not so good today.

So, how can we deal with jealousy? Well, first of all we have to want to deal with it. To want that we must be sure we are in healthy relationship where we are truly cared about, unconditionally loved, where there is honesty and respect, equality and so on. Only in that context can we really healthily relinquish jealousy. In other contexts we may be simply trampled upon. And no one likes to suffer and be destroyed, or, if they do, they might be better ways to accomplish that, without the neglect that comes from abandonment.

So, once we are in that healthy relationship a new world comes from, a world where even new words appear:
"Dr Barker, from London's South Bank University, conducted a study of the language of polyamory which she presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference at the University of Manchester.
"If you're not following the standard way of having relationships you have to make up new words," she said. "We have emotional states that cannot be described using normal language."
For example, "metamor" describes the relationship one has with one's partner's other partner. Then there is the concept of "new relationship energy" (NRE) - the "honeymoon period". This is especially important for polyamorists who have to overcome natural feelings of jealousy.
"Your partner might be wild about a new relationship, and it's not particularly easy to handle, but because it's got a name, NRE, it's easier to deal with," said Dr Barker.
Polyamorists also have a word for low-key jealousy - "wibble".
"It's a kind of jealousy that doesn't represent a massive sexual threat; it's a smaller version of jealousy," said Dr Barker. "You can say 'I'm wibbly' - I'm really OK but a bit shaky, and I need some reassurance."
Another is "frubbly", which describes the positive feeling of seeing your partner with another lover. "It's the opposite of jealousy," Dr Barker said." (source)
To embark on this new trip one may need more than readings. In my case, even these kinds of readings take me more time and energy than I have available, and in any case society is changing. A book, which I didn't read yet, but which is helping that change is The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures, by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy.

However we may live, in what kinds of relationships, it is essential that we feel the freedom to express ourselves, both within and to others, along with the ability to listen attentively to others and understand them, ourselves and the world we live in. Due to our finite character and the infinite complexity and sheer size of the world we live in, we will certainly never achieve a perfect understanding, but the world is so full of wonderful dazzlement, (including ourselves and others) that it is simply amazing to look further and further, to see each new detail in the vast, unimaginable picture, that the whole universe is.

The polygamy practiced by the LDS in that early period had the same defect that in most other cultures (source) : it was based on oppression. The secret of happiness, in my view, is not how we live but how truthfully we live, express ourselves, accept what we know, what we feel, and what we don't know but are willing to try and find out, and engage ourselves in the fulfillment of our deepest dreams. Whenever there is truth and love in a relation, the journey seems worth it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ways of watching sport

"Sport sets up artificial, pointless contests, making the competitors push themselves to their limits. But doing so leads to the instantiation of aesthetic value: human bodies fully-extended, graceful style, intricate tactics, and real drama." (Stephen Mumford: source)

There is a certain intuitive appeal in seeing life the same way, perhaps we're all just works of art in the making!

Sometimes not giving up is loosing

First of all we have to know what is essential, and what is not.

Then we have to be able to be able to focus and pursuit the essential.

And that already takes a whole life.

Of course, we need some distractions too, to have fun, to meet people, to laugh and sing and make absurd things, and to remember that everything is a bit absurd. At least in the perspective of one who knows nothing.

But even so there is a kind of step of magic that allows us to distinguish between what's essential and not. It's different for each one of us. It's what makes us feel fulfilled, flowering, growing.

In sum, it is putting our will outside. Fulfilling it and see what happens, how reality responds.

But many times, like a fish caught in a net, we "want" something. We feel bad if we don't have it. And so we go after it and we can go for the longest time.

Meanwhile, our heart is beating somewhere else, or perhaps completely asleep, dreaming dreams far away from our consciousness, but that, nevertheless, are part of our most inner being.