Adolescent Sexuality, Bad Ideas, Courage, Dan Cohen, Free Spirit, Friends, Guilt, Honesty, Horniness, Human Nature, Judgementalism, Learning, Life, Living, Loneliness, Love, Lovers, Lust, Quality of Life, Relationships, Seduction, Self-Knowledge, Sex, Sexuality, Sexualization, Shame, The Art of Living Well, Values, Well Being, Wisdom

Sleep With Your Friends, Not Your Fascinations!

(About a 7 minute read)

Guys, I apologize for a bossy post title, but I just could not resist the alliteration.  A good phrase has so often been my undoing in life.  Twice, for instance, I said, “Make it happen!”, at the worst possible moment.

“Make it happen” is one of my favorite phrases.  I stole if from my younger brother. My bro is superb at making even seemingly impossible things happen.  But twice, I’ve said it when I should have thought before I said it.  “Do you, Paul, accept this woman as your lawfully wedded wife…”.

“Make it happen!”

“I’ll take that as an ‘I do’. You may now kiss the wench.”

Continue reading “Sleep With Your Friends, Not Your Fascinations!”

Attachment, Buddhism, Consciousness, Enlightenment, From Around the Net, Gluttony, Greed, Human Nature, Life, Lust, Meaning, Obsession, Oppression, People, Psychology, Quality of Life, Satori, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-Integration, Self-Realization, Spirituality

What is Spirituality?

(About a 9 minute read)

The word “spiritual” annoys some people.

Annoys them like the shrill howling and wailing of a cat in heat annoys the actress trying to practice her lines by the emotionally dim light of a single candle in her impoverished, but charismatic attic apartment, so that she rushes to the window, furious now as a Trump tweet, and ready to throw her shoes at the cat, but instead in the darkness trips on the lethally upturned edge of her oriental carpet, a gift of her mothers, then falling, falling, falling her head hard on the window ledge, splits open her skull: Death in the night.

Annoys them like that.

Or maybe it really annoys them, if you know what I mean.

Perhaps the reason it annoys them is because the word so often refers to vague, intangible things that are hard to grasp or get a feel for.  Then again, on different tongues, the word means different things.  When you hear someone talk of their spirituality, it can be very frustrating or even impossible to sort out what they might actually mean.

That can be annoying.  Just as annoying as the shrill howling and wailing of a cat in heat annoys the actress trying to…   Oh, never mind.

So I decided to take a brief look around the net to see what definitions of “spirituality” I could find:

  • A sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, typically involving a search for meaning or purpose in life.
  • The quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material things.
  • One’s sense of awe, wonderment, and reverence towards nature or the universe.
  • Self-transcendence achieved through the recognition of one’s connection to the All.
  • One’s freedom from the illusions of the self.
  • The search for meaning, purpose, and direction in life.
  • Our innate drive to evolve, to improve, to learn, to continuously grow, to push our boundaries, reach our full potential.
  • A drive to live a life authentic to one’s truth, cultivate virtues, and expand one’s consciousness.
  • Seeking happiness and peace internally, within oneself.
  • Moving beyond the sense of being a person, an individual, and merging with god.
  • Serving people, uplifting them to make a difference in their lives.
  • Finding the answers to questions like, “Who am I?”, “Why are we here?”, and “What else is there?”

Those dozen definitions came up after a brief search.  One scholarly article I came across stated that an apparently more thorough survey than mine had found “twenty-seven explicit definitions of spirituality that showed little agreement between them”.

The sheer number of explicit definitions might be important in light of the fact that somewhere around 80% or 90% of all intellectual arguments are the equivalent of two people arguing over how far they can “throw a ball” while one of them is thinking of a baseball, the other is thinking of a gala dance, and neither of them is aware they are talking past each other.

By the way, that’s not just my opinion.

Back in pre-internet days, a couple of philosophy professors got curious how many intellectual arguments are actually no more than semantic disputes. Borrowing their methodology from the sciences, they studied the issue and discovered that (as near as I can recall now) the figure was around 80% or 90%.

Given the many definitions of “spirituality” I would not be surprised if any arguments over the nature of it were even more often semantic than those figures.

When I think of all of the above, it sure makes me want to pile on with my own definition of “spirituality”.  After all, if there are at least 27 explicitly different definitions already, and those definitions are likely to cause more idle semantic disputes than all the exclamation points used by the world’s total teenage population within any given year, then why shouldn’t I get in on the fun?

Besides, starting another round of semantic arguments looks to me even more entertaining on the face of it than sitting beneath some poor actresses’ window making cat noises — which is what I usually do for fun.

So here’s what I mean by the word “spirituality”:  A person’s spirituality is the manner and extent to which they deal with their psychological selves.

What do I mean by that?  Hell, why am I asking you, dear reader?   I should be asking myself that question!  Ok, then.  Here’s what I mean by that.  First, by “psychological self”, I mean our “I”, our “ego”, our normal waking consciousness.  Those three terms have somewhat different meanings, but I see the psychological self as a sort of combination of all three concepts.  Looked at as the I,  it is who we think we are.  Looked at as the ego, it is the psychological function that provides us with the sense of self that we can then defend against threats.  Without that sense of self, we would not know what to defend.  And looked at as normal waking consciousness, it is the thought process.

I most recently went into much greater detail as to what I consider to be the psychological self in a post, One Reason We Oppress Ourselves, and there is little reason in repeating myself further here.

The fact that our noble species of super-sized chimpanzees has a psychological self provides us with many benefits, but also with many challenges.  The most notable benefit is, as I just mentioned, that it allows us to identify and respond to certain kinds of threats we might not otherwise be able to identify and respond to.  Again, I go into that in much more detail in my earlier post.  Among the many challenges, on the other hand, are these:

  • Seeing threats where there are none.  Which can easily result in anything from unnecessary touchiness or defensiveness to outright violence.
  • The inherent drive of the psychological self to preserve or maintain the status quo, to stay constant and the same, can lead to a relative inability to appropriately adjust one’s behavior, beliefs, and attitudes to changing circumstances, new information or facts, or different and better perspectives.
  • It’s inherent drive to aggrandize itself (in so far as that is compatible with maintaining stable sense of self) can create or at least inflame all kinds of excesses, such as greed, lust, gluttony, arrogance, and so forth.  That is, it always wants more than it actually needs, so to speak.
  • It’s tendency to be fascinated with itself can lead to self-absorption, self-centeredness, and narcissism.

To my mind, then, our spirituality can be summed up as the manner and extent to which we deal with those (and other) challenges, as well as deal with the benefits of the psychological self.

For example: An old acquaintance of mine, Chuck, once walked in on his wife and his best friend in bed together.  Twenty years later, Chuck still hadn’t gotten beyond it.  He spoke about it in such fresh terms that, for the first two weeks he and I worked together doing light carpentry, I was under the impression that it had all happened sometime within the last six months.  I also discovered that not a day could go by without him making at least one reference to the event.  But far worse, he had generalized from his wife to all women, and was absolutely certain that every woman on earth was either disloyal, or capable of becoming so at the slightest opportunity.  You could not reason with Chuck about it.  These were views and convictions that he clung to as firmly as if his very life depended on his holding them.

Of course, I would not say Chuck’s ego was the sole and only cause of his problems.  It’s possible he suffered from some kind of psychological disorder, but if he did, then it was a peculiarly focused disorder, because Chuck was pretty much normal in every other respect that I was aware of.  On the other hand, Chuck’s problems fit the pattern I’ve come to recognize as behaviors associated with the psychological self.  As I see it, the event and all that surrounded it had become a part of Chuck’s self-identity, his sense of who he was as a person, and hence his willingness to go to extraordinary lengths preserving it.

It is along those same lines that I would describe Chuck’s spirituality.  That is, I would say that his ego was attached to the event in much the same way as some Buddhists would speak of “attachment”.

It seems to me, some people not only have more and stronger attachments than others, but that they also seem to be less skillful at dealing with them than others.  For instance, Chuck’s view of women seemed to thwart him from finding women who would not betray him.  That is, it became, so far as I know, a self-fulfilling prophecy.   Chuck and I worked together on and off for about three years or so.  Most of that time, there was no woman in his life.  But twice, for relatively short periods, he found someone.  Both of his flings ended when he discovered the women were cheating on him.  Perhaps he was just unlucky, but I got the impression he might have seen a woman highly likely to be loyal to him as something of a threat to his self-identity, and then passed them by for women he could “better relate to”.

What made Chuck’s behavior unskillful was that he was working against himself.  On the one hand he would tell me he wanted to “settle down with someone”.  On the other hand he seemed to pick the most unlikely candidates for it.

Einstein once remarked that, “The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self.” It is not entirely clear from the context in which he made the statement exactly what he meant by “self”, nor what he meant by “liberation”.  But Einstein was at least a little familiar with Buddhism, so his notions of those things might have been informed by Buddhist ideas of them.  I myself am sympathetic to Buddhism, albeit I’m far from considering myself a Buddhist.  Instead, I consider myself God’s gift to women, something no Buddhist would ever do. I do not believe however that many Buddhists would entirely agree with Einstein, for I do not think many Buddhists believe human worth depends on how liberated a person is.  If that’s the case, then I agree with the Buddhists: Chuck’s basic value as a human is equal to my own — as well as to all the world’s other folks.

Liberation from the self might be the spiritual goal of many people, especially, I think, in the East.  Yet for me that personally seems improbable to the point of near impossibility.  Others might obtain it, but I do not suspect I will.  So for me the ideal is to wear my self as lightly as I can.

By that I mean to deal with, as skillfully as I can at any given moment, my psychological self.  Naturally, I do not intend my definition of “spirituality” to replace the other twenty-seven plus definitions on the internet.  I am not arguing that my definition is the defi….

Umm…please excuse me a moment, there’s a cat howling outside my window.

No, wait…that sounds exactly like that annoying actress who lives next door to me.  She’s always doing that!  Making cat noises beneath my window like some pathetic fool idiot or moron.  And only because I started it all last fall.  Damn her!

Before I grab my shoes, I must ask, so how do you personally define “spirituality”?  What does the word mean to you?  Your opinions, observations, notions, wisdom, and generous donations of catnip are most welcomed!

Humor, Love, Lust, Poetry, Sexuality

Increasing Her Afterglow

(About a 1 minute read)

Her lust for my fine art drawings
Was such that it soon became impossible
For me to enter the chat room
Without the screen immediately popping up
With her pet name for me, “Pookie”,
Followed by an alarming torrent
Of painfully spiky exclamation points.

I wanted to tell her,
“There are no heroes”,
But she’d been raised up unholy
By a clan of ideologically driven
Professional toenail painters
To deny her true passions in life
And become no more to a man
Than a fine arts groupie.

Naturally she recognized in me
An important contemporary master
On account of the avant garde work I did
Creating edgy, emotionally meaningful
Stick figure drawings of my penis
On finely grained 18 by 24 artist papers.

Yet, she didn’t fully surrender her heart,
Complete and whole,
Until that night in private chat
When I messaged her:
“Now giving you the best damn
Yodeling-tongue-kiss EVER”
Followed by a fertile abundance
Of spiky exclamation points
That I sent merely to increase
Her afterglow.

Bad Ideas, Biology, Cultural Traits, Culture, Equality, Family, Free Spirit, Guilt, Happiness, Horniness, Human Nature, Ideologies, Love, Lust, Marriage, Oppression, Pleasure, Psychology, Quality of Life, Relationships, Science, Scientific Method(s), Scientist, Sexuality, Shame, Society, Values

Women’s Sexuality: “Base, Animalistic, and Ravenous”

(About a 14 minute read) 

What is the future of our sexuality?

How, in twenty maybe forty years, will we be expressing ourselves sexually?

Do we have any clues today about what kind of sexuality tomorrow might bring?

And why did my second wife doze off on our wedding night just as I was getting to the climax of my inspiring lecture to her on Socrates’ concept of love?  After all, she positively begged me for some “oral sex”!  Doesn’t make a lick of sense she fell asleep in the midst of it.

I’ve been wondering about those and other questions this morning but not, as you might suspect, because I’ve been binge viewing Balinese donkey on donkey porn again.  What inspires me instead is the emerging consensus in the science of human sexuality.  That consensus strikes me as a game-changer.

It’s sometimes said that the early human sexuality studies of Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, paved the road to the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s.  It seems to me today’s new, still emerging consensus could be like that — or it could be even more seismic than what we’ve seen before.

What’s at the core of this is women’s sexuality, along with a growing body of research that strongly suggests women’s sexuality isn’t what most of us nearly the world over have been taught it is.

To be sure, nothing is going to happen overnight.  For one thing, any really profound cultural changes that result from this new understanding of women’s sexuality are almost certain to take generations to be fully realized.  Deep cultural change is seldom quick.  Yet, sometimes great storms are proceeded by light rains blown ahead of the main storm, and something like that could happen here too.

For another thing, it’s always possible that the emerging consensus will fall apart.  The research seems to me solid so far, but as yet, not massive.

Some Old Ideas About Women’s Sexuality

To understand how the new science could transform our cultures, let’s first look at what’s at stake.  It seems that across many — but certainly not all — cultures there is a more or less shared set of beliefs about the differences between men and woman’s sexuality.  Among these beliefs:

  • Women are naturally much less promiscuous than men.
  • Women naturally seek and need emotional intimacy and safety before they can become significantly horny.
  • Women naturally prefer to be pursued by men, rather than to do the pursuing.
  • Women are naturally pickier than men when choosing a sex partner.
  • Women are naturally less horny than men.
  • Women are naturally less likely than men to cheat on their partners.
  • Women are naturally more suited to monogamy than men.
  • Women are naturally more traumatized by divorce than men.
  • Even more traumatic for women than divorce is a night spent with Sunstone.

What seems to be happening is that, idea by idea, the old notions of how men and women differ in natural sexuality from each other are being challenged by the new science.  Sometimes the challenges merely qualify the old idea, usually by showing that, although the difference exists, it is largely due to culture and learning rather than to innate human nature.  At other times, the challenges threaten to overturn the old ideas completely.

Some New Ideas About Women’s Sexuality

Bergner, and the leading sex researchers he interviews, argue that women’s sexuality is not the rational, civilized and balancing force it’s so often made out to be — that it is base, animalistic and ravenous, everything we’ve told ourselves about male sexuality.  –Tracy Clark-Flory

I believe that when thinking about the emerging new consensus, the emphasis should be put on “emerging”.  There are so many questions yet to be answered that I do not believe it can as yet be definitively stated.  But at this stage, the following four points seem to me, at least, to best characterize the most important findings:

  • Women want sex far more than almost all of us are taught to believe.
  • Their sex drive is as strong as, or possibly even stronger, than men’s sex drive.
  • Their desire for sex does not always depend on their feeling emotionally intimate with — nor even safe with — their partner.
  • Women might be less evolved for monogamous relationships than men.

But do women know this about themselves?  There’s evidence that many women might not.  One such bit of evidence:

Dr. Meredith Chivers attempts to peek into the cage by sitting women in La-Z-Boy recliners, presenting them with a variety of pornographic videos, images, and audio recordings, and fitting their bodies with vaginal plethysmographs to measure the blood flow of desire. When Chivers showed a group of women a procession of videos of naked women, naked men, heterosexual sex, gay sex, lesbian sex, and bonobo sex, her subjects “were turned on right away by all of it, including the copulating apes.” But when it came time to self-report their arousal, the survey and the plethysmograph “hardly matched at all,” Bergner reports. Straight women claimed to respond to straight sex more than they really did; lesbian women claimed to respond to straight sex far less than they really did; nobody admitted a response to the bonobo sex. Physically, female desire seemed “omnivorous,” but mentally, it revealed “an objective and subjective divide.”

Women, it seems, might not be in tune with their physical desires when it comes to sex.  But if this is so, it should come as little or no surprise.

The Repression of Women’s Sexuality

While significant efforts to repress women’s (and often enough men’s) expression of their own sexuality are not found in every culture (e.g. the Mosuo), they seem to be found in all major cultures, and they range from shaming all the way up to female genital mutilation,  honor killing, and stoning.  Indeed, rape — which is a nearly ubiquitous behavior — can be seen as largely a form of repressing women’s sexuality, especially given how often it is justified in terms of “she asked for it”, meaning that she in some way or another expressed her sexuality in a manner the criminal(s) thought invited attack.

But those are merely the enforcement mechanisms for more subtle ways of repressing women’s sexuality.  Sexual ideologies seem to be the primary means of repression.  By “sexual ideologies” I mean in this context anything from full blown systems of thought about what is proper or improper, right or wrong, natural or unnatural about women’s sexuality to unorganized and unsystematic ideas and beliefs about their behavior.   For instance, advising young women not to wear short skirts doesn’t count by itself as a true ideology, but for the sake of convenience I’m lumping such advice into the same bucket as true ideologies here.

Sexual ideologies are perhaps even more effective than the gross enforcement mechanisms at repressing women.  If you can convince someone that it’s natural, right, and moral to suppress her sexual feelings, then you do not need to rely on the off chance you can catch and punish her for them if she fails to do so.  Ideally, you can even get her to suppress her feelings to the extent she no longer knows she even has them, because if you can do that, then she herself is apt to become something of a volunteer oppressor of other women, especially, say, in raising her daughters.

Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.  — Rose Sayer, The African Queen (1951).

Disturbing Studies

Here are a few quick examples of the things being found out about women’s sexuality these days:

In surveys men routinely report having two to four times the number of sex partners that women report, which lends support to the notion that men are naturally more promiscuous than women.  But one study, published in 2003 in The Journal of Sex Research, found that when men were tricked into believing they were hooked up to a lie detector, the men reported the same number of sex partners as the women reported.  This is significant because it calls into question a fair body of research that is often cited in support of the notion women are less promiscuous on the whole than men.

A 2009 study published in Psychological Science found that pickiness seems to depend on whether a person is approached by a potential partner, or is themselves doing the approaching.  The experiment, conducted in a real-life speed-dating environment, showed that when men rotated through women who stayed seated in the same spot, the women were more selective about whom they chose to date. When the women did the rotating, it was the guys who were pickier.  This implies that women’s choosiness might largely depend circumstances, and not on innate nature.

In 2011, a study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science found that women liked casual, uncommitted sex just as much as men provided only that two conditions were first met: (1) the stigma of having casual sex needed to be removed, and (2) the women had to anticipate that the man would be a “great lover”.   Contrary to conventional wisdom, the women did not seem to need to feel emotionally intimate with the man in order to enjoy casual sex with him.

In 2015, evidence was published in the journal Biology Letters that both men and women fall into two more or less distinct groups: Those who prefer monogamy and those who prefer promiscuity.  Curiously, the sexes were about the same in terms of the proportions of men and women  who favored one or the other.  A slight majority of the men favored promiscuity, while a slight minority of the women did.  This would seem to undermine the notion that men as a group are markedly more promiscuous than women.

The journal Psychological Science published a 2006 study that found women in general are more flexible than men in their sexual orientations, and that the higher a woman’s sex drive, the more likely she was to be attracted to both sexes (the same was not true of men).

In 2006, the journal Human Nature reported that both men and women in new relationships experience about equal sexual desire for each other, but sometime between one to four years into the relationship, women’s sexual desire for their partners began to plummet (The same was not true of the men: Their sexual desire held constant.)  Two decades into committed relationships, only 20% of women remained sexually desirous of their partners. Long term monogamy appears to sap a woman’s sex drive.   Ladies! Tired of the Same Old Same Old? Willing to dress up in a hen costume and squawk like a chicken?  Sunstone loves his rooster suit, and is currently available most evenings.  Simply call 1-800-BuckBuck! Motto: “He’s even more desperate than you are!”®

Disturbed Men

The new science has huge implications if it is indeed sound.  For instance, as hinted above, the sexual repression of women often enough depends on women buying into certain myths about their own sexuality, such as the myth that a woman’s sexuality, when compared to a man’s, is weaker, less urgent, less demanding.  If the myth is true, then an implication is women should sexually defer to their partners, place their own sexual needs on the back burner while tending to the needs of their man.

Yet, if the new science is sound, then men and women’s sex drives are more or less equal, and there becomes no ideological reason for women to not demand their rightful share of the fun.   That seems to disturb some men.

I can think of any number of reasons why some men are disturbed or put off by sexually assertive women, but none of them are relevant enough to go into here.  Yet, it should be kept in mind that some men  — but not all — are disturbed by the notion that women, being by nature sexually equal to men, ought to have equal rights in bed.

There are other implications of the new science men might find even more disturbing.  Perhaps the biggest implication might have at its core how women’s unleashed sexuality could affect men’s reproductive success.   The new sexuality might fearfully suggest to many men that their liberated partners are now more likely to cuckold them.  That’s not a prospect most men are entirely blissful about.

Grand Sweeping Summary and Plea for Money

Acceptance of reality is not, actually,  one of our major strengths as a species.  Even if the new science proves over time to be sound, it’s unlikely to be accepted without a fight.

If you are like me, you believe more research is needed into women’s sexuality.  Much more research.  Moreover, you are keen on funding some of that research yourself!  Yes, this is your opportunity to send me on a mission of scientific discovery to my town’s finest strip joint, where I will be surveying and assessing how women express their sexuality through dance, while flirting with suffering a heart attack from the intrinsic excitement of doing science.  Simply email me to arrange a transfer of funds!

Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Biology, Don, Evolution, God, God(s), Humor, Late Night Thoughts, Life, Lust, Morality, Nature, People, Politicians and Scoundrels, Quotes, Religion, Science, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Sexuality, Sexualization, Verbal Abuse, Village Idiots

Late Night Thoughts: Friday, March 17, 2017

(About an 8 minute read)

I turned 60 a couple months ago. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting older has been that I don’t worry as much about my mistakes as I used to when I was younger.

I still make as many — or even more — mistakes as I ever did, but I just don’t worry about them as much. Instead, I let the victims of my mistakes do the worrying, for part of my getting older has been my learning how to properly delegate responsibility.

I recently got involved in a discussion of nudity.  Someone said that nudity was against Christian principles for women.  That is, women should be modest in their apparel.

Then someone else pointed out there wasn’t much that was more modest than nudity.  “Hard to put on airs when you ain’t got nothing else on.”

Do you suppose American women, by and large, have similar handwriting?

At least, it’s my impression that a woman’s handwriting usually resembles other women’s handwriting to a greater degree than a man’s handwriting is apt to resemble other men’s handwriting.  Put differently, it seems more difficult to tell women apart than it seems it is to tell men apart.

If that is indeed the case, then why is it the case?

And if it is true of American women, is it true of women elsewhere?

I’ve heard people say we can never know for certain what it feels like to be someone else.  But is that really true? Is it never possible to know for certain what it feels like to be someone else?

Yesterday, I was with my friend Don for a late lunch. Don and I go back a long ways and we know each other pretty well.

At one point during our lunch, he said something that was so profound it went completely over my head and I couldn’t even begin to fathom what he meant.  I felt lost and stupid.

Then I suddenly realized: “Surely, this is what it feels like to be a politician!”

Who am I?

If you ask most of us who we are, we will answer you by naming one or another relationship. We are, for instance, a husband.  Or a golfer.  Or a businessman.  But to say we are a husband, or a golfer, or a businessman, is each case to define our self in terms of the relationship we have to something.

In contrast, we tend not to define our self in terms of what is happening with us at any given moment.  I do not think of myself as someone whose shoulder is itching. Or as someone who happens to be looking at a computer monitor.  Or as someone who is wishing it was dawn.  All of those are transient things — too transient for me to think of them as “me”.

Yet, being a husband, a golfer, or a businessman are also transient.  That is, if you really think about it, you are not simply “a husband”.  You are only sometimes a husband.  Just as your shoulder only sometimes itches.  And it is only a convention of thought that you imagine yourself to always — or continuously — be a husband.

The Cosmic Dancer, declares Nietzsche, does not rest heavily in a single spot, but gaily, lightly, turns and leaps from one position to another. It is possible to speak from only one point at a time, but that does not invalidate the insights of the rest. – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1968, p. 229.

While it might be true Nietzsche never wrote what Campbell attributes to him, Campbell’s “paraphrase” of Nietzsche’s views ranks as a sharp insight in itself.

We humans sometimes wish to construct systems of thought — worldviews — that are consistent throughout and encompass everything.  Yet, such “views” are simply beyond us, and might even be logically impossible.

So, perhaps the best we can do is to become Cosmic Dancers.  That is, folks who are capable of looking at things from many angles and perspectives, who are capable of dancing between views, but who do not settle dogmatically on any one point of view.

The mane is thought to keep the neck warm, and possibly to help water run off the neck if the animal cannot obtain shelter from the rain. It also provides some fly protection to the front of the horse, although the tail is usually the first defense against flies.

Wikipedia

I’m not buying it.  I find it implausible that manes would evolve because horses with manes had warmer necks, and that their warmer necks proved to be significant to their reproductive success.  There must be some other reason manes evolved.

But what would that be?

I was thinking sexual selection.  That is, I was thinking manes are like the male peacock’s tail.  It provides no survival advantage, but the female peacock’s like it. So the females pick the males with the best tails to mate with.  That’s what I was thinking.

But then I remembered that both male and female horses have manes. So now I’m thinking sexual selection probably isn’t the reason horses evolved manes.

But what is the reason?

For the sake of discussion, let us assume there’s an able god.  By “able”, I mean that god is capable of doing anything that does not violate the rules of logic.  For instance, it can create the universe, but it cannot create a square circle because a square circle is logically impossible.

Next, let us assume that god unconditionally loves all of creation, including each one of us.

Is that scenario logically possible?

Well, I think it is possible. I would not account it very probable. It’s not something I’d bank on.  But possible?  Yes.

Now, let us assume the same two conditions — an able god and that god’s unconditional love — plus a third condition.

The third condition is there exists a hell that is a part of creation and to which people are sent after their death if they disobey the god.

Is the new scenario logically possible?

I do not think so.  Instead,. I think the new scenario involves a logical contradiction and consequently cannot exist.  That is, it cannot be real.  But what is that contradiction?

Well, how can you logically have an able god that loves you unconditionally and also causes you to go to hell if you disobey that god?

So far as I can see, you cannot.  An unconditionally loving god would neither impose a condition upon it’s love ( i.e. if you do not obey me, I will not love you) nor would an unconditionally loving god, if it were able to prevent it, allow it’s beloved to come to harm (i.e. if you do not obey me, I will cause or allow you to go to hell).

But what do you think?  Is it an amusing logic puzzle?  Or have I just had too much caffeine again?

Four Quotes From Voltaire:

Les habiles tyrans ne sont jamais punis.

— Clever tyrants are never punished.

C’est une des superstitions de l’esprit humain d’avoir imaginé que la virginité pouvait être une vertu.

It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.

Nous cherchons tous le bonheur, mais sans savoir où, comme les ivrognes qui cherchent leur maison, sachant confusément qu’ils en ont une.

We all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it: like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.

Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois: Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre coeur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.

Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

(Source)

A while back, I was sitting in a coffee shop when I noticed — just beyond the window — a girl of about 14 or 16 dressed in a highly sexualized manner.  That is, her clothing was flamboyantly sexual even for an adolescent.  Moverover, she was flirting with a boy, who appeared a bit older than her, and she very soon straddled his lap in order to grind against him.  I couldn’t recall when I had last seen in public such an overt display of sexuality — outside of an erotic dance club.

Now, the girl was not physically attractive by American conventions. For one thing, she was much too fat to be fashionable.  For another thing, she had a rather plain face thickly coated with cosmetics.  And, though her clothing was notable for being revealing, it did not seem that she had put much thought into the combination she’d chosen.

So, it wasn’t long before I began to wonder whether the poor girl might be suffering from low self-esteem.  That is, it seemed possible that she thought of herself as not having much to offer the boys besides sex.

I was thinking along those sad lines when I heard a male voice at the table behind me say, “God! Look at that slut!”

Of course, I don’t know whether he was talking about the girl, or about someone else.  I didn’t ask.  Yet, I assumed he was indeed talking about the girl — and that made me feel old.  Old and tired.

You see, the one attractive thing I had noticed about the girl in the few minutes I’d been watching her was that she seemed so full of life.  Even if her dress and mannerisms were motivated by low self-esteem — and I didn’t know that for certain — she appeared at the moment happy.  She was, if only for a while, the queen of her universe.  It wearied me to think anyone would simply dismiss her as a slut.

Attached Love, Authenticity, Culture, Erotic Love, Happiness, Life, Love, Lust, Marriage, Mature Love, Mental and Emotional Health, Oppression, Quality of Life, Relationships, Romantic Love, Self, Self-Realization, Sexuality, Talents and Skills, Values

Being True to Yourself and Marriage

The notion that one should marry for love is a recent invention.   Only about 200 years old even in the West, where it originated.  Younger still in other parts of the world where it is still catching on.

Of course. men and women have fallen in love with each other through-out history.  But only recently has it become predominant in some cultures to marry for love.  Two hundred years is so recent in historical terms that we can consider the notion as still in its trial stages, still very much an experiment.

Despite marrying for love still very much being an experimental thing, all sorts of myths have grown up around it.   I believe one of the most damaging of those myths is that you should only marry for love, and not for anything else. If you do, things might still work out for you, but I think the odds of that are less than if you also take other things into consideration.

I think one of the most important “other things” you should take into consideration is how your anticipated partner in marriage feels about your being true to yourself.

Being true to oneself is, in my opinion, crucial to a happy, meaningful life, despite that it’s so difficult to accomplish that almost all of us only accomplish it imperfectly.  Lucky for us, we don’t need to be perfect at it; we just need to achieve it to a significant degree.  But that is especially hard to do if our partner disapproves of who we are, and perhaps even actively opposes our efforts to be true to ourselves.  So I’m of the opinion that we should be very sure our anticipated partners will accept, support, and affirm who we are.

Of course, if someone is genuinely in love with you then it should be pretty much a given that they accept, support, and affirm you as you are — but unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Indeed, there are a number of reasons someone who loves you — or at least seems to — might not accept you.   Perhaps the single most important reason is a wee bit difficult to explain, so please bear with me.

So far as I can see, there is more than just one kind of love.  In fact, I believe there are at least four that can occur between sexual partners.  And three of those — the three most common — can at times be problematic when it comes to accepting others as they are.   I call those three: Erotic love, romantic love, and attached love.

Erotic love is basically sexual attraction.  It’s quite common — and I think a cultural prejudice in the West — to dismiss erotic love as “not true love”, but I prefer to acknowledge it.  When we love someone in this manner alone, we tend to ignore everything about them that has little or nothing to do with sex.  Because of that, there can be a great deal about the person that we do not accept, but which we are unaware of not accepting. I suspect most of us who love merely in this way alone are wise enough to soon realize the fact, and avoid marrying someone solely out of erotic love of them.

Romantic love is more problematic.   When we romantically love someone, we are almost guaranteed to idealize them, to put them on a pedestal, and not quite clearly see any incompatibilities they might have with us.  Romantic love tends to last a few weeks to a couple years or so, and people who get married while it still dominates their view of each other can sometimes discover after romantic love wears off that there are actually quite a few fundamental things about each other that they do not accept.

Attached love is, in my opinion, the most problematic of the three.  It comes about as a profoundly deep bond that forms between couples who’ve been together for awhile.  Unfortunately, that bond can — and often enough does — form between people who fail to fundamentally accept each other.  They may be intensely in love with each other, but they do not fundamentally accept each other.

There are a number of other reasons someone who loves you might not accept you as you fundamentally are, but I believe the fact each kind of love can cause its own kind of trouble to be among the most important reasons.   It therefore seems to me wise to be very careful to marry someone who accepts, supports, and affirms your authentic self. I will tell you that, in my experience, there is no loneliness on earth greater than the loneliness of a person whose bed is made with a man or woman that rejects their fundamental self.  It is a dozen times better to live alone, than to experience that kind of loneliness.

But what happens if you do manage to marry someone who loves you — the real you?

Well, if you love them in return then congratulations!  You’ve won the lottery!  Not just the marriage lottery, but the at least equally important being-true-to-yourself lottery.  Perhaps there’s no better word for what can happen next than “magic”.

A mutual love like that can bring not only happiness but inspiration.  I think most of us are unaware of just how suppressed we are.  We are so accustomed to being suppressed that we scarcely notice in our hourly lives how frequently we censor, repress, and inhibit ourselves.  This quite often takes the dual forms of (1) our trying to be someone we are not, and (2) our trying to hide who we really are, in order to fulfill the expectations of those around us.

Trying to be what we are not, and hide what we are, emotionally deadens us.  But because we are so accustomed to carrying around that dead weight, it astounds us if and when it is ever lifted from us.  A mutual love based on accepting each other as he or she is can — and very frequently does — ease that weight at least a bit (and sometimes quite a bit!).   When that occurs, we not only become happier with our lives and ourselves, but magic can happen.

We can suddenly be inspired to fulfill ourselves by turning a talent we before didn’t even recognize that we had into a new skill.  Or we can find it remarkably easier than ever before to express a positive character trait, such as kindness.  Life problems that once nagged us can become surmountable or even insignificant.  Almost needless to say, our confidence and self-esteem can take flight and soar.  The full list of potential benefits is a long one.  Sometimes these things are fleeting and transient — but sometimes they turn into lasting changes.  Even when transient, they are worthwhile to experience.

Being true to yourself — or being authentic — is a difficult thing to accomplish.  Very few of us accomplish it perfectly, but both our happiness and sense of purpose or meaning in life can crucially depend on the extent to which we do indeed accomplish it.  Authenticity can be made extraordinarily more difficult to realize by a partner who opposes our basic nature.  But that’s not the only reason one should be careful to chose a partner who accepts, supports, and affirms who we fundamentally are. Another — perhaps even more important reason — is to reap the benefits of loving someone for themselves who loves us for ourselves.  Those benefits, even when fleeting, are perhaps among the most powerfully life enhancing and life affirming experiences we are capable as humans of having.

Horniness, Lust, Sexuality, Sexualization, Suzanne

Those Sexy Nudists Exposed! (But Safe For Most Work Environments)

If you have never spent much time at nudist resorts, it might seem counter-intuitive to you that people are sexiest when at least partly clothed, but it is true to at least my own experience.

I should have hundreds of memories of naked women from the times I’ve been to resorts.  And, there is both a way in which I do — and a way in which I don’t.

To illustrate: A young friend of mine is a former Victoria’s Secret’s model.  Over the years, she and I have been to nudist resorts somewhere between 20 and 40 times.  Out of all the times seeing her nude, I can only recall one image of her I associate with sexy, even despite her physical beauty.

That image comes from a late afternoon when I began wondering why I had so often been nude with Suzanne, but didn’t lump the memories I had of her nude in with my fondest memories of sexy women.  So I made a conscious effort to thing of her as sexy.  And it worked.  Even today, years later, if I reminiscence for awhile on the sexy looking women I’ve known, the image of her that afternoon is likely to pop up sooner or later.

I have at least three or four other images like that of women I’ve been to nudist resorts with.  Images I easily recall when I’m thinking of sexy women I’ve seen.  But in contrast to those images — perhaps less than half a dozen in all — I have seemingly endless memories of women walking down the street in tight shorts, short skirts, or flouncy dresses.

I imagine like most folks, I could spend a good hour or two — and probably have — just pulling up memories of sexy people I’ve seen in different venues — some from decades ago.  But so few are from nudist resorts.  I cannot be absolutely certain — memory is difficult to assess — but my guess is I have for the most part stored my nudist memories separately from my, “Wow! Look at her!” memories.

Now why is that?

Near as I can figure both from my own experience, and from talking with others about it,  nudists do not regard nudity as primarily a sexual experience, except perhaps when they are still novices at nudism.  Instead, nudity seems to be more an experience of openness, tolerance, and acceptance, than of sexuality.

That doesn’t mean the sexual feelings are entirely absent.  But those feelings are far from dominant. They are typically secondary — or perhaps even further down the ladder than secondary.  That is, in both my own experience, and — so far as I can tell — in the experience of many other nudists, you’re not oblivious to sex, but you usually become strangely insensitive to it.

I do not wish to give the impression I am against mixing sex with nudism.  For all I know, it would be mind-blowing to have sex at a nudist resort.  Nudity is a very emotionally intimate experience.  I can imagine adding to that physical intimacy.  And I know couples who do; I have yet to hear any of them complain.

Yet, so far as I can see, sex is not intrinsic to nudism.  I can see making it sexy.  But I don’t see it as necessarily sexy.  Indeed, it seems seeing someone on the street in tight pants is most often sexier than seeing them nude at a resort.

If that’s the case, why do you suppose that is?

Agape, Attachment, Erotic Love, Infatuation, Love, Lust, Mature Love, New Love, Philos, Romantic Love, Sexuality, Tara Lynn

Nietzsche’s Mail

There are many kinds of love; some cleaner than others. Of course, I do not mean some loves leave us cleaner in the trivial moral sense, but in the profounder aesthetic sense. That is, some loves are cleaner in the same sense in which Nietzsche received his mail.

Nietzsche wrote we should set aside a single day of the week, say, Tuesday, to open and read the letters of the prior seven days. Then we should take a bath.

The first time I read that, I had no idea what he meant.  The second and third readings didn’t help either.  But one day I discovered what he might have meant.  Years ago, a Peoria newspaper was owned by an editor who was apparently a man of  intense but shallow sentiments.  And so that editor wrote little editorials stuffed with banal passions.  I had just finished reading one of his little gems — something about how deeply it saddened him that the youth of the day were so regrettably failing to measure up to the high morals and imposing standards of the great men of banal passions in his own generation.

At least, I think he was referring only to the men of banal passions in his generation, and not to the many in his generation who were much better than that, because I had been reading him on and off for a while, and the only folks he seemed to admire were the folks who were all but identical to him.  At any rate, moments after I put aside the paper, I was aware of feeling dirty, polluted — and in need of a shower.

Since then, I’ve noticed it‘s not always one way.  Some folks, instead of leaving me feeling worn and dirty,  leave me feeling fresh and clean.  And what can be said about people seems to go triple for different kinds of love.

Intensity has nothing to do with it.  In high school, I lusted for a certain Janet. I was raptured to a 17 year old’s heaven each time she spoke to me.  The first time I saw her breasts, I thought I would never see something more beautiful if I lived to 90. But no matter how ecstatic I felt with her, I always felt dirty later on.  I also felt depressed, but that’s a different matter: I have often enough felt depressed without feeling dirty.

I could blame those feelings on Janet, but I think they had more to do with the kind of love I felt towards her.  Some would call that kind of love “lust”, and some would call it “emotional dependency”.  But I call it “a kind of love” mostly because I’ve noticed quite a few people do.  In other words, I am not going to argue over semantics.  On the upside, I’ve experienced loves that have left me feeling fresh and clean.

My love for my ex-bimbo-secretary was that way.  I used to think she was made of sunlight and helium, but it wasn’t really her — it was the way I loved her.

At any rate, it seems an interesting question:  To what extent do we owe such feelings to the person we love, and to what extent do we owe such feelings to the way we love them?  Anyone want to chew on that one?

Alienation, Anxiety, Attachment, Buddhism, Christianity, Consciousness, Emotions, Fundamentalism, Greed, Happiness, Idealism, Ideologies, Lust, Morals, Quality of Life, Religion, Self, Sexuality, Siddhārtha Gautama, Spiritual Alienation, Spirituality, Values, Wisdom, Zen

Two Monks, Two Religions, and a Tale of White Lace Panties

You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery”.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Mathew 5: 27-29, New International Version

It is all but certain that Mathew 5:27-29, with its strongly worded suggestion that hell awaits those of us who lust,  has both terrified and dismayed more than one newly post-pubic boy or girl.  At that age, one is scarcely in control of one’s lusty thoughts, let alone one’s lusty desires.

Even though I am now 54, I still have a distinct memory of a moment in middle school when I was absolutely seized by the entirely accidental, one-second-long, sight of a classmate’s white lace panties.  If at that instant a bolt of lightening had struck me, I would not have noticed the additional shock.

It seemed to me at the time that it took ten minutes before I could again think.  And my very first thought afterwards was embarrassingly geeky: I thought of Mathew and wondered how anyone — anyone! — could be expected to control their sexual feelings.

Although it was a trivial event, it played a large role in shaping what I thought of Christianity during middle school and high school.  I had until then fervently embraced Christian ideals — or, at least, what I understood at the time to be Christian ideals — even though I was most days an agnostic.

But I began to suspect the ideals might be hopelessly impractical, and I turned an increasingly skeptical eye towards them.  By the time I began reading Nietzsche at 15, I was pretty well prepared to accept the notion that Christian ideals were not the Alpha and the Omega of values.

Strange how so much seems in hindsight to have ridiculously depended upon the second-long sight of someone’s white lace panties.

Of course, there are varying interpretations of Mathew 5: 27-29.  A lot seems to depend on how you interpret the Greek,  epithumeo.  It is commonly translated along the lines of “to lust”, or “to lust after”, which seems to suggest to many of us that merely desiring to have sex with someone out of wedlock will land us in hellfire.  And those of us who think that way appear to be in good company.  John Calvin, for instance, wrote, “This teaches us also, that not only those who form a deliberate purpose of fornication, but those who admit any polluted thoughts, are reckoned adulterers before God.”

Other folks interpret the passage more kindly.  Some argue that epithumeo should be translated as “a strong desire”, “to desire greatly”, or “to long for”.   And a few go so far as to suggest that, taken in context, it means, “to covet”.  In both instances, the notion seems to be that only an unusally strong or covetous desire will land you in hell.

Yet, regardless of how the passage should be understood, it is a pretty safe bet the passage is quite often understood to condemn those of us who have any desire at all for sex with someone to whom we happen not to be married.  C. H. Spurgeon almost joyfully writes:

So that the unholy desire, the lascivious glance, everything that approximates towards licentiousness, is here condemned; and Christ is proved to be not the Abrogator of the law, but the Confirmer of it. See how he shows that the commandment is exceedingly broad, wide as the canopy of heaven, all-embracing. How sternly it condemns us all, and how well it becomes us to fall down at the feet of the God of infinite mercy, and seek his forgiveness.

On the surface, at least, Christianity seems to raise quite a racket over the notion that our thoughts are absolutely crucial to our moral standing.  Yet, the notion that thoughts — mere thoughts — can be of great consequence to us was not entirely new by the time of Jesus.

The author of Matthew might have been the first person to stir hell into the mix, but the Buddha is alleged to have said some similar things 500 years before him.  For instance:  “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” Again, “Be vigilant; guard your mind against negative thoughts.”  And, last, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.  When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

To me, that last quote is the most significant of the three I’ve presented here because it tells us the benefit of guarding our minds against negative thoughts.  That is, a pure mind, free of negative thoughts, finds “joy”.  And, although I suspect that word “joy” is quite possibly a poor translation, the idea remains that some sort of happiness is to be had by cultivating a pure mind.

If we may now compare the Buddhist notion with the Christian one, we see certain similarities.  First, there is the idea that our thoughts are not merely idle, but have real consequences for us.  Both the Buddhists and the Christians seem to agree on that.

Yet, in the Christian case, as commonly understood, the consequences are potentially devastating: Eternal hell.  Naturally, I wish to say to Matthew, “Lighten up! Those were rather nice panties.  And besides, it was an even nicer person who was wearing them.  For that,  I’m going to hell?  Could you be any more absurd?”  Of course, the Christian emphasis on hellfire is distasteful, unless your aesthetic sense rivals that of a wolverine.

In the Buddhist case, the consequences are much less grim, if no less serious.  Instead of eternal hell, there is dukkhaDukkha is most often translated as “suffering”.   And, while it has that implication, I prefer to return to its original meanings.  There are three that I know of.

First, the word was once used to denote a lose fit between a chariot wheel and its axle, such that the wheel wobbled.  Second, the word was once used to denote a poor fit between a potter’s wheel and its stand, such that the wheel screeched when turned.  And, last, the term was used to denote a dislocated shoulder or hip.  The common meaning to all three cases is something like, “out-of-jointedness”.

Of course, there are many words to describe the consequences of that out-of-jointedness, “…including suffering, pain, discontent, unsatisfactoriness, unhappiness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration.”  Or, perhaps, in other words, “hell on earth”.

If, when comparing the Buddhist and Christian notions of what negative thoughts lead to, you squint very long and very hard, the two notions can seem remarkably similar.  Especially, if you broaden the Christian concept out from its narrow reference to sexual desire, and instead think of the concept as encompassing any poorly managed desire, whether a poorly managed desire for sex, or money, or power, etc.   And after that,  you can take the Christian concept of hell and declare it is a mere metaphor for suffering on earth.   In the end, after all that intense squinting, the Buddhist and Christian notions might seem pretty much the same.

That’s a lot of squinting, though.

I have a little story that illustrates to me one of the most important differences between the Buddhist and Christian views of negative thinking.

Some long time ago, I came across an Evangelical Christian website that was busy conducting an informal survey on the subject of, “Should women and girls dress modestly to help their brothers in Christ avoid lusting for them?”  The question brought to my mind a Zen tale of two monks:

[The monks] were travelling when they came to a swollen stream. Standing in the road beside the stream, wondering how she might cross, was a beautiful young woman. Without hesitation, the older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the stream. She thanked him and went on her separate way. The two monks then travelled on together for several hours, until the younger monk, deeply troubled, could no longer remain silent. “Brother, aren’t we forbidden to have any physical contact with women?”, he asked. Replied the older monk, “I put her down several hours ago, but you are still carrying her.”

Now, the word, dukkha, in addition to all the other many ways it can be translated, can also be translated as “clingingness”, or “emotional clingingness”.  And, when we hear the tale of the two monks in light of that fact, it might become apparent to us that the younger monk was clinging — emotionally clinging — to the young woman long after she was gone and out of his life.  While, of course, the older monk had both physically and emotionally let go of her several hours ago.

To my mind, that tale illustrates that, to the Buddhist, the real problem is not simple sexual desire, but rather, sexual desire that is clung to, that is nursed, that is dwelt on, that is cultivated, and thus sustained beyond its natural course.

Put differently, it is not, perhaps, the thought itself that makes it negative, but our all too human tendency to emotionally cling to the thought that makes it negative — a tendency that, unfortunately, can often lead to “… suffering, pain, discontent, unsatisfactoriness, unhappiness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration“.

Last, it seems to me that the Christian concept of negative thoughts, understood in its broadest possible sense, all too often leads to the notion that others should take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings.  The Evangelical website phrased it as a question, “Should women and girls dress modestly to help their brothers in Christ avoid lusting for them?”  But why should that even be a question?  From a Buddhist perspective, we — and we alone — are responsible for our emotional clingingness.

At any rate, it’s early in the morning, the birds are singing, and it’s time to turn my attention elsewhere.

Aesthetics, Beauty, Belief, Faith, Fundamentalism, Late Night Thoughts, Learning, Lust, Religion, Sexuality, Spirituality

Late Night Thoughts (Friday, April 8, 2011)

Yesterday evening, I sharpened my drawing pencils — graphite and carbon — and laid them out on my desk.  I’ve decided, beginning today, to practice for an hour each day.  That shouldn’t be too much of a commitment to keep.

It will be a long time before anything comes of it though.  So, perhaps, I will learn a little bit more about patience.

Tonight, I’m amused that, at 54, I am still trying to learn patience.   And even more amused that I want to hurry up and learn it fast.

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Individuals learn.  But every generation repeats the same learning mistakes.

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We like to remind each other that the net is deceptive.  We say, “You cannot tell, over the net, whether the person who claims to drive a Mercedes, and to own stock in 40 corporations, is telling the truth”.  But in what way does that matter?

My friend, Arun, has a different take on it.  He says, “The net strips away several of the more superficial ways in which we are accustomed to judging people.  You cannot tell how rich or poor someone is.  You cannot tell what caste, clan, or race they belong to.  You cannot tell how good looking they are.  You cannot even be sure of their gender.  So you are not distracted so much by those things unless your imagination gets the best of you.  And that lack of distraction allows you to more easily concentrate on other matters.  How well they think and reason, for instance.  How accurately they listen.  Whether they make an effort to understand you.”

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In the end, most — but perhaps not everything — that we believe to be true about other people comes down to what we know about ourselves.  When we think, “Jones is compassionate”,  we are usually, on some level, reasoning, “If I had done what Jones did, it would be because I was feeling compassion”.   And that sort of reasoning is so convincing to us!

We might now and then doubt that we got our conclusions right.  But we seldom, if ever, doubt our procedure for arriving at our conclusions.  We seldom ask ourselves, “Can I really trust this procedure?’   Yet, it sometimes fails us.

A favorite example of that failure concerns erotic dance.  I used to think along the lines, “Anyone who watches erotic dancers quickly learns not to imagine themselves having sex with the dancers because looking at the dancers that way could, in any normal situation, only lead to feelings of frustration.  And how can you enjoy the simple beauty of the dancers if you are feeling increasingly frustrated?”

Yet, after some time discussing erotic dance with people, I have slowly come to the conclusion that a sizable portion of the people who go to erotic dance clubs must not only be imagining themselves having sex with the dancers, but must also be trying very hard to imagine themselves having sex with the dancers.  Nevertheless, it took me a ridiculously long time to recognize that fact because I kept assuming that my own attitude was a sure footed basis for understanding other people’s attitudes.

Perhaps someone else would have caught on sooner.  But I think there must be many times in each of our lives when we have been blindsided by the apparently universal human tendency to assume that we can know what is going through the hearts and minds of other people based on what we know of ourselves.

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On a couple of occasions, young, heterosexual women have asked me to take them to erotic dance clubs.  Both times, the women used the same word to describe their experience:  “Liberating”.  (Perhaps oddly enough, “liberating” is how I think of the experience myself.)  But the thought occurs to me that neither of those women would have found their experience liberating if they had spent the evening yearning to have sex with the dancers.  Frustrating, perhaps, but most likely not liberating.

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Stephen Mitchell somewhere writes to the effect that much of the world’s best religious literature — such as the Tao Te Ching or the Bhagavad Gita — self destruct.  By which I think he means they purposely undermine their own authority.  They make claims but then say, “But, of course, our scriptures are not the reality; and if you know the reality, then you don’t need our silly scriptures.”

I think it can be hard for many Westerners to understand that attitude.

After all, we almost always take it as a mark of seriousness — if not even a mark of holiness — that we believe in our creeds, believe in our theologies, or believe in our various holy books.  And often enough, the firmer our belief, the better we feel about it.  But is anyone who goes no further than beliefs — no matter how profound those beliefs — spiritually serious?

Abrahamic Faiths, Bad Ideas, Belief, Buddhism, Christianity, Culture, Enlightenment, Erotic Love, Ethics, Faith, Fantasy Based Community, Idealism, Ideologies, Judeo-Christian Tradition, Knowledge, Love, Lust, Morals, Observation, Philos, Reality Based Community, Reason, Religion, Romantic Love, Satori, Sexuality, Spiritual Alienation, Teaching, Thinking, Truth, Wisdom, Zen

“The West Talks, The East Walks”

In spiritual matters, the West talks, the East walks.  Of course, that’s a gross simplification, but it is to some extent true enough.

For instance: The thing that impresses me most about the official morality of the Roman Catholic Church is how the theology of it — the theoretical basis for its morality —  is this vast and imposing Gothic cathedral constructed of incredibly elaborate logic and reasoning.  The Cathedral is set for all to see on the top of a large hill.  And people do see it — at least now and then — and they are often duly impressed, even intimidated, by what they see.

But who lives there?  Who actually lives in a Cathedral?  I know plenty of people worship in them, but I don’t know of many people who actually live in them.

I think that is too often the case with official Roman Catholic morality — it is an ideal.  Even when it somehow impresses us, awes us, it remains an ideal.  We might venerate the ideal, but we do not live it.

But how many Zen masters do you know of who are that merely idealistic?

I had occasion to wonder about all of that yesterday — after reading a post by the always acidic PZ Meyers.

If, when it comes to criticisms of religion, you are accustomed to the 5% or 10% acid solutions that you might find, say, on this blog;  or even if you are accustomed to the 30% acid solutions that you might find in the writings of Richard Dawkins, then it is still possible you might have no concept whatsoever of the fuming concentrations PZ Meyers is capable of.

Yesterday, I read one of the mildest posts I’ve ever seen PZ Meyers write about religion.  And I will quote from that post in a moment.  It is so mild only an exceptionally thin-skinned person would be offended by it.  Yet, please don’t visit his blog expecting that weak level of acidity to be the norm.

The background here is that Meyers got hold of a lavishly reasoned blog post by a Roman Catholic theologian, Ronald L. Conte, Jr., on the question of whether “unnatural sexual acts” are  “moral to use as foreplay”  prior to intercourse? In answer to the question,  Conte states:

The expression ‘that use which is against nature’ refers to unnatural sexual acts, such as oral sex, anal sex, or manual sex. Saint Augustine condemns such acts unequivocally. He even states that such unnatural sexual acts are even more damnable (i.e. even more serious mortal sins) when these take place within marriage. For God is even more offended by a sexual mortal sin that takes place within the Sacrament of Marriage, since this offense is not only against nature, but also against a Holy Sacrament.

Now, I have in the past seen Meyers take a passage like that one and rip apart its logic, prior to turning like a hellcat on the author himself.  But yesterday,  Meyers was gentle in his response:

Dang. Well, at least Augustine didn’t explicitly forbid rubber wetsuits, fuzzy handcuffs, vibrating crucifixes, octopus, ceiling-mounted swings, clamps, chocolate pudding, flavored lubricants, Wonder Woman costumes, rubber chickens, exotic headware, whipped cream, video cameras, Silly String, roller skates, trampolines, nitrous oxide, balloon animals, feather boas, ball gags, or bungee cords, or I might be going to hell.

So, I had a laugh, and that probably should have been the end of it.  But it was about then I was possessed to visit Conte’s blog.  Now, it has been decades since I read much theology, and I had forgotten how elaborate, intricate — almost ornate — it can be.  Still, it was for awhile interesting enough.

Yet, I don’t think I can sustain such an interest.  Conte’s theology seems to me speculative, ridiculous, and irrelevant: As an example,  consider his remarks here:

The two consenting adults argument is rejected by Catholicism, not only on sexual ethics, but also on ethics in general, because sin is first and foremost an offense against God. You can sin against God without apparent harm to another person. But from the point of view of faith, sin does do harm to self and neighbor, even if that harm is not readily apparent.

I think such notions are largely groundless.  Any college sophomore could come up with something just as speculative. At best, those notions seem to me ideals.  But even at that, they would be someone else’s ideals.  That is, it is not an ideal of mine to, say, take it on faith that “Sexual Act A” harms both me and my neighbor despite there is not a shred of evidence that is the case.

Yet, if you accept Conte’s argument that he is fairly representing the mainstream thinking of the Roman Catholic Church, then you can easily enough see how such thinking might lead to the Church asserting that, say,  gay marriage harms both gay married couples and their straight neighbors even though there is not a shred of evidence suggesting that is the case.

Someone who was so inclined could easily write a book responding to that one paragraph.  But to me, the bottom line might be that Conte’s theology — at least what very little of it I’ve read — quite often seems as poorly grounded in logic and evidence as when a kid says, “Let’s pretend…”.   The difference might be, the kid knows on some level that he’s merely pretending x is the case.  But does Conte know he’s pretending x is the case?  Does the Church know?  Does the flock know?  And does it really matter that anyone knows?

Roman Catholic morality,  as represented — or possibly misrepresented here — by a tiny sampling, seems to be an ideal.  Granted it is supported by elaborate reasoning, but it is still an ideal.  And, as I’ve tried to point out, such ideals are like cathedrals: However much we might venerate them, most of us don’t live in them.

“The West talks, the East walks.”  Oversimplified as that is, I fear it will be true to a surprising degree so long as the West relies on unrealized theologians while the East relies on realized masters.

Erotic Love, Horniness, Lust, Sexuality

Why Are Some Men Sexually Attracted to Lesbians?

A while back, I got into a discussion with a few folks on the topic of why some men are sexually interested in lesbians.  I’ve been thinking about that discussion this morning, and how surprised I was by many of the comments.  It turned out that several men said they were not only interested in lesbians, but that they were especially interested in lesbians.  That is, lesbians were a fetish of theirs.

That befuddled me.  It probably should not have befuddled me, but it did.

I’ve seen the internet porn ads for men who want to view “lesbians” having sex.  So, perhaps I should have known a lot of men are sexually interested in lesbians.

But until the discussion, I didn’t realize those men — at least a goodly number of those men — must actually be sexually interested in real lesbians.  What relatively little lesbian porn I’ve paid attention to has seemed fake to me.  Hence, I have naively assumed that most men are not genuinely interested in real lesbians, but rather in fakes.

Of course, during the discussion, some people didn’t quite understand the question and volunteered such statements as, “The men think the lesbians are secretly bi.”  But that response at most suggests that some men are sexually interested in bi-sexual women, rather than sexually interested in lesbians.

So, why are some men sexually interested in lesbians?  I recall the reasons given included, “Forbidden fruit is the most delicious of all.” “Some men see sex with a lesbian as the unattainable conquest.” And, “Getting a lesbian into bed is the ultimate trophy.”

I’m sure those three reasons apply to some of the men who find themselves sexually attracted to lesbians.  I wouldn’t say they apply to all.  Human motives can be as numerous as there are people.

The thing I don’t understand about those three reasons — or about any reason I’ve heard for why some men are sexually attracted to lesbians — is how such reasons can overcome having sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you?

For instance:  Even if I felt that “forbidden fruit is the most delicious of all”, I’m pretty sure I would be put off by an unresponsive partner — no matter how “forbidden” she was.

Before we go on, though, I’d like to make clear that this  is all about sexual attraction.  That is, in my experience, there are some extremely attractive lesbians in this world, but they are extremely attractive as people, and not as sex partners.

At any rate, so far as I’m concerned, the world’s foremost anti-aphrodisiac is — not taxes, although taxes are a close second — but an unresponsive woman who lacks any sexual interest in me.  Like many people, I’ve had the occasional misfortune of discovering that I was not a suitable partner for someone only after getting into bed with them.

Perhaps until that moment, both of us are dreaming of a passionate night together.  But something clicks — or maybe it’s that something does not click — once we actually get going on it.  And, just as soon as it has become evident to me that she is not at all into it — I’ve typically felt my desire drain away.  It doesn’t even take an act of will on my part: I involuntarily lose interest.  And quickly.

Back when I was sexually active, there weren’t that many things that could turn me off.  But an unresponsive woman could.

So, the only lesbian I can imagine being sexually attracted to would be a lesbian who was sexually responsive to me.  But such a lesbian is pretty much by definition bi-sexual, isn’t she?  And therefore, she is not a lesbian, but a bi-sexual.  Or am I confused here?  Can a lesbian get into having sex with a man?  Really get into it?

At any rate, I’ve come up with a notion of why some men might be sexually interested in lesbians even if the woman is not at all sexually interested in them.   But my idea is not based on anything said during the discussion.  Instead, it came to me as I was thinking about all of this just now, and as I got to recalling what it was like to be 18.

Back then, I could easily get passionately turned on by an overly suggestive wood knot,  let alone a breathing woman.  And, frankly, I was willing to have sex with anyone who would let me — regardless of whether or not they were genuinely enthusiastic about it.  I think I must have been blinded by hormones, and I can imagine that some men, similarly blinded, might be attracted to lesbians even if the lesbians are not sexually interested in them.

It’s getting towards dawn.  I have foolishly allowed myself to stay awake all night, and now I am beginning to feel it.  Hence, I’m not sure whether much of what I’ve said in this post makes sense, and I apologize for any missing words, poorly constructed sentences, vulgar references to flatulence, or shameful solicitations for money.   It’s time to turn it over to you.

So what do you think? Why are some men sexually interested in lesbians?

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