Advice, Agape, Attached Love, Brotherly Love, Erotic Love, Human Nature, Life, Love, Mature Love, New Love, Parental Love, Passion, Philos, Poetry, Romantic Love, Unconditional Love

A Flock of Sparrows for Majel: Love Sold Here by the Pocketful

A Flock of Sparrows for Majel

(About a 3 minute read)

People say “Love is a precious rock of great price”.
I can see that’s true enough — so far as it goes.
But saying that is like starting to tell a great joke,
Then suddenly trailing off into silence before the punch line.
It’s like a mathematical equation that isn’t balanced yet.
It’s like a lonely young man or woman without a partner.
It’s like the proverbial eight fast and furious minutes
That is sex the scientists say for most of us much under the age of 35.
But I suspect there’s so much more to love than that.

Continue reading “A Flock of Sparrows for Majel: Love Sold Here by the Pocketful”

Brotherly Love, Love, Poetry

Promise Me, Tomorrow’s Dead Man

(About a 1 minute read)

Words for all the tender seeds who in their winter do not yet see they are to bloom as a fragrant rose.

 

I did not say your poetry was great,
That it roared and struck,
Plunging fangs into my neck.

Nor did I say it screamed
As it died, a defenseless child.

No, you misunderstood me, you see,
For I am honest and say
I am no competent critic of poetry.

But I have eyes that see deep,
Deep into people and their talents.

Eyes that see so deep
They see beyond tomorrow,
Can spot a rabbit
Before it becomes a bear,
Spot it like an eagle
From on high.

And I can stoop on talent so fast
My triumphant screams of discovery
Are carried from today
To be heard even years
Latter in your future,
Long after I have passed,
As by then your memories.

No, I said you
Yourself
Were great.

You’ll still need luck,
And you’ll still need practice.
Or you will bleed out before your time.

So promise me now,
Promise tomorrow’s dead man:

You will not fail my vision,
You will not betray it, but you,
You will practice with passion
And tenacity until you know

How to rip luck from the clouds
And make it lash rain and strike lighting
To revive and rebith people’s souls.

Promise me, tomorrow’s dead man.

Agape, Altruism, Art, Authenticity, Awe, Beauty, Being True To Yourself, Brotherly Love, Children, Community, Creativity, Dance, Education, Emotions, Enlightenment, Erotic Dance, Erotic Love, Ethics, Extended Family, Fairness, Family, Free Spirit, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Friends, Fun, Giving, Happiness, Honesty, Horniness, Human Nature, Humanism, Humanities, Ideas, Love, Lovers, Loyalty, Mature Love, Morality, Mysticism, Nature, New Love, Parental Love, Passion, Peace, People, Philos, Redemption, Romantic Love, Science, Self-determination, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Self-Realization, Sense of Relatedness, Sex, Sexuality, Society, Spirituality, Talents and Skills, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love, Vacilando, Wisdom

The Importance of Redemption

(About a 5 minute read)

I sometimes get the impression that plenty of us tackle the big ideas in life almost the day we escape our cribs for the first time.

“Gurk! Life is mine to seize! I see it clearly now.  I shall be my own hero. Gerp!” Or, “Poppels! But our capacity to love is what most defines us as moral. Twurks!  What’s this?  Why, it must be what what ma-ma calls, ‘poo’.  And look!  It’s endlessly shape-able!”

Continue reading “The Importance of Redemption”

Allies, Brotherly Love, Capitalism, Citizenship, Community, Competition, Consumerism, Cultural Traits, Culture, Fairness, Free Market Capitalism, Friends, From Around the Net, Giving, Human Nature, Life, Morality, Obligations to Society, Philos, Society, Values

Never Break the Circle

(About a 1 minute read)

Years ago, there was Mike,
A Native American man who belonged
To the people of a Southwest nation,
And who was trying to teach his son
The people’s traditional values.

Can you imagine how tough that was?
Maybe the values are the same
But the world is not.
No, it’s not the same at all.
But Mike was determined,
Still made the effort.

Each weekend he drove his boy
Eight hundred miles South
To the villages where
He could play with his cousins,
Talk with his grandparents,
Learn from the whole village
How to walk with one foot on the earth,
And with the other foot firmly planted
In the spirit world.

His son made Mike proud.
Once the whole community
Gathered to share candy —
I think Mike called it,
“Halloween, Hopi style.”

Forming a circle of young and old,
The people tossed the candies around
For several minutes, catching and tossing
Back the candies, the people shared
A good thing in life, and stopped
Only when everyone had something sweet.

Everyone.

“Cooperation”, Mike told me,
“It’s how the people live.
Not like what he learns in school.
There it’s fight for yourself,
Live for your close kin alone,
And screw all the rest.”

Against the Next War, Allies, Authoritarianism, Bad Ideas, Brotherly Love, Capitalism, Class War, Community, Compassion, Culture, Democracy, Free Market Capitalism, Free Spirit, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Friends, Giving, Human Nature, Humanism, Idealism, Ideologies, International Relations, Internet, Liars Lies and Lying, Life, Love, Obligations to Society, Peace, Philos, Political Ideologies, Violence, Wisdom

Against the Next War

(About a 3 minute read)

The internet has made it now
Bound to happen
Tomorrow or the year after.
Bound to happen.

Maybe.
Up to you.

The politicians and the preachers,
The two dogs of the capitalist class,
Will once again want a war,
Just as they always do.

War to them is a gift, you see,
It’s not personal, it’s not their blood.
But war makes some folks rich
And you will never change that,
You will never change that,
Though the dogs will bark it’s not so.

A war of aggression
Against some people somewhere,

Most likely brown,
Most likely poor,
Most likely weak,
Most likely no real threat.

War for the sake of the banks
And for the merchants of death.
War for the sake of the pulpit,
And for the corridors of power.

But not a war for the sake
Of you and of me. We don’t count.
Our side is the one side
That has never counted.
Never.

That’s how war goes, it’s always been so
And it’s bound to happen again,
Soon happen again.

This is your world,
How it really is —
The world you think,
The world you were taught,
The gods want you to live in and love
Them more than you love each other.

In your world are great nations:
Nations the greatest in history,
Nations with the power of suns,
A thousands suns,
To do good, make truths come true
For even the poor man, the poor woman,
The poor child. Make truths come true.

But these nations,
Nations great and greatest,
Act only like whores,
Filthy whores,
Fucking folks raw,
Spreading their diseases,
Recruiting new girls,
Ever younger girls
To fuck you, to fuck all of you,
To fuck everyone.

This is your world
Your world without end.

But now someday you see

Someday now for once it will happen
For once it will stop
Stop the day they give a war
And you
You rise up, join hands
By the millions, possibly billions,
Linked together by the net
And by love, and by common sense.

At last,
At last you will rise, singing
“At last my spirit shall have water!
At last my cries shall be heard!
At last my thirst shall be slaked!”

Yes, you will rise up and you will say
In a voice thunderous and magnified
By the whole world joining in,

Say, “Those people are our friends,
We chat with them by day and by night.
We know their hopes, we know their dreams,
We know their troubles, we know their fears.
We know them, we know their names.

“Jane and Matthias. Terese and Sindhuja.
Mark, Parikhitdutta, and Min.

We even marry them now and then —
They shall not this time be murdered.

“You will not touch them,
Our brothers, our friends;
This once the bombs won’t fall.
This once the bombs won’t fall.
You politicians and preachers,
You capitalists and bankers all —
This once the bombs won’t fall.”

Yet you know it will ever be a dream
Just a dream, just a mere dream.
It will ever be a dream
If you, if we, keep on dividing,
Never uniting, never joining,
But instead just staying, just keeping,
To my echo chamber or to yours.

So let’s come together
Let’s come together,
Let’s come together.

So let’s come together
Before the nukes fall,
Before the demons fall.
Before we die in the winter,
And we come together
Never once come together at all.

 


Please seriously consider spreading this poem — spreading it to your site, to the social media sites — in an effort to make it go viral. We need it viral well before the next war, we need folks mulling over the idea of rebelling against the violence. Spread this poem and then you too write — write about the ideas presented in the poem. For you, for your brothers and for your sisters, for your children after you — stop the wars of aggression!

Please Note: Matthias has responded by dedicating his poem, Pooling Strength, to this cause.

Bruce has reposted the poem on “The Life and Times of Bruce Genencser“.

Kat has responded by posting this article: I Don’t Know Anything About War.

Abuse, Agape, Alienation, Altruism, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Brotherly Love, Christ, Christianity, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Compassion, Cultural Traits, Culture, Ethics, Fairness, Free Spirit, Goals, God, God(s), Happiness, Human Nature, Idealism, Joe, Learning, Life, Love, Meaning, Memes, Morality, Morals, People, Philos, Physical Abuse, Purpose, Quality of Life, Relationships, Religion, Religious Ideologies, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Talents and Skills, Values, Yahweh

There are no Weeds

(About a 10 minute read)

Long ago, the Coffee Shop was a hang out for many mildly disaffected youths.  They were the kids who didn’t fit in too well, who weren’t always doing what was expected of them, who often had talents no one had noticed or encouraged, or who were simply marching to the beat of their own drummer.

Kyle, for instance, was the son of a wealthy father, but he wanted to make his own way in the world.  So he had enlisted in the Army to earn money for college rather than allow his father to pay for his education.  He was passionate about poetry and wanted to teach English.

Melanie was from a much poorer family than Kyle, and her only academic interests were mathematics.  She paid for the community college by working as an erotic dancer.

Catherine was another mathematician, and she worried about her social skills.  She graduated early from high school then stayed in town to mature for a year, rather than head straight to college.

Erin was 15 when she left her parent’s house to sleep on friend’s couches.  She did her homework by streetlight for a while.  Then she met Jim, a year or two older, who convinced her school was for losers, and life lay in studying the Kabbalah.

Jody was a bit older than most, and a prostitute fascinated with the Third Reich and Phoenician glassware.  She’d scored high on the aptitude tests, but drugs, along with being raised in an abusive home, were too much for her, and she left unpursued her dream of becoming an historian.

Luke was raised in North Africa and in British boarding schools before his executive father transferred to Colorado.  He planned to leave town soon to study psychology, for he wanted to heal minds.  In the meantime, he was both too well educated and too brilliant for his high school classes.  So, like many other eccentrics, he found his way to the Coffee Shop.

In the mornings, the Shop was full of business people; by midday it held all ages and walks of life; and by evening it was the kids.  One slow Tuesday night I spent a half hour or 45 minutes carefully counting the crowd.  My count was nearly 200, most of them people I’d met, most of them kids, most of them misfits.

If anyone loved them all, it was Joe. He seemed to have a knack for it.

A month or so after we met, Joe invited me to go with him and a couple to Valley View Hot Springs.  It was the way he phrased the invitation that surprised me.  “We need a chaperon”, he said, “There might be trouble.  You’ve got to say, ‘Yes’.”

I couldn’t tell at first how serious he was about trouble.  Joe was 18 that year, strong, and could handle himself. Besides, he knew Valley View was more peaceful than most any other place in Colorado.  He’d been going there with his family since he was five or six.  What kind of trouble did he anticipate?

The trouble was jealousy, Joe explained.  He’d only recently befriended the couple, and he had not caught on to the guy’s jealousy of him.  Thinking everything was cool, he decided to share with them the most spiritual place he knew of.   The girl was so enthusiastic to go to Valley View that the guy feigned agreement, and so Joe and the couple had made plans.  But in the week between making plans and their realization, Joe was shocked when the girl pointed out to him her boyfriend’s jealousy.  That’s when Joe got the notion my presence might somehow defuse the situation.

In the years I knew him, Joe almost never allowed himself to act on any jealously he himself might feel, and I think that might have been because jealousy excludes folks rather than includes them.  Joe was all about including people.  Looking back, it seems almost inevitable Joe would fail to see the boyfriend’s jealousy until it was pointed out to him.

So, the four of us took a day trip to Valley View.  The couple had brought swimsuits, but the guy strangely refused to join his girlfriend, Joe and I in the hot springs.  Instead, he said he wanted to look for elk among the pines and scrub oak, and wandered off.  I left Joe and the girl talking at one end of the pool, and spent most of the time watching dust devils swirl across the valley below.

It was by no means a bad trip, but I think it was the worse Joe and I ever managed to take to Valley View. It seemed none of us got into the spirit of the place.   We left just as divided as we’d arrived.  A few days later, Joe and I discussed it.  After noting how argumentative the guy became on the trip home, Joe said he felt the girl had spent the afternoon at the pool in some kind of bubble; unresponsive to the beauty all around her; unable to connect with nature; indifferent even to the wind through the ponderosa.  “We might as well have gone to the mall”, he grinned.

Joe had been raised a Christian, but a year or two after the trip he committed himself to it.   His inspiration was the New Testament, rather than the Old; the life of Jesus, rather than the Ten Commandments.  Consequently, his first step was to simplify his life.  He gave away his inessential possessions and moved from his parent’s house to a shack.  Mostly, though, he emulated Jesus and the Disciples in his heart and mind.  It became clear the appeal of Christianity to him was its doctrine of universal love — he was, he told me, indifferent to heaven and hell.  Instead, salvation, for Joe, was to learn how to love the world as Christ had.

His experiment with Christianity lasted a couple of years.  When I asked him why he was no longer a Christian, he told me he still believed in God, and perhaps even that Jesus was Christ, but he could not have faith in them so long as people were sent to hell.

Joe worked at a greenhouse.  One day, Joe spoke of his growing distaste for weeding.  “They may be weeds, Paul, but they didn’t ask to be born where they’re not wanted.  It feels terrible to kill them.”  Some part of me agreed with Joe — at least with his notion that all living things have value — but I still felt weeding in a greenhouse was justified by its necessity.  I thought to myself he’d soon enough see that necessity and reconcile himself to killing weeds.

A day later, however, Joe found a partial solution.  He began transplanting the weeds.  At least he began transplanting the larger ones.  He did it on his own time, after work, because he didn’t think it was fair to charge his boss for the extra time it took.  There was a large, bare mound of soil out back of the greenhouse and he was transplanting the weeds to the far side of it, where — he hoped — they would thrive.

I was a bit taken aback.  On the one hand, it ranked among the craziest things I’d heard of a friend doing in some time.  But on the other hand, looked at a little more rationally, it wasn’t self-destructive, it was harmless to others, and it preserved life.  I didn’t think Joe’s project would last — I thought he’d grow tired of it — but I rather admired him for asserting his good convictions in a world where there sometimes seemed to be too few good convictions.

Two months passed before Joe brought the subject up again.  My first reaction was surprise he was still transplanting weeds.  But then he explained his boss had found him out.  Of course, he expected to be fired.  Yet, after he’d told her everything, she’d only laughed and smiled, and told him he was a good worker, that she loved him, and that she would find other work than weeding for him to do.

Something happened one day to make me see symbolic meaning in Joe’s actions.  It began when Laura called to ask if she could come over and take a shower.  She was a homeless kid who kept a few items of clothing at my place and sometimes dropped by for a shower or a meal.  She was heavily into drugs, and I never invited her to stay too long, because I didn’t want my things to start disappearing.

That evening, I got her fed and her feet massaged, and then sent her off to the shower.  She told me she’d been partying, and that after my place, she wanted to go back and party some more.  It wasn’t long, though, before she’d fallen asleep on the couch.   I thought about her while she slept.

Laura was nineteen, and she hadn’t a regular home since she was thirteen.  She’d never met her father, a man who left before she was born.  At thirteen, she’d gotten into a fight with her mother’s boyfriend.  He swung a chair at her.  A leg caught her in the belly and ripped a seven inch wound.  She ran from the house and never returned.

The wound didn’t get sewn up, and the scar was huge.  I’d run my fingers along it once, and somehow the memory of that furrowed, lumpy scar tissue was still stuck in my fingertips.  When I thought of Laura, I always thought of that scar.  And that’s what I was thinking of when Joe’s words came back to me: “They may be weeds, but they didn’t ask to be born where they’re not wanted.”  It was somewhat like a minor epiphany: Joe would understand the tragedy of Laura better than anyone — if for no other reason than Joe had a knack for a certain kind of love.

There is more than one kind of love in this world.  The kind Joe was most interested in is inclusive.   That kind of love does not seek to jealously wall off a little private garden for itself.  It is neither possessive nor jealous, as was the guy at Valley View.  Nor does it demand to be loved in return — for a love that wants love in return must exclude some from being loved. It was the promise of that inclusive kind of love that attracted Joe to Christianity.  It was the realization that some are excluded from God’s love that caused Joe to lose his faith.

I believe it’s rare for most of us — especially when we are young — to think of love as an excellence.  That is, as a thing one might learn how to do to the best of his or her ability.  Instead, we think of love as something requiring little or no talent, practice, or skill.  We suppose it comes natural to us, and so we spend our time waiting for it without doing much to help it come about.

Every kid at the Coffee Shop had his or her own mix of talents and skills, and many of the kids had an excellence.  Kyle, for instance, was a gifted poet.  Melanie and Catherine excelled at mathematics.  And Luke was a born psychologist.  But I think Joe’s excellence was his ability to love.

Sometime ago, Joe moved up into the mountains, where he met a woman and settled in with her.  He lives up there now, in a small mountain town.


Originally posted November 27, 2008

Al, Attila, Brotherly Love, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Community, Cultural Traits, Culture, Education, Ethics, Friends, Giving, Human Nature, Learning, Life, Logic, Meaning, Morals, Obligations to Society, People, Quality of Life, Relationships, Religion, Society, Teaching, Values

The Gifts of AL Remington

(About a 4 minute read)

It was difficult to beat Al. I think I only did it once. Or, maybe, I didn’t. Maybe I just came close. He was strongest in the endgame.

If you let him get that far — and it was hard not to — he had you beat.

Al said he learned chess when he was in the army, stationed in Greenland, with nothing else to do but his job and learn chess. By the time I met him, he was in his 60s, still enthusiastic about the game, and the man to beat at the Coffee Shop. He was a gentle man, reserved, modest, but exuding an air of dignity and confidence, much like a good father or grandfather. In his 60s, he drove a dark blue Cadillac on wet days and rode a Harley when the sun was out.

One day I discovered the Coffee Shop didn’t purchase the chess sets it had on hand. It was Al who did that. He would search garage sales for abandoned sets, buy them, and bring them to the Shop. He had to do that over and over again because people would loose pieces. But he didn’t mind. It was his hobby.

I think it must have been Al who got “everyone” — at least a third of the regular customers — playing chess. There were always two or three games going back then. Half the regular customers were kids and most of the kids were taught the game by Al. That is, someone else would usually teach them the basic moves — then Al would teach them the art.

Not just the art of chess, but other things too. He taught kids how to win graciously, how to loose without animosity, how to be fair (he’d spot the less skilled players a piece or two), and even how to keep a poker face. He never lost his temper, he was always encouraging, and he taught values. For instance: There wasn’t a kid at the Coffee Shop Al disdained to play, nor one he disrespected.

Several of the adults who hung out at the Shop were uncertain characters, but not Al. One man, Tim, was only there to proselytize the kids for Christ and had no other point in befriending them. Another man, Jeff, in his mid-thirties, was obsessed with getting laid by teens. A third man, who called himself Attila, dressed immaculately, neatly trimmed his white beard, and pretended to have wealth and connections. He would come every day to the Shop with his son, who he’d named Khan, and who was 15 and had lost his spirit. Attila would speak about Khan as if Khan wasn’t present and sitting right next to him: I’ve never in my life heard a more verbally abusive father. Unlike those characters, Al cared for the kids.

Al never told you he liked kids, but he did. He’d surely raised enough of them: Four biological children, two or three adopted children, and a number of foster children. I figure teaching them chess was Al’s way of raising up the Coffee Shop kids. He spoke to me several times of his belief that playing chess developed good, solid thinking skills. But he never quite said he considered himself on a mission to help the Coffee Shop kids. Saying something like that wasn’t Al’s style.

Al died at his home a couple years ago at age 72. I read his obituary to discover he was a minister. He hadn’t spoken of that; had never proselytized me; nor — so far as I know — had he proselytized any of the kids. I guess that wasn’t his style, either. Instead, he just served others.

Nowadays, I drop by the Coffee Shop once or twice a month. The kids Al and I knew have grown up and moved on. No one today plays chess. The adults sit with adults and the kids sit with kids. Maybe that’s the way people feel it should be.

I was reminded of Al earlier today by a comment Ordinary Girl left on another post. She mentioned how adults stay away from kids for fear of being thought creepy. That got me to thinking of how Al, born in 1933, belonged to another generation — one that had a stronger sense of community and wasn’t so set against mixing the ages. Yet, I wonder how kids are supposed to grow up with few adults in their lives?

Are they supposed these days to learn what they need to be a functional adult from Hollywood, the entertainment industry, and advertising? It seems to me we too often leave kids these days to be raised by the media.

Somethings we can only learn from another person. Things we cannot learn from a book, a movie, the television, popular music, or a video game. Somethings we must learn through our interactions with others. And some of those things that can only be learned through our interactions with others are very important. I discovered when I hung out with teens that many teens had what struck me then as a thirst to hang out with adults. I suspect they needed encouragement, insight into themselves, support, and affirmation, among other things. Those are not things we easily get from a book or movie.

Yet, it’s not a one-way street. I believe there can be tremendous benefits for an adult to having kids in his or her life. For one thing, watching a new generation grow up, seeing it go through the same things you once went through, can give you an invaluable perspective on life and a profound acceptance of your own aging.

I’ve come to believe any society which separates the generations will sooner or later pay a price for it. It even seems to me unnatural. I doubt any previous society has headed as far in that direction as ours. And, to me, it is all part of the larger break down of genuine community. It seems our societies are becoming increasingly fragmented, and I am unsure where that will eventually leave us. I rather hope Al’s generation is not the last to mix ages.


Note: Al was a grand- or great grandnephew of Frederic Remington, the painter.

Brotherly Love, Community, Cultural Change, Culture, Friends, Goals, Human Nature, Internet, Life, Love, People, Relationships, Science

Just How Strong are Internet Friendships?

It seems to me, the internet has made it easy to meet people who are fundamentally like us.  Nowadays, I myself expect it to happen once or twice a month — which is more frequent than the same thing happening offline.

Yet, what impresses me most about meeting people online who are fundamentally like me isn’t how often it happens, but with whom it happens. I have been nearly astonished to discover again and again how much someone from a background, society, or culture very different from my own can feel almost like kin to me.

Indeed, it makes me wonder just how important background, cultural, and social differences are.  Before the net, I saw such differences as crucially important; now, I’m not so sure.  Maybe how well our most basic personalities mesh with each other can be more important to the strength of our friendships than all the financial, social, political, religious, philosophical, national, age, ethnic, gender, and other differences that would otherwise divide us.

I’m still very much working out an answer to that question.  I would like to believe that friendship consistently trumps everything else, but I know that sometimes it doesn’t.  For one thing, there are too many recorded instances of friends murdering each other for political, religious, or other such differences for it to be true that friendships always trump those differences.  Sometimes they do, but they don’t always.

Of course, the mere fact your personality meshes well with someone else’s personality in no way guarantees you two will become friends.  So far as I’ve been told, a good personality mesh is less important to the strength of the friendship bond than at least two other factors.

Working together towards a  goal is one of those factors.  People tend to bond when they do that well.  And if they do it well, then the more they do it, the more bonded they become.

Unfortunately, the internet provides comparatively limited opportunities to work together.  Sure, you can do somethings together, but not as many things as you can with someone offline.  That’s important because working together towards a goal is — at least according to the science I’ve read — a top factor in friends bonding with each other.  It’s arguable that the limits the net imposes on this type of bonding reduce the strength of internet friendships.

The other factor is mutual self-disclosure.   People who voluntarily and more or less comfortably disclose or reveal themselves to each other tend to bond much more strongly than those who don’t.  In fact,  it seems very difficult to form a strong bond without at least some significant measure of mutual self-disclosure.

It’s likely that the internet substantially helps to facilitate self-disclosure.  There’s a good reason Catholics build confessionals.  It’s much easier to talk freely and honestly about yourself when you have the anonymity that can be — and sometimes is — provided by the confessional.  Even better than a confessional, the net can provide anonymity to anyone who wants it.   In fact, I’ve noticed it is so common these days to “confess all” over the internet  that I sometimes think of the net as “The Great Confessional of Our Times”.

But even people who prefer to fully disclose their real names, locations, and other identifying information are nowadays apt to reveal all sorts of other personal stuff about themselves over the net.  Whatever it is about the net that makes so many people feel safe to disclose so very much about themselves, anonymity does not seem to be the key factor causing it.

Whatever the cause(s) of it, it seems probable that so much self-disclosure provides comparatively many opportunities for people to bond in friendship.  Moreover, I think those bonds are very likely to be just as profound in many instances as any offline bonds that are predominantly based on mutual self-disclosure.

Considering all of the above, I think a good case can be made for the notion that internet friendships are capable of becoming quite strong, perhaps just as strong as offline friendships.  The opportunities the net provides for working together towards a goal — although comparatively limited — combined with the opportunities it offers for mutual self-disclosure would seem to be two most crucially important factors in making such strong bonds possible.  Of course, there are other factors that go into forming strong friendships, but those two seem to be the top factors.

Furthermore, I think that, if two people’s personalities fundamentally mesh well, they might even be able to form a strong bond between them in spite of being divided by many differences in such things as their age, gender, ethnicity, religiosity, politics, nationality, and so forth.  That would seem to be significant here because the net easily brings together very diverse people.

But none of that addresses the odds or probability of such strong friendships happening.  Are strong internet friendships less likely, as likely, or more likely to come about than strong offline friendships?  To me, that’s an interesting question, but one that I do not have an answer to.  What do you think, though?

And what do you think about the overall strength of internet friendships?

Altruism, Brotherly Love, Christianity, Compassion, Ethics, Fantasy Based Community, Fundamentalism, Giving, Judeo-Christian Tradition, Kindness, Liars Lies and Lying, Morals, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Politicians and Scoundrels, Reality Based Community, Religion, Society, Values, Village Idiots

Is it Moral to Take Advantage of an Idiot?

Is it moral to take advantage of the village idiot?

Suppose on Friday, your local village idiot signed over the deed to his house to you, thinking he was going to be raptured yesterday (Saturday, May 21, 2011), would you now be under any moral obligation to return his house to him?

Should banks forgive the credit card debts your local village idiot racked up in anticipation of his not having to pay them off?

In general, to what extent should politicians, preachers, pundits, corporations, neighbors, or society as a whole be allowed to exploit the world’s village idiots?

Should the world’s village idiots now be allowed to sue Harold Camping for damages to them?

Agape, Brotherly Love, Erotic Love, Health, Infatuation, Love, Mature Love, Mental and Emotional Health, New Love, Parental Love, Philos, Romantic Love, Society

Love is Subversive of More than Just the Social Order

Love is subversive.  Recently, Sagarika Ghose wrote eloquently on her blog, Bloody Mary, that “…in our country [India] love has always been a socially revolutionary force destroying taboos of caste, class and religion.”  She is by no means the first to notice that peculiar fact about love.

When the notion of romantic love entered Western Culture around 1200 C.E., the Catholic Church adamantly opposed it on the grounds that love was subversive of the medieval social order.  And today, in India, reactionary groups like the Sri Ram Sena are just as set against love as was once the Catholic Church, and for pretty much the same reasons.

Those who think the established social order is usually more important than the needs of the individuals who make up society quite often support artificial limits on love.   They try to bind the hearts of men and women, legislating  such things as, “You can love someone of your own race, but not someone of another race”, or “You can love someone of another gender, but not someone of your own gender”, or “You can love someone of your own religion, but not someone of another religion.”  But such rules are not laws of the heart.

Yet, as many of us know, love is subversive of much more than the social order.   Our love for someone can, in the right circumstances, lead us to question the whole range of our core values and beliefs.  It can lead us to question who we are, and to even inquire into the very nature of the self.  If water can be called the universal solvent of the chemical world, love can be called the universal solvent of the psychological world.

It is love, perhaps more than anything else in this world, that offers us rebirth.  Human nature is such that, without periodic rebirth, we stagnate and psychologically die: As Dylan sang, “He’s not busy being born is busy dying”.  Those who fear too much the subversive powers of love, often wind up stagnating.

(This post is a reprint and slight elaboration on a post from two years ago.)

Agape, Altruism, Attachment, Authenticity, Beauty, Belief, Brotherly Love, Compassion, Consciousness, Delusion, Enlightenment, Erotic Love, Freedom, Giving, Happiness, Health, Honesty, Horniness, Infatuation, Intellectual Honesty, Introspection, Kindness, Liars Lies and Lying, Love, Lust, Mature Love, Meditation, Mysticism, New Love, Obligations to Society, Observation, Parental Love, Philos, Pleasure, Quality of Life, Relationships, Religion, Romantic Love, Self, Self-Integration, Sexuality, Sexualization, Society, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Ugliness, Values, Wisdom

Jiddu Krishnamurti “On Love”

Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote about love with passionate urgency, with love and grace, and with unflinching integrity and insight.

Even merely reading his words, even now when his words are only frozen in books, you might still feel you are being swept into a current much stronger than you.

A current that possesses the power — if only you could allow it — to thrust you up upon some foreign shore, intensely alive with love, a complete stranger to your petty self.

Perhaps someone else has matched Krishnamurti by now, but I do not know who that would be.

Jiddu Krishnamurti “On Love”.

Abuse, Agape, Brotherly Love, God(s), Love, Philos, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Quality of Life, Relationships, Sexual Abuse, Sexuality, Sexualization

“Find Your Way Home”: Surviving Prostitution

fywh-coverThere is no country on earth in which women are not prostituted, and in many — perhaps most — countries, prostitutes are severely stigmatized. Stereotypically, these women are frequently seen as trash.  Yet, bigotry is only the first — and in some ways the least — of the problems faced by prostitutes.

Worldwide, the leading causes of women and girls entering into prostitution are most likely poverty and lack of economic opportunities compounded by a lack of education.  And those factors also seem to play a role in why American women enter into prostitution:

Results of a recent study of women in Toledo involved in prostitution revealed that 81% hadn’t earned a high school diploma. Forty-eight percent, nearly half the women interviewed, had no previous work history. All of the women were eligible for welfare benefits and all came from families where their parents lived in poverty or fluctuated from poverty to working class throughout their childhood. None of the women were currently married, nor did any of the women who were parents consistently collect child support for the children they were attempting to raise. Therefore, street prostitution is largely representative of the poor, single, and less educated. With very few skills, a limited education, and minimal, if any, work experience, these women saw prostitution as a way to succeed in otherwise blocked entrances to conventional opportunities.

Yet,  poverty, lack of opportunities, and lack of education are not the entire American story.

Numerous studies have found that over half of the women and girls working as prostitutes in America have a history of childhood physical and sexual abuse. In one study, for instance, 57% percent of the prostitutes interviewed reported childhood sexual abuse, by an average of three perpetrators.  Thus, it seems plausible there might be a causal link between abusing a child and her later becoming a prostitute.

Other factors — such as substance abuse — also seem to play a part in why women and girls enter into prostitution in America:

Some prostitutes’ explanation for becoming involved in prostitution include “having a history of sexual abuse, having grown up without love from the significant adults in their lives, being enticed by a male of female friend or by peer pressure from a group of friends, and needing money. Those who used drugs prior to their involvement in prostitution activities mention their addiction as a major reason for trading sex for money or drugs.”

So it would seem the typical American prostitute comes from a fairly hellish background.  That might go far to explain why one study found that some prostitutes — specifically, those who work in bordellos or as outcall girls — actually gain self-esteem after entering into prostitution.  If you are coming from hell, a bordello might seem a good place to be.  However, no studies suggest working on the street is a good place to be.

Precise statistics on how many women in America walk the streets cannot be found.  The National Task Force on Prostitution suggests that over one million women have worked as prostitutes.  But that figure — which is merely an estimate — includes both women who walk the streets and women who work other venues, such as massage parlors or bordellos.

To complicate matters, the percent of prostitutes who walk the streets varies from city to city.  Where the police and courts have suppressed bordellos, massage parlors, outcall services, and other venues, the ratio of street walkers to all prostitutes can be as high as one in two.

In at least one study, 88% of street walkers wanted to leave prostitution — and with good reason:

Prostituted women have long been considered “fair game” for sexual harassment, rape, gang-rape, “kinky” sex, robbery, and beatings….A 1991 study by the Council for Prostitution Alternatives, in Portland, Oregon, documented that 78 percent of 55 prostituted women reported being raped an average of 16 times annually by their pimps and 33 times a year by johns. Twelve rape complaints were made in the criminal justice system and neither pimps nor johns were ever convicted. These prostitutes also reported being “horribly beaten” by their pimps an average of 58 times a year. The frequency of beatings…by johns ranged from I to 400 times a year. Legal action was pursued in 13 cases, resulting in 2 convictions for “aggravated assault.”

Even if some folks find that working in a bordello or as an outcall girl increases their self-esteem, that surely cannot be true of most people who walk the streets.  For one thing, walking the streets correlates very highly with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and women who walk the streets may display the same symptoms displayed by some returning combat veterans.

All of the above, if taken together, might lead one to believe life is somewhat hard on prostitutes, especially street walkers.  Some years ago, after first coming to Colorado, I was befriended by a young woman, Jennifer, whose life struck me as rather hard-knock.  The first time Jennifer was raped, she was six years old.  At eight, she was placed in a foster home where three men — including her foster-dad — repeatedly raped and beat her over the course of a year.  At 11, she witnessed her older brother shot in the head by accident.  And, as she once put it to me without any sense of irony in her voice, “after that, things got tough.”

Jennifer, when I met her, had two young children, few job skills, and was divorced.  I hired her for a low paying job — which was the only job I had available to offer her — but she quickly proved unable to cope with the duties and quit.  Nevertheless, we stayed in touch for a while, and I learned quite a bit about her.  The more I learned, the more I came to admire her.  She was a survivor.  She’d been through just about everything from drug dependency to a violently abusive boyfriend and, yet, she was a pretty upbeat person. She did not consider herself bad off because she knew people who had it worse.  As she said to me one time, “I’ve been lucky because I’ve never had to whore.”

I didn’t figure out how to really help Jennifer, or figure out how to help anyone who, like her, has had an especially hard-knock life.  Fortunately, there are people who do know how to help. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by one of them. Carolyn emailed me about a book written by a group of former street walkers who now live together in a communal home they call “Magdalene”.  It seems Magdalene is both a community and a two-year residential recovery program located in Nashville.  Women are brought in off the streets and over the course of a couple years given the support, love, and skills they need to escape from prostitution.

Magdalene is supported both by private contributions and through the work of Thistle Farms, which is a non-profit bath and body-care business run by the women themselves.  They just began a blog that you can check out here.

The book Carolyn wanted to interest me in is called, Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart.  It’s a short book of about 120 pages, and the prose and layout make it easy to read.  It is also the kind of book I hardly ever read.  That is, a book intended to inspire.  So, I really don’t know much to compare it with.

Almost the only other inspirational book I’ve read is a work by James Dobson — and Find Your Way Home is far superior to Dobson’s book.  Dobson’s book was intended to push a political and social agenda under the guise of advising and inspiring people.  Find Your Way Home, on the other hand, is not intended to hoodwink its audience or make fools of them.  Nor is it censorious and condemning like Dobson’s book.  Instead, it is very much accepting and non-judgmental.  And, last, it does not seek to motivate the reader through fear, like Dobson’s book.  Instead, this book asks for your empathy and compassion.  For those and other reasons, Find Your Way Home strikes me as a remarkably better book than the only other inspirational book I can recall reading.

Having said that, I found the book fascinating for the insights it provided into the Magdalene community.  Judging from the book, the community seems founded on two pillars very important to it: God and love.

The god, in this case, does not seem to be the petty — and perhaps dead — god of fundamentalism, but a somewhat greater god, one given to a radical acceptance and love for her creatures. And the women of Magdalene seem to practice what their god preaches:

I have not been a perfect person in Magdalene.  After a relapse I was welcomed back into the Magdalene circle.  I was not as forgiving to myself as others were to me.  People accepted me without judgment and it overwhelmed me.  It was the first time in my life I felt unconditional love.  All that is expected of me is to do what is right for me.  Sisterhood is welcoming no matter what (p.93).

The book is full of similar testaments to the love the women have for each other. It might seem the community is well named, then, after Mary Magdalene who is the woman once identified by the Catholic Church as a prostitute, and by a Gnostic gospel as the favorite and most beloved disciple of Jesus.

All in all, I think Find Your Way Home will deeply interest and inspire anyone wishing to help someone who’s had an exceptionally hard-knock life.  I’m personally glad I read it.