Jamie Whyte on discussing sensitive topics

From a book I just finished reading called Crimes Against Logic by Jamie Whyte:

Those who take religion, politics, and sex seriously do not adhere to the general prohibition on discussing these topics. And they don’t take offense when they are shown to be wrong.

If you start to feel during a discussion that you are not so much incorrect as insensitive, then you are probably dealing with a respectable bigot.

Only a thug would expose them.

And then he ends the book with the following:

Perhaps it is better to get on with your family and friends, to avoid embarrassment, or to comfort yourself with fantasies than to believe the truth. But those who approach matters in this way should give up any prentensions to intellectual seriousness. They are not genuinely interested in reality.

Separating intellectual from moral seriousness is harder than those who are intellectually frivolous may care to admit.

Interesting thoughts. No need to comment further, I think.

Being polyamorously single

It is not a position I would have anticipated being in at this point.  Boy meets girl, girl meets boy’s girlfriend, girlfriend and girl get along and become friends.  Boy dates girl, boy falls in love with girl, girlfriend breaks up with boy, boy stays with girl.  Girl gets job in Atlanta, plans on moving there, and boy decides to go with her to start a new life.  Change in location causes anxiety, frustration, fear, and girl very suddenly breaks up with boy, moves out, and cuts off contact with boy.  Boy is alone, sad, and in a new place where he knows few.  Boy is still polyamorous, but he hurts too much now to love.  Boy is polyamorously single.

Becoming single while polyamorous

It can be difficult, being single.  Several years back I decided I was going to be single.  I had ended an awful relationship with a girl named Lauren whom had ruined me financially and decided I needed time to heal.  For more than a year I did not date at all, and eventually discovered that I was capable of being alone and happy.  The happy part took a while, but it came.

Eventually I met a girl, Amanda, and began dating again.  She was moving to Denver, and we had little time together.  It was intense, and I decided to spend the summer with her in Colorado.  That lasted a week.  Perhaps it should have been then that I should have taken the lesson that moving to a new city, even if only temporarily, to be with a person that you have not known very long but care about deeply is not a good idea.  Perhaps it is a good idea in some cases, but I’m now zero-for-two.

But all of that was before I was actively polyamorous.  When the girl I was living with broke up with me last year I had another wonderful girl to hold me at night and console my great pain.  It softened it, but it still hurt.  But not this time.  This rime she was my sole love, and when she left….

For now, the project is to move on.  I know that the pain, regrets, and sleepless nights will eventually pass.  I know that I will love again, eventually.  But in the midst of such circumstances, it is hard to keep these pieces of knowledge present in thought.

But, then the obvious question; how to be polyamorous? I mean, when a single person who is ready to date and wants to be polyamorous, how do you start?  When I am ready to move on, where will I begin? As a single heterosexual poly, I will address this question from my point of view.  My experience as a gay or bisexual poly is severely limited as is my experience as a female of any kind being polyamorous.  Thus you may have to fill in some gaps for circumstances other than my own.

The Single’s scene

Meeting single women and telling them you are polyamorous, even if it is after the second or third date, may not be the wisest course of action.  Telling them after you’ve been dating for a while is probably much worse. Telling them up front does not always mean that even if they don’t run away screaming things will be alright in the long run.

Most people don’t know what polyamory is, and when they hear the word, they are more likely to hear “polygamy” or something like that. The concept does not fit with most people, quite simply.

There is, in the single and dating world, a sort of acceptance that you are going to not be strictly monogamous.  But this is not polyamory; it is a sort of game where the way to win is to find that one person with whom you decide to settle with.  Monogamy is the goal, even if it is a long-term goal.  In the mean time people are just having fun and not committing.

So when someone like myself comes along and is not looking for monogamy in the long run, it probably looks like a person with commitment issues.  And when I am with someone with whom I want to commit to a more long-term plan, I usually want a time where I focus on her alone in many cases.  Then once we are settled, established, and secure then I can explore other options.  It is sort of a reversal from the monogamous single’s scene.  And, of course, different polyamorous people go about this in different ways than I do.

As a single guy I can go out and enjoy the promiscuity of single culture as well as anyone.  But this is not very appealing to me because it is largely shallow or superficial.  I may meet someone with whom I will share commonalities, but to sift through it all is time and money consuming.  There must be another option.

Poly Communities

And there are places to meet other polyamorous people.  Polymatchmaker is one, for example.  There are local meetup groups, email discussion groups, etc.  I have been a part of a community in Philadelphia and met some people in the past.  Now that I have been in Atlanta I have met a few people, but I have not known them very long or very well.

So, how do you approach polyamorous people when you are interested in dating them? Well, first you should get to know them at least a little bit.  Meeting them might be helpful, too.  But once you have met someone who you are interested in, tell them what you are interested in. Tell them what you want.

From a monogamous point of view, flirting with or asking a woman (or man) on a date of some kind while their significant other is around would usually be a very quiet and secluded conversation done while you are hoping nobody can overhear.   It would be done in the hopes of something clandestine, and perhaps this is part of the excitement.

Flirting with someone with their partner near-by, perhaps even with their arm around them, is usually a game that monogamous people play at in jest or at most because deep down many people like the idea of the flirtation.  To me that speaks volumes about monogamous dating culture.

Polyamorous people are as different as people of any other group.   Some will want you to just come out and ask, others might prefer more subtlety.  Some will want you to be friends (and possibly lovers) with their partner, and some will never want you in the same room with them.  Some will want to be all over you that moment and others will prefer to take their time, get to know you, and eventually get to a physical relationship.  Sometimes that never happens and people have poly partners where sex (no matter how it is defined) is not a part of their relationship.

Getting what you want

As a single guy in polyamory, I have to first figure out what I want.  In fact, this is true whether you consider yourself polyamorous or not.   Upon figuring out what you want, pursue it directly while keeping in mind that it may not happen. 

One of the first things I learned while being polyamorous is learning how to say no and learning how to accept a no from someone else.  There is nothing wrong with telling the person you are attracted to that you would like to take them out, take them home, or have them on the table right there.  There is also nothing wrong with them saying no, and then possibly talking about something else or wishing them a good day and moving on.

More importantly, there is nothing wrong with what you want.  Depending on what that is, there may be something wrong with acting on it, but the desire itself is not the problem (although someone might be able to think of a few desires that may indicate something wrong with a person, such as wanting to rape or murder, but that’s not what I’m talking about).  Wanting to be single is fine, wanting to love and be loved is fine, wanting your friend’s girlfriend is fine.  In fact, wanting your friend and his girlfriend is fine.  What you do about it is where the thorniness begins.

Weighing the risks of transforming your wants to your pursuits can be dangerous ground.   Be careful to accept rejection of what you want.  The fear of rejection is strong in many, but without risk there is no gain.  In love, the risk of the vulnerability of opening oneself up can leave you hurting or broken, but the alternative is the hurting and brokenness of never having tried.   Find what you want, pursue it, and be prepared to be told no.

All in all, being single while you are polyamorous is not much different than being single and not being poly. It is about finding what you want. My advice is to not assume monogamy. In fact, perhaps you should not assume polyamory either. Pursue each desire on its own terms and be open with your partner(s) with what you want. You may get it, you may not, but your desire is only out of your reach based upon those whom you desire and your willingness to act on your desires.

Science; the horse to theology’s cart of progress

Progress.  The word implies a goal, teleology, or purpose.  Some, such as Alfred North Whitehead, preferred to think about process.  And while my views differ significantly from Whitehead, I agree that process might be the better term for the improvement, over time, of our understanding of the world around us.  Purpose implies a purposer, which is what theology is all about.  Science does not carry this assumption with it into the lab (nor does it discount its possibility).

There are a multiple processes we use in our lives, and they have led to increased and subtle understanding of ourselves and of the universe that surrounds us.  But not all processes are equal, playing different parts in our lives.

Our thinking is complex, largely hidden from our conscious awareness, and often incoherent.  It is often attracted to processes which have lesser pragmatic efficacy, but which nonetheless have psychological gravitation.

The scientific method is a late addition to our intellectual toolbox.  It starts with observation, but it’s life-blood is experimentation.  It seeks to eliminate bias–to lesser and greater degrees depending upon how an experiment is structured–and thus to attempt objectivity.  I prefer the term ‘intersubjectivity,’ at the risk of encroaching on some possibly semantic hair-splitting.

Theology is the study of god(s).  More generally, it is the study of the divine, the supernatural, etc.  It is an attempt to apply logical and rational thinking to the propositions of revelational thinking which is largely primitive and based open pattern-recognition gone-awry.  It, strictly, is not science.

Now, this is not to say that theology is completely separate from science.  It is not not even a different epistemological realm of science, despite what Stephen Jay Gould thought (I am not a fan of NOMA).  We live in the same universe, under the same laws, whether we are doing theology or science.   And some theologians use science in addition to their logical approach to religious or spiritual insights.

The question is which one is pulling the other along or whether they take turns doing the work.

Well, that may depend on your point of view.  If you are working with the Templeton Foundation, for example, you may see some give and take going both ways.  Such people tend to see that science and religion influence one-another, and an attempt to not only bridge these processes but to find ways that they intersect is a good thing.

In a larger cultural sense this is true, but perhaps only to the limited extent that they both exist simultaneously and people carry both of them in the same minds and thus they communicate.  There is certainly a sense where the ideas of religion influence how scientists think as well as the discoveries of science influencing theology (unless, of course, you are these guys).  And as time marches on, the cultural influence will continue, most undoubtedly.

But there is a difference between science and religion in another sense; one that transcends mere cohabitation.  While the language, stories, and flavor of religion has helped carve much of our culture, and thus those that live in it, our pragmatic understanding has been dominantly influenced by science rather than theology.  There is a difference between the methodologies of science and religion which results in a dramatic personality difference between them.  Neither one is misidentified as the other, except in very superficial ways.

Charlatans and shysters from various theological backgrounds have been trying to sell snake oil, utopias, and personal redemption of various kinds to people for ages.  From new age self-help, evolving messages of redemption from Christian evangelicals, and religions created by science fiction writers, there are multiple ways that theology has tried to advertise itself as a product that will help you either in this world or the next.  But it is rather interesting that with the advent of the scientific method theology has been hanging off the coattails of science, feeding off the droppings left behind in almost unnoticeably slow changes to their beliefs and attitudes.

With new age philosophies and religions loving every moment of quantum mechanics (all while getting it wrong), Christianity getting slowly more and more progressive, and with the invention of religions that even try to call themselves something that sounds scientific, it is clear that the primitive human mind is trying to adapt the “metaphysical need” (as Nietszsche called it) to the realities of scientific processes.

Just imagine what a progressive theologian of several centuries ago would say to Rick Warren now.  Imagine what a pre-Christian pagan would say to Deepak Chopra.  Imagine how Scientology would be greeted by L. Ron Hubbard ten years before he thought of the idea.  The progress of theology has made much of it more modern, tolerant, and informed (even if it only sounds this way), but this was not because of their own efforts.

All good intelligent and open-minded people of today taking the progress of the times into their lives and incorporating them into their modern theologies is quantifiable improvement on society and their religion.  The problem is that it is the wrong kind of improvement because it overlooks a more robust update to the theological software (theology 2.0 anyone?) of many religious traditions.

It has been said that Christianity (for example) has been dragged, kicking and screaming, into modernity by other cultural forces.  And with it came a new theology that was able to incorporate what science has brought to us via the blood and sweat of those that the once-great Catholic Church once considered heretical.  And now the Church accepts evolution, heliocentricism, and perhaps eventually female church leaders as other denominations of Christianity have.

But this is not progressive revelation, it is a reluctant acceptance of overwhelming facts, cultural pressure, and economic interest.  These are means to adjust theology to survive in the real world, based upon facts and theories from another method which theology does not fully understand or accept.  And even when it does understand this method, it does not employ it to the points of their theology because they believe that the two are different realms.  This is not theology growing up, it is theology listening to its better educated, more worldly, and successful little brother named science.

And while there are certainly exceptions, theology of most faiths has neither grown up to understand nor to use the methodologies that science employs.  Rather, it accepts the conclusions of those methodologies after they become overwhelmingly true–or at least overwhelmingly accepted among people that either are adherents or potential tithers.

Much of the world’s religious communities have learned to recognize the power of science, but has not quite recognized the methods that science uses as applicable to the theology they continue to adjust.  Theology does not discuss things that science cannot deal with because theology makes claims about the world, even if indirectly.  If the supernatural influences the real world, then the effects should be open to empirical study at very least.

The proclamations of theology are subject to the same scrutiny as stars, brains, or particles.  And while facts about the physical world don’t directly lead to ideas about morality, meaning, or beauty, they certainly can tell us a lot about how these things are increasingly becoming part of science’s domain.

The hard problem of consciousness, the question of what really caused the universe to exist (if such a question is meaningful), and the nature of the quantum world are still beyond our reach scientifically, but theology provides no methodology for answering these questions which is better than science.  Theology provides some answers, sure, but what reason do we have to accept them?

Science is tugging theologians along the path of history and theology is redefining itself based upon what is sees science doing.  Theology dons the apparel of the strange places that science ventures, but in a sense this garb is little more than a souvenir which will make it look stylish and trendy.  Those who follow in religion’s wake in these trends will think they are modern but they miss that they are only following fashion.  Theology wears scientific-colored robes in order to maintain its own goal which is more about maintaining itself rather than pulling the cart of culture along.

Thus, by re-writing theology in order to put science in a reverential but secondary place behind these divine speculationss, one is surely putting their cart before the horse.