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Loving Authentically January 22, 2013

Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
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We should love the people in our lives as we actually desire to do so. We should not unnaturally inflate or deflate our feelings for anyone. We, speakers of English, suffer from the poverty of words to express the varieties of love.  The Greeks knew better, having multiple words for the various kinds of love we feel for people, and perhaps there is a lesson here. Not all love is erotic. Not all love is adoring. Not all love is brotherly. Sometimes we will only feel brotherly (or sisterly) towards a person, while other times we may feel the hot coal of Eros burning within us to touch, savor, and embrace another (or many others) with pure passion. Sometimes we will feel a deep sense of attachment and affection for a person, such that we could not imagine being without them in our lives.  Sometimes you have a little (or a lot) of each.

Whether we are monoamorous, monogamish (a term I’m somewhat annoyed with, personally), “exclusive”  but cheating, or polyamorous we can experience a phenomenon of either inflating or deflating the nature of a relationship based upon social or personal expectations. This happens because how we actually feel for people around us may not fit the categories our culture has for relationships, at least mainstream culture.  In recent decades we have invented new categories, such as friends with benefits, asexuality, etc, but there is still room for better defining what kind of relationships we want from people.

Having been in a number of relationships (and most of the examples below has an analog in my experience), I have noticed that many people will artificially inflate or deflate the nature of that relationship in the name of having that relationship fit into the social context we are used to, or possibly to try and make the relationship look appropriate.  That is, the reality of a relationship may not always mach what it appears to be from the outside, often at the fault of those displaying their relationship.  This phenomenon, of falsely displaying our relationship one way or another, is inauthentic.

What I want to explore here are the implications of this phenomenon on a set of relationships, in order to start thinking about how and why we define our relationships the way that we do and how we might do better.

 

Inflating Relationships

Monoamory,* in some cases, will force us to inflate how we care for someone unnecessarily and unnaturally. Because people are insecure or afraid, we may have to overcompensate for moments when we may show interest in other activities, other people, and even other potential loves. If we err by having an affair, we try to soften the damage by saying things like “she/he means nothing to me” or “I only want to be with you, nobody else” which are obviously not true in many cases.  Except in rare cases, monoamory is based upon a lie, or if not a lie then an inauthentic approach to who we love.  We try to convince ourselves, and often we tell our partner, that we only want one person, and that we are happy only with them.  We create a mythology of happiness and fulfillment in exclusivity, when the actual behavior–cheating is rampant–says otherwise.

The result is that we try and inflate our partner to being all that we need, everything to us, and the object of all of our romantic and erotic desires. Now, there may in fact be cases where this is actually true, but I suspect that in most cases such claims are an exaggeration of the truth. We may, in fact, have a substantial amount of affection, respect, and attraction to our monoamorous partner, but there is always room to have similar affections, respect, and attraction to other people. To claim to not have such feelings for others is to either deceive or to be a very rare case, if not an unhealthy one.  There are times of course, when we do not lie about our other desires, but for various reasons agree to not pursue them.  This is not as inauthentic, but is perhaps absurd and an accommodation to our fears and insecurities.

When we are single, taking steps into the wilds of polyamory outside of our existing relationship(s), or even when we are in the beginnings of what might become an illicit affair, we may end up either inflating or deflating how we feel for someone. There are times when the way we care for someone is mostly physical. We may actually like the person, rather than hate or be annoyed by them them, but here the primary connection is sexual, sensual, and erotic. For a number of reasons, we may feel that this base desire is insufficient, disrespectful, or possibly immoral in terms of continuing a purely physical, but not emotional or “spiritual” (whatever that means) relationship with them. In such times, we may feel compelled to communicate a feeling of love and try to make more out of the relationship than which actually exists.

This inflation may result in a relationship that walks and talks like a serious relationship, but it does not feel that way inside, perhaps for either of you. You may call the other person your partner, you may be exclusive with them, but the relationship lacks an emotional, intellectual, etc depth that one of both of you may crave. Now, there is no necessary reason to discontinue the physical relationship because of this, because all you need to do is find someone with whom you share the other things you desire in a relationship. So long as the sexual connection lives and is reciprocated, then there is no reason to stop it, but there is also no reason you should pretend the relationship is more than what it is. There is nothing wrong with having acquaintances, friends, or even people with who you have no emotional connection to as a lover, so long as the arrangement benefits both people.

When we are polyamorous, something similar may happen. We may have an ideal that all of our partners should be of similar seriousness, that we should try and develop an emotional depth with all of our lovers or else a relationship will be inferior or unworthy. We may feel, in short, like promoting sex partners to the rank of full romantic partners, when what the two people want from each other is a good time now and then. We need to love the people we love as we actually desire to love them, even if that love is solely erotic in nature, or solely romantic in nature for that matter.

In short, no matter how many relationships we have some or all of them may be presented to the world as more than they feel like inside.  We may do so for all sorts of reasons having to do with the society in which we live, but all of those reasons are inauthentic.  We need to be honest with ourselves, our partners, and the world around us (insofar as it is their business) about what our relationships are, and not inflate them unnecessarily.

 

Deflating Relationships

Let’s say you’ve been committed, for some substantial amount of time, to a wonderful person with whom you share a deep affinity, share many enjoyable days and nights with, and with whom you share a healthy and active sexual relationship. You have decided to remain exclusive, whether overtly or by mere assumption or accident (based on cultural norms and such), and are happy with your partner.

Let’s say that through work, social circles, or merely by mere chance you happen to meet a person with whom you develop a healthy rapport, you become friends and find that not only do you respect and care for them, you are very attracted to them (or perhaps you are only attracted to them sexually.  If so, the following is equally true). This relationship is a threat to that exclusivity, and in many cases an affair will happen in such cases, often damaging or destroying the primary relationship.  But an affair and damage are not the only options.

In some such cases something different happens. Whether you and your new friend admit an existing attraction or not, it exists but it is suppressed, pushed away, and ignored. You decide to remain platonic friends (or to avoid one-another), despite the reciprocated desire for more. You deflate the appearance of the relationship from what it feels like, inside. You are pretending not to love them in a way that you very much want to love them, so you try and redirect that erotic love into brotherly or sisterly love or to a lack of any relationship at all.

Why do we do such things? The feelings already exist, why do we lie to ourselves about them? Is that love, which already exists, going to do more damage if actually acted on? Yes, you should be honest about your feelings, not only to your new friend but to your partner with whom you have had, perhaps up until then, an agreement to exclusivity. It is such circumstances which support my belief that the vast majority of humans have the inclinations towards polyamory within us already, we just need to be honest about them.  Thus, another option here is to explore non-monoamorous solutions, whether swinging, polyamory, or mere monogamishness.  One does not merely have the choice of either suppressing the desire or cheating, in such circumstances.

Of course, this does not happen only to people involved in a relationship. Single people deflate as well. Some people may have insecurities, fears, or etc which affect their ability to pursue their desires. We may have strong feelings for a person, but not communicate them out of fear of rejection. We may do so because they are not seen as good enough or socially appropriate for us, especially in view of peers or family. They may be single and interested in somebody who is already polyamorous, and be unsure about their ability to handle the emotional consequences of pursuing someone they have to share.

Non-monoamorous people can do something similar as well, especially when they are relatively new to polyamory, or who are involved in the swinging community. Poly people who pursue others may deflate how they feel for a partner in order to protect the feelings of others they are with; to defend jealousies. Jealousies need to be addressed, not merely accommodated to or coddled. We should not pretend that our new love is merely a mild interest, or that our mild interest is merely a friend. Be direct about what what people mean to you, and encourage them to do the same for you.

Swingers, in some cases, ignore or avoid romantic feelings for sexual partners because most swingers become so because they are seeking, primarily, new sex partners and not romantic partners. They may realize that an emotional connection might be destructive to their primary relationship. There are some people inthe swinger community who, if they start to have feelings for their sex partners, stop hanging out with those people. They may decide to suppress those feelings, much like the hypothetical you did above with your new friend, except in this case it is the romantic love which is suppressed, rather than the erotic.

In short (again), no matter how many relationships we have some or all of them may be presented to the world as more than they feel like inside.  We may do so for all sorts of reasons having to do with the society in which we live, but all of those reasons are inauthentic.  We need to be honest with ourselves, our partners, and the world around us (insofar as it is their business) about what our relationships are, and not inflate them unnecessarily.

Concluding thoughts

I encourage all of us, especially myself (as I struggle with this phenomenon as well), to have the courage to admit how we really feel, or to allow ourselves to find how we really feel about the people around us. We may be suppressing feelings without being aware of it, leading us to miss out on a relationship or to remain in one we may not wish to continue.

If the way you feel about a person is erotic, let that attraction be known. If you feel an abiding reverence, deep affection, or romantic impulse for someone, then express that as well. If you see someone as like a brother or sister to you, and while you may not be attracted to them you want them as part of your life, your family, etc, then let that relationship grow as well. And if you feel all of these things, whether in abundance or not, let that relationships—let those relationships—be what they are, informed by your desire and authentically pursued..

Love each person according to your reciprocated desires, and do not artificially inflate or deflate that love out of respect for any cultural, religious, or psychological expectation. In short, love authentically.

 

—-

*I use the term ‘momoamory’ and the correlating ‘non-monoamorous’ in the interest of being aware that not all relationships are marriages.  Monogamy is an exclusive marriage, technically, and while it is applied to cover all exclusive relationships between two people, I prefer to be more precise and inclusive with my terminology.

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How much I love polyamory February 27, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
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Anyone who has seen me recently will attest that I am pretty happy with my life right now.  For a while, things were going pretty badly for me, but in the last year or two, things really turned out pretty well.  I can safely say that I would not use a time machine to avoid any of the bad times, just in case it were to prevent the good that I have found.

And a lot of this has to do with polyamory.  You see, being polyamorous has allowed me to maintain two very important and rewarding relationships in my life.  And for readers of this blog, you may have figured out that I am now willing to share them with readers here, at least insofar as their writing can provide a slice of their awesome-pie.

I am excited by the prospect of having more voices here at polyskeptic.com, whose perspectives differ from mine in some ways even if we agree on most things when it comes to polyamory and skepticism.  And I hope that you, whether you follow this blog, stop in now and then, or found us accidentally, will enjoy the perspectives and points of views that we all offer.

There is a lot that our culture does not understand about polyamory, but I think seeing it in action helps make it easier to comprehend.  I could blather on for pages (and I often do!) about why I think polyamory is a wonderful option for people, how it is in some ways more honest and authentic a lifestyle in comparison to monogamy, or how skepticism and polyamory should overlap more (there is a larger project I am working on, which I hope to publish soon-ish, which will address that very issue).

The people that post here, as of now, are my family.  They are my fiance (we will be married in less than 3 months!), my girlfriend, and possibly more to come.  I hope that aspects of our personal lives do seep through this blog in such a way that shows that we are pretty normal, in a lot of ways.

I mean, we are freaks in that we reject gods, monogamy, and some other social niceties, but in addition to that we function, day-to-day, like most people do.  We have dinner, drinks, watch movies or TV together, and sometimes we do awesome things like produce burlesque shows and so forth. OK, so that last one is not so normal.

Fine, our relationship structures are more complicated, but all that is about is more people sleeping with other people than any group of people who are friends and spend time with one-another.  Think of us like a group of people, like in a sitcom, who are more intertwined sexually and romantically than you are used to seeing in a sitcom.  There is funny shit, sometimes drama, and there are important moral lessons embedded in plot arcs which slowly erode the traditional concepts of love, sexual morality, and family.

In fact, we should write that sitcom.  (Ginny and Gina, are you taking notes? I want daily reports on the status of this project!).

In other words, the Religious Right hates us, the Left tends to marginalize us (because they don’t want the Right to think we are associated with them), and most of the center do not even know we exist.  Well, all parts of the spectrum share this ignorance, I suppose.  I hope to help change that.

So, in conclusion, I am very happy with my life right now.  I hope that happiness translates into an awesome blogging experience for years to come.  I hope you continue to read, and I hope that your feedback can help us better communicate our worldview to a larger world which is largely unaware of what polyamory (or skepticism, for that matter) is all about.

 

Scientism, put more succinctly… December 31, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in Skepticism and atheism.
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So, you say we can’t use science or rational thinking to appreciate music, love, poetry, etc?

So, when you look at, hear, feel, small,  taste, or apprehend those things, you are not using your empirically-based sensory apparati to perceive something real, and then to subsequently use your physical brain to process the information into a meaningful image with related concepts? Is not that beauty, and the appreciation of it, the result of that physical process?  Is that appreciation itself not another physical process in your brain, perceives subjectively?

Is the experience of appreciation of beauty nothing but what it is like to be that process, born of experience with a real world perceived empirically?

And what is science but the use of empirical tools to gather information then to use rational methods to organize that  data into meaningful ideas, which may include images, concepts, etc?  And when we can predict the behavior of reality based upon the principles learned from this, we have knowledge and understanding.

What is scientism, then, but accepting that the world, all of it, can be understood in terms of empirical methodologies and rational analysis?

When it rains it pours July 24, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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I am just in a great mood! I had such a wonderful weekend, and I want to share it with the world.

Being polyamorous with someone as wonderful as my dear Ginny is amazing in itself.  I feel very lucky to have someone who fits me so well, who is so beautiful inside and out, and who I can expect to spend a fun, nurturing, and challenging (in the good way) life.  But recently we met a couple who just got married, and since they are also polyamorous (and they are not exactly a couple; there is a third in there), we started to spend some time with them over the last couple of months or so.  And just this last few days it blossomed into a great situation where I find myself beginning what I hope will be another intimate and meaningful relationship.  Of course there is no way to know at this point whether it will be successful or not, but my instincts are good.  I am able to be objective enough to know that intense emotions can cloud judgment and foresight, but I have every reason to believe that all the ingredients are quality, the chemistry is right, and our desire to create something awesome is mutual.

In other words, I met someone I really like, and am feeling really positive about it.  (I have not asked her if I can use her name here, so for now she will remain nameless).  In fact, not only has my fortune been good, my fortune hit the jackpot and doubled.  In addition to the one nameless (girlfriend? Hmm, I guess we have not discussed titles yet) woman I just left less than an hour ago, I have also started to see another woman who I clicked with very easily.  Just yesterday (Saturday) I had a fantastic first date with someone I had met a couple of years ago (before my brief stint in Atlanta), but she recently discovered me on OKCupid (where all the awesome poly peeps are, apparently) and we went out and have a fantastic time.  That on top of seeing my new lady friend both Friday and tonight…I’m a little worn out, I have to say….

And on top of that, Ginny is having a great time with her new boy toy…ok, I don’t know what to call him either.  I suppose all that will work itself out in time.  We are just happy and evolving little poly family here, and I am loving every minute of it.

For those of you who think that this polyamory thing cannot work, that it is destructive and can only lead to hurting people, all I have to say is bullshit! I am happy to see Ginny happy and enjoying herself with another person, and she is happy to see me happy and enjoying myself with another person.  (This phenomenon is what is referred to as compersion, or sometimes as frubble.  Google is your friend).  We love each other, are affectionate and open with each other, and we have other people we care about and have sex with.  And, while ultimately I just want people to find what makes them happy, fulfills their desires, etc I think that many monogamous people who say that they could not do this are really missing out on something awesome.  But, again, I’m riding high on emotion and am, perhaps, not seeing it all clearly at the moment; I just know that right now I am feeling the poly high.

So, now that I am on the verge of finding a way to build three relationships (of varying significance and intensity), I find that I’m looking forward to it.  What more could a person want than more love, friendships, and hot, hot sex with sexy people?

Life is good.

 

Of anniversary and double entrendre January 16, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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It may be arbitrary to some degree, but a year is a year (is a year? How much repetition distinguishes an idiom from redundancy?), and it has been a year.

And digressing thoughts aside (as well as regressive digressions about digressions), perhaps this post could use some context. After all, I do not think it that it is common for people to celebrate arbitrary dates and celebrate (or mourn) random days. Not that I have never been known to do uncommon things, mind you, but not even I am that abnormal…I think.

So, back on October of 2009, I moved to Atlanta with a girl names Seana. We met in Philadelphia, began dating, and when she was offered a job in Atlanta she took it and asked me to join her. I, not having a job at the time and wanting to experience life in another part of the country (and eventually the world), decided to take the risk and go. Risk being the word which has emotional import to this blogger.

So, a few months later things were not going so well, we had a minor argument, and she left. She did not give me an explanation, she refused to speak to me again, and was just gone from my life. That was January 16th 2010, one year ago today.  Happy anniversary to me!  But one does not usually commemorate dates of break-ups, at least if one is to be considered emotionally healthy, and likewise that is not the intention here.

While the circumstances of this painful break-up were non-typical in themselves, what happened next was what more appropriately makes this an anniversary…perhaps…that’s an issue for debate.

That very same day, being emotionally distraught and in need of distraction, I called two friends I had made while in Atlanta. I met them at The Brick Store (if you ever visit Atlanta and you love beer, you must visit this place!) and had a few drinks, distracted myself, and had a few laughs.  One of those friends was a girl I had met a week before, Ginny, and in my anguish and confusion I found myself attracted to her, and things went their natural way as they do with people in such circumstances.  Thus, another kind of anniversary, on the same day.

But that is not quite right.  Despite this start, it took time to heal, and in that time Ginny was the best of friends, most trusted confidant, and eventually we began to see ourselves as partners (polyamorous partners, of course), and I fell in love with her.  But the ability to trust, to love, and to move on after such a wound takes time.  She was patient, and in time I, even with the scars that still exist, have found that I have been able to trust, to love, and to look forward to a better future.

But the question still remains as to when, precisely, our relationship started.  The question Ginny and I have asked ourselves is ‘so, when is our anniversary?’  It’s a legitimate question, one which we  do not have a definitive answer to.  Ultimately, it is of little practical difference, as it does not change how we feel about each other, but it becomes a matter of deciding how long we have been together as partners.

In any case, we are, and I hope will continue to be, partners.  She is a wonderful person, ideal in my opinion, and I am glad beyond my ability to articulate to know her.  In fact, I think I have found myself in a better place now than I was before.  I mean no disrespect to any particular exes, but I think I have upgraded in every way, and there is a lesson in this.  I think the lesson is that sometimes when we are in pain, we don’t see that things can indeed get better.  I urge anyone in pain, suffering a loss of any kind, to keep this in mind.  You may find that you will learn things about yourself in times of loss that while unfortunate, may give you perspective.  I can almost thank Seana for giving me that perspective…but she’d never hear it nor would she likely understand.

And while I would like to have some explanation, some understanding, and possibly some closure (that will not happen, almost certainly), I am almost….glad (that seems odd to say, but it feels true) that previous relationship did not work.  I realize, only in retrospect, that while I did love her, she was not the right fit for me because the truth that is necessary in any relationship was not present in treating a loved one in such a way.  It was not warranted, and if it had not happened then, and in that way, it would have happened some other way, at some later time, most-likely

That’s the thing about trust.  I thought I could trust Seana, but it turned out I should not have.  But I won’t stop trusting.  it took me some time, but I came to trust Ginny.  And there is no guarantee that this trust will maintained in the end, but I will not resign to the cynicism of keeping people at a distance out of fear that they may break any trust I give them.  I will not allow the actions of a fearful and ultimately selfish person to ruin my future with other people I care about.  I hope, for the sake of her current and/or future partners, that she will grow beyond who she was to me.

But, I take one thing back;  it is not a double entendre at all.   No double anniversary here.  I do not need to remember such a day, such an act, or such a person as Seana with any further thought (which is not to say the scars will disappear, of course) or comment (that I can control).  I therefore, commit such things to the past, where they belong.

Ginny does not always wear a bag on her head...

But, more importantly, I hope that the people in my life will end up being more like Ginnys than Seanas.  I thank Ginny for being the amazing person she is, and I wish her a happy anniversary (of sorts).

And, as we plan on moving to Philadelphia, I hope that those I know there will grow to love her as I do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being ‘just friends’ with lovers June 14, 2010

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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I am still in love with a woman I went to college with.  Erin. I have not seen her in around 5 years, maybe 6.  We dated for 2 years in college, and it was with her, and another, that I discovered polyamory.  After some time of being apart from her and my feelings not dissipating, I knew I could never just be friends.  I loved her a way that made just being platonic impossible without great tension and frustration.  It’s easier that I’m not around her, because being in her presence was intoxicating.

I had to be her lover because that’s how I love her.

Some other exes since then I am friends with.  I still love them, but it is different.  I still am attracted to them, I would like to be with them sexually if it were desirable for both of us and it would not deleteriously affect other people, but I am capable of being friends with them, being aound them, without it being unbearable. The way I love them survived not being their lover, even if I would prefer it.  Although with at least one more, Jacque, that preference is close to overwhelming when I’m around her.  I suppose there is a continuum here.

But there are just some people that, for reasons of body chemistry, pheromones, or whatever that make it simply impossible to just be friends with them.  Being around such people is intoxicating and frustrating if you are not currently their lover.  I’ve only experienced this a few times in my life, and one of those times is now.

Just recently I wrote about New Relationship Energy.  This girl…she has an affect on me that is just out of this world.  I didn’t think it would be possible to have so much sexual tension, so raw and powerful.  I have never wanted anyone the way I want her when I’m around her.  To not be her lover is unbearable.  It is just too much.  The way I lust for her is akin to great art; to not be her lover is akin to Beethoven not composing music, a great chef not loving food, or a fat kid not to love cake (anyone else just love that lyric, or do you not get the reference?).  The attraction is simply unbelievable.

And we have never had sex.  We both want it, but for her a relationship is necessary for that to happen.  It’s much more conservative of a position than I am used to, but I just can’t help the way I feel.  When you love someone you just love them, balls to bones.

Now, it’s true that when I first met her the attraction was overwhelming and obvious to everyone–and two-way.  At first it was purely physical.  But as I got to know her, I saw more layers.  She’s intelligent, curious, dedicated, and just lovely in so many ways.  She’s also frustrating in many others, but I love how she makes me feel.  I have recently started to fall in love with her.  I have never told her this (she does not really read this blog, I don’t think, buit if she does then the cat is out….).

I asked her, just recently, to be my girlfriend.  Ginny is all for it, as she likes her too.  At first, it looked like it was inevitable, and a few days went by with the question hanging in the air.  The tension was building, I just couldn’t take it.  She needed time, I needed her, and she needed to think about it.  It is the polyamory, mostly, that is holding her back, although she and Ginny get along very well.

But then two days ago she said the answer was no.  Why? She was not convinced that I cared about her more than physically, and she was scared that if she allowed the relationship to form I would just lose interest.  I only feel this way because I want her so badly (I do), and that once I have it I’ll lose interest.  There is more to it than that, but it is complicated, and the details are not the point.

The point is that I have been telling her that I want more than just the sex, and that if she didn’t want to be in a relationship with me, I would still want to be close with her, to be friends. I really care about her.  But the point is not that I’d be willing to just be friends, it’s whether that is possible.  I could not just be friends with someone I feel this way about, could I?  Does it not betray how I genuinely feel?  I want to be her lover because that’s how I love her.

Yes, I’m willing to just be friends, but the fact is that it would be torture.  The passion I have for her is overwhelming, and this comes across as a bad thing because as a man I am obviously just after the sex, right?  A man who can’t just be your friend does not really care, right? No, I don’t think that’s always true.  Sometimes the attraction is just too intense.  To repress it, ignore it, or otherwise pretend it does not exist is inauthentic, in bad faith, and simply a lie.

I love this girl.  My sexual passion for her is not a sign that I don’t care about her or that I only care about one thing; it is part of how I love her.  I hope she will see that, eventually, because being around her is both intoxicating and frustrating.  I want so much just to love her as she is comfortable to be loved, but when the attraction is this powerful, it is difficult.

Sexual chemistry like this only comes along rarely.  I want to savor every drop and continue to get to know her, to love her, in many ways.  Love is a multi-layered cake, and the icing on top is hot, passionate, intense sex.

I don’t know what I’ll do if she wants to just be friends.  This chemistry is two-way, and while I admire her control over her desires, I wonder if she misses the beauty of this attraction we have.  Sex, after all, is beautiful.

So, here’s to being sex-positive, and to finding great lovers.

Here’s to a lovely girl requiting my love for her in all the ways that lovers love.

The relativity of gravity and love of god. July 13, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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i_love_relativity_button

In the last couple of days I’ve noticed an old pattern come up a little more often than usual.  But then again I put myself in the position to notice it more often.  The old pattern is of mis-attributing the effects of belief to the veracity of said belief.  In other words, people attributing the effects of their beliefs to the object of that belief.  This is a logical fallacy.

Take, for example, this comment that was written to me just today through facebook:

Gravity is known through its power on objects. The Love of god is also known through its power on the individual. It is the same evidence.

Now, gravity is indeed known through its effects.  If I am holding a pen and then let go of it, it will fall to the ground (or floor…etc).  Now, it took some time for humanity to figure out why this is.  Newton, after years of work concluded that it was some attraction that material object have for one-another.  Later, with Einstein’s work, we now we have a better model of curved space-time that explains gravity better.  The idea that space and time are curved due to the presence of matter is not obvious nor intuitive to us, but that model stands up to scrutiny even though Newton’s idea still makes sense and is a good tool to predict how gravity will work in the vast majority of our experiences.

And so there is this idea that the love of God is seen through its effects, and many religiously-minded people will see the more intuitive explanation that since the belief in and love of their god has effects, then the reality of their god can be inferred. The idea is that their feelings they can trust.  Their experience is real and the best explanation they have is that the feeling is coming from somewhere real.  They are correct, it is coming from something real, but they are mis-attributing the source.

If you will allow the conceit, I think that there might be a shift in paradigms here.  I know I’m not the first to see it, but perhaps the first to make the comparison in this way.  In the same way that Newton was technically wrong in seeing matter attracting each-other, perhaps those who believe that the effect that belief in god has makes god real are wrong for similar cognitive reasons.  Perhaps they are missing the non-intuitive relationship going on behind the scenes, as it were.

Belief is a powerful emotional and psychological action.  It certainly has the ability to alter how we behave, how we perceive, and thus it has the ability to change our worldviews.  But belief can be effective even when the object of that belief does not stand up to scrutiny. The equations and relationships that Newton, the genius that he was, came up with to describe gravity are still applicable today.  They can be used to make accurate predictions, they make cognitive sense to us, but they are wrong.

The more we look at them, they don’t work.  In the same sense, the closer we look at the question of whether a god exists, the intuitive and simpler analogies do not stand up to scrutiny.  The feeling of god’s love, its power, and it’s effectiveness are all reasons to keep believing to someone who is not looking closely at the question.  But those who do look closer find that these arguments do not stand up to scrutiny.  They are reasons, at best, to bolster a belief already held.  They add imprecise legitimacy to a conclusion desired.

Just as anyone who wants to believe in Newtonian gravity can point to the fact that the equations they use to predict where their rock will land when thrown at a certain velocity and at a certain angle, the theist who points to the effect of their belief is missing the point.  They are missing what is going on underneath the problem.

The love of God, in my opinion, is the love of human beings.  We feel it, some call it God, and so the rest of us are left slapping our foreheads in frustration that they cannot see the love they are capable of and are creating through their belief.  I see it without this belief.  I see that the attraction of love is not between God and the world, but it is the curvature of our worldview through the presence of other minds.