Thursday, April 25, 2013

In answer to a question....

Someone I was having a discussion with earlier today asked me why I work in a Grocery store? Why am I not teaching...or in politics?

A few years ago I had dinner with a nice young lady who worked in city government, and she had asked me more or less the same question. I wrote her a lengthy reply (on an older blog) that I will repost below.


At this stage in our nations history I represent one of the most unelectable types of people imaginable. Or at least that is how it seems. And a quick glance at our history would show how arbitrary this exclusionary process is.

I am...

- Not college educated. I dropped out to foster a career in retail which offered promises of a better income and lifestyle immediately to me. Growing up relatively poor this appealed to me at such a young age, and yet it's a decision I've regretted since. Still, we've had non scholars involved with every aspect of our nation including some of the very framers of our Constitution and a few of our Presidents. Now? Prestigious university (and the implied money needed) is often mandatory

- An atheist. Though I dislike the word (given that people believe it means something when it means very little to anyone who grasps english) it is how I am classified. I find myself in good company however, given that many great men behind our own Constitution were also of a similar philosophy. Thomas Payne would be saddened by the unelectable nature of someone like me.

- Ardently committed to the separation of Church and State. There are many on the political right (and apologists on the political left) who have big problems with this. And yet the Constitution itself was decried at the time of its creation by many as being entirely too unreligious. Any glance at a history book with a keen eye to the european theocracies of the day would remind one why this was both a necessary and correct decision. Then...and now. Religious freedom is in essence freedom of thought, and though I consider organized religion personally to be a dead train-wreck of a philosophy, I would rather everyone have the right to believe as they deem fit than have the current pseudo-conservative judeo-christian ideological mandate that currently is all but indoctrinated into our modern government. 

- Ardently committed to a morality based on the evaluation of the well being and suffering of individuals, instead of one based on taboo's, idolatry, and sexism. One easy example of where we've gone horribly wrong. We teach sex in schools by telling teenagers with raging hormones not to have it, and imply that there is some modern moral evil in contraception despite the fact we've had it for thousands of years. Ever wonder if there's a causal connection between this and the fact that the United States has higher teen pregnancy  HPV (and thus cervical cancer), AIDS, and abortion rates (in some cases by orders of magnitude) than all other modern economies (and higher than many countries we still incorrectly deem as 3rd world)? Does it take genius to see this is the horrific outcome of one of our many idiotic social taboos? No.

...Some additional personal details to round out my entire unelectable argument...

- I'm divorced. You've either got to have that proper "mom-wife" figure behind you (as a male being elected), or the proper uber-achiever wife. I have neither of those. I have an extremely off-balance ex-wife however, but that's a story for another day. Not only are these "negatives" pointlessly judgemental of me they are equally (and offensively) judgemental of what a spousal relationship is, of females in general, and me for making the choice to not remarry in a huge hurry. But I did mention how the process has devolved into one of "celebrity", so this shouldn't be a surprise perhaps. 

- I am not financially well off or economically successful. When people encounter me, they often find my wit and intellect to be a bit of a surprise considering I'm fairly poor (in only the economic sense however). People tend to equate success with such things.  Still I consider myself quite enriched by the fact I came through four corporate downsizes (since 1996) with three separate companies, a divorce that occurred during a period of long unemployment, and the accrual of quite a bit of debt. These things taught me, if nothing else, the uselessness of socio-economic status when it comes to being happy, living a good and moral life, and grasping what it is to live well. Still, not living within the necessary socio-economic circles to even begin playing in the political arena is a near insurmountable barrier. Both a grossly unfair one, and an entirely unnecessary one as well.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Nature Of Love

I suppose given that I've been single for pretty much the entirety of the last eight months, this is a topic that has weighed on my mind to a significant degree. I've also during this time seen a relationship with one of my children go from bad, to worse, to nearly nonexistent. All the while having a relationship with my other child become all the stronger for (or in spite of) this.

So it appears to be time to blog about the nature of love, as I see it.

I am of a mind that entirely too many people bifurcate their approach to this. Perhaps this is to make sense of it in some greater context, but I can't see doing this anymore myself.

At seeming odds? The concepts of romantic "love" as opposed to every other kind of "love". I suppose it is down to individual interpretation exactly what that label means. As I strive, perhaps inexpertly, for self awareness and intellectual honesty, I've come to decide on my own definitions.

Love. Love to me is a connection, a social bond. Conceptually it defines your willingness to set aside your own feelings, or comfort, or what have you for someone else's sake. It is a state of being that is mired deeply within ones feelings, and yet sits atop a foundation of reason and critical awareness. One of the most basic ways to define how this works is to understand reciprocal altruism. When looked at through the sterile lens of social anthropology or even game theory, people often make the mistake of assuming that having a genuine and rational awareness of how our deepest social bonds function somehow cheapens or demeans them. The matter is compounded with recent work in cognitive neurology which is beginning to show structurally within our brains how different and yet interconnected love and lust are.

Such people are too proud of themselves in my view. :P

We now have a greater structural awareness of how love works in the brain, and unfortunately not all the news is good LOL. What we generally call love, especially as it relates to significant others and offspring, is not dissimilar to addiction. In fact many of the biochemical mechanisms involved in reinforcing such "love" parallel cognitive neurological studies of methamphetamine addicts. Brain region to brain region.

This does make some intuitive sense, and certainly many psychologists would agree here as well. Near obsessive attention and affection given to ones children is not necessarily "harmful" in any sense. But couple that with equivalent attention given to an adult you are also "addicted to" doesn't always work out now does it? I can say from personal experience I've encountered quite a few women who were single mothers who, although doing a masterful job of raising and protecting their children, were also so socially maladjusted as to be impossible to cope with...even as friends.

It is entirely possible for love to be "positive" and still not be particularly healthy, at least in the broader sense.

Lust at its most fundamental  is a very primitive impulse. And as many decades of study show, it plays a far more convoluted role in human behavior than many of us realize. It isn't just for baby making, far from it.

The lust to love transition, that all of us go through and have gone through, actually follows a similar pattern neurologically to our other types of love, the only significant difference is its tendency to lead to a greater parallel of neurological activity when compared to drug addiction.

As human beings, a fundamentally social species, we need social *and* physical contact with our fellow humans to survive. Not just to live well, but to actually survive. This is true among most mammals, and especially so among our fellow primates. But it is by far the most true among humans. Humans are arguably the most social and sexual creatures on the planet.

Our social conventions in regards to sex and procreation over the last 100,000 years or so remained fairly consistent up until about a century ago. Males basically ran everything, and women and their collective progeny operated within a framework largely designed by our evolution. Though much of society still thinks things work this way, they really don't anymore. And a century, perhaps isn't enough of a timeframe to really dethrone the remaining 99.9% of our collective experience.

It is perhaps because of all of this (and realizing the truth of it) I have decided to put my own sexuality within it's own separate domain, if for no other reason than to take it off the table of what my ideas about love are.

As I said earlier I love all sorts of people. One of my best friends, Brian. I'd take a bullet for him. Help him with anything he needed at the drop of a hat if it was something I could do. He knows this. And I know he'd do precisely the same thing for me. He's the kind of guy I can tell literally anything. And I'd have to say I love Brian. This in no way diminishes or conflicts with the fact that I'm not in the slightest attracted to his hairy ass (and besides his wife Ari would probably object vehemently).

I love my children, my mother, my brother, and a small host of friends. Genuinely love. And many of them are women, with genuine 100% Lady Parts®.

And (thankfully perhaps for the viewing audience, as it'd be a bit creepy) I'm not banging any of them!

Lust only really becomes complicated because of how primitive it is. Attraction and "chemistry" (which to me is merely a phrase people use to make that primitive shit sound better..oh the hubris of humans) occur. They are "events", not "decisions", and there is nothing you can do about them whatsoever except decide to succumb to them or not.

Lust then becomes a two stage process.

1). A choice to act upon that lust..and that choice *can* be a conscious, if not entirely rational one.
2). Finding a partner willing to return the favor.

We tend to expect more of lust, but this is a mistake in my view. Lust merely is what it is. And it is NECESSARY. But it's just part of a physiological process that puts you on the path towards something more meaningful. It is not the path in and of itself. At all.

I think this distinction is where most people screw this up.