Pain and Hope

04/19/2010

I think that hoping is one of the hardest things to keep doing. In life it is the thing that keeps us reaching out for beauty, for love, for healing and so often the hand that is extended in hope is withdrawn, burnt. I feel like, in my life, I am tormented and inspired by a vision of the world (and a vision of my life) that could have so much more joy in it yet so often seems to retreat from me as I run toward it.

I remember hearing Chris Marchall speak once on the Beatitudes.  In particular one thing he said that has moved me deeply ever since is his understanding of what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are those who mourn…” Chris felt that this is the call to stay present to the world that isn’t. That is the world that isn’t all it could be, all it should be. Chris felt that part of following Jesus is being open to feeling the injustice and pain that weighs down the world and grieving for it.

It seems to me that in some ways it is easier to lie down and accept the world we find ourselves in as it is. The option is certainly there. The anaesthetic sleep of fitting in with “the way things are” such as how our culture trains us to be good little units of economic production is, I feel, the less painful path. It is however the path of a slow and painless death.

And here I find a truth that is core to my life. That when I make ANY decision out of a desire to avoid pain instead of out a desire to follow love than I die a little bit. I was going to say, “I would not say that the decision to follow love always takes us down a path where pain lives but it does a significant part of the time.” but I as I consider this I realise that pain always follows love. Whenever we make a decision to care it becomes inevitable that somewhere down this part we will suffer heartache.

I think it is worth it. When I am sick or tired, when I am in the midst of pain, it is easy to lose sight of hope but I find that most of the time the beauty that I see through the door that hope and love opens is worth all the pain it necessitates. I suspect in fact that the decision to stay open to the grief for a world in pain (and our own pain) is the thing that opens us to joy. I believe that Jesus’ promise is not for the future but for now.

“Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted”

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Sex related Blogs

04/16/2010

In my experience the vast majority of blogs that focus on issues to do with sex are written by women. I am not quite sure why this is. I suspect it has to do with a greater ability to talk about their lives in a down to earth and intimate way.

I suppose it mirrors my experience of finding that women talk more about sex than the men I know…

One of the earliest sex blogs I stumbeled across and one I think is written by a truly amazing woman is Pursed Lips.

Being naked.

04/15/2010

In my family, at least by the time I was becoming a teenager, we were very relaxed about nakedity. There was no great fuss made of changing together and I have been nude beaching with my sisters and their partners/husbands.

I love seeing nude people. I think we are all so beautiful. I have had a long standing desire to photograph all my friends male and female in the nude. I would love to have a 40th birthday party with as many of my friends who would would come naked. Largely this is because when I love people I want to know them and for me my friends’ bodies are important aspects of who they are that I am excluded from… I resent it!

I want to talk about this because I think it can be hard for people to believe how separate this is from pornography. In our society our media works to link nudity with eroticism by almost never displaying human nudity outside the context of eroticism. This has certainly conditioned me. When I am in the same space as a naked woman it sometimes takes a few minutes for me to relax out of the “nudity is erotic” space. I always do though. When you spend time with naked people it becomes easy to see the difference between naked and erotic.

In contrast my experience of looking at women in an erotic way comes when I am with a woman who wants this from me! Then it really doesn’t matter if she is clothed or not. For me there is nothing more erotic than a woman who is looking at me with that mischievous glint in her eye and that little smile…  sigh…

Pornography is a performance of this erotic relationship. Sometimes it feeds on our society’s eroticisation of nudity but most of the time it presents men and women in an erotic context.

Many people say that porn conditions people who enjoy it to see people as only sexual objects. In my experience this hasn’t been true. I enjoy a heck of a lot of porn but I don’t think there are many people male or female that experience me as having an narrow interest in who they are…

Well there is a lot more to say about this but I have to go to work.

Otherness

04/14/2010

For most of my life I have believed that if people are extremely different from me then there is something wrong with them.

The concept of otherness changed my life.

I love the idea that when we face any other person we face both kinship and the alien. For me the idea of otherness has led me to let go of phrases like, “No one could possibly think/feel/enjoy/resent that.’

When I started working at Telecom we were taught to use “empathy” on each of our calls. (Currently I work in a call cnetre) After some years of working as a counsellor I was surprised that this meant expressing sadness about whatever the customer was calling about.

Customer: Hi. My internet is going really slow.

Service Rep: Oh that’s no good but I can help you out with that!

There was no need to enquire or get a sense of how the customer was feeling because, as I was explained when I didn’t use a “consoling statement” in my opening sentence, no one is going to call our helpdesk unless they are unhappy about something.

I think that probably 90% of the time this is absolutely correct. (So it makes perfect sense to train your staff this way especially if the underlying belief is that most staff are functionally incapable of any real empathy and have to learn to fake it) The interesting thing about this though is that it removes the need to see the person. As I already know how the other person is feeling I have no need to be open to seeing them.

I don’t think Telecom does anything unusual here. It is just a very clear example of how we are taught to operate in the world.

I don’t believe we can always give up our preconceived ideas and prejudices. They are absolutely necessary for operating in life. The alternative is to be driven into complete inaction my having to consider every belief we have about everything over and over again…

But I am drawn to the idea that in order to love we must learn to see the other and in order to do this we must acquire the ability to, at times, give up our understandings of what it means to be human and to take up a stance of not knowing and naive enquiry.

It feels risky.

04/13/2010

Writing this blog brings how much I self-edit into very clear focus. I fear the disapproval of my friends and my society keenly and that fear silences me about subjects that are dear to me.

So today one of the scariest: Pornography.

I have wrestled with this subject for a long time and over the last 5 or so years have settled to this position:

I believe that pornography, or performance designed to arouse, is at its heart good.  I do think that it has been reduced by shame to an often tawdry and abusive genre but only in the same way unhygienic illegal abortions were fostered by a judgemental legal system.

People say that pornography objectifies women, Andrea Dworkin said that pornography is the blue print for rape, and it is true that pornography has been used to degrade and dehumanise women and men but I maintain that this is perpetuated by the shame and fear that surrounds our attitudes to sex. I believe that pornography is what humans do and that if we believe that sex is harmful and dirty our pornography will reflect this.

While we maintain that showing a woman nude is a shameful thing to do, that being aroused by the sight of human genitals does violence to the possessor of the genitals, then that dark hatred of humanity which is so often directed at women in so many different ways will claim this genre as its tool.

In reality is the divine beauty of the human form and the glorious sexiness of us all is reduced in the hateful eye to violence.

I love looking at breasts and beautiful engorged clitorises and I celebrate others’ enjoyment of our delightful sexiness. In my viewing of pornography as well as the rest of my life I seek to nurture a sense of the beauty and sexiness of all body types and I also have accepted that my sexuality is not all a bright nice thing. It is not a tame lion.

The spirit of any piece of pornography is not the nature of the genre but the expression of the spirit of its creator.  In the coming weeks I intend to post pictures of people being sexy in lots of different ways and links to other blogs and sites that contain pornographic musings and content. Just let you all know.

As an opening I recommend: ErosBlog

Heart

04/12/2010

I had an interesting comment about my blog yesterday. One that I wholeheartedly agree with. She said my blog seems like my heart converted into a “T” format.

One of the things that people often classify me as when they meet me is an intellectual or in the framework of Myers-Briggs a “T” or on the Enneagram a “5”. It makes me really sad because it means that I am hiding myself. At heart I think because I feel.

So much of my gender training has been about control of emotions and the hiding of them. I am in awe of my friends who can weep as they talk about some pain or some joy they or others have gone through. There is such strength in it. Such ability to connect with what is.

Even more restrained is my ability to express joy. I have never danced for it. It is another of my birthrights stolen from me. But I am learning. I have whooped in the surf and rejoiced in the pure delight of a perfectly timed forehand smash! One day I will be as free as a 2 year old!

I am sad that I am yet to learn to show my friends how much I love them. I am overwhelmed with their beauty and on a side note would like to photograph them all nude…

Morality

04/10/2010

Well I missed writing yesterday. I had  a good excuse though. Went on a mini road trip with my friend Murry who has just returned from the another hemisphere! Anyway. Morality.

I consider it an evil though often a necessary one.

What I mean by morality is a system of rules defining what is a good or bad action in any situation.

Like Edmond Burke’s idea of prejudice I believe morality is necessary in that if we were to consider each action we take deeply we would probably end up getting stuck in bed taking hours to consider which side we should get out of…

My problem is with people’s desire to use the generic rules for everything without exception. For example it is always wrong to kill someone or have sex outside of marriage.

I accept that someone through consideration might decide that for a general rule they will decide not to kill people but I think that if they then refuse ever to consider that it might be the loving thing to do then they are giving up their responsibility to love.

In particular I believe static moral system removes the need to perceive people as people. If you believe that it is always bad to have sex out side of a certain kind of relationship you never have to consider the unique needs and joys of the actual people involved. This static moral system removes the need to see people.

I think we are not nearly good enough at seeing people and I think this domination of static moral codes is a big part of that. It fits in well with the cookie cutter economy we live within…

I think the major point of Jesus healing on the Sabbath was that when we stay connected, in a loving way, with the real needs of the world around us then we will find ourselves breaking the accepted mores of our culture and even the general rules that we have for our own behaviour.

The rules must serve the good of the world not the other way around.

Being provocative.

04/08/2010

A big part of me loves being provocative. I think this is because of how angry I am a lot of the time. I often feel that in conversations and social interactions and at church etc we end up addressing the comfortable topics over and over again. Yet the issues that burden my heart, and I am sure others’, are left in the shadows.

So I want to shock, to try and jolt people away from complacency but I find it’s so easy in my anger to lose touch with a sense of love for the people I am talking to and a sense of honouring where they are.

I have a list of provocative statements that I drag out from time to time… My closer friends know them well.

Morality is evil. God hates Gaze. Prostitution is the most similar profession to counselling.

So tomorrow’s topic is going to be: Morality is Evil.

My sexuality

04/07/2010

I have written this post about 5 times now.Initially it was a an attack on the fear and silence that surrounds sex. I suspect that this is an indication of how important this topic is to me and how much I want to get it right.  I believe this blog will very often will be about sex and my excursion in to the topic of sexuality has got to start with me.

I grew up feeling that about the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to me is that someone could catch me with an erection. In the church I was taught that my attraction to the beautiful curves of femininity was an evil thing. To this day I am not sure how I was meant to find a mate in this framework.

I came to see my arousal as violence against its object. Somehow by looking at a women’s beautiful breasts or bottom and getting aroused I did violence to them. Now days I can understand how a woman might feel threatened by the male gaze in a world where rape is a reality but at 16 I was not thinking of this. I just knew that I was somehow diminishing this woman by becoming aroused. I was subjecting this pure person to the filthy touch of my base desires. Later I think this same sense of the evilness of my gaze found a new framework in the idea of objectification.

I remember so clearly the first time a woman expressed to me in touch and word her enjoyment and appreciation of my cock. It was a healing moment and I remember it with tears. I treasured her caresses so much more for the gateway it opened in my own heart to accept my penis and my desire as holy and welcome than for the arousal they brought. Her fascination was a balm to my spirit and I will always be so grateful to her.

I think I’ll need to continue this later…

Gender

04/06/2010

When I studied anthropology it seemed like just another specialist term to learn. Gender as opposed to sex. I mean really… If you have a penis you’re a boy! As I went on in my studies I became more interested and, as is my wont, jumped into the wonderful ideas about the practice of gender in different cultures and times… It really was part of the revolutionising of how I saw the world. I became convinced that our physiology is the frosting on a cake made of culture. That almost all of our perceptions of gender were produced by power relations and the like.

Funny how our ideas often come full circle. Nowadays I am convinced (and that means something different too) that gender is a profound part of who we are and is linked deeply with our physiology but transcends it too. Where once I sought to see through difference to find commonality I now delight in the rich differences.

I am fascinated by what is might do to one’s psyche to menstruate 300-400 times in your life. I love Camillie Paglia’s opening chapter in Sexual Personae where she is obviously fascinated by the mysterious hidden grotto of women’s vulva as opposed to the obviousness of the male penis and balls… and the FASCINATING thought that this night mirror our psyche’s!!!

And what does this mean for people who identify against their physiology?

Nowadays female gender feels like this rich foreign culture with its own language and perceptions. I love to be an ethnographer revelling in the strange practices and confusing ideas all the while having the feeling that in encountering this otherness I also encounter something of the feminine divine. And it definitely helps that this rich foreign culture mostly belongs to people I find very sexually exciting.

Mmmmm….

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