Je Suis Gay!

On Saturday just gone I spent a part of the afternoon following the coverage of the vote count for the approval of gay marriage in the Republic of Ireland. Happily they voted in favour by a margin of 62% to 38%, and became the first country to make this a matter of law by popular vote.

I don’t actually think  that people should ever be allowed to vote against  the idea of two consenting adults of the same sex having the same relationship choices as two consenting adults of differing sexes. Never-the-less that was the only constitutional choice in Ireland, and it was a big deal that the vote happened, and that a good majority supported the gay community. I found it very emotional to hear the stories of individuals, and to see how much it meant to gay folk to have this very practical and joyous sign of unity, which is now out there on public record.

The truth seems to be that most people, when push comes to shove, want other people to be able to live their lives in the way they choose. That is an incredibly uplifting thing to see in a country like Ireland where, until fairly recently, the Catholic church had a massive influence over what people thought about pretty much everything. Even though there is still a substantial amount of persecution of gay individuals and communities world wide, often stoked and emboldened by some version of “God doesn’t like it” theology, the Irish experience gives hope and lights a beacon for change.

It is easy to think that the obvious justness of the gay equality movement demonstrates that anybody in oppositition to it must be an intolerant, bigotted, anti-human human being. However, I know from personal experience how difficult it is to escape a certain mindset that is often fed to a person along with their mother’s milk. Trust me, if you are brought up with a holy book in which God says something is wrong and that, chances are, there are some kind of eternal punishments connected to ignoring that, it can take a long while, if ever, before you start looking at the issue objectively.

But happily these days I’m born again. And I do proudly proclaim: Je Suis Gay! I hope you are too.

David Fee

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Life Is A Sprint, Not A Marathon

I’ve probably mentioned…I say probably, because I repeat myself, usually have an inkling that I have done so, but can’t quite remember where, or in what context…that I am shortly to run a 10 kilometre race, in celebration of my imminent fiftyness. I’m running it next Sunday in fact. It is likely to be the last race of it’s kind that I do. Although I do have a slight urge to try my one and only Triathlon to celebrate turning sixty. We’ll have to wait and see.

However, in my curious, but hopefully less than obsessive search for a way to stay fit in my middle and later ages, I have come to a slightly counter intuitive conclusion; when it comes to staying as young as is genetically and physically possible, life is a sprint, not a marathon.

Apparently, and please don’t quote me on this, we have two sorts of muscles, roughly speaking. Slow-twitch muscles and fast-twitch muscles. The former help us with endurance, and the latter help us to do things faster and more intensely. It may come as no surprise to know that the muscles that are in most danger as we get older are the fast twitch variety. They tend to deplete as our bodies age.

But that’s really only a part of the story. Because they don’t have to deplete. It’s just that as we get older we  tend to stop running fast or trying to lift things that take too much effort. The fact is (I have on good authority) that if we keep occasionally (every few days) having a few runs (or swims or cycles) for a short period of time, as fast as we can, then we can at the very least maintain our fast twitch muscles. And even cause them to get bigger.

Well, true or not true, it’s the reason, why, as I’ve probably also mentioned, I’m starting to run fast every now and then. It’s certainly making me feel younger.

So, yes, that’s me in the distance on the beach scaring the seagulls. Not Usain Bolt.

David Fee

If I Was King of the World

In the UK we’ve just had a country wide Election. We, in our divinely inspired wisdom, operate a first past the post system. So, in each region, only the person with the most votes gets to be king. Your party could have people coming second everywhere, but get no representation whatsoever. Which means that the party I supported, on this occasion, benefitted. They got 56 seats in our new parliment for 1.4 million votes. Two other parties got an equal amount of votes in one case, and double the amount in another, but only one seat each. So I don’t believe that our particular form of democracy is very democratic.

On the other hand, I’m not living in an ISIS heartland somewhere in Iraq or Syria. I’m not at risk of getting beheaded for simply being gay, or because I had the indecency to be raped, or because I wasn’t prepared to marry a 45 year old man at the tender age of 9, or because I believed in the wrong God or no God.

Perspective eh? Not sure whether to feel grateful, or guilty, or…to ask myself what I would do about it all if I was the king of the world.

If I was king of the world?

Well those are the kind of scenarios we dream up when we feel hopeless about everything. It’s an almost pointless exercise which can only ever make us feel the enormous distance between where we are and where we would like to be. Like buying a lottery ticket.

More important for sure is what I do today to make a difference. And I happen to think that the freedom I have, and the opportunities that exist, mean I have a duty to do something which makes the world a better place. That could be literally anything. And I suspect the simplest things we do are the best. As the Book I got brought up with says: Love (look after, care for) your neighbour like you love (look after, care for) yourself. But what does all that mean?

Well, I think that I, like you, will just have to use my imagination.

David

Touch Me

Apologies for missing a week. I’m just going to jump in off the back of what Mikel said in his last but one blog “Embodiment and Philosophy”. I like it when Mikel starts talking philosophy coz he has a way of saying things that seem to put a framework of coherent thought around stuff that I’m feeling but can’t express so clearly. And I’m pretty much in agreement with him really.  We are still very much physical beings and  everything that we can imagine, dream, relate, communicate, create, express, or hope….has to be connected to that reality.

Some people like to think that the physical side of being human is becoming of less value. A fella I respect remarked in his recent blog, words to the effect that “geography is dead”. His thought being that because of the internet, and our increasing interconnectedness, our physical location was pretty much irrelevant. I know what he means. But I disagree. Bodies are us because they are how we first establish connection. My most cherished sense is Touch, because it is the only one that  human beings cannot experience alone. Without a physical location, without geography, who needs a physical body. I am incredibly inspired by the fact that we can talk to each other over the miles, without any physical contact, and engage in something that we can genuinely call Relationship. But if there was no possibility of being able to sit in a room with you, look into your eyes, give you a hug, or a comforting pat on the back, or give you a kiss, or shake your hand, or simply just enjoy the way you look…without the possibility of any of that, I don’t think any of our more nebulous forms of communication and creation could even begin to exist or have meaning.

I think we (Human Beans) have made marvelous advances, very rapidly.  I am not a Luddite who wants to turn back the clock to some Golden Age where CyberSpace was a trillion light years away, a comforting fire kept the wolves at bay, and all the stars had first names and personalities. But I think that we could easily fritter away all our advances if we forget our bodies, and the physical spaces we live in, our neighbours, and the communities that we can actually walk through.

I don’t believe that will happen though. I’m encouraged to think that the next step forward for us humble homo sapiens will be to esblish better connections of physical community. I sense, with my prophetic cyber antenae, that there is a growing movement to keep it real and that people are starting to reassess and appreciate the importance of where they live. In fact, it’s fair to say that many people never forgot…if only because their reality involves a more direct and urgent need to simply survive. But for those of us who have been lucky enough to have the luxury of living our lives, to a large extent, online, I’m hopeful that we can start properly talking to each other again… eye to eye, in the street, on the tube.  Even in our homes!

I think communities that we choose for and remake, will be better than the ones that we had no choice about. Less insular this time, because we are all seeing a bigger world out there through the medium of our neon screens, our clicking mice, and our touchpad dreams. ‘Least that’s what I think when I’m in touch with my inner hippy.

Maybe our future does involve (I suspect that the scifi is a bit more possible than we might like to imagine)  being downloaded on to some kind of human hard drive, leaving our bodies behind like a husk. But not yet. I like to think we’ve still got a lot of use for them.

David

ps I’ve just released my first song in Dutch (as opposed to my usual offerings in Klingon). It’s a children’s lullaby called Droom Je Al   I’d be happy if you gave it a listen, and fell asleep while doing so.

Extrovert……Introvert.

Here’s something I’m pretty sure will be a global experience.

I also suspect there might be strong differences in how being introvert or extrovert is engaged within different cultures.

The simplest way to identify if you are basically introvert or extrovert is that introverts gain energy and a sense of balance from being on their own, extroverts gain energy and a sense of balance from engaging with other people.

The other way to express that dynamic is that introverts can fully enjoy socializing but it also uses up their energy and at some point they start to feel flat and tired and exhausted in social space.   Extroverts can enjoy being on their own but it also uses up their energy and at some point they start to feel flat and tired and exhausted being solitary and they need to go hang around with people to get their zoom back.

Now this particular model has its origins in observing individuals but the basic concept has some interpretive value for looking at cultures and societies as well.   Well I think it does.  (I might be the only who does.)

For instance, it seems to me that the public culture of Australia, Japan and the UK is introvert and the public culture of the US is extrovert.

Introvert individuals tend to put their focus and energy into their inner world and often don’t give away a lot of external energy unless something really engages their interest.  Introverts can think and reflect long after it might be appropriate to take some action.  Does that sound a bit like the UK or Australia’s public life?

Extrovert individuals tend to put their focus and energy OUT into the world, pumping out lots of talk and action and engagement of other people’s energy, creating and building and ACTING and not wanting or needing to do a lot of inner reflecting.  Does that sound a bit like the US?

Now it has to be said my little thought experiment has a number of problems,  such as the fact that I’ve posted at other times that my own country, Australia, in our public culture, really does not do much deep thinking, (Not without great leadership and effort.) but I have also said that we tend to keep our deepest places hidden and private, presenting a casual façade except at sporting events.

The kind of stories that are common motifs in a culture can tell us something as well.

For instance a very common narrative in US storytelling is the family thanksgiving weekend and how it can be a great, warm family connection experience or it can be one long and intense family argument where all the worst aspects of a family are put on display.   Now the point is that both those versions of thanksgiving weekend are extrovert – intense social expression, either warm and good or heated and conflicted – but both are extroverted dynamics.

I can’t think of a similar common story in Australia’s storytelling.  We have lots of BBQ’s but we don’t tell stories about them. We just have them and we keep things relaxed and easygoing and then we all go home, put our feet up in the quiet and watch some footy….or tennis….or horse racing….or car racing……..or…..

Now what would be really interesting would be if there was an American with a fair bit of experience of Australia who could blog this idea in reverse, I’d love to read that!

In truth all these kind of models or frameworks are not right or wrong, true or false, they are tools to think about what we see,  ways to play with and organise observations,  invitations to reflection and dialogue. When someone, me, makes such observations you are learning as much or more about me than you are about the things I am commenting on.  🙂

I seem to have said whatever it was I felt like saying.

Peace, Mikel.

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Embodiment and Philosophy

Hey David, interesting how what you wrote sprang from a dream you woke up from a few nights ago and what I am about to write was something I scrawled down just before going to sleep a few nights ago, literally wrote these ideas in a notepad with my head on the pillow.  I wrote the idea several ways and have not yet settled on one summary version, or slogan, if you will.

You may not have considered that you were proposing a philosophical project when you suggested we need to give reasons for why we say “this is good” but I think the idea stands within the history of human philosophical musings very nicely.

I’ve been reading some Western philosophy recently, to help my chew over my own ‘first principles’ in my own meaning making project and perhaps the first of my first principles is that any attempt to explain ourselves to ourselves must start by recognising and embracing the reality that our humanity is embodied and that our truth seeking must also be embodied from the foundation up.

I breathe, therefore I am.

All human knowledge is embodied.

Reason is a bodily function.

Philosophy without shit is bullshit.

Emoting and thinking are one.

Feeling is primary, thinking is secondary.

Reason without body is nonsense.

Just a few of the things I scrawled before falling asleep.   I apologise for the few “must” words I used a few sentences back, I rarely use ‘must’, it rarely aids a conversation.  In this instance I’ll simply say that I’m really talking to myself when I say that my philosophy “must” start with embodiment and adopt a process that is explicicitly an embodied process.  I am not suggesting anyone else in this conversation ‘must’ do anything!

To be honest I’m not super clear on what an embodied philosophical process will be, which is part of the adventure, but I do know that an embodied process is one that recognises that dividing our interior experience into “thoughts” and “feelings” or “reason” and “emotion” is a false division and is a fundamental mistake at the very foundations of Western philosophy.   The mistake is not merely in the distortion of describing a single process as two processes but in the further groundless demand that one of those fake distinctions be valued as more useful and more reliable than the other.

Western society continues to declare to itself that reason and thinking are reliable, testable, trustable and that emotion and sensation are unreliable, unstable, problematic.    Groundless assertions but ones with character references all the way back to the early Greek philosophers.

My idea of an embodied philosophical process recognises that the ‘knowing’ process going on inside my skin is ONE process that is layered, complex, systemic and grounded in my flesh, bone, sinew and nerve.

The “correctional” way of putting this might be that my philosophy will take my body and my feelings and sensations as seriously as traditional philosophy has taken “reason”.   I don’t really like the correctional explanation as it continues to use the binary of ‘reason/emotion’ and I consider that to be a mere linguistic artifact that serves, among other things, the current construction of gender roles and the alienation of humans from their own bodies.

In practical terms in the current discussion,  if I were to answer why I think such and such is “good” my answer must start with information coming up out of all of my body, not merely with sentences being generated in my “brain”.

This might not seem like it really is connected to what you wrote David, but I immediately concieved this blog on reading yours, so that’s how I’ve played it.

Truth is embodied or it’s not true.

Mikel Azure.

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A Reason To Be Good

I woke up from an horrific dream a few nights ago. The kind that makes a person question their own mental stability for at least a few moments after waking. It got me thinking though, in the dark hours, about our concepts of right and wrong. And specifically about how we discover, justify, encourage, and explain our personal sense of morality. It is related, in many ways, to our recent discussions about honesty.

Tenyson described a natural world that was “red in tooth and claw”. In other words a world where the instinct was survival at whatever cost. And it is hard to look closely at the natural world and not find ourselves horrified sometimes by the way in which creatures have evolved (or been created if you prefer) to inflict pain and suffering upon each other in order to aid there own survival.

I personally think that our morality, our sense of right and wrong, has evolved out of that world as a legitimate, effective, and improved method of of enabling our own survival in a way which goes beyond the bounds of purely physical “staying alive” into something that we might describe more as “being alive”. And it is still developing.

I appreciate that some people believe that God has created us as moral creatures, seperate from nature in that respect, and I’m not wanting to try and persuade anyone to think differently in that regard. But I do think, whether we believe in an inherent morality, which is a part of a greater design, or in an evolved sense of right and wrong, that we cannot simply state our own morality and say “this is how it is”. We have a duty to give good reasons for our stated “rights” and “wrongs”?

None of us has the right to say (or do we?): “You should do this just because I (or God) says so”. So I’m interested in exploring our Reason’s To Be Good. It’s definitely not as straight forward as it seems on the surface, but it is perhaps one of the most important tasks we have as human beings.

Because if we aren’t able to explain to ourselves and our communities a positive, life affirming morality which makes the world a better place to live,  then we can be sure that someone will come and fill the vacuum to impose their own morality. And like the purely survival orientated morality of many animals, that morality may be one that has it’s own justifications for causing pain and suffering, whether physical or psychological, to other people. And history shows that it is often too late to start complaining about that after the event.

I don’t believe that “Good”, even after we have been able to adequately describe what that is, is an inevitability. I think it’s a choice, and it deserves our best attention. We should be motivated to pursue it. But why?

David Fee

Honesty and Privacy.

I really am going to be brief.  Really.

My personal experience suggests that often adults require or demand “honesty” from children and what is actually happening is that the adult wants to invade the privacy of the child, wants the child to give away their autonomy.

Rather than ask themselves the question, “Why don’t the children I care for feel safe telling me their important stuff?” it is easier for adults to use their position of power and authority to FORCE information out of children against that child’s wishes.

As I think about it right now – obviously adults do this to each other as well and I think that is just as unhealthy, illegitimate and damaging when adults do it.

But when adults use power against children – that always gets my goat.

Mikel.

The Context of Honesty

Abner: “One of the unarguable values that society tells us to have is honesty”.

Unarguable? That sounds like a challenge to me Abner.

I think context is everything. On Facebook and Twitter, for instance, honesty is very much prevalent in a scenario where many people feel “safe” to release the darker baggage of their inner psyches. Often in very nasty ways. I know that online I have sometimes, often late at night, after red wine, been a lot more explicit, direct, and honest than I would be in any other context. To the point of personal embarrassment and/or shame on occasion. I don’t think society values this kind of honesty. I think there is a general recognition that blurting out all of our critical impulses is, like a puddle of hangover sick, not an attractive personal feature. Online conversation is one context in which honesty is often endured rather than valued.

I know from personal experience that honesty is not always valued in smaller communities, in which people live much closer, interlinked lives, and in which it is perhaps more important that conflict is minimised. Explosions in small spaces always cause more damage. As a result it is often harder to take a stand against authority figures in a small village or town. It is less likely for people to make a complaint about somebody’s work. Maybe they are a part of your family, or the family of a friend. People would often rather gossip about someone’s failings than confront them. This is why it is often incomers who bring about change  in such places. Incomers are less sensitive to the social niceties of selective honesty, and therefore more prepared to rock the boat.

Our own home community seems on the surface, and in support of Abner’s claim, to value honesty. We are quite a large  family (though variably so) by modern standards, with a lot of coming and going. There is a fair bit of noise and disagreement when everybody is about. My wife is Dutch and by culture very direct. I have a natural urge to want to know what people really think, and a personal instinct to be emotionally honest. We have boys who have grown up with these genes and this environment, and foster children who have a lot of “stuff” that they need to get out in one way or another.

As a result our home life can be quite combustible, to the point of discomfort for some. My son and daughter-in-law are living with us at the moment. She finds the arguments quite stressful at times (although she comes from a big family herself). To be honest I find the arguments quite stressful sometimes as well, but the search for truth, or “realness” often trounces the desire for peace. We probably live on the borderline of workable home life conditions sometimes. It makes for a creative and interesting environment, but we couldn’t go much further in the direction of “honesty” without everything falling apart I suspect. Our honesty is more like a kind of collateral spillage, endured as part of the narrative of our own homes culture, rather than a positively valued quality in it’s own right.

So it is true to say that soceity does value something other than complete and total honesty a lot of the time. Personally, although I have always thought that I  did value it, I have become aware of how often: I don’t say what I think to protect someone; or  exagerate what I think in order to flatter; sometimes I remain quiet when I should be brave enough to speak; I have sometimes thought angry thoughts and not expressed them in order to protect myself; I have felt hatred and not shouted it out; I have seen a wrong and not stopped it.

In all of these instances I am the kind of hypocrite that Abner described.  I would suggest that sometimes this is a good thing, sometime not. Though I’m not sure that “hypocrite” is the right word, even though I understand why it was used.

But here’s a final example of a kind of honesty that I think should be valued by soceity and cherished by us as individuals. I remember being told by an older, wiser man, many years ago, that I had done a certain something with a bad attitude. He didn’t complain about what I had done. Only about the attitude with which I had done it. And he was right. And I thanked him. And I still value that kind of honesty, though it is very rare, which is prepared, out of love, to go deeper and risk rejection to help a fellow human being become a better human being.

David Fee

The honesty of hipocrisy

Human relationships are the most exciting and fulfilling aspect of our existence. Also, they can be the most painful and frustrating part of it. With regards to them, one of the unarguable values that society tells us to have is honesty. However, the more I think about honesty, the less honest it becomes.

Sometimes, as an experiment, when I am in a group of people and someone starts talking about a slightly controversial topic, like politics or religion, I tend to say things just to observe their reactions. If what I say supports the main speaker’s point of view, usually the others do too. If I say something that makes them think that I feel completely the opposite, the others, including the main speaker, tend to back off and change his/her point of view. You could say that people are just trying to be polite, or maybe they don’t really have a strong point of view. But, I think the main reason is people don’t like confrontation (notice that ‘being polite’ implies a completely different intention). In general, people try to avoid confronting anyone even if that means not being honest about what they think or believe.

Some may say that this is being hypocritical, and by definition, they are right. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. However, people avoid disagreeing because they also believe that it is likely to cause discomfort and will deny everybody of having a peaceful time. Therefore, here is a dichotomy that exists within us. We can be honest while lying. We lie being honest.

If we put on one side of a balance the option: Let the others know what I really think, and how I would really behave if nobody would get affected, but I know they would; and on the other side, the other option: Nobody really needs to know about what I think, or what I do, and I can get on with everybody at least here and for now… Well, I think the benefits of the second option will weigh a lot more.

So, with this in mind, I’d like to redeem the word hypocrisy. It is something needed, and something that can bring more benefits than its antonym. Next time someone calls you a hypocrite, don’t take it as an offence, take it as a complement. It was for everybody’s sake.

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