Why Two

It’s really strange to me that I haven’t seen articulated what seems to me the obvious reason why gay marriage isn’t the moral or legal equivalent of polygamy, and is not, therefore, bound to lead to it.

In a word: Two.

You can have sex with more than one person (like it or not, many married people do). I would hold that you cannot have full intimacy with more than one person (at a time, and it also takes time).

In fact, I’m not sure you can have full intimacy even with one person. It’s an ideal to strive for, to achieve at moments and at other moments fall far short. As the saying goes, we’re born alone, we die alone, and we’re often never more aware of our aloneness than in marriage.

But the point is, sex is only the opener, what overwhelms our resistance to getting close enough and open enough for the rest to start happening. If you stick around, then, it’s a full-time job trying to be intimate — and its daily double, companionable — with one other person. If you divide your attention you cut its depth in half and blow your focus. You may have fantasies about other people, you may be infatuated with another person, you may imagine that intimacy with that person would soar far above what’s possible with your current partner. Well, maybe: some people are better at it, or better together. But even at its best, coexisting with one other person, bringing two such different inner lives into one space, striking off the rough edges, takes a lot of work and time, a lot of attention, a lot of failure and rage and remorse, a lot of discovery and revelation of the other and of yourself. It’s not something we have the time or capacity to divide up and parcel out. If you do that (as in Big Love), it becomes something else — more reproductive and social, less . . .

spiritual.

At the core of marriage, underneath the habit and comfort and irritation, you bear witness to another person’s existence — and, let’s face it, you just bear another person’s existence — a little bit like God would. If we invented God (where would we get such an idea?), it was in the hope of being seen like that, through and through, with steady attention and patient, unblaming fascination, down to our dark places.

Try and do that with a harem, even a small one.

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Author: amba12

Continuing the conversation that started at AmbivaBlog ...

58 thoughts on “Why Two”

  1. I agree with everything you say here…but I’m not sure others would. Some people want “appliances”…relationships with others like you would have with a blender or toaster oven….and, hey, you may need the waffle iron tonight instead of the deep frier!

  2. It’s ironic that Christians would worry about gay marriage leading to polygamy, since polygamy was considered perfectly normal and acceptable in both the Old and New Testament. Jesus never said anything against polygamy.

    I don’t agree with you amba, because I think you are looking at marriage from an idealized modern perspective. We are SUPPOSED to achieve perfect intimacy with another person. But maybe that isn’t true.

    In ancient times, people experienced intimacy with their social and kinship groups. Maybe also with their spouse, but their sense of connection didn’t depend entirely on that.

    Now our typical social group, or tribe, consists of the isolated married couple. So we pour all hopes of intimacy into that overburdened little relationship.

    In the times of Jesus and of his ancestors, men who could afford it had multiple wives. Did they cherish and adore each and every wife? Maybe not, but the wives at least had each other.

    Anyway, my point is that the current Christian focus on gay marriage is insane. Especially when they warn it could lead to polygamy. Gay marriage was never mentioned by Jesus, and neither was polygamy. If Jesus had anything against either, he would have said so.

    Maybe the problem is that almost every American slept through all their history classes. They have almost no sense of perspective.

    Jesus must have approved of polygamy, and he also thought slavery was just fine.

    The bible is completely irrelevant to the gay marriage controversy.

    In my opinion, there is a real underlying reason why the Christian Right hates gay marriage, and progressives seem to be completely unaware of it.

    The lifestyle of some gay men, at least before the AIDS epidemic, was incredibly depraved. That lifestyle WAS condemned by Old Testament prophets.

    And THAT is what the Christian Right is reacting to, emotionally, not consciously.

  3. At the core of marriage, underneath the habit and comfort and irritation, you bear witness to another person’s existence — and, let’s face it, you just bear another person’s existence — a little bit like God would. If we invented God (where would we get such an idea?), it was in the hope of being seen like that, through and through, with steady attention and patient, unblaming fascination, down to our dark places.

    Once again, poetry within the prose.

    While marriage may invite and lead to greater intimacy, union, and witness bearing on physical, spiritual, and emotional levels it does not ensure such a result.

    To be seen through and through, with steady attention and patient, unblaming fascination, down to our dark places, is an outcome, bi-product, and revelation of love, not necessarily an outcome of marriage.

  4. I think it’s only relatively recently that our society started focusing all its hope for intimacy and love on marriage. Friends, relatives, God, guiding spirits — all those are in the background now.

    It wasn’t just ancient and primitive societies that had other outlets besides romance and marriage. It wasn’t that long ago that marriage was only one of several.

    I think maybe we can blame this on modern fiction. Fiction (literature and movies and TV) has taken the place of mythology. We know it isn’t “true,” but we soak it up anyway.

    And most of our fiction has at least a subplot that is focused on romance.

  5. And, btw, most modern fiction tends to have a progressive theme. So once again I can blame something on progress and progressive ideology.

  6. A “Delightful!” needs to follow my note of poetry within the prose, to more fully express my appreciation of the words and phrases used to invite thought.

    I would also insert “is the opportunity to” into the statement: “At the core of marriage, underneath the habit and comfort and irritation, is the opportunity to bear witness to another person’s existence…

    Witness bearing can be significantly hampered by blind eyes, deaf ears and hardened hearts, the hallmarks of those who seek to protect themselves from intimacy and honest engagement, due to previous experiences of hurt, harm and hardship.

  7. I do wonder whether this beautifully described and very particular extended gaze can survive outside a dyad. Even one extra person added to the mix creates a majority/minority. Instant politics.

  8. Real, I suggest you actually READ the Bible. It is clear you know little about its contents. Jesus thought slavery was ‘just fine’?? There are no references whatever to Christians having more than one wife. None.

    Regarding marriage, Jesus did say this:

    And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

    And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
    Matthew 19:4,5

    Also, the Apostle Paul made numerous comments on marriage that confirm the ‘one man, one woman’ Christian marriage.

    As for Christians being up in arms about the gay marriage thing, I haven’t seen it. I certainly oppose it but accept the laws imposed by the state. As for polygamy, I agree with what kngfsh suggested: There will be some who will use the ruling as a legal avenue to pursue it. Muslims, for sure, but also Mormons and others who just want a variety of sexual partners and a lot of progeny.

  9. “Jesus thought slavery was ‘just fine’??”

    Yes, in the Old and New Testaments slavery is considered ok. Jesus did not complain about it, and neither did the Old Testament prophets. Slavery was not considered a problem. If Jesus or the prophets thought slavery was wrong, they would have said so.

    “There are no references whatever to Christians having more than one wife. None.”

    Polygamy was not considered a problem in Judaism, and Jesus obeyed the Jewish law.

    Very little is said about marriage in the New Testament because marriage is not part of the central message of Jesus or of Christianity. But Jesus did have a very definite opinion about divorce, and about adultery.

    It’s kind of funny that something Jesus had a very definite opinion about — divorce — is hardly mentioned by Christians today (except maybe Catholics). The religious Right doesn’t seem to have a problem with divorce at all.

    But certain things he did not mention (at least not in the gospels) and therefore probably did not care about, are made into giant political issues.

    Jesus did not care about slavery, or polygamy, or homosexuality, or abortion. Marriage was not something he focused on and he said almost nothing about it.

    Jesus told his followers they must not get divorced, because that would force an ex-wife to commit adultery, if she re-married. His followers said no one would get married if they didn’t have the option to divorce. And Jesus agreed it is better not to marry.

    “As for Christians being up in arms about the gay marriage thing, I haven’t seen it.”

    It has been in the center of the news since the law was passed. There were pastors threatening to set themselves on fire over it. All kinds of insanity, which I heard about even though I mostly ignore that kind of thing. So I don’t know how you didn’t see any of it.

  10. The political left and right are very much divided over gay marriage. Progressives see it as yet another victory in our society’s transition from ignorance and bigotry to enlightenment and compassion and acceptance of all humans.

    For the religious Right, gay marriage represents yet another step in our society’s slide into depravity.

    The left can’t see that every society needs traditions and stability, and that there must be limits to tolerance.

    The Right tends to be emotional and unreasonable and uninformed. If they hate gay marriage, it’s because it feels wrong to them, does not fit their fantasy of what is normal. What Jesus actually did or did not say doesn’t matter to them.

  11. Ignore, for the moment, the question of whether it will even work. (And in my experience — strictly observational, I would note — nothing above 3 people works for more than 2 years max.) Let’s look at the practical problems — problems which do not occur in the relatively straightforward case of gay marriage.

    Suppose you have a group, of any number more than two. And suppose one of them falls into a coma, and decisions have to be made. Who decides? Do you hold a vote of the other spouses? (Does everybody get a vote, or just those of the opposite gender — assuming a heterosexual group?) Or do you require unanimity for decisions in one direction, but not in another?

    Suppose the group breaks up. Do you split all assets on a per person basis? And does that include portions for the various children? Do all of the adults get visitation rights with the children, or just those genetically related (DNA test all around!)? Or does custody of the various children fall to those spouses who have been actually doing the childcare for the group? Who gets support from whom (alimony)? And how much each?

    Suppose there are alligations of spouse abuse. How many spouses have to have been (or at least claim) abuse for various levels of penalty?

    Suppose one spouse dies. Who gets how much of the estate (absent a will)? Does that include a division among all of the children in the group, or just those descended from the deceased? Who gets the Social Security spousal support?

    Immigrants are currently allowed to bring their spouses in, without going through the various hurdles required of immigrants otherwise. How many spouses can an immigrant now bring in? Does it matter if group marriages were legal in their previous country?

    How many of the existing spouses have to agree in order for a new member to be added? And if the new spouse is a prospective immigrant, how many existing spouses have to agree in order for the addition not to be classed as a “mariage of convenience” (i.e. just for the purposes of immigration)?

    In short, we are not looking at a relatively trivial change to the marriage laws. We are looking at massively rewriting all of the laws on marriage marriage. Or touching on marriage, however tangentially. To say it is a mess is to commit massive understatement.

  12. wj,

    In the context of our modern society polygamy could be very impractical, for the reasons you mentioned. Also, because it does not fit our modern ideas about love and relationships. And in ancient polygamy, the man was in charge and made important decisions. Many modern women would not accept that.

    I think the point is that Christians should not complain about polygamy, since Jesus did not disapprove of it. Especially when they don’t complain about some of the things he really cared about, like divorce.

    Jesus wanted his followers to obey the Old Testament laws. Well there are many laws in there that modern Christians would find either appalling or impossible to follow. So they are choosing what to care about, based on what feels right to them from their modern perspective.

    There is very little rationality on either side of the controversy.

  13. I would agree that Christians should not complain about polygamy on a religious basis. Which doesn’t bar them from complaining about it on other grounds. ;-)

  14. Yes wj there are many good reasons to not like polygamy. From what I have read, most primitive human societies are monogamous, so we must have some genetic preference for it. However, most primate species are polygamous, so maybe we have some of that also. I think there are certain types of men who feel they need more than one woman, and that may partly account for the high rates of infidelity.

    Yes Christians could complain about polygamy based on modern American traditional values. But they should KNOW they are modern traditions, and not at all related to the ancient religion they practice.

    I sympathize with conservatives who value traditions, since I think all societies depend on traditions. And I think I can partially understand the opposition to gay marriage, if you consider the conservative religious person’s incorrect view of homosexuality — they perceive homosexuality as depraved.

    Many or most homosexuals do NOT have a depraved lifestyle. However there are some gay men — and this was especially true in pre-AIDS decades — whose lifestyles were extremely depraved.

    Progressives seem to not understand the critical importance of traditions. And religious conservatives seem to not understand that many of their values are modern and completely unrelated to religion. And I think that is why the gay marriage controversy became so intense and crazy.

  15. Considering homosexuality as depraved would seem to me to require that it is a choice. A choice that someone has deliberately and consciously made.

    Even though a) all of the evidence shows that it is just how God made them, and b) they never explain what could possibly move someone to make that choice. Especially in the days, not that long passed (if they are passed, in some places) when admitting to homosexuality was likely to get you killed — probably gruesomely.

  16. wj I never said homosexuality is depraved! I said some of them have a depraved lifestyle, and I am referring to orgies and anonymous sex which most people, including me, consider immoral.

  17. I only mentioned the depraved lifestyle, because that is how some religious conservatives wrongly perceive homosexuals.

  18. I was trying to explain how, from what I have observed, each side misunderstands the other.

  19. Real, I think Randy Shilts’ excellent book, And the Band Played On, documented very graphically the depravity of which you speak. You needn’t back away from a reasonable assertion. Depravity happens in both homosexual and heterosexual spheres.

  20. Yes of course mockturtle, straights can be depraved also, but gay men really went nuts for a while. I heard about it directly from a close relative who was involved in it, until he heard about AIDS. I was very young then but I had sense enough to be horrified by what I heard. Even though I was VERY supportive of the relative, and I was very open-minded and liberal back then.

    And, as I’ve been saying, I think THAT is what the religious right is reacting to. They don’t perceive gay marriage as a normal loving relationship. Their perception is wrong, of course, but I can see where it comes from.

  21. Of course, part of that was a direct result of the fact that homosexuality was flat out illegal in so many places. And dangerous in more.

    As a result, the only reliable way for homosexuals to find each other was to cruise gay bars. So a lot of them did. Maybe it is my ignorance, but straights who cruise bars looking for partners for sex tend to get involved in some pretty kinky (to say the least) stuff as well.

    So yes, it was not the sort of behavior that one would like to see a friend engage in. But one of the beneficial effects of the increasing acceptance of homosexuality is precisely that there are now viable alternatives. If you don’t take your life in your hands by admitting you are homosexual, you are far more likely, if you are homosexual, to be able to find someone decent to date or, now, to marry.

  22. wj, I am not defending either side of the gay marriage question. I think both are wrong.

    Yes, lots of people go through promiscuous stages, and I don’t care. I never liked that kind of thing, but other people have their reasons I may not understand.

    My point in mentioning that some gays had a really crazy (and unhealthy!) lifestyle was to explain what I think some religious Christians are feeling on the subject. Orgies, etc., are prohibited in the Old Testament. Does that mean orgies are immoral? Who knows. But at least the laws are in there.

    On the other hand, there are NO laws in the Old or New T against polygamy.

    Therefore I think it’s ironic when Christians get hysterical because they think gay marriage could lead to polygamy. And no one bothers to tell them, hey, Jesus thought polygamy was OK.

  23. real, fair enough.

    I don’t agree, in that I think that the objections to promiscuity are pretty marginal when fundamentalist Christians look at the subject. But I admit that I may be being misled by the objections that they choose to voice publicly.

  24. wj, I am talking about what I believe is going on subconsciously. They think Jesus was against gay marriage, or homosexuality in general, although he wasn’t. (Yes, maybe you can find a couple of lines here and there that can be interpreted as anti-gay, but none were said by Jesus).

    But more ridiculously, they think Jesus was against polygamy.

    It’s all emotional, not conscious or intellectual.

    And it’s emotional and irrational for the liberals also. They think tolerance is always good and more tolerance is always better. They can’t see any validity in what the religious traditionalists are feeling.

    And my opinion, in case you want to know, is that gay marriage doesn’t matter one way or the other. I don’t like seeing how liberals consider it another major victory for progress, and I don’t like the meanness of the conservatives either.

    But whether gays can marry is just not important. No one was trying to stop them from loving each other or living together. They could have passed a slightly different law making gay marriage legally identical to straight marriage, and just called it something else.

    That would have been too easy and sensible though. Our political system thrives on fake stupid controversies that distract the public from things that really are important.

  25. I would say, actually, that gay marriage is a conservative position. It is, after all, encouraging fidelity and opposing the sort of promiscuity that conservatives ought to be opposing. It is one of the ironys of our current political landscape that it is not.

  26. No wj, the conservatives don’t want to prevent gays from getting married. They want them to stop being gay. They think people decide whether or not to commit the “sin” of being gay.

  27. Well, yes. But I suspect that they oppose gay marriage, at least in part, because it will make being gay less scary. And, therefore, make it more likely that someone will “choose to be gay.” Especially (Oh, the horror!) someone in their own family.

    Ignorance is such a great enabler of stupidity.

  28. The don’t like anything different or strange, at least different according to their habits and traditions.

    Remember when our parents thought long hair made boys look like girls? They somehow forgot that the American founders, and Jesus and just about every other man in history, had long hair.

    It’s an aversion to change, and a love of tradition. I think it’s understandable and to some extent necessary, but can be taken way too far.

    Progressives, on the other hand, always want to throw the past away and that is also a mistake.

  29. After reading the generalizations and assertions presented in this thread as though they were God’s truth, the arrival of this one that made me laugh:

    They don’t like anything different or strange, at least different according to their habits any (and) traditions.

    Quite honestly, all the animals I’ve known and most of the humans I’ve lived with (regardless of their political persuasions) fit into that category.

    As for declarations about what Jesus thought, I’m curious as to how anyone is able to divine that with absolute certainty? Since reading what he supposedly said throws me into wonderment, getting a bead on what he was thinking and not saying seems a far stretch. One of the teaching methods Jesus used involved simplifying complex concepts and questioning seemingly simple or set presumptions as though he were opening a door to invite, or closing a door and opening a window to redirect. Doing so jiggled the crowds into questioning their complacent thinking and rethinking legalistic beliefs. According to the observations recorded about him, what he said amazed, intrigued and confounded many who followed him, delighting some, maddening others. Who can say what he meant or intended, much less his thinking when he said what he did? Consideration, connection, invitation, and awareness seems to have been the goal Two thousand plus years of trying to get clear on what he was about have resulted in glorious unities and rancorous divisions, leading to healing and changed lives for some, separation and death for others.

    I don’t know what to do with the following statement other than say, “Hell, been there, done that” and recognize the need for a rinse.

    “It is what comes out of a person,” he went on, “that makes him unclean. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come forth wicked thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, foolishness…. All these wicked things come from within, and they make a person unclean.”

  30. It’s quite true. Humans tend to fall into two groups (and how often have we heard that before?): those who are comfortable with a tiny bit of change, and those (as adults) who can’t stand any change at all.

    Even the people who appear, to our eyes, to embrace lots of change actually don’t like most things in their lives to change at all. They just tolerate lots more than the rest of us.

  31. wj,

    There is no reason to think that change is good. Some is and some isn’t. So being either a progressive or a conservative doesn’t make sense to me. Obviously we are all progressive about some things and conservative about others.

  32. I’d say that a conservative leans towards small changes and only when necessary. (As opposed to reactionaries, who only want changes to go back to some idealized past.) Whereas progressives lean towards larger (but still, objectively, rather small) changes on rather easier justifications.

    We are, indeed, all conservative about some things and progressive about others. But it is useful, for discussion purposes, to make a distinction between those who are more or less willing to make changes, and how large a change they are willing to embrace.

    Looked at from the outside, the distinctions might be minor. But we aren’t looking at it from the outside. And for dealing with the real social and political environment we are in, the differences do matter.

  33. “it is useful, for discussion purposes, to make a distinction between those who are more or less willing to make changes”

    I don’t think so, and I think the words “progressive” and “conservative” are just confusing, as they are used in contemporary politics.

    Progressives are not simply those who are more willing to make changes. They want certain things to change in certain ways. Conservatives want other things to change in certain ways.

  34. My mistake.

    I tend to use “conservative” in the sense that I grew up using it. Before it was appropriated by the radical reactionaries we have defining it today. Used in that sense, progressives and conservatives differ in how much and how fast they want to change, not in the direction. But it is quite true that those who currently call themselves conservative (actually reactionaries) want to change as much or more than progressives, just in a very different direction — towards their fantasies of how things were in the past.

  35. …you bear witness to another person’s existence — and, let’s face it, you just bear another person’s existence

    I’ve thought about this often this past week, sometimes with tears coming to my eyes as I’ve recollected those whose existence I’ve born witness to, and those who’ve born witness to mine. In the past three days, I’ve encouraged my son to bear witness to a co-worker’s life and death by attending the man’s funeral when he wasn’t sure he wanted or needed to go. And sure enough, opening himself to the sadness of loss, briefly connecting with the widow, and listening to the man’s friends share memories about him was enough to reinforce the value of going. We also bore witness to a marriage and a birth this weekend, and will be attending the opening of a friend’s art exhibit tomorrow. All of which has caused me to wonder if in addition to giving and receiving light, witness bearing may be one of most significant things we can do for each other? Human to human, but also human to whatever animals may grace our lives in relational ways?

    In my experience, what runs alongside and often behind a person’s willingness or ability to change isn’t their political or religious agenda; it’s their willingness or ability to acknowledge their own personal pain and work through suffering, differences and conflict without resorting to dominance and control, abdication of the self to addictions, and ego reinforcing self righteousness. Moving forward in Truth and Grace is not easy business.

    On both sides of the issue regarding legal and marriage rights for same sex couples (or groups?) those who hold on to what they believe to be true seem to have difficulty accessing grace for those with different views and differing concerns.

    All of which links back to compassion and the question of whether or not humans are capable of making choices that lead to healthy growth, spiritual development, and/or evolving consciousness. With this poem arriving in my mailbox this week, containing an “always” to make me smile:

    COMPASSION
    Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if
    they don’t want it. What appears bad manners,
    an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of
    things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
    You do not know what wars are going on down there
    where the spirit meets the bone. ~ Miller Williams

  36. In appreciation of benedictions and thoughts received, this poem, which also arrived this week:

    Grace

    Grace is a shawl of finest wool warming the shoulders of doubt.
    It falls like a fine mist on me and you and the dry wrinkled bulbs

    sheltering the essence of iris and tulip. There is a mystery here,
    a transformation my soul feels but my bones cannot explain–

    like the elm, bare and then leafed; flowers becoming peaches;
    the appearance in the fields of strawberries, calves and colts;

    my beloved piano, solid and patient until I awaken a banquet
    of notes, gracing the body of music. Such gifts may be welcomed

    with a full-throated chorus of gratitude or a silent prayer of praise
    –neither changes the inevitable benediction of their arrival.

    Therese Tappouni

  37. I’d not heard of her either, and couldn’t find an online version to copy and paste here. I found the printed version in a booklet that came with the CD I’d ordered entitled Tapestry by Michael Hoppe. I can’t ascertain her religious tradition, as it seems a mix. I like how she captures the essence and benediction of grace. Here to, in this one which I also enjoy, written to accompany Hoppe’s rendition of Ave Maria:

    “Ave Maria

    My heart sees you lying on your virgin bed–
    so young!–
    half in and out of dreaming and then Gabriel is there,
    unannounced, proclaiming

    Hail Mary, full of grace

    in a voice that should have been accompanied
    by trumpets.
    And I think that the blaze of noon crossed your eyes,
    though
    it was night, and from then on, there was
    before and after
    and none should ever be the same.
    A girl from Nazareth,
    asleep in your bed, awakening to an angel’s poem

    The Lord is with Thee

    and your womb warms, a flutter like a firefly trembling
    there. You stay in dream for the briefest time
    before the voice vibrates your heart
    like the sweet tones of a violin

    Blessed art Thou among women

    And it is done.”

    T Tappouni

  38. The good and positive forces in life are inevitable and essential. And so are the bad.

    Being alive is a constant act of defiance.

  39. Being alive is a constant act of defiance.

    Defiance against what? That’s the first question that came up, following my first reaction which was, “That’s not what being alive is for me”. Pause. “But it is how my mother functions in her personality disorder, caught in a black and white, right wrong thinking pattern that requires defiance for survival and self protection.”

    After which the question arose, as it tends to do when I am puzzled or working my way through the darkness of unknowing, as to what defiance is or means. So I looked it up.

    a refusal to obey something or someone : the act of defying someone or something

    1. The act or an example of defying; bold resistance to an opposing force or authority.
    2. Intentionally contemptuous behavior or attitude; readiness to contend or resist.

    Is Light a bold resistance to Darkness, or does it have a power of its own that trumps, defeats and drives back darkness, because it is what it is, without needing to be defiant?

    Living in the presence of Death is not defiance; it is Life, an energy moving through darkness to create and perpetuate more life.

  40. In keeping with the theme of light in darkness, there is this one on Moonflowers, which as I type are also growing on the east side of our house (from seeds brought back from the “Faraway” grandma’s home when the boys were young.) They reseed themselves year after year, with the plants spending the summer preparing for an August bloom. I once picked an evening’s harvest of thirty blossoms off them and packed them in a cooler for a neighboring teacher to bring to her science class for dissection the next morning, in the hope of planting more seeds in fertile ground. I don’t see them as defiant, so much as enduring. Patiently waiting, as the poem suggests, to unfold and follow the directions tightly packed into their seeds.

    Moonflower

    It appears that everything is closed down–
    night rules the shut-tight buds of the crimson roses
    dreaming of the sun’s heat–yet nothing is really

    as it seems. Deep in the garden, moonflowers raise
    their heads, moist in the glow of the fullest time
    of the month, just before the end of summer, before

    lingering petals disappear under wet leaves.
    White as narcissus, they flare on the vine, lift mouths
    of desire toward the heavens until the sun’s first

    touch arches over the trees, stills their searching
    and warms the roses. Moonflowers sink once more
    into themselves, patient until daylight fades to dusk.

    T Tappouni

  41. Well LouiseM I didn’t appreciate your hint that I have a personality disorder like your mother!

    But aside from that, I think you once again profoundly misread what I am trying to say. Probably because you do not see the world in terms of contrasts, or oppositions, which I do, because that is my holistic philosophy.

    I have mentioned before that New Age thinking often tries to deny the Shadow. And THAT can lead to personality disorders, depression, neurosis, etc.

  42. Every living thing continually defies the forces of death and destruction. That is what it is to be alive. Life doesn’t give up hope while facing the inevitability of death. Every breath represents the constant striving to exist.

  43. And death and destruction aren’t actually “bad,” except in our perceptions. They are necessary and essential aspects of the world.

  44. While I may misread you at times, realpc, a perception of “profound misreading” taking place on my end seems a bit off the mark from my point of view, given the fact that communication is a two way affair, and the questions I frequently ask for the sake of clarification rarely seem to be answered.

    I’m presently wondering where you believe the hope in your statement that “life doesn’t give up hope in the face of death” comes from and what it involves?

    As for hints and defiance, my response to your comment that Being alive is a constant act of defiance included a description of my thoughts after reading those words. To consider what I said as a hint that you have personality disorder, is to miss the point, which is this: a life focused on continual defiance does not in my opinion, reflect wholeness of being.

    From what I know about my mother’s life, it appears as though she’s responded to life with defiance for the greater part of her 94 years, with control as her back up, accompanied by a strong need to win and an inability or unwillingness see another’s point of view or respond with an apology because she cannot accept being wrong. The result has been a bag of mixed blessings and devastating consequences. Have my encounters with the darkness in her resulted in seeking, asking and knocking experiences on my part? Yes. From a holistic point of view her disorder has invited me to recognize darkness in myself I may not have otherwise acknowledged. I’ve also been invited search for wisdom and knowledge I may not have otherwise sought, which has proved useful in supporting and encouraging others. Perhaps poetry wouldn’t speak to my soul the way it does, if I hadn’t encountered a blocked path and needed to find a safe place to experience resonance. Who can say what an encounter with darkness in another will delay, invite or provoke? Who can say what an encounter with light will yield?

    In my experience, Light and Life have an energy of their own, something that goes beyond and involves more than a constant act of defiance, which is about acting against rather than being creatively for something more.

    Interestingly enough, in a book I picked up at Goodwill last week, entitled Dancing Under the Red Star, on life in Stalin’s Gulag, I found this line tonight as I was reading the prologue in between thoughts on defiance and work on this comment:

    Our journey beyond the iron curtain and back is a story of defiance, hope, inspiration and personal triumph–those often unseen elements rooted in the deeper spiritual realities of the human experience.

    Which made me wonder if being alive is a constant act of hope, inspiration and personal triumph in addition to defiance, with breathing being all about inspiration!

    That’s a thought I can live with. At least for now.

  45. I never said life is ONLY defiance. Obviously you can see that defiance is PART of it. And it is an aspect not usually recognized in New Age philosophy.

    I think you took the word “defiance” out of context because it reminded you of your mother’s negative attitude. But I meant it in a positive sense, of not giving up.

    New Agers often seem to perceive God as a warm fuzzy happy face in the sky. In the Old Testament, anyone who looked at God would instantly die. The infinite power of the universe is terrifying beyond imagination, as well as compassionate.

    The religious right may be stupid in some ways, but at least they understand that we must fear God before we can be saved.

  46. And, by the way, in the Old Testament Satan (the adversary) was a servant of God. His role was to test people’s faith and, I think, to educate. We learn more from overcoming obstacles than from just gliding happily along.

  47. This was the CONTEXT offered, realpc:

    The good and positive forces in life are inevitable and essential. And so are the bad.

    Being alive is a constant act of defiance.

    I don’t see much to go on other than the modifier “constant” and your reference to good and bad without offering a clue as to where those standards originate or what the inevitable and essential “bad” force might be or involve. Which is why I asked, “Defiance against what?”

    Defiance, by definition, is about opposition to someone or something, defying, and resisting. While preservation is implied, defiance involves not giving SOMETHING or SOMEONE up, which is different from a positive sense of NOT GIVING UP, covered by the words “endurance” and “perseverance”. Had either of those words been used to convey that positive sense you were after, a different discussion would have resulted as I am in semi-agreement with both of the following, with my preference being for the removal of the word “constant” in order for them to match my lived experience.

    Being alive is a constant act of perseverance.
    Being alive is a constant act of endurance.

    Because I know someone who appears to be live in almost constant defiance, I know that is not the path of wholeness. Which is why I was intrigued to find the other three elements mentioned in the Red Star book along with defiance as they filled in the missing pieces of hope, personal triumph and inspiration needed for wholeness to be realized. No “obviously” about it, more like a serendipitous find that helped move my thinking forward. As did the comment at the top of this post, which brought up the question that stopped me from happily gliding along in agreement.

  48. If you have access to Bible, realpc920, the story of Moses talking face to face with God as one would with a friend and then asking to see the full glory of God is recorded in Exodus 33. As the story goes, Moses saw God and lived, but was told he could not look at the fullness of God’s glory and goodness and remain alive.

    17 Adonai said to Moshe, “I will also do what you have asked me to do, because you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 But Moshe said, “I beg you to show me your glory!” 19 He replied, “I will cause all my goodness to pass before you, and in your presence I will pronounce the name of Adonai. Moreover, I show favor to whomever I will, and I display mercy to whomever I will. 20 But my face,” he continued, “you cannot see, because a human being cannot look at me and remain alive. 21 Here,” he said, “is a place near me; stand on the rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you inside a crevice in the rock and cover you with my hand, until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand, and you will see my back, but my face is not to be seen.”

    Humans can barely survive a lighting strike. They also seem to melt in the face of Love.

  49. Of course you have access to a Bible, realpc. There’s a part of me that lived through fifty years of the Bible being a book that was passed down, purchased or received as a gift, while another part of me is currently using the easily available online version for cut and paste. Truth be told, when I picture someone reading a Bible, it’s still the paper and leather version that comes to mind.

    What I enjoy most about the story of Moses talking with God is the scope present, where a face to face is possible yet full awareness is declared to be more than a human can handle or withstand. I also like the boundaries set, as it’s made clear that the dispensing of favor and mercy aren’t subject to human rules and understanding, with “whomever I will” designated as recipients of something special. So there stands Moses the murderer, who found favor and was known by name, catching a glimpse of That Which is Bigger than Himself.

    With regard to defiance, the etymology of the root word, defy, leads back to this curious place:

    defy (v.) c. 1300, “to renounce one’s allegiance;” mid-14c., “to challenge, defy,” from Old French defier, desfier “to challenge, defy, provoke; renounce (a belief), repudiate (a vow, etc.),” from Vulgar Latin *disfidare “renounce one’s faith,” from Latin dis- “away” (see dis-) + fidus “faithful,” from the same root as fides “faith” (see faith).

    In my experience, being alive has required a certain amount of challenge, renouncing and giving up with regard to beliefs I’ve held, in order to take hold of new awareness; with doing so being more of gradual process than a constant one.

    Oddly enough, even the New Agers have had something to offer that has caused me to either think twice, or move beyond a locked thought. I’ve yet to meet one who perceives God as a warm, happy, fuzzy face in the sky, but I’m familiar with several who consider God to be the fullness of Light and Love. And I can’t say they’ve completely missed the mark.

    I’m missing Karen. Is she still around? For her, I post this a poem steeped in catholic imagery, from the same Tapestry booklet as the others:

    In Paradisum

    That day there were some
    who claimed they saw
    wings of angels
    near the altar
    cast a sheer
    luminescence
    over your simple
    casket. No doubt the
    creamy roses glowed–
    a numinous shimmer–
    others insisted shards
    of sun transformed
    stained glass into shafts
    of quivering light.
    My truth is this: I saw
    martyrs and saints
    bow down
    from their pedestals
    and window panes
    as your body passed
    along the nave
    through the doors
    of Sacred Heart
    for the last time.
    A holy breeze
    brushed my shoulder
    as archangels arose
    along the path like
    rows of iridescent
    poplar trees, singing
    you into paradise.

    T. Tappouni

    It made me think about unimagined and unseen suffering and favor that extends beyond the bound of human imagination.

  50. LouiseM,

    I don’t have access to the bible, and believe me I tried. I searched all the local bookstores and libraries. Nothing. I even searched the itnternet, still no luck.

    When I was a child my parents had a bible, but they kept it on a shelf too high for me to reach. As soon as I got tall enough to reach the bible, the dog ate it.

    A sad story, but it’s true.

  51. I got another call from The Department of Windows this week, with one of their heavily accented representatives claiming in sing song, difficult to understand English to have special information about what is wrong with my computer. Each time they call, I’m amazed by their persistence and audacity in presenting false information and a narrative that doesn’t make sense. Asking them where the Department of Windows is located and who funds them only leads to runaround and more shameless attempts to con me into believing they have special knowledge along with the authority to speak for Windows. I don’t like being scammed and become exercised by the thought of them duping innocent and unknowing others into honestly responding to their dishonest ploy. Though I’m willing to laugh and respond in good humor to the opening exchanges before telling them they need to stop with the lies, even that phrase needs to be repeated several times, like a broken record, before they’ll finally hang up, only to try again in a few weeks with the same story after promising to take me off their call list. I could not answer the phone when they ring in, but consider engagement with them to be an exercise in learning to how to form a neutral but firm response. Sometimes I hold steady and sometimes I don’t, but I continue to learn in my quest to figure out how to balance and present truth and grace.

    I’m sorry to hear of your fruitless search for a Bible, realpc920. While lack of access in your youth along with current day difficulties in finding a Bible available anywhere could account for the gaps in knowledge and distorted views present within some of the comments you’ve made here about the words and stories contained within that collection of books, there is no longer a need for you to remain without resource.

    To receive a free Paper Version, sign up here: http://biblesforamerica.org/

    To utilize a more mystical and modern approach: Type the word “Bible” into the invisible search engine of Google and click on the lock that opens the door to allow written words to fly from one place to another. In doing so, you’ll invite the words you are searching for to travel through earth’s atmosphere, ascend to the heavens and return again to earth in the blink of an eye, to land as close as your hand or lap. Which is almost as good as having a face to face with a friend and as awesome as looking through a crack at a glorious mystery larger than oneself.

  52. Osu ! I was searching for Kishi Shihan and came upon one of your older posts a picture of Shihan, J and You. I met Kishi Sensei through my brother Sensei Bill (GoJu Ryu, ten years my elder ) early 1976, he and my brother were friends and while i was 18 and studying GoJu Ryu my brother asked him ii I could train in Kyokushin Kai. Sensei then changed to Seido Juku and invited me to join, I did in October 76. in 79 my brother and I relocated to Texas, when I moved back Sensei had returned to Kyokushin Wooster St. Dojo. I trained with him until i tore my right knee and had to stop. My Brother Bill Passed from Cancer in 1992, i was working in So America and came back to see him, we spoke of those times when we would all go out together to Japanese clubs with Sensei Kishi, he was grateful of their friend ship and proud to have met such a great Karateka as Sensei Kishi. In 2002 I returned to Seido Juku in Orlando Fla. and in 2007 received my Shodan as i promised my brother I would. I hope that Shihan Kishi is doing well, i believe i heard he was living in Japan full time ? Osu ! Michael Opal. I believe I spoke to you many years ago by phone when i lived in Wisconsin.

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