Saturday, January 28, 2006

What's love got to do with it?

(This blog is extremely long but hopefully not too difficult to read for someone that is willing to give it a little time. It is long because it has to be long. I am talking about love and I have only picked really just a few things to try to discuss in relation to love but even just doing this, with a topic so complicated, takes a long time. That being said, I really hope this will be read because the information in this blog really deals with a very important aspect of life and something deep down inside we all really need to do, love)

Two people I know were arguing, one says love realizes justice, the other says that is wrong and that love really realizes forgiveness. Well, both articulate their point well but they are both right and both wrong.

The person who says that love precipitates forgiveness talked about the story of Jesus and the woman about to be stoned for adultery. Jesus refused to condemn her and let her be stoned. The argument was that he did not practice justice but forgiveness.

The people who argued this argument made many good points but I have a different view. First of all, what the Bible says Jesus practiced towards the woman was all of the above: love, justice and forgiveness. Jesus, in the example loves a person, forgives them, and by doing this and encouraging the person to turn away from their wrongs is practicing a very just form of justice.

But the story is complicated because the Pharisees wanted to stone and kill the lady. For them, this meant justice. That would mean justice is subjective, but this argument is false. The real argument, the true argument is that what the Pharisees wanted to enact was punishment under the guise of justice. No more no less. Punishment, revenge, and retribution are not the same as justice though many people get them confused.

For instance, there have been people falsely imprisoned, sometimes even executed. At the time, it seemed like it was justice. Later, these people were proven innocent. What had seemed like before was justice was actually not justice at all, it was a cruel and unjustified punishment? There are other times that people who were guilty of a crime walked free. My point being, punishment and revenge is not justice no matter what it seems like a person deserves in a situation. And also that religious and secular laws do not always equal justice, especially when applied incorrectly or when designed incorrectly.

Since justice is not revenge, what is justice? Justice, simply put is when things are fair. If a wrong has taken place there are many ways that justice or fairness can take place. One way is for the victim to be compensated by the perpetrator for the offence. This is true justice.

This type of justice is something that people do for each other all the time that love each other. In fact it is a requirement. Let me explain it like this, if I love somebody but I somehow hurt them, I need to try to make up for this. If I hurt people and don’t think twice about and do it again, this is not love but abuse. Love demands that if I hurt my girlfriend’s, mother’s, or sister’s feelings, that I not ignore the situation but make up for it. This

making up for it is justice.

The victim has a part in the act too, that is if they really love the offender. The victim must forgive. If they are not forgiving, then they are not loving. If they are not forgiving, then they are harboring resentment and it is sure to cause an unhealthy relationship.

See, loving demands that one person forgive and the other seek justice. If these are not done a person is not acting in a loving way. I can’t say for sure about anyone else but I know in every relationship I have ever been in whether it was big or small, at some point somebody messed up. It always happens. We are all humans and that is just the way it goes. It is inevitable that sooner or later somebody will do something wrong to another and when this happens, this is when we have to practice forgiveness and justice if we are going to continue on with a healthy relationship.

Love is not only as simple as forgiveness and justice though. Love demands honesty too. If I love someone, I will tell him or her the truth and if I don’t I am not treating him or her fairly. Not treating people fairly is clearly not loving them.

Love means not stealing from a person or harming them also for more than obvious reasons.

Love means doing each and everyone of these things, if even one of them is absent, there is no true love.

Some might say, I am talking about actions to other people and this is not the way they define love but I am convinced my definition of love as something a person does to another person and not something that happens to them is a very solid definition.

I have heard love described as many different things. Some for instance say love is a feeling you have for others when you feel like you need to be around them. I say when you need somebody really bad that is not love but a kind of addiction, a dependence on the other, an internal lack of wholeness that is filled by the other. This is not a necessarily bad thing, we all have it. I have it too. I need people, especially those that I am close too. Often times this needing leads me to be hurt, especially when in the end I don’t get what I needed. We all get hurt in something we call love but that is not real love because real love can never hurt a person. When a person is hurt, it is because they were not whole and were a needy person. I don’t mean this in a harsh and damming way because I myself get hurt often and this is just the way I see it.

Other people say they fall in love with somebody when they see a really attractive member of the opposite sex (for some it is the same sex, but it is all the same). To me this is not love but the old sexual drive kicking in. This is not love but infatuation.

When a relationship goes farther to the point of making love. To me this means having sex but a person can also practice loving another while having sex but the two are different. In fact having sex is very often times not making love at all but something completely different. Think of all the people that use sex for their own personal pleasure at the expense of the other, the people that objectify others during sex, the people that use sex for power, or even worse the people that use sex as a way to abuse people. How can any of these things that treat people so badly be love? They are not. (I am getting to what love is in a minute, hold on)

Others say love is when they really love something. It is their favorite thing or person in the whole world. Sure they are not addicted to it, they can live without it, but when they have it, they are really happy. To me again, this is not love, this is actually liking something. To me when I like something and I am close to it, it makes me happy.

Some go back to the Greeks and say real love is Agape. This is the most high love possible but to me that is just unconditional acceptance. This is closer to love than the other things I have just mentioned but is still not love, just an important part of it.

Others talk about love as affection, or brotherly, or motherly love, or attachment, or enthusiasm. The list goes on and on. I don’t feel like explaining it all and I am not sure if anyone would even read it but still to me, none of these are love.

Actually, almost all of these things describe actions that take place within a person’s consciousness or body. All these thinks affect our mood and all of these things, I think only really hint around what love really is. See to me, love is not something that happens inside of ourselves but is something we do to others. It is actions and a state of consciousness we take towards others. Love is a giving and not a receiving. It is an outward phenomenon and not an inward phenomenon. This is why a person can look for love all their life and never find it, because it cannot really happen to you. True love is actually something you do for others.

Love is something that when you do for others you are practicing all that is good towards another. You are being honest to another, you are unconditionally accepting them, you are trying to have justice in you relationship, you are being compassionate, you are practicing harmony and unity with the other’s essence, and you are providing an opportunity for the other to grow and become more than they are. Back to my original example of Jesus, if the story is true, he would have been practicing all these things and giving people an example of how to love others.

Now the reason why I think that love as I describe it has been confused with all the things described above. I am talking about love being confused with infatuation, liking, sex, forgiveness, unconditional acceptance… The reason is for many people, myself included don’t walk around all the time manifesting all that is good and thus practicing real love.

But in moments of our life we do come close and often times we are doing something that we don’t normally do, like for instance our sex drive has enabled us to be extremely nice to a person for a while. When we are being so good to the other person, we seem to be loving them and thus we get our sex drive confused with love.

The examples vary widely for the many different types of people in the world and that is why there are so many confusing definitions of what love is. Even the definition of loving as dependence, which is one of the most common definitions. I have seen a person, (this includes me at times too), that needed another person so badly that I was forced to treat them so well. By treating them so well, I was indeed in a way loving them but this loving I was doing should not be confused with the internal dependence I had that caused my outward actions of loving.

One last thing, true love, real love, full love is as I said I very difficult thing to do. To really do it, a person has to be doing all good things at once. Not exactly that easy of a thing to do for me, especially for a long time. In fact try as hard as I can, I have never been able to do this for more than a flash. Seriously, a flash is all I have ever been able to do it for. I would like to do it for more but up till this point I have not been able to.

See for me, the way love is practiced is actually very analogous to a cheesy commercial on TV. There is a commercial for a bank (I don’t know what bank, maybe somebody can tell me) that talks about how they like to process checks. The commercial talks about all the steps the go through to process checks and how complicated it is to process millions of checks a year. The point of the commercial though is that the bank does not try to set up an operation to process millions of checks a year correctly but to learn how to process one check correctly and then repeat it a million times.

For me love is the same way. In love, I do not set out to try to be a great lover over the course of my lifetime by doing all these good things I mentioned above to everybody, every time. I try to do all these great things, all the same time, just for an instance, just with one person. If I do it, if I can do it, then I try to repeat that same thing over and over.

I say this because it seems like to me people often times seem to try to make their love in a relationship last indefinitely. They plan out their lives and couples tell each other, if you do this and I do that then I will love you or we can always be in love. For me, this way of working a relationship just does not work. I try to live in the moment; each moment doing all of the good things that make a person have a healthy relationship, one second at a time. If I do this over and over, the months or years can pass by. But if I try to plan out the months or years, then my days, minutes, and seconds get passed by.

These thoughts I have here, they are by no means all I have to say on love. I could go on more and more.

Maybe sometime I will write part two to this blog but I think I have made some very general statements here and set the general tone for what I believe about love. A lot of what I explained here, I came up through my own personal reflection in life. I thought about it all a lot and came up with many of these ideas. Some of them were refined when I became a graduate teaching assistant while attending school at KU for the class “Loving Relationships”. The class was taught by Robert Shelton who is a great wealth of knowledge in this subject but not only does he talk about such things but demonstrates them in his daily life. His book written on the subject is called, “Loving Relationships” but if a person asks me, it might be better titled “healthy and loving relationships” as that is more of what it deals with. It is a hard book to find but I think that maybe Amazon might carry it if anybody is interested. It is an academic book and not a pop book on love but is not that difficult to read. If anyone is interested in pursuing more research on what love really is, I highly recommend Shelton’s book, as it is the most complete book I have found on the subject and sure has a lot of potential to profoundly change a person’s life in so many ways if they are receptive to its message. If it is not able to be found, a much more popular book, but in my opinion not as good as Shelton’s is Erich Fromm’s book called “The Art of Loving”. It is an old classic and a good place to start in the search for what love really is.

Well, that is about it on my blog about love. If anyone actually read and go through all of this, I would love to hear back from you and see what you think. Please, really leave a comment on something or anything.

Lesotho Arrival (on racism and being welcomed)

Malcolm X in his autobiography pointed out that on his trip to the Middle East he had been so overwhelmed in his experience having been with black, brown, red, yellow and white people. These were the white man, the Arab man, the Asian man, and the black man all praying together. Some were poor and some rich, some conservative and some extremists, but all were brothers. It was the same with me. Even though I obviously was not racist before I went to Africa, I had still yet to experience such a profound experience as Malcolm’s. After just my first week in Africa I had such a profound change in consciousness similar to Malcolm’s; I would be forever changed. The people had been so kind and beautiful to me that I had all issues cleared in my mind concerning racism, deciding for once and all, for sure, that it is an ignorant practice of those who fail to see the truth and potential of the world and the magnificent people in it. I had been eating with, talking with, and even living with people of a different color, different religion, and different first language than myself but my days were going good, even better than good, they were unforgettable. It felt strangely like entering a completely different world and in part I was. I was on the same planet Earth but I was half way around and on the other side of the equator but surely in my mind, I had entered into a different planet in a different time. Things were magical again and life had its awe as it once did when I was young. The personal interactions I had with my new found African friends were each one stimulating, special and deep felt in my heart. The Basotho made me feel so at home even though I had not even heard of a country called “Lesotho” only a few months before. A country so poor, so small, that it did not even register on my narrative of the world.

I felt so welcomed and in my place that it was actually startling. It was vaguely like being a traveler and having been on a long distant trip for so long that one feels like the trip will never end. Finally after weeks, months, or even years one returns home to feel safe and comfortable only to find they have been gone for so long they have partially forgotten what it felt like to be home. That is what if felt like for me “coming home” but this was my first time in Africa. It was like I was coming home and it was all familiar and comfortable to me in a way that made me feel like I belonged to the land and the land to me. But it was also somehow unfamiliar as these people were different than any I had seen before and there language even stranger. It is so amazing just how good I felt coming to Africa and having her spirit in me even though at the time I suspected the people there would have many reasons to not welcome me so warmly like they actually did.

I was born in a prosperous land; they were born in a poor one. I had gone to good schools, received a fine education from intelligent teachers and the majority of the Africans I saw could not even read a newspaper. When I had been sick I went to fancy hospitals with expensive test and got the new and latest medicines and when they got sick, they wasted away and died. Our worlds were opposite and tragically so. They had every reason to hate me, be jealous of me, and be racist towards me but they only showed me kindness and love. After only a week, I knew unquestionably and undisputedly that the color of a man’s skin determines little about who he is, what he is able to accomplish, and how he is going to treat another fellow human being. It is more the choices a person makes and the choices the people around a person make that ends up helping to determine who a person is in life, not the color of their skin. The African people of Lesotho were indeed some of the friendliest, calm, and most generously accommodating people I had ever met and I am sure I will always love them for it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

games? not for me

(Warning: This blog entry is long, a bit complicate, and difficult to read at times but ultimately makes my point, which is not an easy point to make. For something a little easier, check out some of my other entries)

I love playing. I love telling jokes and laughing. I splash in the water when I swim with my friends. I sing and I dance. Sometimes on a nice day, I play Frisbee catch with my friends and we do stupid tricks. I light firecrackers on the fourth of July and I am always up for going on an adventure. I tease my niece and nephew, tickle them and make them laugh. All of these things and many more are play to me. I can hardly get enough of play. I love it but I do not play games because games are a different kind of play than all these I just mentioned.

First of all in all the play I just mentioned, I play with other people (okay, sometimes I sing and dance when people aren’t looking and I am by myself). We all might have different roles in the different kinds of playing above but none of the roles is really anymore important than any of the other ones because all the different roles are needed for play. For instance if someone tells a joke, there needs to be another person to laugh. If a person throws a Frisbee, another person needs to be there to catch it. The roles are different but they are all important.

In the world of games like football, cards, tennis, Monopoly, and chess, the people play against each other. Sure they are also playing with each other in some ways because it is not exactly full blown war, is it? And even the people playing on teams are especially playing together but to some extent at some point there is always a “me versus you” thing going on and that is what I can’t stand.

Why? It seems so harmless and maybe it is but I try to work on absolutes most of the time. For instance, I am a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat and that means all the time. Being a vegetarian does not mean not eating all meat except bacon bits on salads or Turkey on Thanksgiving; it means never eating meat. Some people think it would be okay to eat a little meat every once and a while and still be considered a vegetarian. If they think that, it is fine by me if it works for them, but it does not work for me. I am a person who likes absolutes. Another case would be of stealing. Many people know it is not okay to steal a million dollars but it is also still not okay to steal a dollar. This is how I am. Eating meat, even if it is a little, is still eating meat. Stealing, even if it is only a little, is still stealing. And, participating in the division that games encourage, is still being competitive.

Let me explain more why I don’t like competition in a different way. A perfect example of a good type of play would be a band of musicians. Each is different and each has his or her own part and instrument. Each plays but not against the other. Each not only plays but tries to play as well as possible with the other. By playing with each other their music becomes beautiful. Imagine if you would what the music would sound like if two people were set on playing against each other. It would be a disaster. Diversity in this case is good. The differences in tempo, tone, and sound of the different instruments blend and add to each other. So is the case with many other types of play but not play of games.

In play of games the different players actually set out to destroy, smash, defeat, and ruin the other. Ideologically, the two different types of play are very different. One values harmony, unity, and support while the other values dominance, power, and immobilization of the other.

I am a peaceful person. I take the tacky old saying of “I am a lover not a fighter” to heart and really mean it. I do not engage in activities that seek dominance, power, and immobilization of the other, even if it is only play. I say this because I realize that on some level games are based on something more than the play that they are billed as.

Let me give an example. The more harmless games for instance, say, checkers or UNO are really pretty simple. They don’t really do a lot of harm, I don’t think. A step up from this can be card games like poker. Maybe no money is used but then sometimes money is used. A little bit of money lost might not be that bad, only a little bit bad, but a lot of money lost can cause a lot of damage. Even a step up would be full contact sports. I know these are fun to watch on TV and fun to play. I have even played them all on teams when I was younger: basketball, baseball, football, soccer and many more. But take football for instance. In this game people spend a good deal of their time trying to physically stop a person. Usually they try to do this by hitting the other person as hard as possible. This makes good highlights for replays and late night news but in reality people get hurt. Sometimes people that play games that are competitive get hurt really bad. Some, on rare occasions even die. A card game might be innocent but the line is vague between a card game and a game that permanently injures another person.

The examples could go on and get more serious but my argument is not as strong but is more intense. The same dominant type of thinking, the same willingness to go to any lengths for oneself at the expense of the other is demonstrated more seriously in business in America and even more so in cutthroat business. Such businesses when in competition with each other might see it as a game, not to score the most points, but to sell the cheapest products. These businesses cut costs, ignore safety and people get hurt. Some businesses hire undocumented immigrants and overwork them for too little pay. Some businesses that involve things like gambling, prostitution, drug dealing, and anything with the mafia really can abuse people. They often die or are treated very inhumanely. Lastly, if someone steps up competition one more level from the level of mafia or street gangs, one can reach the state of war where people plainly set out to kill each other.

Now I know what I am trying to do here is make a comparison to playing checkers to the permanent injuries of football to all out war. This comparison and connection might seem far fetched to some, especially how we are raised, but I really think there is a connection and there is no clear line to stop at and that is why I don’t play at all. Not with anything.

Another thing about games, actually a small issue compared to the one above is that games are not real. They are, in a way, make believe. I know that is why people play them sometimes but there are some pretty serious aspects that a person needs to understand when playing games. Games are pretty solid binaries most of the times. By this, I mean to make the point that one and only one person is completely and totally opposed to another. They are a closed off system. In games there is often only two players and that is why they are closed off. But nothing in the real world is actually closed off. The real game of life is a very open and fluid system. Life has no real set beginning or ending for the different acts and plays. Different players in life leave and or comeback and new players also come in. In games a person starts off in and ends up out, it is over, and that is it. The different games of life can be very infinite in many ways while competitive games have very narrowly defined starting points, ends, and rules that apply. Life is just simply not like that. People come in and out of jobs, friendships, marriages, and many other roles at their own will, at not at surely defined times. In all these relationships, we play. Sometimes we play and others play with us but sometimes we play and others don’t want to play, so we play by ourselves. Sometimes we might think we are playing but the other person is not (people get hurt like this sometimes). In a competitive game though a person has to play or forfeit. It is so much different. If a person plays a lot of games and then they think they can live out life the same way their games have played out, they might very well be in for an upset. I say this and many people might not take me seriously but it is very easy for a person, especially one that is young, to confuse the realities of games to the reality of life and not even know it is happening. This is kind of like a person watching family sitcoms all day and then not being able to figure out why in real life all their problems aren’t solved at the end of thirty minutes. It is just too easy to blur the reality between fantasy and real life.

A more dangerous psychological result of playing games in my opinion is the false sense of superiority that is instilled in the winners. One has to only have played any kind of competitive game or watch one to know how good winning feels. People scream in joy, soccer players rip off their jerseys, and Olympians even cry. Why does it feel so good? Because we worked hard, we struggled, and we overcame against the other. We were the best.

This is a fine feeling for many and if people like to feel like that I don’t have a problem with it. In American culture, we are taught doing this-feeling like this-is not only normal but good. But I don’t like to feel like I am the best. I don’t want to feel better than anyone else because I know that deep down inside I am not better than another other person. So when I play a game and I win, I am lying to myself, telling myself I am really the best one around. To beat down another, to put them aside and declare myself better through a metaphorical reenactment is a way of deceiving myself into grandness and falsely building my ego (And I surely know how I can’t help but have my ego stroked).

Worse though is the case when I lose. Now, I feel worse than the other. I feel like I am not sufficient and some how defective. I really don’t like feeling like this.

Actually, I can’t stand felling like this. Like I said, I feel like everyone is equal. We might all have our differences and these differences can be shown to be proficiencies or deficiencies in others or ourselves that boost or harm our ego. But these differences can also be used to help each other, and if we do this in harmony and unity, we can make ourselves better. I believe in working for peace, harmony, and unity and this is why I don’t engage in war, I don’t engage in the mafia, I don’t engage in highly competitive sports that could injure myself or others and yes, I don’t play games. I do this because like stealing even a little bit is still stealing, playing competitive games even modest games still causes division.

Sex and Sprituality

(The following is from an email conversation I have had with a person concerning sex and spirituality and how some people might want to take advantage of others by saying a person can only really be spiritual if a relationship is sexual.)

To me in the spirit world there is no sex or sexes. This is exemplified in different religions at times but a good example is in the bible where a woman asks Jesus whose wife she will be if she has been married to many people. Jesus tells her that in Heavan there are not marriages or sexes. Therefore what happens here on earth concerning sex only effects the spirit in the same way anything else that was good or bad would. I mean it like this. If someone has a non-sexual relationship, any kind of relationship, and it is unhealthy then maybe his or her spirit will be hurt. If someone has a sexual relationship and it is unhealthy then also his or her spirit will be hurt. The opposite is also true that healthy sexual relationships can have positive spiritual consequences and healthy non-sexual relationships can have positive spiritual consequences.

But in a world of the spirit where the nature of reality is so much different than it is here, there are neither sexes nor sex and therefore sex in and of itself has no real direct effect to what happens in the spirit world. Only how the sex was engaged in has a spiritual result just like any other activity say like playing baseball, taking a walk on the beach, or talking to someone on the phone.

As for having relationships without having sex because some people will try to explain to others that they can not have a good “relationship” with out having sex. Of course we can. I have had hundreds of relationships with hundreds of people of different ages, sexes, races, and religions but hardly any of these have with a sexual partner. If I had to have sex with everyone I know that would really suck. When a person says that they can not have a good “relationship” with out sex, what they are really saying is “sexual relationship” and that is the goal of their interaction.

Sex may be used though to enhance a relationship or hurt it. In a case if a person said no and the other still persists, the persistence would cause damage whether or not actions are followed through with. If a person doesn't want to, and doesn't feel like it, I gather bad things would happen as a result if a person went through with the sex.

Just like sex can be used to enhance or hurt relationships, it may also be used to enhance or hurt spirituality. It depends on how a person engages it and what it is being done. As for a person wanting to have sex but not reach climax as some religions teach; that is a common idea and for me one that is plain common lies. (sorry if this offends anyone) The thing is that sex in many ways meant to bring a person to orgasm although not a requirement. That is the natural course of it. If a person’s friends wants to be physically close but not reach climax, just hold their hand. I am sure you can do that for more than long enough. :-) For me positive spirituality enhanced by sex would be enhanced by doing what people should do with any type of spiritual activity which is practice love. Now a person might also practice breathing to gain rhythm and a solid foundation of self. And yes develop spiritual discipline in some way if they were able to refrain from orgasm. If a person is wanting spiritual discipline there are other ways, some of which are arguably better but definitely better for a person because now the person is not being abused by another. I suggest if a person’s friend does not have a sex partner a far better practice to develop discipline would be to take up fasting. (oh wait that doesn't sound so fun, now does it).


I do like to hear nice compliments. Lets me know what I am doing well at so someday I can make it great. I also don't mind an equal amount of criticism so I know what I am doing wrong so I can work on it really hard to make it better or just cut it out all together. I think the trick is things need to be balanced. Too much of one or the other is pretty destructive to a person's ego.