Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cheating vs Polyamory

Anyone who knows me knows that my previous two romantic relationships were not consecutive; they were concurrent. This is a concept called "polyamory" where one is involved with more than one person at a time, each party with the full knowledge of the others. Not everyone understood that; more often than not, I'd get chastised for "cheating." In fact, I got that comment relatively recently from someone with whom the topic came up.

I'd like to explain my position on this here; that way, next time I get into this discussion, I'll just point people to this entry and say, "Here; fill your boots." ;)

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines "cheat" as, "To act dishonestly; practice fraud." Now it's obvious how this applies, for example, to the man sneaking around on his wife. By keeping his second relationship a secret from his wife (and, in most cases, keeping the wife from the other woman as well) he is being dishonest; he is a fraud passing himself off as a single man to the second woman and as a faithful man to his wife.

It is in this definition of "cheat" where the difference between a cheater and a person who practices polyamory becomes clear. Whereas the man above is misrepresenting himself to the women, I in my situation was not misrepresenting myself in any way. Both women I was involved with was aware of my relationship with the other and both gave full consent to my having relationships with both (actually, they even had a relationship with each other briefly ;)).

To me, the bedrock on which all good relationships lie, whether they be friend, family or romantic, is honesty. One thing I would never do to anyone is "cheat." I do believe one can be in love with, and involved with, more than one partner but only if all partners agree.

If, some day, I ever find myself in a new relationship with someone I truly love and my new partner wants me to remain faithful only to her I'll do that without question; I did it with Lisa for years, after all (we didn't start out polyamorous; Lisa introduced me to the concept much later). Given that, I must admit, when people ask me if I'm still polyamorous that's a hard question to answer; I still believe in the concept but one can't really be polyamorous when they're single... :P

I will say this. I try not to judge people but, honestly, I don't trust cheaters; I can't. The way I see it, if one can keep a secret that huge from someone, something they obviously have a right to know, I'll always question how honest that person is being with me, and not only in a romantic relationship; I would have trouble trusting a friend who cheats, too, because dishonesty is dishonesty regardless of its form.

One thing anyone in my life, family, friend or lover, can count on: I'll never keep anything from you that you have a right to know.

Anyway, as Forrest Gump might say, "That's all I have to say about that." :)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Glorify God for His Gift

James Delorey has been found! :) He's not in ideal condition; last I heard his pulse was weak and he was being airlifted to Halifax for medical treatment but he is alive! Honestly, after all the time he was out there unprotected, I wasn't expecting that; it's a miracle he is alive.

The Prayer of Petition to St. Rita says that if she answers a prayer you must "make known [her] favor and . . . glorify God for His gift." Well, St. Rita has answered this prayer so I'd like to say in public and for the record: thank you.

Now, we need your help one more time:

Glorious St. Rita, Patroness of those in need, your intercession with our Lord is most powerful. Through the favors obtained by your prayers, you have been called advocate of hopeless and even impossible cases. St. Rita, humble and pure, patient and compassionate lover of Christ Crucified, we have confidence that everyone who has recourse to you will find comfort and relief.

Listen to our petitions and show your power with God on our behalf. Obtain our petitions for us if they are for the greater honor of God and for our good. We promise, if our petitions are granted, to make known your favor and to glorify God for His gift. Relying on your power with the Merciful Savior, we ask of you:

Please help heal seven-year-old James Delorey of South Bar, Nova Scotia. Although he has been found, he is not well; he needs your love and support if he is going to recover. Please grant James the strength to survive until his wounds heal and guide the doctors who treat him to evaluate his injuries properly and provide the proper treatment.

By the singular merits of your childhood, obtain our request for us:
  • By your perfect union with the Divine Will.
  • By your acceptance of troubles in your married life.
  • By the anguish felt at the murder of your husband.
  • By the surrender of your children rather than have them offend God.
  • By your miraculous entrance into the convent.
  • By your daily penance and fasting.
  • By your courage and joy in bearing the mark of the Crucified Savior.
  • By the Devine Love which consumed your life.
  • By your devotion in receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
  • By the happiness you felt in leaving this life for union with Christ.
  • By the example you have given to people of every state of life.
Pray for us, St. Rita, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

Heavenly Father, in Your infinite love and mercy, You heed the prayer of Your beloved servant Rita. You graciously grant favors through her intercession which are considered impossible to human skill and effort. Relying on her compassionate love, we ask You to assist us in our trials and difficulties. Let unbelievers know that You are helper of the humble, the defender of the weak and the strength of those who trust in You.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Prayer for a Lost Boy

Glorious St. Rita, Patroness of those in need, your intercession with our Lord is most powerful. Through the favors obtained by your prayers, you have been called advocate of hopeless and even impossible cases. St. Rita, humble and pure, patient and compassionate lover of Christ Crucified, we have confidence that everyone who has recourse to you will find comfort and relief.

Listen to our petitions and show your power with God on our behalf. Obtain our petitions for us if they are for the greater honor of God and for our good. We promise, if our petitions are granted, to make known your favor and to glorify God for His gift. Relying on your power with the Merciful Savior, we ask of you:

Protect and guide seven-year-old James Delorey of South Bar, Nova Scotia; he has wandered away from home without protection from the elements. Help him find the rescuers who are searching for him and, until then, help him find a way to protect and shelter himself. Please help return him to his family safe and unharmed.

By the singular merits of your childhood, obtain our request for us:
  • By your perfect union with the Divine Will.
  • By your acceptance of troubles in your married life.
  • By the anguish felt at the murder of your husband.
  • By the surrender of your children rather than have them offend God.
  • By your miraculous entrance into the convent.
  • By your daily penance and fasting.
  • By your courage and joy in bearing the mark of the Crucified Savior.
  • By the Devine Love which consumed your life.
  • By your devotion in receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
  • By the happiness you felt in leaving this life for union with Christ.
  • By the example you have given to people of every state of life.
Pray for us, St. Rita, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

Heavenly Father, in Your infinite love and mercy, You heed the prayer of Your beloved servant Rita. You graciously grant favors through her intercession which are considered impossible to human skill and effort. Relying on her compassionate love, we ask You to assist us in our trials and difficulties. Let unbelievers know that You are helper of the humble, the defender of the weak and the strength of those who trust in You.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bohemian Rhapsody, Muppet Style!

OK, it's official: The Muppets are rockin' YouTube! This one's easily an even match for Beaker's "Ode to Joy" I posted a couple weeks ago:

Gotta love that ending. Poor Kermit. He's the only "normal" guy in the ocean of weirdness that makes up the Muppet cast. I'm surprised he didn't go totally postal by now after decades of dealing with it; I would have. :P

Oh yes. While I'm here, there's a new version of Beaker's "Ode to Joy" available in YouTube HD (as is Bohemian Rhapsody above); here it is for those of you with computers powerful enough to run HD video streams:

What's so cool about both of these videos is I not only laugh my head off but also the music just has me rocking back and forth with a huge smile on my face. These things are just pure, digitally encoded fun!

It's nice to see The Muppets taking advantage of the YouTube craze to boost their popularity. These videos are going viral; even Jonathan Paula (producer of Is It a Good Idea to Microwave This, my favorite YouTube video series) has the Bohemian Rhapsody one among his favorites on his channel.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ode to Joy

I just had to share this; it just puts a huge smile on my face every time I watch it. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Love of the Heart Divine

For our veterans, and the loved ones they left behind when they went off to war.

Love of the Heart Divine
Love of the Heart ...
Hosted by eSnips

Music and Lyrics by Chris de Burgh
Performed by John A. Ardelli (vocals) and Brian Morton (instrumental track)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Human Arrogance

"There are other forms of intelligence on Earth . . . Only Human arrogance would assume the message must be meant for man." - Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

I must admit, I don't really know that much about climate change. Oh, I'm familiar with the scientific principle and theory behind it; I've seen An Inconvenient Truth. I would hardly call myself an "expert" on the subject, though; I really don't have much to say about it. So when I heard that was going to be the topic of "Blog Action Day" this year, my first thought was, What the heck am I going to say about that?

Of course, I've had plenty of time to think about it since the topic was announced. When I looked back at my previous blog postings including last year's Blog Action Day post "Cause and Effect: The Dynamics of Poverty," I realized that my strength was talking about psychology and the way people think. So that's the way I'd like to approach the subject: from the Human perspective.

I've heard many differing opinions and theories on climate change. Some believe it's inevitable; others believe it's preventable. Some believe Humans are the cause of it; others believe it's just a natural temperature cycle of the planet. However, whether you believe Humans are the cause of it, whether you believe it can be prevented or even if it should, there is one overriding thought I have when I think of the subject:

If the cause is us, it is Human arrogance that has done the damage.

Christianity has more influence on Western culture than probably any other religion. One of the central tenets of Christianity, particularly in the Old Testament, is that Earth was created exclusively for the use of Man because Man was ostensibly the smartest of God's creations; in fact, this is stated in The Bible's very first chapter:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. - Genesis 1: 27-30
Of course, this passage is one of those "chicken and the egg" situations. Did we come to the belief that we were superior to all creatures on the Earth because The Bible told us to, or was it written into The Bible because we already believed this? In either case, though, it's pretty clear that this passage has influenced the way Humankind has treated this world of ours over the past 6000 years or so, particularly in the Western world and among Christians worldwide.

When I read that passage from Genesis, I can't help but ask myself: what made Humans think they were so much better than everyone and everything else? Just because we can perceive a little bit of the way the Universe works? What makes us think that there aren't other creatures out there with just as sophisticated an understanding of our world? What makes us think there aren't other creatures who understand this world better than we do?

"Well, you've never seen any other creatures create vessels to take them into space or technologies to communicate around the world or techniques to feed millions of people or cure deadly diseases," etc. When you think about it, though, that doesn't really mean anything. Our biggest advantage as a species isn't our intelligence; it's our bodies: opposable thumbs, bipedal locomotion; these things give us huge advantages in tool use which other animals don't have.

Dolphins may be as intelligent or more so than we are; maybe the only reason they haven't developed technologies like ours is because they lack the ability to manipulate tools with the dexterity we can. Maybe elephants would've learned to travel to other stars by now if they had hands to build the machines; their trunks are of relatively limited utility. Maybe crows might've overthrown us by now if they didn't have to manipulate everything with an awkward beak.

Our belief in our intellectual superiority rests only on the most flimsy of foundations: our accomplishments. If you really look at them, most of our accomplishments are due not so much to intelligence but our numerical superiority (6.79 billion of us, at last count) and our bodies' remarkable flexibility in tool use. If our minds were trapped in bodies without those abilities, and if there were less of us, we would likely be no more "advanced" than dolphins.

"But chimpanzee bodies are just as dexterous as ours," one might argue. "How come they aren't at least our equals?" OK, maybe chimps aren't as intelligent as we are; since they have virtually the same physical capabilities, that's hard to dispute. But how can we possibly know how intelligent any other species is if that species can't demonstrate its intelligence through advanced tool use only because of the limitations of its body?

For millennia, Humans have behaved like the lords and masters of this planet, as if everything was ours for the taking regardless what other creatures it may hurt. We dump toxins in the water until we create disgusting legacies like the Sydney Tar Ponds. We're careless with toxic technologies until accidents like Chernobyl contaminate hundreds of square kilometers of land. We use devices to move around that spew thousands of toxins into the air yearly.

Because we've developed this mindset that the Earth is ours to use, we also get the subconscious feeling that the Earth is eternal; no matter what we do to it, the Earth will always provide. It doesn't occur to us, however, that the very physical laws of our Universe make infinity impossible. Even a resource as vast as the Earth has limitations; we can only take so much before we have to start giving back lest we use up the resource.

One of my good friends believes that Humankind simply isn't powerful enough to have had enough impact on the planet to cause climate change. "The planet's been warming and cooling for billions of years," he argues. "No way Humans are so much different from other animals that anything we do could possibly have a global impact on the environment; we're just one species among millions."

Did we cause global warming, or is it just a natural cycle? If you ask me, it doesn't really matter. The simple fact is, putting things into the environment that kills plant and animal life (and plenty of things Humans put into the environment does this on enormous scales) can't possibly be a good idea; to me, that's common sense. Yet, because we as a species believe this planet is here "just for us," we don't care what dies so long as we accomplish what we want.

But other creatures hurt, just like we do. If you accidentally step on a cat's tail, it yells; it feels pain. If you put a lobster in a pot of boiling water, it screams; it feels pain. We've all felt pain. It's something a vast majority of us avoid because, as physical sensations go, it's probably the least pleasant of all. Knowing what it's like, why would we want to inflict that on any creature?

"But they're only animals; they're not smart like us." So? Not every Human is smart, either; believe me, I've encountered my share of stupidity in my life, as we all have. Still, even if I met a Human being who was mentally handicapped with no more intelligence than a chimpanzee, I'd still feel compassion for them if they were in pain or dying. It's not about how smart the person is; it's about having some understanding of how they feel.

So why is it so hard for most of us to extend that metaphor to all creatures? Just because a dog doesn't look like us doesn't mean it doesn't have the same feelings we do. Just because insects look so ugly to our eyes (as I'm sure we do to theirs) doesn't mean they don't feel pain when they're injured. Indeed, how do we know they don't experience grief at the death of a loved one like we do? How do we know they don't experience love?

We don't.

If we did cause climate change, maybe that's poetic justice. Maybe global warming is nature's way of making us feel the suffering we've caused to the "lesser" creatures we share this planet with.

"I don't know about you, but my compassion for someone is not limited to my estimate of their intelligence." - Dr. Jillian Taylor, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


In my earlier post "Sex Education: Time for a Reform," I mentioned that I intended to go to my local library to find Victor Malarek's book The Johns - Sex for Sale and the Men who Buy It. Well, it took me a while to get it (the book was on reserve for two other readers ahead of me) but, last week, it finally became available. I picked it up last Friday; I finished it today.

Most of it talked about things I agreed with already and might've even written myself. However, there were a few things in there that took me by surprise and altered my perceptions considerably; I'll be tackling some of those ideas in future postings. For now, however, I'd like to start with something I read in an early chapter that got me thinking about something a lot of people, particularly in meatspace, have asked me.

I'm single right now. People often ask me if I intend to pursue another relationship. The answer is not a simple "yes" or "no." I don't believe in "pursuing" relationships the way most people think of it; I don't believe in "dating." I've said that to many people, male and female alike, but when pressed to explain I was never able to put into words what I meant. However, strangely enough, something I read in The Johns helped me, finally, to come up with a clear explanation.

In Chapter Four, "Single By Choice," Malarek talks about men who go to prostitutes because they've given up on the dating scene in frustration because they haven't been able to "get any" through conventional dating. I found that attitude a bit disquieting. These men apparently have the attitude that, if they show a woman a good time, that obligates her to performing "favors" for the man at the end of the night.

Charles, an office manager from Dallas, Texas (quoted from page 52 of Malarek's book) is typical of this attitude (emphasis mine):
I spend and I spend and I spend, and I don't even get a kiss goodnight. I take them to fancy restaurants to wine and dine them, and all they do is whine and whine. They complain and bitch incessantly about stuff that makes me want to yell, "Shut the fuck up! Your boring life sucks. Get over it." But I listen, hoping that maybe after she's finished her rant, we can have sex when I take her home.
I've overheard countless guys make those kinds of comments: "I spent all that money on her and she wouldn't even have sex with me!" Whenever I hear things like that, it makes my skin crawl and, from what I've heard of the experiences of my dating female friends, that seems to be the prevalent attitude of men who "date;" they feel treating a woman to a night out gives them the right to expect sexual favors at the end of the night.

To me, this kind of attitude is just a whitewashed form of prostitution. When you get right down to it, what these men are saying is that if you can't get sex out of a woman then spending time with her is a waste of time; in effect, they're saying, "Sex is all women are good for."

If that is what "dating" is all about then I want no part of it. The very idea of specifically trying to woo someone I'm only just getting to know to climb into bed with me is repugnant to me. As I said in "Sport Nookie," I don't want someone I barely know touching me in the most intimate way two people can touch. When I've tried to explain that, particularly to men, I'm often met with puzzled stares. Occasionally, I'm accused of being homosexual. They just don't get it.

To me, going out with someone has nothing whatsoever to do with sex. That doesn't necessarily mean I'm not attracted to the woman I'm asking out; what I mean is that the night out itself has nothing to do with that. In that sense, going out with a new female friend and a new male friend are virtually the same experience for me. I buy a beer and a meal for both for the same reason: if I ask someone out, I want to have a good time and get to know them.

The sad thing is, though, that even women tend to assume I have a hidden sexual agenda if I try to treat them to a night out. That's the main reason why I usually don't ask women out. It's not because I can't or I don't want to; I just don't want a woman to assume I'm asking her out only in the hope of getting into her pants. Unfortunately, because that's what most men in the dating scene seem to be looking for, that's now what most women seem to expect on a date.

In my posting "Revelation," I spoke of the irrevocable connection between friendship and love. In brief, my theoretical "formula" of romantic love is, "Attraction+Friendship+Trust=Romantic Love." In other words, I believe love, and therefore healthy sexual relationships, grow out of friendships, not out of attraction. It's when you feel attraction, friendship and implicit trust, all for the same person, that love ignites.

So I do not "date." Instead, I work on making friends, male and female alike. Before the friendships get close, gender doesn't matter; I simply enjoy the company and get to know them. Only once friendships get close do I make a distinction between the male and female friend. Essentially, I look at any close female friendship to someone I'm attracted to as a potential romantic possibility in the future.

Now that doesn't mean I "pursue" my close female friends trying to start a sexual relationship, either; that, too, would be a form of "dating." What I mean is that I'm aware that any woman I'm attracted to who is also a close friend could be a potential romantic relationship if, at some point in the future, she ever becomes attracted to me.

The point of "dating" is to try to entice someone sexually. That is the part I don't believe in. My way of thinking is that I don't have the right to push myself on someone who is not attracted to me; either she is or she isn't. That is what I mean by close female friends being potential romantic relationships. If a close female friend ever becomes attracted to me, then is the time to pursue a romantic relationship because only then is it truly "real."

This applies even if I fall in love with someone. The way I see it, if you truly love someone, you respect them and their boundaries. No matter how much I might want to express my love to a woman intimately, if she's not attracted to me, I'm not going to make any effort to try to push her into a relationship she doesn't want. Instead, I just show her my love in other ways, through friendship and support in hard times, with a fierce loyalty.

Many men just don't get that. In fact, most of my male friends who know I have feelings for someone will give me all kinds of unsolicited advice on how to seduce them. They just can't seem to grasp the idea of being "just friends" with a woman they "love." I think that, too, is a symptom of the stereotypical male point of view that sex is the "ultimate goal" of forming a relationship with a woman; they can't imagine wanting to stay around if they don't get it.

Seduction, to me, is a form of manipulation; you manipulate the woman into feeling something for you she might not otherwise have been inclined to feel. This makes it artificial. You sweep her off her proverbial feet and she's caught up in the whirlwind of romance, sex and endorphins and, for a time, thinks you're the best thing that ever happened to her but, when the seduction wears off, the illusion collapses and she wonders what possessed her to be with you.

I've seen many women go through this cycle. A man arrives, often when they're at their most vulnerable, and they fall for his charms. More often than not, however, these guys turn out to be bad news because most guys who deliberately seek out to seduce a woman, particularly in the first date or two, are always bad news. I even saw one man who seduced an otherwise decent woman so thoroughly that she got into bed with him before he even learned her last name.

That's the danger of actually trying to initiate a sexual relationship. Even seducing a woman you love is just as dangerous. How? Well, to her, the "love" created from seduction is still an illusion. When the illusion wears off for her, she will most likely realize she made a mistake. In the end, both parties get hurt. In some cases, even the original friendship can be lost because of all the awkwardness afterward.

So why do men try to seduce women? In effect, for the same reason the men above who gave up on dating pay for prostitutes; they have this irrational belief that they "need" sex. A man may trick himself into believing he's "in love" with a woman he's strongly attracted to and delude himself into thinking his pursuit of her is "romantic" but all he's really doing is creating an illusion, a fantasy into which both he and the woman he pursues are ultimately drawn.

I've said it before and I'll continue to say it: sex, to me, is just another way to say, "I love you." Granted, it's the most beautiful, and intimate, way, but it's not one that's appropriate for all relationships; whether it's appropriate depends not only on how I feel but how the other person feels as well. If I'm in love with someone, of course I'll hope she might feel the same way some day but, if she doesn't, I'm happy as long as she's in my life and I'll be there for her regardless.

But I'll never try to make that happen; it either happens naturally, or it's not meant to happen at all.

That is why I don't date.

That's also why I can't say whether I'll pursue another relationship or not because that depends, not on whether I want one, but whether I ever again find myself in love with a woman who also loves me back.

So my answer is this: Yes, I'd like to be in another relationship some day but, if it never happens, so long as there are people in my life that I love and who love me back, regardless of how that love is expressed, I'll be content.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

An Apology

Ideals, by definition, are one's vision of "perfect" behavior. Of course none of us are perfect; we all fall short of our ideals. That doesn't negate their purpose, however. Ideals offer us a benchmark, a goal to constantly reach for. In reaching for our ideals, one can usually manage to live up to them a majority of the time. When you do fall short of your ideals, and you realize it, you apologize, make amends and hopefully learn from that mistake.

This is the very concept upon which the Catholic Sacrament of Penance (also known colloquialy as "confession") is built. The Catholic Church recognizes that people aren't perfect, that we are all "sinners" and that we will make mistakes. The Sacrament of Penance offers one an opportunity to admit one's mistakes and confess to them. In effect, God forgives us when we have the courage to recognize our imperfections, admit to them and try to learn from them.

I'm not Catholic but I believe in God and go to Sacred Heart every Saturday to pray for the people I love. I chose a Catholic church simply because the persons I love most are Catholic. I have never participated in the Sacrament of Penance; I prefer to confess my mistakes in the open, ideally directly to the people they affect. Even my most personal mistakes I prefer to confess to people I love and trust, not a priest, therapist or counselor who does not know me.

Recently, I was guilty of a hypocrisy. I'm here to admit it and apologize.

During recent turmoil in my life, discussed at length in the pages of this blog, I frequently lamented the fact that people tended to judge me without even trying to get my side of the story. Most of these people were taking the opinion of a single individual who'd had a recent conflict with me as if that one opinion painted a complete picture of me, my life and who I am.

I know how frustrating it can be when people form opinions of you without ever even having spoken to you. That's why, ideally, I make a point of getting the other person's side of the story before I form an opinion of someone. However, recently there was someone online whom I judged unfairly without getting their side of the story.

I didn't do this deliberately; I didn't even realize I was doing it until very recently. Over the last few years, I've had many frustrations, some of which upset me to the point of affecting my judgment. That's what happened here; I ended up getting caught up in someone else's negative opinion about someone because I simply didn't have the emotional energy to investigate for myself.

Now that I'm finally clear of that former mess, however, I can look back on my own actions with a more objective eye. When I did, I was forced to realize that I was doing to this person the very thing others were doing to me that I found so frustrating: I was judging her without getting her side of the story.

I began to realize my mistake when I started reading her blog regularly. I first went there mostly to watch her reactions to my friend when he made digs at her (something he delights in doing, unfortunately). However, as I read more and more of her blog, and as she and I started exchanging E-mails (originally prompted when she wanted to discuss some comments I'd made to her blog) I began thinking, Hm. She doesn't seem anything like what I was led to believe.

I have since made a point of getting to know her, at least as much as she has been willing (her opinion of myself was also skewed by the opinion of the aforementioned individual with whom I'd had the conflict). That's when I began to realize how badly distorted my perspective of her was. As I got to know her better, I realized there was a lot more to the story than my friend's side. I should have known that but I was too blinded by my own pain at the time to see it.

Now that I have, though, I'd like to apologize publicly and for the record to "Bonobobabe." I castigated her for the way she runs her blog. Specifically, I criticized her choice to censor some comments and sometimes make the whole blog private in order to avoid my friend's comments. I thought she just didn't have the stomach to deal with the inevitable troublemakers blogging brings; I thought she should just get out of the proverbial kitchen if she couldn't stand the heat.

Although I cannot go into detail suffice it to say that, having gotten her perspective, I now understand why she did what she did. I still maintain she should open her blog up to the wider public (in my opinion, there's not much point in having a blog that isn't open to the public; the whole point of a blog is to express your ideas to society at large) but I now understand, and respect, her decision to make it private.

I'd also like to point out that I am, at this point, not on any side here. Having seen both perspectives, hers and my friend's, I feel that they both have made mistakes. I now consider them both friends. If, some day, they ever wish to try to come to some sort of understanding, I'd be happy to help them "clear the air." As someone who's heard both sides, I'm in a unique position to help; all they have to do is ask.

Even the best of us are hypocrites once in a while. To err is Human; we all make mistakes. The difference between someone who makes a mistake and a true hypocrite, however, is the person guilty of hypocrisy who refuses to admit it and apologize for their mistake.

In this situation, I was a hypocrite. I realize that now.

I apologize.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Internet Neutrality

I just stumbled onto a group on Facebook called "Dissolve the CRTC." In brief, it's a group who believes that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has strayed from its mandate to protect the interests of Canadians in the media in favor of corporate interests; the group is advocating the dissolution of the CRTC to replace it with a more neutral organization.

On their website, they had an article called "Canada's Internet Explained" which linked to this video on YouTube:

What concerns me here is the concept of "Internet neutrality" (also known as "network neutrality"). For more details, I strongly recommend watching the video above; it explains it very well. However, in brief, the principle of Internet neutrality states that ISPs may not restrict the type of equipment, protocols or content you can use and access on the Internet. Everything connected to the network is equally accessible to everything else.

This blog, for example, is just as easy to access as a huge media giant like CNN. If you type in "http://pedalingprince.blogspot.com" then, "http://www.cnn.com," both sites come up just as easily. In effect, I can compete directly with CNN, reaching just as wide an audience; if I happen to have a story more interesting than anything CNN has at the time, I could conceivably "scoop" them. Me, one man, one computer, competing against a worldwide media giant.

Of course, that's not the nature of this particular blog; I'm not a journalist, but you get the idea. Anyone out there who wants to compete against anyone else on the network, whether that someone else be a major worldwide corporation or a single person sitting at a single machine, the playing field is completely level. Unlike with traditional media, the individual can conceivably generate just as much exposure for themselves as any major media outlet.

This is one of the Internet's founding principles; it's something we all understand about it instinctively. What concerns me is the fact that this concept has been given a name. Why does that concern me? Until now, the concept described by the term was part of the "common sense" of the Internet. It didn't have to be defined; it's part of what makes the Internet what it is. The fact that it has to be defined, however, implies that this is no longer "common sense."

If "Internet neutrality" is no longer common sense then it stands to reason that something is changing about this fundamental nature of the Internet; if this is true then it also stands to reason that at least some part of the Internet is no longer neutral. In fact, it's not. There have been many stories in the media lately of major ISPs restricting access to competitors' sites and technology; this is a violation of Internet neutrality.

Now that I think about it, though, violations of Internet neutrality aren't really new. AOL, for example, is most famous for its restrictive interfaces and proprietary protocols that make it very difficult to use non-AOL products to connect to their network. AOL, therefore, is probably one of the earliest examples of a company that violates the principles of Internet neutrality by attempting to control how its users connect to the network.

Of course, AOL used to be fairly unique in this. Most ISPs would allow you to access the network free and clear with any platform and/or software you wanted to use; so long as it was compatible with the Internet's protocols and you knew how to use it you could use it. Unfortunately, however, the idea of trying to control how an ISP's users connect is starting to go "mainstream;" most of the major ISPs today have been guilty of this in some way, shape or form.

That's why I prefer smaller, independent ISPs. They have no motivation to restrict their users' access because their open, unrestricted access itself is their biggest advantage over the bigger ISPs. That's why I chose Eastlink; they offer decent broadband speeds with no restrictions. I can use whatever computing platform, browser, E-mail client etc. I want and visit any site I want. That's the way it should be. That's what makes the Internet the powerful tool it is.

Most people tend to just go with what the majority uses. Windows, for example, is the most common computer operating system not because it's the best but because it's what everyone's used to. The problem is, once people get used to something, even if it's not the best product available, people tend not to aim any higher; they get used to the performance of a given product and stick with it because it's familiar.

The videocassette format wars, for example. VHS and Betamax ("Beta" for short) were the major formats. As we all know, VHS won that war but what most of us don't know is that VHS was actually the technologically inferior format; Beta had superior resolution and sound quality but (in the beginning) fell short in recording time which was its downfall. Due to its superior quality, Beta continued in professional video use but for home use it disappeared entirely.

Beta did fix its recording time issues; later versions of Beta allowed recording times to rival VHS and Beta picture and sound quality continued to be superior. So why didn't Beta trounce VHS? For the same reason that the Macintosh doesn't trounce Windows: once people are used to something, they tend to stick with it because it's familiar even when better products or services are available. Most people prefer conformity; they prefer to be part of the majority to "fit in."

Being in the minority, however, can have advantages. Most Macintosh users, for example, don't have virus protection. Why? The Mac is in the minority; there just aren't as many out there. A virus written for Macs won't spread nearly as far as one written for Windows so most virus writers focus on Windows so their viruses will spread. Also, the Mac has superior security; writing a virus for a Mac is therefore much more difficult in the first place.

If it wasn't for Internet neutrality, Microsoft might very well have prevented Mac users from accessing the Internet in the first place. It is Internet neutrality that allows Mac users like myself to access the Internet equally with Windows users or, for that matter, users of other even less common systems like Linux, Solaris, Amiga OS and so on. Everyone has the right to access the network with whatever compatible piece of technology they wish; that's as it should be.

Big media giants are trying to change that. They want to restrict the Internet and monopolize public media access the same way they once did when newspapers, television and radio were the only major worldwide media accessible to the public. Back then, if you wanted to be heard by the world, you were at the whim of the companies that ran these media; if they didn't want to put you on, you were out of luck.

If you want to be heard on the Internet, go to any of a plethora of blogging services, get a page up there and, within minutes, your words can be seen by anyone in the world who wishes to read them. Get on YouTube and you can even let people around the world see and hear you with less restriction even than traditional television. There are no channels or range restrictions; a video on YouTube is instantly global the moment it goes live on the network.

The Internet is, in effect, the ultimate evolution in freedom of speech; restricting Internet access would, therefore, amount to censorship. Do we want to go back to the days when the major media decided what we, the public, sees, or do we want to be able to decide for ourselves what we want to see?

"When liberty is taken away by force it can be restored by force. When it is relinquished voluntarily by default it can never be recovered." - Dorothy Thompson

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sex Education: Time for a Reform

I caught a promotional interview on CBC News with Victor Malarek for his new book, The Johns - Sex for Sale and the Men who Buy It. In it, he talks about human trafficking and how myths about the "need for sex" and outdated attitudes about women drive men to seek poor, uneducated women from developing countries in order to find women they can pay to dominate totally and live out their most disgusting sexual fantasies with.

According to Malarek, much of what's causing (or at least reinforcing) unhealthy attitudes about women and sex is the Internet. Everyone knows the Internet is swimming in porn but what a lot of people don't know is that it doesn't have to stop at porn; if you're looking for a body to live out your fantasies on, you can find women who'll agree to do almost anything for money and the global nature of the Internet makes it easy for men to find these women anywhere in the world.

He goes on further to say that all this objectifies sex, turning it into a commodity to be bought and sold purely for the man's needs. The women aren't doing it because they want to (despite what most men hiring them think); about 96% of them are doing it because they have no choice either because they're caught with a pimp that won't release them or because they simply don't have the ability to raise the money they need in any other way in their given situation.

Worse, some of these women didn't even enter the "profession" willingly; some were drugged, kidnapped and sold into prostitution against their will. Why? Because the sex trade is growing faster than any other organized criminal enterprise right now, drug trafficking included. Why? Like any other business venture, it's profitable because there's a demand for it, and that demand is driven, in turn, by these "needing sex" myths men perpetuate for their own benefit.

"It's about men," Malarek says, "and men still control. [Prostitution is] probably the last bastion they control." So, these men are looking for control, not relationships. Porn does not teach relationship skills, only the mechanics of sex (and even in that it's often unrealistic or outright inaccurate); the only way to break that control is to bring about true equality between men and women by learning an appreciation for the beauty and value of loving relationships.

I haven't read his book (yet), but he said something while explaining this that really hit a nerve in me and prompted me to sit down to write this. He said:
We have to really start talking to boys, at very young ages, about relationships, about love . . . about being involved . . . We can no longer have sex education for kids and say, 'This is a penis, this is a vagina.' . . . they're way more sophisticated than that [thanks] to the Internet. You have to start talking to them about relationships; you have to start talking to them about the equality of young women, of all women and girls. You have to start talking to them about dignity.
A lightbulb went on over my head the moment I heard that.

When I was in late elementary and early junior high, sex education was taught but it was still pretty sparse, focusing almost totally on the mechanics. We were actually given diagrams of the male and female reproductive systems and most of the discussion revolved around the biology of sex; from what I understand, aside from increased emphasis on sexually transmitted disease (particularly HIV), very little has changed in this regard today.

Even back in my day, long before the Internet, I always felt that this was a waste of time. By the time this was even brought to our attention, about 95% already knew how sex was done; the parts we didn't understand, how it affects people, the power of the emotional drive and so on wasn't even touched on. Today, with the Internet bombarding our young people with a plethora of sexual imagery, any class about the mechanics of sex today, to me, seems totally pointless.

I think it's time for total reform of sex education. It should start in Grade Six, I'd say. After a brief discussion about the mechanics (to dispel any myths) covering maybe a class, two at most, then the focus should shift on to the emotional impact of sex, the intimacy of the act, how it affects the judgment, the dangers of how early sex disorts judgment in a relationship, how to build a balanced, equal partnership, and so on.

In fact, people are so screwed up about relationships right now that I think this needs to be more than a subject covered as a segment of a bigger class like science (as it was in my day); it needs to be a subject in and of itself. Perhaps we could call it, "Relationship Education." It'd be a class that explores, not sex, but the emotional dynamics shared by two people who are intimately involved, learning to share each other's lives in a fair and equal way.

We can't stop young people from learning about sex and the domination of women through society; it's everywhere today. What we can do, however, is help them understand what to do with that knowledge and hopefully instill in them an appreciation for equal love, and dignity, for both partners in a relationship, man and woman (or between two men or two women in the case of homosexual relationships).

When my local library opens on Tuesday, I'm going to look for Mr. Malarek's book; I get the feeling he and I think a lot alike on this subject.

"For me, everything boils down to dignity: the dignity of another Human soul. If we don't have that, we lose everything." - Victor Malarek

Saturday, August 08, 2009

New Computer!

Well, although it's going to be hard on the old pocketbook, I decided it was finally time to bite the bullet and get a new computer. I realized my old iMac just wasn't up to the task anymore when I started having trouble playing YouTube videos and I got sick and tired of not having a functioning DVD-ROM drive (the one on the old machine died quite some time ago, the very first hardware failure I've ever had on a Macintosh).

So, I am now the proud owner of a 20" Widescreen iMac! Driven by a 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 2 GB 1067 MHz DDR3 RAM, this thing's got power to spare! Plus, as the RAM is expandable to 8 GB, this thing will grow with me as software requires more and more power (I never did upgrade the RAM on my old machine; who has 256 MB of RAM nowadays?! :P)! Thank God I'm on vacation this week; I forsee a lot of late nights with this thing. ;)

That being said, although my evaluation of this machine is still preliminary, I have a few quibbles:
  1. While I'm getting used to it more quickly than I thought I would, I'm still not a big fan of this keyboard. As a 95 wpm typist, keyboard feel is critical to me and I find this "flat" form factor a bit awkward. On the other hand, looking around at the other non-Apple computers at Future Shop, I can't help but notice that the "flat" form is becoming the norm for all keyboards. Might as well get used to it, I guess.
  2. The keyboard that comes with this machine also lacks a numeric keypad. I suppose I'll get used to that, too, but right now whenever I go to enter a number, I find myself reaching to the right and my fingers finding nothing but mouse and wood (or air when it's in my lap). Maybe when my pocketbook recovers from the purchase of this thing, I'll sell this keyboard and get one of the full sized versions (they're still flat, though).
  3. I miss my Page Up and Page Down keys, which this keyboard doesn't have, either (again, the full sized one does). Like the keypad, I keep reaching for them out of force of habit.
  4. I'm having trouble transferring my Apple Mail E-mail archives. It's odd; some mailboxes transferred without a hitch, others didn't. I want to hold onto my archives; I have archives of my sent mail going back to March of 2000 and they'd go back further if not for a hard drive crash I had. I think I might be able to rescue the lost data but it'll involve importing a few mailboxes manually.
I was about to write a fourth quibble but I'm just realizing it might not be relevant. Just let me try something here...

Ah, OK. Never mind. I was about to complain that there are no USB ports on the front of this machine which makes using a portable USB "key" drive a real pain but I just realized there is an easily reachable free port, not on the machine itself, but at the left of the keyboard (intended primarily for the left handed who hook their mouse in there but it's still a USB port like any other). I just tried plugging my portable drive in there; it works fine. OK; one problem solved. ;)

Now, on the plus side:
  1. Fast. 'Nuff said. :P
  2. The screen is much brighter, much higher quality and the wide screen gives me a lot more screen real estate to work with; I'm even finding it an advantage in word processing (and I thought I was going to find it awkward :P).
  3. Despite the flat form factor, the keys on the keyboard are nice and firm yet responsive, giving good tactile feedback yet responding to a near feather touch. I'm actually thinking, aside from the missing keys, I'll eventually come to prefer this keyboard over the old fashioned keyboards which "rise up" with each row.
  4. The keyboard is small enough to use in my lap (where it is right now) which is actually more comfortable than using it on the desk.
  5. This thing has nearly ten times the storage capacity of my old machine; no more "out of disk space" messages. Plus, with a functional DVD-ROM drive, even if I do run out of space some day I can always transfer less used files to DVD to free up drive space.
Those are my initial impressions. So far, my most serious issues are with the keyboard. Looks like I can get used to the feel but I think, eventually, I'm going to break down and get this baby's bigger cousin so I can get my full set of keys back. However, for the time being, this works. :)

By the way, any of you out there who've been waiting for E-mail from me you'll be getting replies soon. I was just waiting until I got this new machine. Now that I have it, it'll be a lot easier to catch up on E-mail, Facebook and lots of other stuff without the machine bogging down and taking forever to do anything. :P

I think this thing's going to be worth the financial headaches. ;)

Friday, July 31, 2009


I've always been a person who likes to get close to people both physically and emotionally. I love to hug. I've been described by several people as "nurturing" because I'm always willing to lend a friendly ear and emotional support to anyone who needs it; when I do, I tend to get very emotionally involved with the person whom I'm listening to. At times, I tend to almost "lose myself" in the life of the other person. I call it being an "open person."

"Open people" have a lot of difficulty learning the concept of "boundaries." We tend to view boundaries as barriers people put up because they're afraid, if others knew certain things about them, they'd think they were strange or bad people and no one would like them. So, "open people" often seek to break down boundaries. Our logic? "You don't have to hide your true self from me; I'll understand. I have weird things about myself, too, you know."

Because of that, the lesson that boundaries are more often about a person's sense of self and privacy rather than shame is a difficult lesson for "open people" to learn. Most of us take years to learn this lesson; some never learn it. Unfortunately, this lack of respect for boundaries, though it's with all the best intentions, has some rather nasty side effects.

When we get really close to someone, "open people" tend to get a sense of "entitlement" regarding a person's life. That is to say we start to get the idea that we have a "right" to know everything about a person; if a person tries to hide anything from us, we look upon it as an insult. "You don't trust me," we think. Unfortunately, this attitude opens up the door to abuse; feeling one has a "right to know" makes one feel justified in invading the other person's privacy.

The thing that blindly eludes us about this is that no matter how much someone may trust and love us, there are just some things we all want to keep to ourselves. One of my favorite Captain Kirk quotes is, "[We all have] ugly, savage things we all keep buried, that none of us dare expose." When we try to expose them in another person, from our perspective we're just trying to forge a closer relationship but, from the other person's point of view, we're intruding.

This ends up creating a dichotomy. We feel we're getting closer to someone by trying to pry into their private thoughts and feelings but they feel repelled by us. "Who the hell is this guy, thinking he has a right to know this stuff about me?" they think. Of course, our defense to that is, "Well, I don't hide anything from you," which is often true; "open people" tend to lower their boundaries in the hope of encouraging others to lower theirs.

It doesn't work that way, though; just because you tell someone your deepest, darkest secrets does not in any way obligate them to tell you anything. So what you end up with is one person expecting the other to tell them everything and, when they don't, trust breaks down. You start assuming, if the other person isn't telling you everything that, "Oh, they must be hiding something." Trust breaks down and, with it, the relationship.

For "open people," it's just hard to understand that someone can love and trust us yet still not want to tell us every single thing in their lives or every single thought that goes through their heads.

Several times of late, I've mentioned on this blog a friend I love deeply. Thinking about her tonight, and thinking about the concept of boundaries, I began to realize that one of the biggest reasons I love her so very much is the simple fact that she taught me this lesson where others, up to now, had failed.

She is one of the most private people I've ever met. The only reason I've been even mentioning her here in public lately, sans name, is because of the abuse "The Wolf" subjects her to; abuse must be be forced into the light if it is to be stopped. Ironically, one of the issues she has with "The Wolf" is this very idea of lack of boundary respect; he doesn't trust her so he also expects her to tell him everything about her and this runs in diametric opposition to her nature.

He, however, because he lacks trust, seems unable to learn the lesson that I have fought so hard to learn about her: just because she doesn't tell you everything does not mean she doesn't trust you or that she's trying to deceive you; she just prefers to play her cards close to the vest. She keeps the details of her personal business to herself mostly for the sake of simplicity; oftentimes, problems are easier to deal with when the fewest people possible are involved.

That, of course, isn't always true, either. There's always the old saying, "no person is an island;" every now and then, you need to tell people your problems in order to get help with them (like with abuse). However, again a lesson that's hard for us "open people," is that decision must be theirs even if it's unwise. In other words, if she chooses to handle something on her own that she shouldn't be, it's not mine nor anyone else's place to come charging in to "help" uninvited.

That being said, in my previous posting I described the hypothetical situation of someone preparing to jump off a bridge to drown themselves. Only situations like that, immediately life threatening, should one disregard a person's boundaries in order to save their life. Aside from that, however, we must accept that sometimes those we love will make choices in life that, from time to time, will hurt them and they have a right to make those choices.

That's a hard thing to do. As I said before, she tends to put herself directly in the path of harm far too frequently. I try to advise her, I try to convince her to do what I feel is the right thing but, in the end, I always have to accept the choices she makes and their consequences. It's hard to watch her get hurt but, though it's often hard on me, I've learned to do it; it was necessary in order to earn her trust.

The thing is, I've never met anyone like this woman. It didn't take me long to realize she was something special; I'd never been more determined to get close to someone as I was with her. In the beginning, before I'd learned what she eventually taught me, I found her tendency to keep to herself frustrating. I was perceptive enough to realize she wanted, even needed, a friend and I was anxious to prove she could trust me; it was disheartening when she wouldn't.

However, I had observed other people trying to pry their way into her heart; those who pried all failed. There were only a handful of people who managed to scale the walls she surrounded herself with and they all had two things in common. One, they were persistent; those who didn't give up survived. Two, they did not pry; they waited for her to come to them.

That's when I realized, if I wanted to get close to this woman, that's what I had to do: be there for her, keep reminding her I'm there if she needs a friend but, if she didn't want to talk, stand back and give her the space she needs. I waited for over a year. I stayed in touch, called her regularly, let her know I was thinking about her but I'd avoid asking direct questions; I'd just ask how she was doing in general.

As I got to know her, I began to be able to read her mood solely by the tone of her voice. If I knew something was bothering her, I'd simply say, "You sound depressed/stressed/angry etc." Sometimes she'd talk about it; sometimes she wouldn't. If she didn't, I'd simply say some variation of, "Well, if you change your mind, call me any time, OK? I'm here." As time went on, she took me up on that offer more and more.

Eventually, she began to lower her boundaries voluntarily. She began to confide in me about aspects of herself I never, in my wildest dreams, thought she'd ever discuss with anyone. Before I knew it, we were talking every single day. Sometimes we'd be on the phone for many hours; the longest I remember so far I think was about five and a half (that's is rare, though; most of our conversations average between 15 minutes and an hour and a half).

Today, whenever she needs a friend, whether she needs a shoulder to cry on, someone to vent to, someone to share her joys with or just someone to relax and chat with for a while, I'm the first person she calls. I do the same; I tell her things I tell no one else.

Still, she doesn't tell me absolutely everything; I don't tell her everything about me, either. Before I met her, I used to feel offended when people would keep things from me; now, having gotten to know the heart of a person so private I understand: boundaries aren't about trust; they're about establishing identity. Keeping a few things to yourself helps keep you from losing yourself in another person and giving that person too much power over you.

That is one of the many reasons I love this woman so much; she taught me what is probably the most valuable lesson I've ever learned about what closeness really means. I feel far closer to her than I've ever felt to anyone because she showed me her heart willingly. Prying may have eventually yielded the same information but it wouldn't be nearly as special; it's so much more intimate when someone opens up to you solely on the strength of their trust in you.

Ironically, I know her 10 times better than "The Wolf" could ever hope to. It's not in his nature to respect boundaries but, even if he could learn that lesson right now it's too late for him; by trying to pry his way into her heart, he's irrevocably damaged even the slimmest chance she'd ever trust him to the level she trusts me. Given the danger he represents, I feel that's for the best; it'll make it easier for her to break away when she finally summons the strength to do so.

Sometimes I think it's unfortunate I couldn't have learned this lesson earlier; it might've saved the relationships I recently lost. However, my friend believes everything happens for a reason; I'm starting to agree. If I had learned this lesson earlier, if I had saved those relationships, I might be miserable now; both of those relationships needed to end. One, I just wasn't compatible with; the other was a pacifistic Annie Wilkes. I think it's best I'm free of them.

Honestly, though I have no "romantic" relationship right now, I feel far more fulfilled in my friend's love than I ever did with my girlfriends.

Between our lives, there are boundaries; between our hearts, there are none.

Maybe that is the ultimate definition of healthy love.

Monday, July 27, 2009


In my family while I was growing up, everyone it seemed had the skill of manipulation down to a fine art. I used to hate being manipulated or guilt-tripped into anything. In my younger days, sometimes I would catch myself doing the self same thing to people in my life. Even today, I occasionally backslide into guilt-tripping territory but, by and large, I've learned not to do it because I know all too well how it feels and I don't want to make people feel that way.

We all try to dominate, control or manipulate others in some way, shape or form whether we realize it or not. Most people consider this to be a bad thing; often it is but, like many things in life, whether it's good or bad really depends on the circumstances. It's been my experience that whether it's a good thing or bad thing depends largely on the motivation behind the person trying to exert the control.

To illustrate the point, let's draw examples from two popular movies that most of you have probably seen: Forrest Gump and Titanic.

In Forrest Gump, when Forrest's mother tries to get him into school, the principal tells her he can't accept him because his IQ is five points too low. However, the principal implies that, if she was to grant him a sexual favor or two, he might be persuaded to look the other way. Obviously she doesn't want to have sex with the man but she also doesn't want Forrest relegated to "special classes." So she agrees to the sex.

In this case, the principal manipulates Forrest's mother to have sex with him. He isn't doing this to help Mrs. Gump or Forrest for that matter; he's doing it solely for his own pleasure. This is a case of bad manipulation: manipulating a person to do something that benefits him alone. Selfish manipulation like this is inevitably destructive to the person being manipulated; this was undoubtedly not one of Mrs. Gump's happier memories.

In Titanic, Jack comes upon Rose getting ready to commit suicide by jumping off the back of the ship. He manipulates her into reconsidering what she's doing by describing in intimate detail how painful what she's about to do is likely to be. In the end, this breaks Rose's resolve and she decides not to go through with it.

In this case, Jack manipulates Rose out of committing suicide. Doing so is of no direct benefit to him; he does it solely to help her. This is a case of good manipulation: manipulating a person to do something that benefits them. There are times when it's necessary to manipulate someone for their own good; a person about to commit suicide convinced to live is probably among the best of examples.

Now, fiction has the advantage of being a bit more black and white than real life. In both of these cases, the motivation behind the manipulator was absolute black or white. One was entirely selfish; the other was entirely selfless. Unfortunately, real life is rarely so cut and dried. The trouble with manipulation is the very nature of manipulation most times makes it extraordinarily complex both in motivation and execution.

For example, the friend I've mentioned before whom I love so dearly has an unfortunate predilection for putting herself directly in harm's way. Now this is one of those situations where manipulation, theoretically, is good; if she's putting herself in danger, like Jack with Rose it makes sense for me to try to talk her out of it. Unfortunately, the situations are more often than not a hell of a lot more complicated than Jack and Rose's.

First of all, it's often like pulling teeth just to get her to recognize danger in the first place. One incident I remember was she was going boating. She said there'd be drinking which is never a good idea when boating. Since I couldn't stop the drinking I asked her to wear a life jacket; she refused saying, "I can swim." I tried to tell her that, under the influence of alcohol, even good swimmers drown but I simply could not convince her to put on that life jacket.

Second, even when she does recognize danger, she often doesn't seem to care. She seems convinced that, if she were to die, no one would miss her. When I tried to explain how much it would hurt me if she died, I remember her exact words to me: "You'll survive." Well, maybe my body would survive but my soul wouldn't. She's claimed a huge piece of my heart; if she died, that piece would die with her and I doubt there'd be enough heart left to keep me going.

Now the problem is she's clearly putting herself at risk in situations like this but, again, it's not totally cut and dried like fictional situations often are. It's not like she's hanging off the back of a ship threatening to jump. She's not trying to hurt herself; she's just being reckless.

How far you can go trying to control a person also depends on the situation. For example, if she was standing on a bridge threatening to drown herself, I'd be perfectly justified in grabbing her and physically restraining her. However, I would not be justified going down to the dock where she's boating, grabbing her and forcing a life jacket over her head. Actually trying to hurt oneself is different from just being careless with one's safety.

Of course, where do you draw that line? Sometimes it actually seems like she has a death wish, deliberately putting herself in situations like the boating and drinking which she herself would admit were dangerous; she'd defend her actions saying, "If God wants to take me, He will; if He doesn't, He won't." Is she trying to put herself in situations where she'll die without having to do it by her own hand? If so, is that the same as actually threatening to drown herself?

See what I mean about it being complicated? It's a no-brainer that she should be wearing that life jacket so my attempts to convince her to do so in and of themselves are obviously the right thing, but how do you decide how far to go when you're trying to get someone to do something for their own good?

As it happened, she didn't wear the life jacket and she ultimately got through the night safely though I was terrified the whole night; I was never so glad to get a call from her as I was that following day.

Of course, attempts to manipulate someone in a positive way aren't always tied to safety or life-or-death situations. For example, when I got out of high school, I wanted to take a year off to figure out what I wanted to do with my life before I went to college. My uncle, however, pressured me hard to go to college right out of high school because he thought that was the right thing to do.

Now, he had the best intentions; he was trying to give me a head start. However, in this case he was wrong. He ultimately pushed me into a business management course at Cape Breton University that I absolutely hated; in the end, I just couldn't do it. Maybe if I'd taken a year I might've realized what I know now: that I really wanted to make films. Maybe if I'd realized that then and gotten into the industry, I might've made something of myself by now.

Not that I blame my uncle; I don't. No one can manipulate you unless you let them (remember my friend above did not wear that life jacket I tried so hard to convince her to wear). Still, if it hadn't been for his influence, I certainly wouldn't have wasted two years of my life in a course that has been of little or no use to me in life.

Ultimately, though, I think it turned out for the best. The most important thing in my life is to always be there for the people I love. Making a film tends to be an all-consuming thing; you have very little time for anyone or anything but the project. I don't want to be that way and, if I had gotten into the industry the way I wanted, I probably would be that way.

Still, I continue to write screenplays; I'd just prefer to leave the execution of them to other people whose vision I trust to bring my stories to life. You can always get up from writing a screenplay if someone needs you; getting away from a film you're directing, however, with all the actors and crew being paid by the hour waiting for you, is way more difficult.

Therein lies the biggest problem with trying to manipulate someone: you never really know what the ultimate outcome will be. No one's perfect. You might think what you're pushing someone to do is the right thing but that doesn't mean you're right.

For example, my friend is in an abusive relationship that she obviously needs to get out of. Now she doesn't want any interference so if I wanted to manipulate her into acting I could, say, threaten to call the police. The problem is, she'd resent that so, even if it did force her to act, she'd probably end up back with him in the end and I'd be risking damaging our friendship as well at a time when she needs a friend probably more than she ever has.

Of course, even if I did call the police, that also would probably make the situation worse. The abuse is not physical (yet; it's definitely headed in that direction) and abuse cases where there's no physical injury are notoriously difficult to prove. In the end, when the police leave, he'd be angry that they were called and would likely take his anger out on her. Transition House warned me about that possibility (though I'd already surmised that).

Unfortunately, that's why I often feel so helpless when someone I love's in trouble. Sometimes, it's obvious what the solution is and I know where I need to try to push them. Other times, however, situations can be much more complicated and, while I know my loved one's in trouble, I might not have any idea what to do to help. In these situations, all I can do is pray for them, be there for them and hope they survive.

That, however, is one of the hardest things to do in life. Particularly with my friend above, I sometimes wish I had access to Star Trek-type technology like transporters so, if I saw she was about to do something foolish or dangerous, I could just beam her away from the danger. She probably wouldn't like that but at least I'd know I wasn't going to lose her to some senseless, avoidable tragedy.

I often wonder why God guided me to this woman and gave me such love for her. Maybe if I was able to actually do something to help her I might understand but, most of the time, I'm rendered powerless by circumstance. Sometimes I just want to go to her, grab her by the shoulders and scream: "What is wrong with you?! Can't you see the danger you're in?!" then drag her out of the situation, kicking and screaming if need be.

But I can't do that. Just like I had the right to stay in my abusive situation with Lisa for 12 years, so too does she have the right to stay in hers. I will say this: watching her situation has given me a whole new respect for my friends who stuck by me through the "Lisa years." They must've been going ballistic worrying about me and I must've been just as frustrating as my friend above is to me; I never listened to them any more than she listens to me.

In the end, we all try to manipulate the people in our lives. How and why is mostly a function of the kind of person you are. The good person will try to use manipulation to help those they love; the bad person will use manipulation to get what they want out of people. Even when you're manipulating someone for good reasons, though, you still need to remember that old saying:

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Sport Nookie"

"I need sex."

This is a concept that's really starting to annoy the hell out of me. I hear this everywhere lately: in advice columns, in TV, in movies, even from my friends. Everybody talks about "needing" sex as if it was as critical to one's survival as air, water and food.

OK. It's natural to want sex. It is, after all, the most fluent language one Human being can "speak" to express love for another; this makes it our greatest pleasure. It's also necessary to the survival of our species as a whole; if everyone stopped having sex right now, our species would die off completely in a space of 100 years or so. So, as a species we "need" it, yes, but as individuals, we don't.

On the Golden Girls episode "Love Me Tender," Dorothy was having a sexual fling with a man she had nothing in common with except that they had great sex. Sophia felt Dorothy was cheapening herself doing this; Dorothy objected, saying, "I am a grown woman and I have needs." Sophia replied, "Needs! You need food. You need air. You need a better wrinkle cream. You don't need sport nookie!"

Sophia was right; one does not need sex to live. Yet, somehow, more and more people today are getting it into their heads that sex is something that people need.

There are people out there who never have sex their entire lives. Are they unhappy? Sometimes, but not always. For the most part, the only people who suffer in a life of celibacy are those who buy this notion of "needing" sex. Those who recognize sex is not a "need," however, are often quite happy celibate; some even choose a life of celibacy because they prefer the simplicity of a life not tied to the inevitable emotional complications of intense passion.

Despite that fundamental truth, I continually encounter person after person who, in the grip of loneliness, feel they "need" sex to fill the void or who "need" sex as a stress reliever, losing themselves in the endorphin rush to try to forget all their problems. Sex sought out as a "quick fix" inevitably bears no emotional connection or meaning to the person in your bed. That's because love takes time to develop; sexual attraction does not.

Two people can be attracted to each other the moment they meet then immediately jump right into bed with each other before they even know each other's names. Now the endorphin rush of touch and arousal feels good in the moment but it's a mere shadow of the feeling of being touched, caressed, held and joined with someone you truly love and who truly loves you.

Love is born from the heart, not the skin; it's not possible to love someone from the first moment you meet. If you go out seeking sex as a "quick fix" you won't find love; you'll just find empty pleasures of the flesh. In the end, it doesn't fill the void of loneliness and, when you come off the high of the physical pleasure, the stress is still there.

To further complicate matters, the endorphin rush of sex radically alters ones judgment. When we have sex with someone for the first time, our brains instinctively "imprint" on that person. At a subconscious level, the cave person within now thinks, "This is my mate." This is a powerful drive, forever altering the way you see that person. Unfortunately, the drive is so powerful that people tend to get confused and think that this drive is "love."

So here's what often happens: lonely people, desperate for love, look for it by seeking sex. When they find sex, the endorphin rush tricks their brains into thinking they're "in love" so they think they've found what they're looking for. They're so glad to have found what they think is "love" that they don't bother to examine it and realize that all they're feeling is shallow pleasure.

This illusion of "love" is so powerful that their endorphin-soaked brains even trick them into believing they love this person more than their best friend. If you really stop and examine that, however, you realize that this is not possible. A real friendship develops over many years. How can two people, only having just met or even known each other for a few weeks or months, possibly understand each other better than longtime friends in just a single night together?

Yet that's exactly what the endorphin rush of sex makes you believe in the moment; it's that powerful. The problem is, it is an illusion; in the final analysis, you really know this person no better after a night of sex than you know your next door neighbor you only see in the hall occasionally. Would you trust someone you barely know to handle you at your most vulnerable? Most of us would say no.

Yet those who get into bed and have sex with people on first meeting are doing just that. In bed with another person, the clothes off, nothing between your body and the body of the person before you but your skin and theirs, is probably the most vulnerable one Human being can be to another, not only physically but emotionally as well. The outcome of such an intimate act inevitably imprints itself in our souls at our most fundamental, primal emotional level.

Because that vulnerability is so deep, loveless sex isn't merely empty; it's dangerous. You're exposing your body and the most primal level of your emotional awareness to another person whom you know virtually nothing about. How do you know this person can be trusted with your deepest emotional drives if you know nothing about them?

That's why abusive relationships are so common. Blinded by the endorphin rush, addicted to it, wanting more, we overlook red flags in our partner's behavior. To complicate matters further, Western Culture's "romantic ideal" is "'till death do us part." We so much want that fairytale romance we see in the movies that we're willing to hang onto a relationship sometimes even when a person does things to us that, if anyone else had done to us, we would never forgive.

So, in the end, that "quick fix" can lock you into a relationship with someone who, far from making you feel loved, only makes you miserable, far more miserable than loneliness ever made you.

People often look back on old fashioned romantic values, saving sex for later in the relationship (waiting until one is married traditionally), with a dismissive eye. "This is 2009, not 1909," they'll say. Granted, perhaps the rules of conduct back then were a little too stringent but, in principle, I think our forefathers were onto something. There is value in letting a relationship develop unfettered by the blinding endorphin rush of sexual pleasure.

Worse yet, the idea that one "needs" sex doesn't only create bad relationships; it also can damage otherwise good relationships. Consider the case of a man and woman, happily married, then the wife say loses her sex drive because of some illness or emotional problem. If her husband subscribes to the theory that one "needs" sex, what happens? He pressures her into having sex even if she doesn't want to; occasionally, this can even lead to rape.

In a recent "Annie Mailbox," I actually read a letter from someone who said that one partner denying another sexual pleasure in a relationship is "abuse." That, actually, was the catalyst that started the posting you're now reading. Reading that angered me. If you love someone, really love them, then their presence in your life should be fulfilling enough. You can always give yourself sexual release if you want it that badly, but you can't give yourself love.

That being said, I do agree that someone deliberately withholding sex as a punishment is abusive; I'm speaking here of people who simply don't want sex for whatever reason. One should never feel "obligated" to have sex. Old chauvinistic attitudes about a "wife's duty" to her husband are born, not out of "need" but out of selfishness. Emotionally healthy sex is always about showing love to the other person, not seeking your own selfish pleasure.

Myself personally, I haven't had sex since August 2006, just shy of three years ago. Am I suffering because of this? Not at all. I may not have sex but I do have love. There is someone in my life now that I love more than I've ever loved anyone and they love me. The fact that our relationship isn't sexual is irrelevant; their love is the most precious thing in my life. I'm happy with that.

It's so much more fulfilling to feel loved than have sex.

That doesn't mean I haven't been tempted; I have been. There have been times when I wanted sex badly enough that I thought of having a cheap one night stand. I am, after all, only Human. I haven't actually had a one night stand, however, because I have never been in bed with a woman I didn't love and I want to be able to say to any woman I'm with in the future, "I don't go to bed with women I don't love."

I have never had sex with a woman I didn't love. When I get into bed with a woman, I'm there to show her how much I love her. A friend of mine recently offended me deeply when he implied, if I was rich, I would "buy" the love of a woman I love. "I'm a man, John!" he said. "Don't insult my intelligence and tell me you wouldn't try to buy her love if you could!"

Sex can be bought; love cannot. It's not possible for me to buy love and I would never buy sex; I never want a woman to touch me in that way unless she wants to because she loves me.

My friend above sometimes accepts the "services" of women whom he pays for sex. If that's what he wants in life, more power to him, but I sometimes worry about him. He's never going to find love that way and he's putting himself at risk of being hurt. Despite the insult, he is a good friend and I don't want to see him sell himself short just because, like so many before him, he feels he "needs" sex badly enough to pay for it.

I feel sorry for anyone who pays for sex. Anyone who does that cannot understand love and the true intimacy of the sexual act.

Sex is, in the end, the most profound way one Human being can express love for another. It's a powerful force and, like like all powerful forces, it must be respected. Sex must not be treated as a commodity that can be bought. It must not be treated as a need one's partner is obligated to provide. It must be treated with respect as the ultimate language of love and the progenitor of new life.

In the words of Sophia Patrillo, we don't need "sport nookie;" we need love. Sex is not love; one can have love without it.

Being loved is far more fulfilling, than sex alone could ever hope to be.