On the twentieth I leave for Denver, Colorado. Of the three of us moving in together, one of us left yesterday. We have a nice apartment secured; two of us recently acquired college degrees, and one of us already has a job lined up. My last day of work here was last Friday. This all still feels surreal, but my excitement is mostly positive.
The first task of today is to sort through my general idea notes (mainly philosophical and psychological in nature). From the looks of it, I started the habit of recording my thoughts in note form in January of two thousand fourteen. It starts with a quote from Langdon Warner’s The Enduring Art of Japan: ‘Here was artifice rather than art… What most occupied the thoughts of these courtiers were ceremonies, costumes, elegant pasttimes like verse-making, and even love-making conducted according to rules.’ So, I can see that it was around this time that I started to seriously think about the philosophical study of aesthetics, and yet I reread that quote now and wonder… what separates art from artifice? Is art not a sort of fantasy, and fantasy a falsehood or deception? The author did not detail this opinion. Can sexual rituals not make the act more meaningful? I imagine that the point was that their rituals, ceremonies, and art had become superficial, practiced for the sake of having practice and not for the sake of exemplifying meaning. He did say ‘rules’ and not ‘rituals’, implying a sense of arbitrary necessity. So Warner was criticizing morality in art without any philosophical consideration, a phenomenon all too familiar to me in my society. Meaningless unity?
Looking over these notes, I see a general theme of ethics, interpersonal relationships, and self-growth (arguably all ethics-related). This does not surprise me, as ethics had become my primary focus in philosophy due to my increased interest in human psychology and my personal struggles with human relationships. Struggles with nihilism reinforced this, as I came to realize the concept of internal ethics, or virtue, purpose, and self-care. I don’t remember what prompted me to ask the question, but my world view changed dramatically when the words, ‘Are there benefits to suffering?’ came to mind. That question alone saved me from a terrible two month bout with depression, when I could not align my emotions with my thoughts, I could not feel my purpose. Blog posts of mine since then have reflected this change.
~some moments pass~
I finished sorting my notes in to categories, updating ideas that I’ve thought about more since I took the notes, and the like. Surprisingly, there are no notes that are directly related to polyamory in here. I suppose that that is because much of my learning about the subjects of intimacy and love has been from reading on the subject (directly and as exemplified in fiction) as opposed to contemplating the subject, and synthesis of the ideas has come about in group discussions in stead of solitary reflection. There are many folded corners of pages in Heinlein novels, and I probably felt that he said things better than I would have. If I remember right, my blog posts have only alluded to the concept of polyamory.
I wanted to write this blog post alongside sorting my idea notes in order to get a grasp on what ideas have been important to me during my transition from feeling entirely at home in Minnesota to craving the experience of having a new one. The greatest themes have been:
-Attachment and impermanence
-Motivation and productivity
-Purpose and happiness (and the benefits of suffering)
-a cute little construct that I have come to refer to as ‘The Third Loop’
I wanted to be able to look at a brief summary of where I stand as a psycho-philosopher before I left. I have also been charged with writing my IDEA PARTY group’s current manifesto for the purpose of filling a time capsule. I also have been thinking about making some sort of meaningful speech at my last going away party before the move. Preparations are in order!
Attachment and impermanence
As a teenager, I blamed emotions for all of our problems. I watched Equilibrium and read Fahrenheit 451, enjoyed them, but some how didn’t grasp their messages. After realizing my folly, that peace is not the ultimate goal, but meaning and/or happiness, I still did not know where the problem truly lied. I thought that may be specific emotions needed to be ignored, but could find no sure method. Then the concept of arrogance as ultimate evil took hold of me, but this word has very specific connotations and so this concept was always difficult to explain. It took me some time, because my introduction to Eastern philosophy had been through bastardized, spiritual Western interpretations, but I finally began to study attachment and impermanence. Attachment was the facet of arrogance that I was missing. Without feeling any need to be attached, it is likely that all arrogance, as greed or hatred or self-absorption or what ever, ceases to be.
Compassion for most of my life had just been a word that had little room for discussion. It was just a descriptive word, not an overarching concept. Care ethics meant no thing to me when I read about it. Buddhist love seemed arbitrary to me. It wasn’t until I read Steve Bein’s Compassion and Moral Guidance that I really began to understand the complexity of the thing. Simply realizing that compassion is not just a synonym for commiseration blew my mind. Sharing joys? ‘Fellow feeling’? An entire new world of empathy, and ethical system for it. A challenge to stoic justice. Compassion for the self, the justifications for selfishness, and a new, deeper perspective on utilitarianism.
Motivation and productivity
Depression makes me lazy. Anxiety makes me lazy. Emotional hypersensitivity brought me to desire to be an emotionless machine, and that problem may be what led me down to the path of the psycho-philosopher and has been a great assistant to my art, but it also has made my life very difficult. May be my phrase ‘If you’re not expanding your comfort zone, it is shrinking’ doesn’t apply to every one, but it certainly applies to me. I’ve always been a person filled with big dreams, high hopes, and lots of projects. As I grew up I started to notice feeling low on energy, lethargy, anxiety about failure, and the fact that I can’t get every thing done at once. Prioritizing, time management, health, and discipline became really important matters. I had a break through: I realized that fun, intimacy, and relaxation were important maintenance measures of the human mind. This meant that they were necessary for a healthy state of mind, a healthy state of mind being very important for productivity. Then I went through a period of hating fun, socializing, and relaxing because the sudden integration of the maintenance perspective made them feel like chores. It evened out (after serious cognitive-behavioral therapy).
Before my last mutually exclusive relationship (monogamous relationship, romantic life partnership, what ever), I had thought that I had finally figured relationships out and that I couldn’t screw an other one up. After my last mutually exclusive relationship, I realized that I had no idea of what it was that I was doing. I had been let down by interpersonal relationship psychology, so I dug deeper in to ethics and found no thing of relevance until I came across the study of compassion. I realized that I had been looking at relationships from a top down perspective. I wanted to smash my constructs on the matter, find the bottom, build a foundation, and build up from there. I built it on the four intimacies: intellectual, emotional, physical, and experiential. I realized how essential these all are and how they can be shared with every one. A hug can be physically intimate (non-sexual). Discussions of scholarly ideas can be extremely intimate. I didn’t want an other monogamous relationship because I knew that I was not ready for one, thinking that I would soon seek one out again, but… studies of compassion revealed the importance of sharing and spreading love; studies of impermanence revealed the importance of sharing and spreading love, and, finally, due to a specific metaphysical pursuit that lead me to read Robert Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast, I found my self being fed the concept of polyamory (without even using the term or one like it) through a medium that greatly appealed to me (hard science fiction) with a perspective that I could finally understand. Stranger in a Strange Land frightened me and challenged fundamental moral principles that I carried, but it ultimately defeated them and sealed the deal. True love is not a mine field. True love is practical. Love is not about possession. In stead, it is greatly about freedom. There is much more to love than sexuality, and monogamy is founded on ownership of an other’s sexuality. Most recently a feminist perspective caught my attention, pointing out that monogamy has historically been about men enslaving women (disgusting). I now understand monogamy as a simple alternative to our natural inclinations, a choice for those who feel that having multiple close friendships is too much work, or for those who are paranoid about sexually transmitted infections (or of course for those fools who are indoctrinated by our corrupt, greedy, sexist society). It is not for me. I once thought that polyamory was all about sex; I now realize that it is all about love, and that monogamy is all about sex. Since this one is controversial, I feel the need to defend it at great length, but that is for an other time.
Purpose and happiness
I’d felt a conflict between my significant others and my art for years, but the need for intimacy and love had always won out, which kept ultimately feeling right, so I didn’t question it. I did not, that is, until I finally started to feel my lack of fulfillment without my art. I surveyed my past and realized that the discontent was unavoidable unless some thing was to change. Then I was introduced to the anime Berserk (the original series), and the speech given by the character Griffith to the princess about sacrificing his dream for no thing and sacrificing every thing for his dream, and what this meant for his close friendships- it really left an impression on me. I for the first time began to consider purpose as related to ethics, but I didn’t know how to develop the idea. Then came that big question, ‘Are there benefits to suffering?’ Googling relevant search terms brought me to Friedrich Nietzsche. I wasn’t digging the ‘slave ethics’ and ‘master ethics’ terminology, but what he had to say about excellence, achievement, and suffering really resonated with me. I was brought to see virtue ethics and utilitarianism in new light, seeing the value of having an internal ethical system (virtues) as well as an external ethical system (utilitarianism). But this brought up a new question, the ‘is it righteous to create a Batman?’ problem. Can we make others virtuous? May we bring them suffering, if we have reason to believe that the suffering will make them better people? Do we orchestrate the murder of a man’s parents, so that he may become the next Batman? Excellence versus asceticism, purpose versus happiness, a subject that I’ve been writing about for a while now, very interesting stuff.
The Third Loop
There was one thing missing from every thing that I had been learning. Virtues, intimacies, purposes… these lists of things floating around, seemingly relevant to each other, but with no stable connection. Why be excellent? Why be intimate? Is ‘because it feels good’ enough? If being virtuous and intimate is so great, what is the purpose of having a personal purpose? Can one go any higher than achieving their dream? Answers to these questions did not worry me, didn’t even feel necessary, so I didn’t realize a possible system encompassing it all until it was staring me right in the face. Multiple Personality Solipsism answered my questions of metaphysics and provided for me the first two loops; here was a third one, one to sustain ethics. This shall be the core of the current manifesto of my psycho-philosophers, this cyclical structure for ethical behavior. It seemed too easy, too simple, so I documented a couple possible basic models and then let the ideas sit in the back of my mind for a while before returning to them. For my next post, I am to make that return and document the system in full.
Where do we go from here? Philosophically, socially, and emotionally I am currently content. Sure, I crave more, I still ‘want it all’, but not desperately. Most recently I have been finding ways to incorporate my new philosophical and psychological discoveries in to my fiction writing, some thing that should keep me continually satisfied for some time. If I can but continue to do that, comfortably settle in to Denver with a new job and the slow addition of new friends, work on music here and there, teach my new room mates martial arts, with the goal in mind of some day reaching many with my writing, my life may be peaceful for years to come.