Category Archives: Identity

I’m ok, You’re ok

hangedIt’s never easy penetrating a person’s thick head. Especially when they have their jaw muscles gripped tightly down on something they refuse to let go. Because at that point, nothing matters. They’re just going to keep that ball firmly in their teeth no matter what. Science is thrown out the window. Reason is trampled down and warped. And our old more pagan, animal nature, rooted in aggression and superstition, rises up to dominate.

This is exactly how a scientist can believe that something which exists within the universe is unnatural. And it is how any of us can continue holding on to beliefs or feelings despite the evidence of our senses that point undeniably to the contrary. It is how we people, who otherwise hold truth in high regard, can be led into deception, both of others and, by the very fact that we purposefully ignore our own true sensibilities, deception of ourselves.

There are many reasons for doing such things to ourselves and to others, but most of them are weak, and most of those, downright pathetic. But that’s alright. Everyone has weaknesses, and everyone has screw-ups. It is what we choose to do after knowing about them that shapes and defines us. It is our ticket out, or our ticket home. And the cost can be steep, or completely free. But the trip is always worth it. These are usually our most important life lessons to be learned. And they’re a bitch. And a blessing.

I spend a lot of time talking about science and how it can produce a somewhat dehumanizing effect upon us by narrowing our field of vision to only the empirical. But here is an example where science can accomplish the opposite effect, by cutting through the obfuscating clouds we create for ourselves, for whatever individually mad reasons, and instead bringing light to an exceedingly messy human thing.

We care about other people. We care about other people to different degrees and for various reasons, and sometimes, perhaps, for no reasons at all. What an astonishing reality it is, when we can step back and look at it, that other human life; that their very existence matters to us. Sometimes that other being matters simply because it is another being, as alive in this strange reality we inhabit, as we are ourselves. But sometimes another being matters much more to us than any other. Sometimes that being matters as much to us as ourselves. Or even more. This is insanity. It is also, perhaps, our greatest and most profound strength as a species.

We like to enjoy ourselves and to feel good. After all, we enjoy ourselves when we enjoy ourselves, and it feels good to feel good. And how good do we feel when someone we care about is near to us, and a part of our lives? What profound interactions of growth and mutual support are possible? And not only that, it also feels very nice just knowing that someone else cares about you. Someone that you can count on, despite anything.

Now don’t let any irrational notions of propriety throw off your thinking here. We’re scientists right now. Humans have bodies with nerves and muscles, and we’re just all fleshy and gooey. We enjoy feeling pleasure. We like sexual stimulation, with other beings, or even just by ourselves, however we might. This isn’t caring. This is an enjoyment of our physicality. It’s good fun.

Sex is not a mystical and special thing. It is our love and trust in another person that is a mystical and special thing. When that love and trust is broken by the one we care about, that is what hurts. That is what matters. It could be them having sex with another person. It could be them kissing another. It could be them spending too much time with another. It could be simply that they told us a lie. Certainly sex can help people become more intimate with each other, but it is that intimacy and trust that is the big thing, not the sex.

Sex is not spiritual. It is biological. Pleasuring yourself is great. So is pleasuring another, and it can also lead to greater intimacy between you. That intimacy and trust, whether it comes through sex or not, is the more spiritual thing. It is the truly important bit.

Unfortunately, many people consider sex itself to be something spiritual, except, of course, when “cheating” is involved, in which case, they consider the sex, or whatever betrayal, to be nothing meaningful all of a sudden, instead. It meant nothing, right? Well, to the one feeling the pain of betrayal, it meant something significant. But it’s not the physical act that causes the pain. It’s the betrayal of the spiritual “contract” between you. This contract can also be broken without any sex being involved.

This contract, however, means different things to different people. I suppose that is why communication is important. For example, some few people like any contract to mean complete and utter ownership over another, or their own feeling of being completely owned. Others may have more lax contracts, where each can spend time doing whatever they like, within reason. The contracts vary wildly from person to person, and usually they are never communicated. Some people will even feel betrayed by their object of love spending time at work, or having a very close friend. And this is a betrayal to them as certainly as any other, even sexual.

It is also possible, when people are willing to discuss exactly what the spiritual contract between them represents, to reach other more broadly defined constraints, which work in the interests of everyone to keep any betrayal from happening. Perhaps it’s okay to spend two nights a week out with your best friend, and the person who loves you will not feel like you are being taken from them. Or, perhaps it’s okay for you to kiss someone else from time to time, since you are particularly physical and affectionate. Or maybe you can have sex with someone else, as long as your partner meets them first and knows about everything, and you will always come home at night to sleep. These are the details people can work out together, if they are willing to communicate and be honest and accommodating.

Personally, I adhere to one person when I care. I think it because I very much enjoy exploring the intimacy and trust possible between people. I look at all this other wandering around that some people do as distractions – an attempt to make up for something that they do not find with each other. Perhaps they will find it. Perhaps they will find a way to live happily enough with each other, never having found it. I don’t know. I may be prejudiced.

But the interesting thing is that these qualities exist between people regardless of their race, their gender or their purported sexual identity. These same things are true whether you are straight, gay or bisexual. The sexual act does not matter. It is the human intimacy and trust that is the more important and spiritual aspect. It is that closeness, that kinship, and that knowing that someone is there for you, that can be felt between beings, that matters. It is probably the most beautiful and powerful thing we all have. It can make our lives worth living. It helps us create a better world for all.

Sadly, there are still people, even in our younger generations, who still believe sex is what is important and defines us, and not our capacity to love. There are still people who believe that physical pleasure can be wrong and represent a diseased mind or body, even when nobody else is hurt, and even when other people are helped or made to feel happier. There are still scientists who believe that something can exist which is not natural.

Invariably, these beliefs which fly in the face of reason, are usually founded in uninformed religious teaching, and certainly not science. It can take a very long time for people to become more fully aware of the reality they inhabit, particularly when that reality is not the reality portrayed to them by their parents, friends and their society at large. It can take a very long time for people to accept truth, despite science. Even though we live in what we consider a more “modern” and “enlightened” world.

Science tells us that homosexuality and bisexuality are not, in any way, disorders. Nor are they, in any way, aberrant. Nor are they even “unhealthy”. No mainstream scientific organization or studies support this thinking. In fact, they support the contrary. The American Psychological Association has this to say:

“Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding. Therefore, these mainstream organizations long ago abandoned classifications of homosexuality as a mental disorder.”

Considering the incredible mysteries of human bonding, the persistence of such unfounded stereotypes is strange, indeed. It points to something deeper. Let’s see if we might shed some light upon what might be behind this inexplicable persistence.

First, we must accept that our sexuality is more fluid than we might be comfortable admitting. This discomfort itself is something telling. However, as Lisa Diamond discovered in her 10-year longitudinal study, “some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime. Individuals may become aware at different points in their lives that they are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.” Again, it is the personally intimate nature we can experience with another being that is the truly important thing, and this experience between beings is not limited by gender or race. Our ability to know each other, feel kinship for each other, and to love each other, is far greater. Our feelings of sexual attraction that often accompany this must be accepted, or harm will most certainly result, both to the person that matters, and to ourselves. And any tragic circumstance of non-acceptance will only help those stereotypes persist.

The profoundly unreasonable belief permeating our culture would have us feel that homosexuality and bisexuality is wrong. Thankfully it is on the decline. It would have us feel wrong, even when we might be reasonable enough to think that homosexuality is, perhaps, okay for other people. It would have us feel wrong in that any feelings for someone of our same gender is certainly not okay for us. This creates a great deal of inner conflict within most of us when we must confront our larger nature, for our larger nature encompasses many things. Those whose sexuality leans more toward homosexuality can often overcome these unfounded biases. However, those whose sexuality leans more toward bisexuality, which is the vast majority, usually never overcome these unfounded biases. For them, it is a relatively simple matter just to choose to label themselves completely heterosexual.

This does not fix their perceived problems, however. Inevitably, we are confronted with issues of our sexuality throughout our lives. What is unresolved or repressed is destined to surface again, and often in increasingly bizarre and destructive ways.

It is no accident that the people who most adamantly consider homosexuality an aberration, abomination or a disease are the same people who struggle with those same issues within themselves. The psychological term is disassociation, and these people go to great lengths to disassociate themselves with homosexuality both internally to themselves and externally, as proof to others of their disease-free state.

Sullivan’s 1956 theories on disassociation demonstrate how our sexuality can be made completely separate and other from our own sense of our personality. For example, as Jack Drescher says:

“[…] selective inattention is a common, non-pathological process, akin to tuning out the background noise on a busy street. In more intense dissociative mechanisms, double lives are lived yet not acknowledged. One sees clinical presentations of closeted gay people lying somewhere between selective inattention, most commonly seen in the case of homosexually self-aware patients thinking about “the possibility” that they might be gay, to more severe dissociation – in which any hit of same-sex feelings resides out of conscious awareness.”

This disassociation, where the feelings are actually moved outside of conscious awareness, is recognized to be very similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And this, actually, is the real disease, not any homosexual feelings.

Vivienne Cass’s famous 1979 Homosexuality Identity Formation Model also recognizes these characteristics within the first stage of people coming to terms with the fact that they may have some homosexual feelings. This stage is called identity confusion, and it is often quite volatile. As paraphrased by Joe Kort:

“Those who begin to acknowledge their attraction to other members of the same sex may not see themselves as even remotely gay. This isn’t pretending; they still honestly identify themselves as heterosexual. At this stage, their homosexual feelings are completely unacceptable to them. They are looking for anyone who might tell them they are not gay.

Once individuals recognize that a homosexual nature does exist within them, they often become very sensitive, highly anxious, and self-conscious. This is the beginning of re-experiencing their PTSD symptoms. Pushing them too far in this stage can cause too much psychological discomfort and potentially keep them from moving on to the next stage.

They are also vulnerable to getting married heterosexually, genuinely hoping for the best.”

The disassociation exhibited by people who unreasonably rail against the homosexual nature that nearly all of us embody is glaringly obvious to those people who have come to terms with the more fluid nature of their own sexuality. Look at our Senators and religious leaders who rabidly fight for legislation that condemns homosexuality, while at the same time have clandestine homosexual rendezvous. They condemn homosexual feelings to others in a cowardly attempt to disassociate themselves from their own homosexual feelings. It is the same with straight boys in a crowd.

This also is confirmed by science, through many studies. There is even a 1996 empirical study by Henry Adams where he measured the arousal level of straight men being shown images of men and women, where one group of men were homophobic and the other group of men was not. The study demonstrated that the homophobic men were almost always sexually aroused by images of men, while the non-homophobic men were not. Both were equally aroused by women and lesbian images, which supports the case for bisexual identity repression. But the homophobic men got excited.

Drescher, amongst a great preponderance of psychologists and psychiatrists, also confirms this. “Interpersonally, strong anti-homosexual feelings may represent an effort to control perceptions of a [man’s] own sexual identity. If they attack gay people, others will not think of them as gay.” Even those psychiatrists following a psychoanalytic approach agree. “Various psychoanalytic theories explain homophobia as a threat to an individual’s own same-sex impulses, whether those impulses are imminent or merely hypothetical. This threat causes repression, denial or reaction formation.” (DJ West, 1977).

Want some Wikipedia? How about “by distancing themselves from gay people, they are reaffirming their role as a heterosexual in a heteronormative culture, thereby attempting to prevent themselves from being labeled and treated as a gay person.”

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Hopefully, this will help clear the air a little on our sexuality, and people’s reactions to the subject matter of sexuality. But clearing the air only allows us to see more clearly. It does not help us to live our lives any better.

Even when we can accept a certain degree of homosexuality within ourselves, that does not mean everything is great. However, it is far better than before! Oftentimes people who manage to get past complete disassociation settle upon compartmentalization instead. As Kort and Cass say:

“Some clients may accept their behavior as gay or bisexual while still rejecting homosexuality as their core identity. Or they might accept a homosexual identity but, paradoxically, inhibit their gay behavior by, for example, deciding to heterosexually marry and have anonymous “no strings” sexual hookups. Of course, this kind of compartmentalization – a fracturing of behavior and identity – leads to problems later on.

Some lesbian and gay clients may attempt to embrace a heterosexual identity out of internalized shame and guilt. These clients are particularly vulnerable to the promises of reparative therapy. Because of their self-hate and hope for a “cure,” they are eager to be rid of these unwelcome thoughts and feelings.”

But honestly, there is nothing to repair. We’re crazy creatures, remember? We’re wide and wonderful. There is no mainstream discipline or organization that supports any “repair” of our sexuality. In fact, they all condemn such things as harmful. Even the US Surgeon General David Satcher, a military man, officially stated “there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed” in a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2001. My God! We’re stuck with each other! In all our wild diversity, our beautiful human surprises, and the all wonders of impossible places…

If you fight against these scientific truths, invariably you will harm other people, and you will harm yourself. You will also be a force within the world that strengthens the very stereotypes that we cannot believe still exist. If you fight against these truths, it can cause all manner of harm, in all manner of seemingly unrelated directions. This is true for kids, adults both young and old, parents, teachers, clergy, lawmakers, and you. We really need to find some bravery and stand up, and get past this nonsense. We have to make it so that young men struggling with these issues are not 13 times more likely to kill themselves. We have to do this by making the issue become a non-issue, for all of us.

What these studies do not go into is the acts of deception, both outwardly and inwardly, that people struggling with sexuality exhibit. In order to disassociate, deception is the key. And this begins to permeate deeper within them, even to unrelated areas, and it begins to permeate outwardly into the world. Sexuality is a fundamental force within us all – it is very powerful and it drives us almost always, even subtly. When we mix in deception at this core level, it is a mixture that can lead to truly terrible things in time. We can become adept at deception of all type because, with our practice over time, every day, we become masterful, and deception becomes second-nature to us.

But it’s a whole different view from above it all. From above, you will notice the guys who you see getting excited around you, then have to run off to call their girlfriends or wives, or if they have none, go watch some lesbian pornography or guy/girl porn, but no looking at penises. It is the poor man’s version of reparative therapy. Also, you can watch them turn their sexuality instead into aggression so they might feel reassured by some masculine identity that somehow arises from fear. You can watch them, when you push them to the limit, if you’re lucky, break down and tell you it’s something they’ve always hated about themselves, then deny they ever said it. Yes, you can watch all manner of people struggle with themselves, from on high. For years and years, until you wonder how it is that people can be so deceptive and destructive over such simple, unimportant things. These facts exist, whether or not you have ever met a gay or bisexual person before (which you most certainly have). They also exist despite any beliefs you might hold. It is a great truth that we are just starting to come to terms with.

But what we do physically with our bodies is not important. It is how we honor that incredibly beautiful accident that is another human being. It is how we offer ourselves truly to another, in trust, in admiration, in honesty, and in our commitment to their, and our, mutual well-being. And in this, the religious people have much to learn. They should stop harming people. Especially their children, if nobody else.

“Sexual orientation is not synonymous with sexual activity.

The idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or that the emergence of same-sex attraction and orientation is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy has no support among any mainstream health and mental health professional organizations.” (APA)

Now, go suck on that!

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Lines

How do we justify the intellect as reason when reason lives just on the front tip? While the emotional mind below occupies our greatest mass. Or the mind itself, assuring what we are, through the domineering symbols of prescience.

What is not yet, becomes for us what must be, while what is, weighs down like a cinched bag of invisible objects we must forge through.

The front tip asks, devoid of wonder, how these inefficiencies might be reshaped to grease the line we must pull ourselves along, in that quest to reach the prescient state, where the bigger animal mind, invisible, might allow rest.

And forgets, because it never knew, it reasoned like a wire grid with perfectly square gaps that no true objects fit.

It cut them in attempts to squeeze past and reach perfect two dimensionality where all drawn lines meet in the symmetry that cannot discern beginning from end. The front tip small, using tools that do not rise, scratches forward, back and to either side. While below cuts drip down leaving the plane of sight. While warm whispers rise up, past, spreading into aether.

And in this, the front-tipped grid busy in designs, sleeps. And in doing so constructs a soothing curve, formed of inifinite lines.

Trust, In the Long Run

I never know what to make of new people. I’ll usually just watch them making themselves. It says more. They can say or do anything, whether it is true or not. Time makes everyone honest, eventually.

It’s often said that you know a good, honest person by their actions when their back is up against the wall. There is some truth in that. But even more truth can be found in someone’s actions when they are utterly embarrassed or humiliated. People avoid this, more than anything.

I’ve spent my whole life asking questions, even the most intimate and penetrating, as all of you who know me can attest. I do it to gain further insight into people and myself. It is also, inevitably, a test of character. I think I live up to my end. It is, perhaps, not entirely fair to expect others to. And I don’t. After a while, the questions aren’t even important. It is everything around them that tell the truer story.

Ask a guy how often he plays with himself. If he answers seriously, “I don’t, I’ve got a girlfriend” or “I just get laid”, you know he’s propping up his insecurity with some notion of “manhood” he holds important, and is willing to lie instead of feeling even insecure. If he answers, “none of your business,” you know that he has some rigid boundaries to watch out for. If he answers, “as much as possible,” you know there is much more likely a true, confident and solid person there.

In other words, going for the throat, or the root, so to speak, can be an efficient and accurate means to divine the more fundamental character of another, at least in part. I have no idea how Obama would answer that question, but imagining it has lead to a wide variety of scenarios. But it is not a question for the public sphere, yet, I suppose. And when it is, it will have lost its efficacy.

A few days ago, someone left some comments on an article I wrote a few years ago about Andy, Mark and marriage in Canada, and even moreso, about the decisions we make in life that effect us through time. This is what he had to say:

“fags. a bunch fucking asseating,cocksucking fags. hope you get aids faggot motherfuckers.”

I ask you, do you think he plays with himself? How would he answer that question?

People do not have such strong emotions unless something very personal is involved. This presents interesting problems for we people, who are mostly bisexual to one degree or another, who live in a society strongly slanted against same-sex love, despite our conceit of some “modern” acceptance. This acceptance exists only barely in our larger society, and sadly, rarely for any individual who ever finds themselves attracted to someone of the same sex.

This certainly leads to a lot of self-loathing, which can manifest in many bizarre and seemingly unrelated ways. But for the bisexual, it’s not always so difficult just choosing the path of being “straight”. What is important to remember, that such things are a choice. In other words, you cannot be straight simply by saying that you are, or even trying to believe it. That’s a good thing to keep in mind when you head to the voting polls. Some things are choices, and some things are not. Who we are capable of loving is not a choice. It just is. And it is the most wonderful thing we can ever hope to experience. And any time that love becomes more, and stronger in the world, we should help it to grow. We all need that.

So if you hear someone talking like this, I suppose it’s okay to get angry. My reaction is more akin to pity, because something within them is truly eating them up. I would try to help, based upon who they were. If that took anger, they would have it. If it took patience and persistence, they would have that. I would want to help, and not for myself either.

So the next time a guy tells you that they cannot tell if other guys are good looking or not, because they like girls, feel sorry them — try to help. Nobody is so insanely straight that they become blind to the aesthetic of half the world’s population. They become blind only as a means, and this is a confessional. If confronted with this fact, their next position is to admit, well, of course the can tell, but they’re not sexually attracted to men. It’s a hot spot, again, so to speak.

Sex is a very strong motive power for us, especially in men. Sparta harnessed this to create one of the world’s greatest armies. But when self-loathing is involved, any attraction can turn to aggression and even the machismo camaraderie of war.

Honesty is a rare quality. Even when brutal, it always leads to greater things. Imagine the trust you might place in another person, entering into a relationship with them, in love, or even in business. If they are willing to lie, rather than feel any degree of embarrassment or humiliation, how likely do you think it is that they would lie to you about selling you out for their own benefit, in one way or another, which is itself, a humiliating and embarrassing thing to do, and confess?

I suppose it might be like a little cache box of personal treasures that we keep hidden, for only our own eyes. Because if we reveal them, we are no longer special. We are no longer what we want to be, or wish we were. We become, only and simply, who we are. And we do not realize, that is where our true magnifisence begins.

Justin, you might be surprised to hear me say this, but you are the “straightest” guy I know, out of all these years, and all these people. Even considering that bizarre Swedish biker fantasy you shared with me. This isn’t a prize. Nor is it a curse. It’s just been a while since I told you that I love you, and I miss you, and in particular your clear, refreshing and utter honesty in all things, that even overwhelms me sometimes. Maybe it is a prize, if I had one to give, that could ever match that.

So here is hoping that should change come, that its foundation is rooted in the truth of all our vulnerabilities and our worth. May our separateness change directions. And our inadequacies find people that can fill them. May we no longer fear, and even have the reason.

And What Might You Be, Crazy Creature?

Jake in the WheelbarrowI’ve never told him to do this. One day he just decided that he liked being in wheelbarrows. I accept such things, without understanding them. Maybe he feels he is a clever dog and wishes to demonstrate just how so. I think it’s not so grand, though. My suspicion is, being in a wheelbarrow is just another strange thing of many that he likes.

Right now the yard is covered in thick snow. It is a world he has never known. When he goes outside, he runs, back and forth wildly, in leaps to keep his chest above the snow. Then he stops, bends forward, pushing his head deep into the white powder, and does a somersault, flopping onto his back, then kicking himself around in circles. Then he stops, jumping up completely still and alert, looks quickly from side to side, then rolls onto his back again, rolling and kicking snow into the air while snorting. Again, I don’t know why. I tell him that he’s crazy, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

He also has obsessions, namely tennis balls. Always, he carries at least one around with him. He even drops one into his bowl as he eats, apparently because it’s all good. He can hold them between his paws, while he’s laying down, his stubby claws looking more like fingers, wrapping around the little ball. He even rests his paws on them, slowing rolling them around under his touch.

Jake holds the ballWhenever I come upstairs from down, there is at least one tennis ball on the steps, waiting for me. I am expected to bring it to him. When I stand near the bottom of the steps, doing dishes or making coffee, I almost always hear a thwunk, thwunk, thwunk as a ball slowly bounces down the steps. Looking up, he’s laying at the top of the stair with his paws hanging over, staring down at me with a big grin, waiting for me to throw the ball back up to him. It’s irresistible. I throw it up to him, where he catches it, chews it for a moment, then sets it on the ground between his paws. Moments later, he hits it with the top of his nose, sending it bouncing back down the steps to me, with that silly grin.

There is existence and awareness in that creature, that is not illusion, I have no doubt. There is a soul, as certainly as we might have one. This is beyond most forms of Christianity, and many other religions as well. In this, at least, those religions are wrong. And so are people who believe cats can even compare.

He has a darker side as well, manifest through pathological jealousy. Any other dog who dares comes near to say hello, he intercepts, and shoves firmly away, but in the friendliest of ways. He is the only one that will have our affection.

There is even self-sacrifice. Hating riding in the car, he lays down stiff and motionless in the back seat, completely unresponsive. It isn’t terror or sickness. It’s more like the ultimate in “grin and bear it”. So why, you might ask, is he forced to ride in the car? And the answer would be, he isn’t. He insists on going because it’s a much better alternative than you leaving without him.

I think it is likely, in his dog brain, that he has no awareness differentiating himself from humans. Laying down next to him to pet his head, you will find his paw on your own head, which is not always pleasant, when claws are loving torn down your cheek.  Nor always, your arm held firmly between his jaws when he is exceedingly happy about something. He has learned to curb his enthusiasm, to a degree, but not enough, by intent, to squelch his personality.

Jake a little downSometimes he needs to be reminded, not of his status, but of his limitations; those sometimes arbitrary-seeming rules of conduct. For example, the table is not his place to eat. The counter tops are sacred places, with strange and wondrous things to smell and eat, but never to trespass upon. And all of this is accomplished through the two soul-crushing sounds for which everything must stop. “No!” “Bad!”

Happily for him, almost everything else is good. It is a peculiar and simple life, almost always coming back to tennis balls. There are times when he brings two or three in his mouth to you, laying them in your lap, wide-eyed and waiting for you to throw them. But other times, when you might be in the mood to play, he will hide them from you. And still others, he will hoard them between his paws, in an iron grip. He prefers sharing the tennis balls on his own terms.

But, being smarter than he, I have discovered ways to circumvent his particularities. I keep a spare ball, all my own, out of his sight. One bounce of that ball, anywhere in the house, and he will completely forget about any balls of his own. One bounce, knowing that another ball exists that is not his, and he will fixate, absolutely, on making it his own. It does not matter that he already had two or three balls. If you have one, he must have it. I have learned to exploit that laser-sighted greed to swoop in and steal the balls he left unguarded. He knows this trick by now. I can see it in his face, when he hears me bounce that ball, out of his sight. He knows I will end up with his, and hesitates. But another bounce will drive him over the top, where he simply must have it. And then I’ve won.

But other times he will just bring a mouthful of balls to you, laying them in your lap. Or sometimes he spreads them out on the floor in front his face, where he lays with his chin on the ground, staring at you until you come take them to play. If you stand near them, he will spring to his feet, crouched in a serious four-legged kung fu pose, completely motionless, waiting to catch the ball with his paws if you happen to kick one instead of picking it up.

It is far more interesting when a relationship is not domineering. Personalities blossom, in unexpected ways.

Here, the Fourth of July is very loud, with fireworks shooting up into the sky in any direction you look, with the occasional bright white flash of some deafening explosion. Jake loves the Fourth of July. He is the only dog I’ve known to love it. He runs out across the yard, barking at the lights and sounds, in a happy, not at all anxious way. And when he is hot from running, like the rest of the summer, he will lay in his little plastic swimming pool of water, rolling around in near ecstasy.

After balls, water is his second love. Even though he cannot sink his teeth into it, he tries. When you pick up the hose, he runs toward you, expecting to be squirted. He requires it. You cannot expect to use water from the hose without this dog finding a way to get in it. Even strong jets of icy water he will lay down in, as if it is the most nonintoxicating and pleasant massage.  Short bursts he will bite at, trying to catch, or bat at with his paws. He is a strange dog.

Did I mention he does yoga? He loves to stretch, and loves help stretching further. Maybe this is how he can so easily leap into the wheelbarrow with such balance. Perhaps that is why his paws are more like hands. Certainly his flexibility, strength and precision set him apart from most other dogs. Perhaps this is just the pride of a parent.

Jake's imp grinFor my part, I have never thought of Jake as a dog. Well, consciously you must. But I give him the benefit of more. Actually, I try to do that with all dogs. And yes, even cats. Well, after that initial period of ignoring them completely until they put themselves at a disadvantage by making the first gesture of friendship. But where they might walk away, I’ll listen. Even though it’s questionable they deserve it, after such games. But not all dogs, do I think of, as more than dogs. Their characters can be radically shaped by we humans. To me, that is a nearly overwhelming consideration. But it is not, for all humans.

It is a peculiar thing, the spirit of an animal. And peculiar even ourselves, when we have such power over it, what we choose to exert in that dominion. It is something telling, as all acts, and all inactions, are confessions of ourselves.

I can say he is a bad dog. Or a good dog. And I determine all boundaries and structures of his world. But I forfeit that power, as much as I can. Instead, I choose to be one creature to another with him. Perhaps this is how he can be something more – how he can be such a strange and wonderful dog.

In a large way, this is because of my dad, by his example, or the voodoo that seeps in through the alchemy of families. It is a realization that gives me pause. Because, if I must admit many things, it gives me, perhaps, just a glimpse, of my own wheelbarrow.

You might be seeing me, standing in it now, from your perspective that encapsulates such creatures. But I can talk. And were I to, I would tell you, I am not feeling particularly clever. I like the wheelbarrow. It’s a little above the ground and it’s fun to balance. Even when I get scolded. Or laughed at. I mean, look at this, standing in the wheelbarrow. You glorious little lunatic! Yes, you.

And so we know, there are people who say, treating your dog as an equal is a bad thing. They say, they need the discipline, hierarchy and rule of the pack. They are happier that way. Well, it isn’t true. They need excrutiatingly honest and sincere interaction with you. That’s all. And yes, that is a far taller order.

Ooo – Make It Stop…

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You must do things that you normally would not. Particularly if you have never done them before. If you are the slightest bit curious, that is, or think that you should. Or feel that you must.

I’m not going to say why. Just do it. If it doesn’t harm anyone. Take a peek behind those corners, inside those dark closets and basements, and under those stones. Stick your toe in. Take a leap. You just have to.

I did something completely out of character a couple nights ago. Something that I never do. Well, that I haven’t done for a very, very long time. I felt like I should, but I didn’t really want to. Even the thought of it made me feel awkward and uncertain. But strangely, that awkwardness began to bother me in other ways: it should not feel awkward, nor should it make me feel uncertain. And that’s what convinced me over the hump. I decided to do it. I was going to pray.

I know! But I’m telling you, you have to be able to take your own advice. Do something crazy. I told Jeff’s aunt, who seems like this sweet, wonderful lady, that I would pray her hip replacement surgery would go well. It seemed a nice and innocuous thing to do. But it wasn’t long before I wanted to back out of that promise.

But how could I? Backing out of something like that is like killing a butterfly, just to be mean. Not that I would know. Then I thought, well, while I’m it, I guess I’ll throw in some bigger ticket items, like including soldiers and civilians in the prayer, too. It couldn’t hurt, and would give me more bang for the buck.

And as that night wore on, the impending bizarre event loomed heavier and heavier on the near horizon. Why was it was such a big deal? It irritated me that it was a big deal. Was it irrational, being so bothered by something so benign? Was it my rationality that was offended, eliciting an emotional response of dread? That didn’t even make sense. Sure, rationality ought to be dispassionate, but even when it’s not, getting dread from something like having to pray just didn’t make sense. After all, this was simply a task that needed doing. Cut and dried. Matter of fact. But for some reason, it was HUGE. This made no sense.

Eventually it was time. Lights out, cell phone positioned, I took off my clothes and climbed into bed. Eyes closed. Laying on my back. Darkness. Ok. Here we go…

Now, simultaneously and contradictorily, in both hubris and jest, which you Psychologically dominated people are welcome to erroneously interpret as false modesty, I say that a lesser man would have just played with himself and gone to sleep. Nobody would be the wiser, if I just skipped out on this praying thing. Sure, I might have to answer to someone asking questions, but it would be a minor lie. Laying there, considering, I was on the verge of doing just that. But somehow, it sucked me in. I had to do it. I was going to pray. It was just too weird. I had to.

Ok. Wriggle, wriggle. Eyes closed. Dark. Silence.

I become very aware of the Earth at times like this, and our movement through everything out toward the stars — at least in my imagination.

Ok. Pray. Ok… Umm… Ok. Uh… who do I talk to? Where? Do I just think words, or do I speak into the darkness? Ok. I don’t need to speak. Thinking the words would be better. I’m sure he’s psychic. Well, he or she. Or whatever.

But words are so narrow. God has to be way larger than that. I can send him whole big landscapes of thought, instead of just narrow little words. I just can open up everything I am, and broadcast it out there, like an Arecibo made of meat and electricity. I wonder if satellites can pick it up? Damn freaks who go into the military to be voyeurs. Then again, people just broadcast themselves on webcams…

Ok. Wait. A prayer. It’s simple. Just pray for the hip. And not to the Hindu pantheon either, because she’s Christian. Those Hindu gods wouldn’t care about her hip. But why not? But maybe I could be just kinda Hindu-ish and unite with the vibrational energy that permeates the universe and make it flow into her hip toward the future when she’d be in the hospital. Gads, but it might short out the operating room equipment.

Damnit. God. Pray to God. Ok. God. Big guy. Yup. Ok. “Um, hi God,” I thought at Him.

Oh, how stupid is that? The creator of all existence, at all scales, both huge and subatomic and vast, and all the crazy intricacies, and I’m going, “duh. Hi God.” I mean, I can’t just outright talk to him, right? I guess he could have invented English, and speaks it. Or he’s like connected into everything, and I don’t even have to talk, because he knows it all, and made it all.

Damn. Hmm. Well, maybe I can just lay here, and be cosmically connected to him, and he’ll know about the prayer. Yeah. Ok. Deep breath. Focus. God blob. God blob… ok.. like all over the place and around, everywhere. Christ, how do I tell something so huge to make some person’s hip be ok? I mean, if the hip is bad, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? How arrogant of me to try changing that plan. Or maybe he likes bad things until we beg him to make them good. That’s not very nice. Yeah, that whole problem of Evil existing so prominently. And those weak arguments about free will being the reason for it. Bah!

Man, but that lady’s hip. She seemed so sweet and nice. They’re going to have to slice into her, shatter her hip into pieces, dig it out, and put some synthetic bones back in her. That sucks. I bet lots of people end up going through that. All kinds of nasty, terrible stuff as you get older. And even those soldiers. I wonder how many of those young guys had to get their hips replaced cuz they got blown up? Lucky to be alive I suppose. So many bodies and lives, really. Strangers. I wonder what their stories were like? Never will know now, I guess. Silly young humans. Killing people. Getting killed. With all the conceits and vulnerabilities you see, in same people out here, walking around at a market. People that can kill people. Or get their own bodies ripped open by others.

And it wasn’t long before I found myself lying there, in the Dark, and in the Silence, amazed at all the images and feelings moving through me. I told myself, I’m not there with any of those people — I don’t know know any of them. It doesn’t matter. And it became even more proundly sad. And I found myself wanting, more than anything, for them all to be better. For them to be lifted out of that. To be free.

Stupid prayers. It wasn’t even a prayer. Well, maybe. I don’t know. But I was done. It was no different from, during every day, when you stop all the silliness around you, just to absorb in the world – to let your existence touch you, how it will. Or the existences of others. I don’t want that burden lifted. I need to feel that weight. I need to work to lessen that burden, and not just for myself.

Maybe that’s something God told me, in his language. I wouldn’t presume. Maybe when you pray, you’re not supposed to talk, or ask for things. Maybe you’re supposed to just open up and listen. Maybe our whole lives are supposed to be one, ever-present prayer. Maybe that’s why I felt so awkward, going to ask for something.

I wonder what people ask for, in their prayers. Or if they even pray, just to pray. Just to listen.

I guess I don’t know how to pray any more. Or I can’t. I tried, though. And I heard something really huge. And I am still really, really sad.