Love Is Not A Word

There are many different words for “Love” in the Greek language. Eros, Agape, Philia and other Greek words hold nuances and shades of meaning, attempting to capture this most ephemeral of emotions.

We talk about Love a lot. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that Love is responsible for the vast majority of words ever written by the human race, in the form of poems, plays, scripts, letters, stories, social media, emails, blogs, chats, song lyrics and more.

Love is proved in deeds. Not words.

Yes, there are many words about Love. But no matter how eloquent those words may be, no matter how inspiring, tender, uplifting, intimate or cherished, one truth remains:

Love is NOT a word.

If you want to know Love, don’t look to what someone says. Look to what they do. Anyone can say, “I love you,” but the only way you will know whether or not it’s true is by their actions. Love is proved in deeds. Not words.

Love is helping someone move, packing and carrying heavy stuff.

Love is emptying your checking account and maxing out your credit card to help a friend in an emergency.

Love is giving someone a ride when they don’t have a car.

Love is fixing comfort food when you know your partner is weary in body and spirit.

Love is standing with a friend as they try to change their life, supporting them and not letting them fall. Even if that means you have to nag them to make sure.

Love is standing with them even if they do fall… and loving them anyway.

Love is speaking hard truth to someone who needs to hear it.

Love can be as simple as a smile and an affectionate touch when someone needs it.

Love is honoring what’s important to your friend even if it’s not important to you.

There are many other examples but I think you have the idea.

Love is not a word. Love is an action.

I am blessed. I have a lot of love in my life. To those who love me… thank you. I will do my best to show you that I love you, too.

Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. –1 John 3:18

 

Don’t Label Me

 

Yes, I know. I should not have been surprised. But I was stunned when someone learned one fact about me, and then, relying solely on stereotypes, proceeded to imagine a great many other things about me… most of which were untrue.

It happens with alarming frequency. We label a person. The human tendency is for our imaginations to fill in the blanks… often with that which we fear. We make assumptions about a person’s character, personality and beliefs, based on this label and what it is popularly believed to represent. Those assumptions may or may not be correct… but most people never bother to find out.

Often, the function of a label is establish division. It is a way of individuating oneself: establishing your own identity by highlighting how you are different from others.

Owning your own identity is a good thing. The problem comes when you try to shore up your identity, not just by having pride in yourself, but by denigrating those who differ from you… as if to say, “I’m good, and you’re not.”

This is not a new problem. People complain about it constantly. I hear many people bemoan the divisions in our country. Political differences, religious differences, cultural differences. Yet I hear very few go beyond talking, and actually try to do anything about it. For most people, bridging the gap and healing divisions seems to be about vanquishing the “other side.”

If we ever got honest enough to go out in the streets and uncover our common grief, we would discover that we are all grieving over the same things. –Miguel Unamuno

But here’s a secret. Believe it or not, it is possible to own your identity, to feel strong and confident about who you are and what you believe… without demonizing those who believe something else. Yes, as amazing as it might seem, you can treat someone with courtesy and respect even if you think that their values and beliefs are dead wrong. You can hold on to your own values, without compromising your beliefs, and still be friends with people whose values and beliefs are the opposite of yours.

Bridging that gap is not easy; it requires listening with an open mind. Instead of making assumptions about what someone believes, why not actually ask them? Why not find out what they believe? You might be surprised. You might even discover that you have more in common than you think.

This seems to be a difficult thing to do. The person who labeled me had no interest whatever in my beliefs. Their only interest was to say, in so many words, “You are not like me. I reject you.”

Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. –Friedrich Nietzsche

As I’ve pointed out before, scientists have demonstrated that we are genetically more invested in winning arguments than in thinking clearly. Confronting this person would have been useless because they were entrenched, and unable to hear or see any reality other than the one they had created for themselves. So I remained silent. But there are a few things I would have liked to say:

You have NO clue what I believe.

I do not fit into most standard label categories. It’s almost impossible to label me as liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, Christian or agnostic, or any kind of class distinction. But somehow, you decided that I fit neatly into some category, and that, as a result, you know everything there is to know about me.

You are totally wrong.

Not only do you have no clue what I believe, you THINK that you DO know. Because of your mistaken certainty, your mind is completely incapable of discerning the actual truth. You have no curiosity at all, no desire to find out what is real. And that lack of curiosity has made you blind.

I know who I am. I know that your assumptions about me are wrong, mere fantasies concocted by your imagination. They don’t affect me. But they sadden me.

I feel sad for you, because you cannot see. I feel sad for our world, because this blindness is widespread and causes rifts that continue to deepen, spreading hostility, fear and pain to everyone.

But I’m not giving up on you. I’m holding out hope that one day you will find the strength to challenge your fears, and crack the closed door of your mind just enough to let in a little light. I’m holding out hope that in the end, love will be stronger than fear.

we were all just humans
And in the end, we were all just humans, drunk on the idea that love, only love, could heal our brokenness. –Christopher Poindexter

The Truth Behind Lies

Everybody lies.

It was a tagline on House, M.D., the television show in which a doctor had to navigate a web of illusions and untruths to diagnose mysterious maladies. Dr. House listened to what patients had to say, but he never trusted it until he proved it himself.

Scientific research has demonstrated that everybody lies. Part of the social contract that keeps society functioning includes a network of small lies, starting with “How are you?” and “Fine, thank you.” We have all agreed to suspend disbelief, to a certain extent, in the context of social niceties.

Additional research shows that everyone lies on the internet especially, and that the more anonymous the online setting, the more likely people are to lie. This is bad news for virtual worlds, which are basically anonymous. Apart from the element of fantasy, for instance making one’s avatar look different from one’s real-life self, the anonymity of the virtual world makes it easy for us to invent stories and conceal truth.

I think about this a lot when I perceive that I am being lied to. I rarely confront someone about it, nor do I let on that I realize they are lying. But I do think about it. Most of all, I wonder: Why? Why are they lying to me?

There can be a lot of answers to that question. Personally, I sometimes lie to preserve my privacy. When writing online profiles I usually say that I live in NYC. I don’t. I live near NYC, and I do spend time there, but I don’t live there. I don’t really want strangers to know where I live. I think that is a fairly smart lie and I doubt many would disagree.

“Privacy lies” like this happen when someone is pressuring you to reveal something about yourself that is actually none of their business. When someone lies to me, I wonder whether the person perceives me to be prying, and is trying to protect his or her privacy. In other words, is the lie basically a way of telling me to back off? I can understand that.

People also may lie to protect themselves from punishment. “Self-preservation lies” may happen when we have done something we weren’t supposed to do, or when we have not done something that we were supposed to do. If someone tells me a lie because they don’t want me to be angry at them, I can accept that. But I am still disappointed that I have been lied to. It indicates the presence of a basic rift in my relationship with that person, and it makes me sad that they do not trust me with the truth.

Then there is the “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings” lie. Sometimes this type of lie is actually compassionate, or at least benign, like when he assures her that she doesn’t look fat in those pants. But this type of lie can also be an attempt to cover up something that is extremely hurtful. It makes me anxious, wondering: what is this thing that would hurt my feelings? Just how hurtful is it?

Although I can forgive many lies, without knowing the reason why someone is lying to me, my imagination has to juggle all the possibilities. It’s exhausting. On one hand, I want to be compassionate if the person has good reason to protect their privacy. On the other hand, part of me wonders whether something hurtful is being concealed. And then I begin to wonder why the person does not trust me enough to be honest.

So, in the end, even benign lies leave me with inner turmoil, hurt feelings, sadness, disappointment and suspicion.

But since everybody lies, I suppose the burden falls on me to cope with it.

 

 

Living with Conflict

I have a dear friend who simply does not understand my affinity for BDSM. Despite countless in-depth conversations, in which I do my level best to explain it to him, he persists in his belief that submission is demeaning and that everyone really prefers freedom.

Believing himself to be an open-minded person, he has constructed an illusion in which he does support submission. He does this by re-defining, in his own mind at least, what submission is; or by inventing a complicated argument that submission is in fact dominance. By clinging to this dubious construct, he can appear to agree with me, while never actually changing his beliefs.

He doesn’t get it. He probably never will. And I must live with that.

The illusion works for him within the limits of a conversation about abstract thought, when his ideas are not put to the test. But inevitably, something concrete will happen that forces the abstraction to materialize into action. Then, his actions do not bear out his conciliatory words. The curtain is pulled aside, and his true beliefs are revealed. And the truth is that he just doesn’t get it. He probably never will. And I must live with that.

It pains me to be at odds with my dear friend over this important aspect of my life. I would love to share my joy with him, but I can’t, because he doesn’t believe in it. While painful, conflict in a relationship is not at all unusual. I think we all find ourselves, at some point, having a major difference of opinion within the context of a close relationship. When it happens, must we choose between winning the argument and preserving the relationship? Is it possible to prove your point without hurting the other person? Is it necessary to capitulate, to keep the friendship intact? Or must we avoid conflict at all costs, agreeing not to mention certain issues, or pretending that the conflict does not exist?

We are genetically more invested in winning arguments than in thinking clearly.

These questions become even more complicated when we consider the fact that humans are inherently irrational – even the ones who most adamantly claim to be rational. Scientists have demonstrated that we are genetically more invested in winning arguments than in thinking clearly. It has been proven countless times that facts usually do not change our minds. We – all of us – experience something called “confirmation bias,” a trait that is hard-wired into our genes. It means that we all tend to embrace information that supports our current beliefs and reject information that contradicts them.

Furthermore, we also have a trait called “cognitive immunization” which means that the stronger our beliefs, the less likely it is that facts will sway us… no matter how true the facts are. The person you are arguing with probably will not be swayed by logic, reason or facts that contradict his or her beliefs. In fact, it is more likely that he or she will just become more entrenched.

Given that this is true, when two people have conflicting beliefs, it seems to me that arguing is pointless.

Given the choice between proving my point, and preserving the health of a relationship, I choose the relationship. Every time.

Given the choice between proving my point, and preserving the relationship, I choose the relationship. Every time.

So, I must let go of my disappointment that my dear friend does not share my understanding of submission. My dear friend is very important to me, and I want him in my life. I find great joy in submission, but I do not wish to wreck a friendship by insisting on winning an argument.

I also suspect that if I chose to associate only with friends who agree with my beliefs about submission, that would be a form of confirmation bias. My friends have many shades of beliefs and opinions about submission and BDSM. It is quite a varied tapestry. Total unanimity on this or any point probably cannot be achieved. And a circle of friends who all think alike could be a little boring.

So, I will accept the presence of the conflict and learn to co-exist with that tension. I will stop trying to convince anyone of the truth of my beliefs. Living with conflict is not comfortable. But there are many, many other things about those relationships that make them totally worth the effort.

Happy 9th Anniversary, Master!

9th Anniversary

A long time ago, in a sim far, far away,

Walter took Camryn as his submissive.

Nine years have passed since that day.

The Force is strong with this couple!

Master, may the Love be with you, always!

Happy 9th Anniversary, Master! Thank you for 9 fabulous years!

To Be Content

A news article I read today — the topic of which is not germane — reminded me of an observation.

I have observed that people who have everything often find it impossible to be content with what they have.

Conversely, it seems that those who have little are much more likely to feel and express gratitude for whatever they do receive.

An old proverb says, “The sated appetite spurns honey, but to a ravenous appetite even the bitter is sweet.”

Right now, for example, I am grateful simply to be on the internet so that I can write this blog. We take connectivity for granted… until we don’t have it.

I am fortunate.

Living With Ambiguity

The older I get, the more I know just how much I don’t know.

There are countless things in this life that we simply cannot know. The best we can do is guess. What is the best path for my life? What will become of me? What will happen tomorrow? Is there a God? What happens when we die? Who is right? Who is wrong? The answers to these and more questions are obscured by the “cloud of unknowing” of which contemplatives speak.

And that’s okay.

I listen with quiet bemusement when someone explains to me “how things are” with the confidence of someone who has it all figured out. I know better than to contradict them; confident people are usually quite entrenched, and either unwilling, or unable to visualize any reasonable alternative to what they consider to be the hard facts. So I just listen and smile and nod and save my breath.

Certainty can be an impediment to truth.

But I know from experience that very little in this world is clearly one thing or another. Most questions have multiple answers. Two apparently opposite things can both be true. A thing can be wrong and right at the same time. You can love and hate someone in equal measure. You can laugh while you’re depressed. Ideas that we always assumed were fundamental can turn out to be fictitious.

Admittedly, that’s a hard thing to live with.

Our culture is not very tolerant of ambiguity. We tend to admire people who are confident. We are, perhaps, reassured by their conviction that they have everything figured out. It would be a lot easier to think that we know all the answers.

It takes a lot of strength of character to be able to admit that we might be wrong. Especially when we think we have it all figured out. When we are absolutely certain. But that’s the time when it’s most important to take a mental step back, and consider… just consider… the possibility that we might be wrong.

To be willing to live with ambiguity is considered by some to be a hallmark of maturity. I don’t know whether it is maturity or not. But I do know that certainty is the opposite of faith. Certainty can be an impediment to truth.

Embracing ambivalence is not easy. To consider a question and see that there might be more than one valid answer is challenging. And yes, sometimes we have to take a stand. But maybe if we admit that our stand is based on a best guess, and keep open the possibility that it might turn out to be wrong, it would create just enough of a crack in our armor to let the truth leak in.