Thursday, December 27, 2012

Eyes Wide Open

Suzy Favor Hamilton, who I watched run in high school like a deer, and college, and on TV in the Olympics, was recently caught in prostitution. Her husband knew. People point out she has a 7 year old daughter. She was surprised she was caught.

I think about all the scandals, it's hard to keep them all in mind, there are so many. It almost isn't news. It's maybe advertizing news, about branded stars, or political power plays.

Tiger Woods lost his wife and children. Seems he wanted the intimacy of a family but didn't want to be faithful to his wife, which is what she expected. Didn't think he'd be caught. Now he loses millions, which takes away from his charitable tax shelters.

You see it all the time in good dramas, like Friday Night Lights, in which high school football plays a backdrop for small Texas town. The star fullback, who sleeps around, doesn't see the hurt and heartbreak he creates by following where his sexuality leads him. People move on over time, but people get attached too. It's hard not to share intimacy and not begin to develop attachments. He develops some integrity. There are many love triangles in that show.

When I heard that Thich Nhat Hanh said you should be in committed relationship to be sexual, I wondered if that was just a Christian projection. Hanh often uses theistic language. When you eject the Christian presumption in America, what are you left with?

In the history of the Triratna there were wild swinging times in the early days, which maybe have been part of the times that allowed for Buddhism to spread to the west. I haven't heard of any sanghas that haven't been touched by problems around sexuality. There's a lot of them going on in all the spiritual communities, in all the religions. I'm not going to pick on a particular sect or religion.

Lets just say it's been a worldly mess in what purports to be transcendental. Maybe that's part of the mistake, we expect to raise above too much. It's good to be honest about where we really are, and live in our bodies, not live in some fantasy world. Maybe the word spirituality is misleading, maybe we need to just be present with what is going on, not transcend it.

Eyes wide open, it looks like a there's a lot of heartbreak in human sexuality. Sex holds so much promise and hope as well. There are not just problems, but opportunities. It helps to align our aspirations with our real desires, and the forces at play within us. How do we harness ourselves, in service of our goals?

Not thinking you'll get caught isn't really keeping the eyes wide open, which is being realistic about being caught, and seeing through self serving reasoning, being realistic about what people will really tolerate, thinking realistically about the impact on others. Take some time to think about the traps we can fall into. Apply what you know to your life. Try to disentangle bewilderment, and connect with utmost wonderousness.

Keeping our eyes wide open about sexuality sees it's real potential for good and bad. I think if the way you take care of child was how you made them, our species would die out. There's a powerful urge to express ourselves sexually. What are the conditions where nobody gets hurt? Maybe Hanh was right, a committed relationship seems to work. How do we mate in captivity?

What makes someone think they can get away with infidelity? Why did Clinton think he could get away with a blowjob from Monika Lewinsky in the Oval Office?

(Why do I even know that detail? Because some people wanted to use that as a strategy to gain through help someone else lose power. Everything in used in politics. It's not about leading but gaining and keeping so-call power. We love a good sex scandal in America.)

Are people unconsciously sabotaging their lives? Do they really think they will get away with it? Was Clinton competing with Kennedy? Did he want history to wink an "atta boy" to him? Does history wink at Martin Luther King?

Nobody in Hollywood stays together. I can only think of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and that's a low percentage. I don't know any other Hollywood couple that stayed together. For a while Tom Hanks was with the wife he was with before he got famous, but they divorced. Johnny Carson's personal life created the term serial monogamy. Faithful till it's over, and then onto the next one.

I don't look to Hollywood for my ethical standards. It's interesting that nobody stays together in Hollywood, where money and fame make a intoxicating brew. There they have lawyers to create pre-nuptuals, so the end game is already set out for when it inevitably happens.

For most people, life isn't that simple and when kids are involved it's messy for innocents.

There are millions of faithful marriages, and they raise their kids well despite difficulties. That doesn't always make the news but that does happen. I think sometimes the sensationalism in our society has changed our expectations, and we begin to see extremes of behavior as the norm. Most people are behaving most of the time. Yet again sex is used to sell something, this time the news or infotainment.

Why is it so interesting that this Olympian who is married and has a child, also does some prostitution? We love to look down our noses in this society. I'm mostly feel compassion for people caught up in scandals. People are hurt.

Some people love to denounce and look down their noses. Look at how the mighty have fallen. Are stars just Icarus waiting to happen?

So on the one hand you have the people that avoid sexuality, as a solution. The ascetic solution. It's problematic so cut it out. Channel that energy into other things.

On the other hand, a Buddhist might say it's OK if your eyes are wide open and you don't harm someone. When you shuck off the Christian presumption, and say all is fair in love and sex if you're communicating and not trying to deceive people, and you're not naive to consequences, you pay real attention, then we have a brave new world.

But what if you make a mistake and hurt someone? What if you are not skillful ending a relationship? What if you're not skillful in a relationship? When you take off the strictures of common morality, it can lead to a kind of wildness that leads to hurt. The rules develop as a kind of protection. Rules can help you to guide you into a channel of actions that don't lead to consequences. When you finally figure it all out that part of your life might even be over.

When you read the sexuality blogs, columns, books and see things like Real Sex, or other documentaries about sexuality, there's a kind of idea that if we just talk about it, then we're going to understand it more. When we clarify for ourselves what are the rules in a post-Christian world, in our secular humanist society, that has many different tribes and cultures, we have to look at things with eyes wide open, and see questions in all their rich complexity.

Nowhere but in sexuality is the distance between what we hope to be, and what we really are, is there so wide a gap. Efforts to suppress sexuality don't work. Efforts to liberate sexuality have more hope but it's more complicated than just opening up and talking about it; it turns out to be quite complex.That's why many a crisis in adolescence and midlife are expressed in sexuality.

I hope to move forward in my life with eyes wide open. Eyes wide open means we're aware, including our preconceptions, ideology, and why we hold them. Eyes wide open means we're not just "thinking with the wrong head" as people used to say in high school and college.. No power games or taking advantage of anyone, or hurting anyone. You grind it out in a relationship and when it's over, then you end it as peacefully as possible.

And on an ending note, I am against people who discriminate against the GLBT community. It's a selling point of some religions to try and grow it by breeding lots of people from that religion, but that is not true spirituality, that's a worldly struggle for power, religion as a numbers game. I know in some cultures homo-negativity is part of the culture, just like murder, neglect and other things are enshrined in a culture. But that is not good, so I keep my eyes wide open about sexual discrimination and fight it where I see it. I yearn for a fair and just society, that cherishes everyone and true greatness. And to help in that I need to keep my own eyes wide open.

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