Sunday Open Thread — December 30, 2007 — The Way Forward

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What I’m Thinking of Writing (and Podcasting) About Soon:

“Stupidity is a place of grace.” So says my dear friend Andrew and I hope he’s right. I’m feeling very stupid these days, in the true sense of the word — “stunned, dazed, or incoherent”. Clearly, of late, I have been all three.

And for that reason I think I will try to say, and write, relatively little for the next while, until I have something intelligent to say (in the sense of being “supported by evidence of its empirical validity”) rather than just something intuitive and conceptually interesting.

For the next while I will be reposting (with modest updates) some of my more enduring articles from the past five years. But first I will be posting my New Year’s Intentions (as distinct from New Year’s Resolutions).

I remain absolutely resolute (or perhaps I should say intentional) that my Purpose is to establish and nurture the establishment of Model Intentional Communities. The principles and competencies I think they might need or aspire to (including polyamorism) are completely negotiable, and will be arrived at by consensus of our members. I will respond briefly to the critics of this intention shortly, and will then move on — rather than debate the validity of my ideas endlessly, I think it makes sense for us to just begin, and discover whether they make sense, and whether they work, or not.

I have started a blog with my Second Life intentional community partner, and as our experimental community evolves you will be able to read about it, from the point of view of all its members, on this new ‘group’ blog. New articles on that blog will likely be cross-posted or cross-linked here. My goal is transparency, and our new blog will be a true journal of learning and discovery.

I am also resolute in my belief that the best way to approach and cope with all the challenges of our time is through Love, Conversation and Community, and specifically:

Whether you want to change the political or economic system, save the whales, stop global warming, reform education, spark innovation or anything else, the answer is in how meaning, and understanding of what needs to be done, emerges from conversation in community with people you love, people who care.

As a consequence, while I will be writing less on this blog, I will be engaging in more loving conversations, one-to-one and in community. If you want to be part of that, please sign up for gmail and email me at dave.pollard (at); we will be able to see each other’s online status for instant message conversations (and, depending on your operating system, VoIP voice-to-voice conversations as well). I have come to prefer the latter, because voice-to-voice conversations are more iterative and provide richer clues as to meaning (voice inflection etc.) than mere text. I will make as much time available as possible for such conversations but you’ll have to be patient with me, because I only have so many hours in the day for conversation, and may have to ‘schedule’ something with you rather than (what would be more ideal) be able to converse with you immediately and ex tempore. I am not interested in debates or adversarial conversations — I find them a waste of time and energy. If you are willing to entertain a discussion full of “yes…and” rather than “yes…but” expressions, then I want to talk with you.

I am not abandoning this blog. It has over 2500 pages of material in it and I will add to it as often as I have something new to say — not new abstract ideas or promising models but new learnings, discoveries and experiences from actual practice that you, dear readers, may hopefully find valuable. This will include posting conversations that I have with others (in text and/or podcast form).

You’ll get a better sense of where I’m going in my upcoming New Year’s Intentions article.

“Everybody sails alone, but we can travel side by side.”
     — KT Tunstall, Heal Over, a truly amazing song you can find on YouTube

Hope to see you, dear friends and lovers, on our journey, nearby, within voice range, and perhaps close enough to touch, to feel. A journey oflove, peace, understanding and joy.

“Not farewell, but fare forward, voyagers.”
     — TS Eliot, Four Quartets

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10 Responses to Sunday Open Thread — December 30, 2007 — The Way Forward

  1. Dave, I don’t think you have been paying attention to your so-called “critics”. No one was saying you couldn’t put together a viable community which would be polyamorous. Many objected to your statements that such a community would be prescriptive for all successful communities. At no point did you say it was one among various models that were viable or that your own community would have it as an option instead of a basic premise.Your statements of today are a different expression of your ideas, specifically:”The principles and competencies I think they might need or aspire to (including polyamorism) are completely negotiable, and will be arrived at by consensus of our members. I will respond briefly to the critics of this intention shortly, and will then move on — rather than debate the validity of my ideas endlessly, I think it makes sense for us to just begin, and discover whether they make sense, and whether they work, or not. “This is what I believe your ‘critics’, certainly myself, were hoping to hear. And if our questioning of your prior posts led you to this, the idea that your community must form and experience a progression of refinements before it can be a model of exemplary structure (fluid or not) for others, then we have been most effective.”Validity” was never the issue. Feelings are valid but they don’t mean they will create an infrastructure that can stand the rigorous tests of human needs for interrelationships or that those interrelationships will necessarily meet the practical needs for diversity in skills and personal attributes that a sustainable community requires to both survive and to prosper. They aren’t at all the same thing.Your mental meanderings were never ‘invalid’, simply limited in scope with regard to the practical applications you claimed for them – yet didn’t pursue in practical terms. And this is the easy part of your journey.

  2. Dale Asberry says:

    I would have to disagree with your critics’ need for you to have empirical evidence. Maybe they’ve grown used to you offering up well-thought scenarios, but, at some point, you reach the edge of your understanding. At that point, you move with confidence in your intuition. On the dark edge of unknowing, it is all that you have. They are equally confused and scared of the dark as you, with love, take them there.

  3. Susan Hales says:

    Dave, one of the many reasons I have always recommended your blog to others is because of the fact that you are able to be completely honest and *real* in your personal response to your journey through this maze we call life, and I have often celebrated the fact that your honesty has always prompted such excellent conversations among your readers and yourself. I’ve also seen more than a few times when you have been in a melancholy period, or in ill health, or just have no hope that we will survive as a species on this planet, and yet you are able to speak these painful thoughts with both courage and conviction, again prompting many of your readers to step out of their shadowy security and respond to your words. I have been reading your blog since 2003 on an almost daily basis and while I’ve not commented all that often (sometimes because others have said what I would have said) I’ve been moved to quote you or recommend that others read your words. Often you are much more brave than the rest of us in where you choose to venture, and I’m always willing to follow you there *virtually* if not actually. (I’ve never participated in SL, for instance, but have *experienced it* (somewhat) through your experiences.) In the last days I’ve noticed your sensitivity to your *critics* and am not surprised at your response, but I’m willing to wager that you’ll return to some middle ground where you can trust your voice to this audience again. I’m thinking of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintence for some reason right now, because in some ways his *stepping off point* was due to getting too close to the truth for his own sanity, and he had to immerse himself in life for a while before his understanding of all these things evolved into the book we know now as ZMM (see this page for an incredible photographic recreation of that journey - I’ll post this and watch for others to come to the “table” to talk with you in conversation about this gift you have. LoveSusan

  4. Whatever your intentions or the road forward brings, may it be a happy and propserous new year!

  5. patti digh says:

    dave – i want to echo susan’s note – it is far more articulate than I can be at this moment. I hope it is okay to simply say that what I feel most after reading your post is loss. That might be a selfish response to your new way – but it is the most honest one. My hope is that your road will meander back this way. love, patti

  6. Dave, I hope you don’t feel that I raked you over the coals in my earlier comment (your post of 12-28). I apologize if I was overly dismissive. I haven’t been keeping up with the blogs that I regularly read, and I missed some of your earlier posts on this topic. I’m going back and reading some of them now, as well as FAQ you linked regarding polyamory. Your position makes more sense to me since beginning to read back over them. I have to admit, earlier I could only think of the “swinger” lifestyle in regard to this topic. Now I think I understand a little better where you’re coming from. Still, I was raised by people who had a long, successful monogamous relationship (59 years at the time of my mother’s death), in a culture that is both monogamous and prudish — and I freely admit I’m one of the more prudish ones, though not out of any religious conviction. My biggest objection, when I wrote my earlier comment, was this: It was difficult for me to find even one monogamous partner, let alone to keep a marriage going, for nearly 25 years now. For some of my friends, marriage has proven impossible — with just one person, and in some cases with a succession of people. How does one expect to find more than one person that one can live with happily for any length of time? To present this as something people are expected to do, when I think it’s unfair that our present culture expects people to marry at all, seemed unreasonable as a model for an intentional community — which I (perhaps mistakenly) thought was what you were saying.But one of the things I like most about marriage is that one feels one has a secure support system, that there’s always someone right behind them. The notion that this kind of support system could be expanded on is a welcome one. Robert Heinlein explored something similar in some of his fiction, and I’ve seen the idea presented in a limited way in other fiction. Even though fiction might get the idea across to more people, I’m not sure that people take ideas as seriously that they learn about through fiction. Not in a way they easily apply to real life. What people seem to accept most readily is what they think everyone else is already doing.I fear your suggestion is the sort of change that, even if our current civilization breaks down, will take a long time to settle into people’s ideas of relationship and family. I also suspect that the biggest problem people are having dealing with what you’ve said (and this was my understanding) is that it seemed you were condoning forcing polyamory on everyone as a rule. Now I think that maybe you were instead saying the *freedom to engage in* polyamory, rather than a requirement to, needs to be an element in the model intentional community, as a change from traditional concepts of what constitutes marriage — one man, one woman. As you know, sometimes our words just don’t translate on the computer screen as we wish them to — especially with ideas that feel new and foreign to the reader. The problem with presenting this in a blog is just what happened with me. We miss posts, or we’re in more of a hurry when we read one entry than when we read others, or we deliberately skim because we think that topic isn’t “for me.” The topic of polyamory scared me, and I had trouble staying with it at all. It’s probably a topic better suited for an entire book, and yet who would read that book but those who are already somewhat familiar and comfortable with what it’s all about? The dilemma here is communication, and the problem is not with you and your ability to communicate your ideas as much as with cognitive dissonance in all the rest of us, which keeps us from taking it in.One of my points of cognitive dissonance was that I think our culture is far too focused on the physical side of sex. It’s in our faces constantly, all over the place, in spam, junk mail, ads, all seeming to objectify women, and it’s seldom presented as being about relationships, about taking care of each other. So we get into this mindset and when we begin to read about polyamory, we think here is another group of people that only cares about sex, sex, sex. Sorry, but that was my initial reaction to the topic of polyamory — regardless of how mistaken I may have been. Although I’m an incurable romantic, I’m not a very sexually-oriented person. To me sex is a small part of what life is all about. I’m sure the topic of polyamory typically gets two kinds of negative responses, people like me who think this is all about sex and reject it for that reason, and others just as mistaken who think this is all about sex and are interested for that reason. To me the emphasis in our popular culture on physical sex is a symptom of people living in instinctive blindness to what’s going on — that we have a rampant AIDS and overpopulation crisis that is destroying human beings and our environment. Sexual “freedom,” amounting to selfish and irresponsible behavior, may be partly to blame for both those issues. But I also blame repressive attitudes, and fundamentalist religion that pushes abstinence-only for preventing disease and unwanted pregnancy, at the same time it denounces choice for women, preaches “be fruitful and multiply” to married people, and refuses sex education for kids. I think, from what I’ve read of your blog in the past, that you abhor that conflicted attitude as much as I do — and that’s why I came back to read the posts in question again.If sex could be completely taken off the table in order to look at polyamory first as an expanded family structure, in which larger groups than monogamous couples commit to take care of and support each other, as a kind of village/family concept, people might see it differently. I for one would love to see us find a family structure more conducive to caring for children, the sick, and the elderly by keeping them at home and sharing the load. But when the discussion begins with romantic love and slides into multiple romantic relationships, people’s minds go to the wrong place. I’m sorry that mine did just that, and I had a very judgmental reaction. Still, the issue of romantic relationships has to enter back into the discussion at some point, and I think our natural human possessiveness, jealousy, and territorialness have to be overcome. Not just in romance, but in childcare, eldercare, and boundaries within the home. I’m afraid these ideas will take time to sift into our culture, and I’m sure that’s very frustrating to you and others who’ve chosen this path. I think there will be a lot of fear to overcome, even from those who agree that people should have the freedom to live any way they want. We live in a world where acceptance and appearance have become too important, and even people who sympathize may be afraid to say they do. One aspect of this that I think must be addressed, and I hope you will in future blogs, is the outcome for children born or moving into a polyamorous arrangement. People have plenty of trouble already in monogamy, in finding a reliable, safe partner, and in divorce with keeping children from being hurt by the breakup and consequent custody and child support battles. How much more complicated and difficult would that be for children, when a polyamorous relationship doesn’t work out? Does the mother wind up with sole responsibility for her child, alone and without support? Do several people take responsibility and is the child torn in even more directions? Who are the child’s parents? I realize people have asked the same about gay relationships, and I’ve always thought that was not so much an issue if the gay relationship was monogamous, as are traditional marriages. But when you multiply the adults in the situation, it seems to multiply the potential emotional trauma for the child.

  7. Paul says:

    Barbara, you state, “our natural human possessiveness, jealousy, and territorialness have to be overcome.” I would question how “natural” these reactions to (or evidence of) insecurity really are. I believe they have a much weaker hold over me than over many acquaintances, so I suspect they are culturally imposed rather than natural. But, to your point, they do seem to generally have an awfully conservative effect.

  8. David Parkinson says:

    Fare forward, indeed. I’m ready for whatever the new rules bring. Hopefully some reports on how the conversational focus is working out. Anyway, here’s to 2008 and whatever goes on in there.

  9. samcandide says:

    How we develop and move and change… I wish you rich experiences, Dave.

  10. Paul, just watch two- or three-year-olds play together, and you’ll see that possessiveness and jealousy aren’t learned. They’re part of our nature, just as they are part of many animals’ natures. (Dogs protect people’s homes because they’re pack-oriented and territorial. In their packs they develop a hierarchy.) I’m not saying I don’t think we can overcome our nature to some degree, and most adults have, to varying degrees. But it’s still a natural part of our makeup. In periods of stress, even those parts of our instinctive nature that we normally have under control tend to manifest themselves. When people live together, it’s inevitable that stresses will now and then bring them out. This is why marriage and family life have to be worked at. No living situation is always blissful, and the more people who are involved in a living situation, the greater the chances of periods of stress and conflict.

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