Chocolate, Valentines, and… Polyamory?

So, what is polyamory? Well, whenever I’m sitting in front of a computer trying to learn more about something, I inevitably turn to Wikipedia. the online encyclopedia edited by a veritable army of ubergeeks and learn-o-philes.

  • According to Wikipedia… Polyamory, in its broadest usage, is the practice or lifestyle of being in a loving intimate relationship with more than one person at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. Persons who consider themselves emotionally suited to such relationships may define themselves as polyamorous or polysexual (a blanket term), often abbreviated to poly.
  • This is a pretty standard and agreeable definition of polyamory. So, why do I bring it up?

    Well… truth be told… my heart is about as polyamorous as they come.

    As I mentioned, I don’t currently have a partner. And in fact, I’m sure that I could be quite happy with a single “monogamous” partner if it were the right one. But in my heart of hearts, I feel that the love I have for others is too deep and too prolific to be confined to a single relationship. And my partner, whether “mono-amorous” or “polyamorous,” would have to understand and accept this. In fact, she’d almost certainly have to share these feelings to some degree in order to understand and accept my feelings fully.

    Maybe that explains why I’m alone, eh? I haven’t even brought this topic up with most people in my life… but maybe they just sense a difference in how I express myself and aren’t on the same wavelength. I guess there aren’t very many polyamory-accepting, tree-hugging, spiritually-oriented, politically-minded, charming, compassionate, 18-37, single women living in Southern Illinois, eh? Dang nabbit… who’da thunk it? Maybe I can reel one in somehow from the West Coast, or find one hiding in the back woods of the Shawnee… anyway, back to the topic at hand.

    There are many stereotypes about polyamory. Some people see it as just another term for promiscuity and proceed to get overly offended (or overly excited!). But this is not the case. Promiscuity just involves sex with multiple people… it doesn’t necessarily involve any sort of love, or commitment, or honesty, or interest in partners as human beings. Polyamory, on the other hand, is rooted in love. Some of these forms of love are very open and filled with unbridled sexual exploration, and some forms (i.e. polyfidelity) involve very committed or even exclusive relationships that just happen to involve more than two people.

    I myself have never been in a polyamorous relationship. Hell… I’ve only been in a couple of “relationships” at all. But in my heart, I’ve felt polyamory — and no external moralizer is going to convince me that the love I feel in my heart is wrong.

    After all, what’s wrong with polyamory? Some people freak out at the very mention of anything that may have a sexual component to it. But who is it hurting?

    If you say that it’s defying “God’s Law”… then all that I can say is “I don’t know who appointed you God’s spokesperson, but I don’t subscribe to your religion.”

    If you say that it’s hurting the people who share the love… then tell me, how so? They are open about their feelings and relationships, and they work together through any issues of jealousy, miscommunication, economic/legal complications, etc. that may arise. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be considered polyamory. I’ll admit that I’ve only had personal discussions with a few polyamorous friends about their open relationships, multiple-person marriages, poly-love outside of relationships, etc. But it seemed to me that they their love was just as true and deep as any monogamous love, and that they did a lot of learning and growing through the experience.

    If you say that it’s hurting friends, family, loved ones, society, etc… then tell me, how so? Any claim I’ve seen along these lines can be easily resolved, either because it has no merit or because there is a simple enough solution out there.

    So… polyamory’s out there, and people are engaging in many polyamorous relationships as we speak.

    What does polyamory mean in my personal life? Well, it means that I love people! I love people very much… and in some cases, this develops into feelings of being “in love.” Some day, it may mean that I explore a polyamorous relationship that includes more than one partner. Or, it may just mean that I find a single partner who shares in my feelings along these lines. OR… it may just mean that I sit here at this computer for the next 80 years pouring my heart out on this blog without a lover of any sort by my side. Whichever of these may be the case, I see the love itself as a tremendous reward.

    When I was younger, before I’d been involved in any relationship, I used to be tremendously jealous. I was never the sort of person to display that outwardly, except on rare and unfortunate occassions… but it would just eat me up inside to see someone I had feelings for share their life with another person. I still get twinges of that, of course… some twinges stronger than others. But on the whole, I have this tremendously liberating feeling of freedom… of openness… of fearlessness. My heart is overflowing with love… and I am free to feel that love for whoever I choose., regardless of whether or not “society” understands, or whether or not it is a “romantic relationship.”

    Let me put it to you this way. A few years ago, I met a woman who I feel a tremendous, life-altering, spiritually transformative love for. I feel like she’s the first person I ever really, truly, deeply fell in love with — body, mind, heart, and spirit. She also feels a deep spiritual connection with me… but since she has a long-term relationship that she’s apparently decided to go the distance with, she didn’t even really give romantic possibilities between us any real consideration. She only has eyes for him…

    I can say no more about this for obvious reasons… but suffice it to say that it was a challenge and a half to come to terms with this reality! I feel like my life has lead me through a series of challenging experiences in order to teach me to let go of my jealousy and possessiveness… and this was the peak. I’d had an interest in polyamory for years… but this experience battered my defense mechanisms of jealousy, etc. so thoroughly that they simply surrendered unconditionally. I surrendered it all to love, and hoped that it would turn out for the best… and in so doing, my heart blossomed like a great big rose, and all of the love that I’d been so afraid to truly feel came flooding back into my body.

    Now, with my heart open, I’ve felt more freedom and love in the past few months than I’ve ever felt before in my entire life. During the past year or so, while I was still dealing with this other love situation, I fell quite thoroughly in love with someone else in my life (also “unavailable”! ARGH!), and felt no conflict whatsoever between these two loves. I simply love them each in a different way… and my love is in no way diminished by this. True love is never divided… it can only multiply!

    Really, polyamory has helped to complete a process that was already underway in me — namely, letting go of my inhibitions about loving humanity in general. For me, anyway, the two processes have gone hand in hand — letting go of my fear/control issues in the romantic arena, and letting go of them in the platonic arena. Even when I come across someone who makes me feel very angry, or very sad, or very frightened, or very frustrated, I feel this deep and remarkable love for them. I see their defense mechanisms… and I see my own defenses rising in response… and yet deep down, I feel my humanity, and their humanity, and a great love for this muddled but heartfelt misadventure that we call human existence. It’s been quite a blessing to stay in touch with this state of conscious love more often (and more deeply) as a result of the healing I’ve done in my love life.

    So, polyamory has been a huge healing force in my life, even without a “romantic and/or sexual relationship” (they’re not the same thing, boys and girls!!!) to experience it in. But what does this mean for society as a whole?

    Well, I think that a big segment of the counter-culture of the 60s was more than a little naivein assuming that “free love” was a simple and inherently revolutionary form of social relationship. In practice, when things go sour, the same power dynamics from monogamous relationships can just be expanded or even amplified in the presence of multiple people. But when things go well, polyamory can be an incredibly empowering and liberating experience. And the more people feel empowered and liberated, the less they’ll support any form of authoritarianism.

    Let me restate and re-emphasis that last thought for a moment: yes, indeed, the vast majority of people who are free and empowered will never choose to embrace or even tolerate authoritarianism or fascism of any kind. Therefore, what’s good for the heart (and the sex life!) is good for the revolution.

    Does this mean that I think everyone should be polyamorous? Not necessarily! I feel that everyone who truly desires in their heart to be free should explore the issue and discover for themself what they truly feel. But if they ultimately do desire the exclusive focus on a single partner, then by all means, they are welcome to it. All that I ask is that they afford “the polyamorous community” the same freedom of choice in our own love lives.

    Does this mean that I think polyamory is inherently revolutionary? Well… yes and no. On a personal level, I feel that it inherently challenges some of the most disempowering forms of jealousy, fear, etc. that most of us carry around in our bodies, minds, and hearts. But just because it challenges those things doesn’t mean that it automatically succeeds in releasing them, or that monogamy can’t be used in a similar revolutionary manner.

    AND… polyamory can certainly be co-opted away from offering any sort of broader challenge to the controlling relationships that dominate the public sphere. It can be incorporated into the dominant paradigm as a “lifestyle choice” that has no echoes of public liberation movements. In fact, I can see it now… Valentine’s Day 2010 commercials:

  • “You’ve bought another diamond for your primary partner… but what about the others in your life who you love? Go out to the mall today and buy 10 more boxes of chocolate before it’s too late!”
  • But having said all of that… I feel that for the people who do choose polyamory, it can be a positive experience for them and an overall gain for society as a whole. More love is good, right? And the more free and empowered people feel in their personal lives, the less prone they are to the swaying arguments of fascists. (Check out the Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich if you haven’t already.)

    So, whether complete monogamy is your cup of tea, or some form of polyamory is what your heart yearns for… hopefully we can all agree that love is a good thing, and that all of us who are consenting adults should be free to pursue whatever forms of love amongst ourselves that we feel will be good for ourselves, each other, and the planet.

    With that said, I’m off to demonstrate some love for myself by not staying up any later than I already have! Thank you as always for reading, and I look forward to any feedback you may have to share. (Feel free to disagree, too… I encourage and actually hope for respectful dialog among those who embrace and those who shun polyamory. But if your response is belligerent or threatening, then don’t be surprised if I scatter it back into the digital ether….)

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    Sacred Sexuality

    What is sacred sexuality? Well, this is a very big question. The short answer is that sacred sexuality is any belief and/or practice that embraces sexuality as a spiritual experience. But the revolutionary significance of this idea and practice can only be understood by exploring the duality of the Sacred and the Profane.

    In Western society, there is often a distinction made between The Sacred and The Profane. Any experience or concept that has to do with “higher” or “transcendental” values of the Mind and Spirit is seen as Sacred. On the flip side, any experience or concept that has to do with “lower” or “immanent” values of Emotion and Body is seen as Profane. Cultivating a life path that values the Sacred above all else is seen as the meaning of life, while a life path focused on the Profane is seen as meaningless or even “sinful.”

    From this perspective, the very term “sacred sexuality” is an oxymoron. Sexuality is a profoundly physical and emotional experience, therefore becoming the very prime example of what is considered Profane. It may be tolerated or celebrated in the context of “holy matrimony” — but even then, it is not the sex itself that is celebrated. It is the service of a “higher” value that is celebradte. Sex itself is seen as Profane, and to engage in it for the sake of physical and emotional pleasure is seen as Sinful.

    But not all people hold this perspective on the Sacred and the Profane. In particular, people (such as myself!) who practice any form of earth-based spirituality tend to see physical and emotional reality as profoundly sacred. Therefore, sexuality becomes a cherished centerpiece of our experience as physical beings. Indeed, it is often honored as the source of all creation.

    The Hieros Gamos (or “Sacred Marriage”) is a prime example of this. In its ancient form, this ritual involved a man and a woman (embodying a God and Goddess) engaging in an act of sacred sexuality to invoke the divine powers of fertility, creativity, etc. for the good of the people and the land. In its contemporary forms, this union is usually (though not always!) symbolic, but the significance is still the same. Sex is seen not as a Profane act, but as a Sacred act — the source of all fertility, perhaps even all of creation.

    As someone who has no sexual partner, I haven’t really had the opportunity to engage in what most people would term sacred sexuality. But its symbolic ritual enactment, in the form of the Great Rite, is very meaningful to me. So too is my own valuation of my sexuality as sacred, regardless of whether or not I have someone to share that part of my life with at the moment.

    It’s getting late now, so I’d better draw this entry of Song of the Trees to a close. But as Valentine’s Day approaches, I will have more to share on sacred sexuality… possibly even including a discussion of Polyamory. And if you really want me to get all “political” about it, I can discuss why sexual repression and sexual liberation play a powerful role in the overall repression or liberation of humanity as a whole. In the meantime, I look forward to any questions or comments you may have, especially since this topic may be new and/or controversial to some treesong.org regulars. Don’t hold back… discussion is good… 🙂

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    Self-Made Man?

    On some level, I can’t help wondering if the author’s alter-ego Ned passed as more masculine than I do!

    I’m clearly recognized as a biological male, with a long beard, tall height even for a male (6’2"), and a relatively obvious "male voice." (Not a deep Barry White voice, mind you, but a tone clearly influenced by testosterone. ) And yet… depending on what mood you catch me in, my communication style and overall behavior can be downright "feminine."

    What do I mean by that? Well, let’s see… I like to talk about feelings and relationships; I tend to be soft-spoken and yielding in the average conversation; I’m put off by agressive and/or emotionless communication styles; and I’m very fond of "touchy feely" behavior like openly crying, hugging one another, stepping aside from "productivity" to process emotions, etc. I do have moments where I get loud, rowdy, callous, or "macho"… but even in these moments, it’s largely an act of dark humor, because it’s clear to anyone who knows me that I don’t live up to this stereotype on a daily basis.

    Basically, from the perspective of our society’s rigid gender roles, I act like a chick sometimes. And acting this way at any point, much less regularly, is pretty much the death knell of being seen as a "real guy" or "normal guy."

    Maybe this is why I can never seem to attract the romantic interest of women… so many women say that they want emotionally available men, and they talk to me at length about how their partners frustrate and disappoint them by not talking about emotions, being insensitive to their needs, not sharing their interest in community-building and/or spiritual activities, etc. But then, when they DO meet a male who has few of these road blocks… they identify him as "friend" rather than "guy/lover," which often leaves him (i.e. me) in an awkward limbo between the two.

    "You’re my friend… so I’ll talk with you at length about feelings/relationships… but you are a guy, so sometimes I’ll catch myself and hold back… but you’re a friend, so I can’t even think of you as a guy… but…"

    I feel like I’ve actually had a couple of women friends share their emotional and relationship lives with me fully (except when we were with other women in "girls only" mode). But for years now, since my last relationship, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a woman truly view me as a "guy," except maybe occassionally in passing or quietly from afar. And that, I must say, is rather frustrating. I have romantic feelings quite automatically for the women I love… why don’t they have the same for me when they feel that intimate emotional connection form?

    When I started reading about this "Self-Made Man" book, it brought up a lot of feelings for me. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to do a similar experiment to what this woman undertook… to become one of these "regular guys" for a while. I’d have to cut my hair, shave my beard, dress less colorfully, and lean heavily on the stoicism and arrogance that I’ve worked so hard to let go of. Maybe I could go to the bars, get drunk, hang out with the guys, check out the women, dance for a while, check out the women some more, and just spend the night trying to get laid like a few thousand other guys in this town.

    People who know me probably think I don’t have it in me. If so, then you really don’t know me at all. Really, I think that a lot of people respect me to the point of almost dehumanizing me… they see my tendency to show respect for others, to be sensitive to feelings, etc., and they assume that this is just an innate and automatic quality. "Oh, that’s just Treesong… he’s just a different sort of person."

    Well, maybe there’s a degree of truth there. The tendency to value respect and sensitivity, emotions and relationships, etc., is very innate in me. But the tendency to behave that way is a very conscious and often very difficult choice. If I wanted to, I could choose differently. If I wanted to, I could be a "guy" much like all of the others guys out there who do meet most of the stereotypes.

    I have a strong libido on most days, and my body is often telling me to just get out there and get laid. And my empathic connection with other people’s inner demons has really helped me to get into contact with my own inner demons. So yeah, I could pull of the "Captain Oblivious, Jerk-of-the-Month, Stereotypical Guy" — at least temporarily. And with my empathic abilities, I’ll bet I could even get a lot further with it than most guys in this town.

    But why would I do it? The newness of it would be exciting… and like this author, it would be a very informative experience for me to find out the difference between the life of a mild-mannered androgynous male and the life of an arrogant, callous, unabashed womanizer. But… would it really be worth it?

    No… not for me, anyway. My empathic abilities allow me to learn what that life’s like simply by observing and interacting with the people who live it. And frankly, I have no desire to live that way. I do have a strong libido… but that passion is intimately influenced and guided by the contents of my heart. And even though I’ve shown that I have the willpower to block the contents of that heart… I will never do so again. Not to that extent, anyway.

    And so… I’m left thinking about it from a distance, and reading about other people’s experiences.

    What a strange world we live in… I’m reminded of Brokeback Mountain, which was a powerful and complex experience for me, both as a bisexual male who is primarily interested in women but does feel attraction to men, and as a person who has had a long and protracted struggle in overcoming emotional rigidity. To watch those characters go through their intensely emotional exploration of love mixed with emotional and political repression is an incredible roller-coaster ride… it brought me to tears in the end, and it made me think about gender roles in our society much more than this Self-Made Man interview and review did.

    But whether it’s through Brokeback Mountain or Self-Made Man, I find myself re-examining gender issues again… especially now with Valentine’s Day on the horizon. I really don’t want to let some stupid Hallmark holiday rain on my parade… but somehow, every year (this being Year 27 out of 27 that I’ll be alone on that day), I find myself falling into the trap and revisiting my feelings about romance, gender roles, and the insanity of today’s society in general.

    But life is so different for me now… many of the external circumstances are similar, especially since I still have no lover to share the journey with. But my internal landscape is in ongoing upheaval… gone are the days when I wait for external validation before opening my heart to the ones that I love… now, I embrace my feelings of love fully, regardless of external circumstances and how they may make me feel.

    I am a lover, even if no one experiences me as such… the love and passion in my heart is beautiful, even if no one shares in it… my heart is open and filled with an ever-increasing depth and volume of love, even if gender roles and other quirks of my life circumstances keep me from experiencing this love in the context of a romantic relationship.

    Basically, opening my heart to the full embracing of my love has set me free — free to feel both the joy and the sorrow that I’ve been so afraid to feel for so many years. Let me put it this way, as I put it in a recent email to a woman I love deeply who has chosen not to share her love life with me…

    "I realize that my feelings DO have meaning, even when no one else understands or embraces them, and that my feelings DO have a place on this earth, even if it’s only in that small circle of ground under my two feet. And damnit, if the only space truly open to my feelings is my 132.5 pounds of human flesh, then I will flood every cell of that flesh with an ocean of love (and rage! and tears! and joy! and sorrow!) that I know in my heart could fill the entire world…"

    So… yeah. I’d be absolutely thrilled and tickled pink if I could share this love in a romantic way with a lover right this very moment… but ultimately, *I* am a lover, and if I have no one else to share this love with, then I will simply make my 130-some pounds of flesh a shrine to that love.

    Let my every breath be a testament to love… let every shape and form of love flow through my words, my thoughts, my writings, my actions… from the transcendent bliss of spiritual love to the carnal delight of sensuality and sexuality, let this flesh of mine be a vessel for the passion and the power that is love. Even if I can find this love no where else in this world, I will find it a home in the one place in physical reality that is truly mine — my own body, and the personal space that I lay claim to through that body.

    So, on that note, I think I’ll show a little bit of love for this body by going to sleep in an almost-timely manner… 🙂 But it’s been a joy and a learning experience to explore gender issues and the landscape of the heart again, even if it was at times very difficult. Hopefully this post will generate some discussion in the comments section, the online forms, and so on… because I’d really love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the themes pertaining to all of the above. I know that I’m not in this alone… but it’s hard to feel that sometimes, especially because our society shuns the discussion of such things in most circumstances.

    So, I look forward to anything that you may have to share… and I am grateful to share this even if you have nothing to offer in return! Whether I stand alone or stand in the presence of six billion fellow seekers, I will stand in my heart and go wherever it takes me…

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    Dreams of Superman

    The viewpoint character (me, essentially) was a younger Superman, still living in Smallville prior to his official emergence as a superhero. The first scene of the dream took place in what I believe was the high school, or possibly an office building, which I don’t remember too clearly. There was some sort of crime or crisis to solve, as there always is, and it was clear that a young man with super abilities would be required to track down some villain and meet them in a dramatic face-off.

    So, off I went to some sort of abandoned building. Soon, I was face-to-face with my nemesis — a strange character who I never did see clearly. Before I could make my first move, they activated some sort of machinery, and a big metal bolt of some sort hit me in the chest. I grabbed the device, but it turned out to be part of a roller coaster. As I held onto it, it pulled me backwards and then down into a forward spiral. To my surprise, I was pulled into the crushing metal gears of the machinery! I think that the machinery broke, and I was spat out the other side, terribly chewed up and shaken but still alive and able to rise to my feet. At this point, I don’t know what’s happened to the villain exactly, but it’s all taken care of. Then, someone asked if I was okay. I told them that yes, I was… I was only moderately injured… it was just that as a superhero, my powers kept me well-protected, and I really just wasn’t used to feeling all beaten up like that. At this point, I think that I went off to rest, and the dream ended.

    Fascinating dream, eh? Some of the symbolism is very clear to me.

    I, of course, am Superman… even though viewpoints are strange in many of my dreams, it was pretty obvious that this was a viewpoint character who was essentially just me.

    The "villain" is presumably the sum of my hidden/repressed emotions, which is why I couldn’t see their face clearly.

    The "roller coaster" is the defense mechanism I have against these repressed feelings.

    A long search leads me to these repressed feelings, and suddenly I feel a metal block hit my chest. The dream portrays this block as something that is "cast" at me by the repressed emotions… which is interesting, given the fact that as an adolescent, my angst lead me to "cast" what I would later think of as a spell to block my emotions.

    So, this block leads me in a backwards, then downard and forward spiral, a literal "roller coaster ride" that matches the metaphor of "emotional roller-coaster" that I’ve been using to describe my emotional life lately. It’s wonderful to be back in touch with my emotions again… but wow, what intensity! I thought that these emotions were intense when I was actively blocking against them… now they are REALLY intense.

    Finally, "the machinery" of my defense mechanisms grinds me between its gears and leaves me feeling terribly sore and shaken. To me, this is symbolic of my ongoing adrenal difficulties, and the way that they can make me feel "beaten up" at the end (and even beginning!) of the day.

    But the good news is the end of the dream. After passing through the moment of crisis that "chewed me up," the machinery of my defense mechanisms is broken. I let go of the machinery, and everything is okay. I feel pretty shaken by the fact that something has gotten past my super powers and made me feel vulnerable by hurting me… but in the end, I realize that I’m okay. I survived the encounter, and the crisis is over.

    To me, this reflects something that I’m already starting to suspect — namely, that the worst of my adrenal crisis may be over. There is still so much healing to do… but I think that I’ve made it past the peak (or the valley, as the case may be).

    I suppose it wasn’t a fully satisfactory dream because I don’t clearly remember the "villain" — the repressed emotions that unleashed the machinery on me. But even without seeing their face in this particular dream, I know them well… and I’m bound to meet them again in future dreams, and in the many moments in my life where deep feelings arise.

    So, there’s a bit of fascinating self-dream-analysis… if you’re a fan of Superman AND dream analysis, then you must have REALLY liked this entry… 🙂 If not, then hopefully you enjoyed sharing my journey through the oddities of dreamland… and in my next Song of the Trees, I suspect that I’ll have all sorts of big news to share in relation to the change in seasons and my slow but steady journey to recovery.

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    My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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