Saturday, July 23, 2011

Provocative Bisexuality

I never intended to be a provocateur. It wasn't something I would have chosen to be. Yet, looking back at my life as far back as I can remember, its easy to see that my ticket was punched at an early age.  In reality, long before I even knew I had a ticket.

John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." I can buy into that, but there more to it than that. My own experience taught me that my life began to be molded for me long before I knew what planning was, indeed long before I could comprehend the concept of "next year" much less plan for a lifetime.

I have mentioned in earlier blogs that male to male sex was just a regular part of life for me. It started at such an early age and included so many of the males in and around my age that male to male sex wasn't provocative at all. It was just reality. But even within the context of male to male sex being normal and an everyday thing, I was one who was willing to push the envelope. For most of the gang of boys I ran around with in that small Texas town, male to male sex consisted of just mutual touching and jacking each other off. When we were really young, the jacking off was just for the joy of jacking off. As we got older, the activity was accompanied by a lot of brave talk concerning what we'd like to do with girls. As we got older still the jacking off began to include talk about exploits some of the boys had allegedly had with girls.

But jacking off, mutual touching and just getting naked and enjoying being a boy was about it for most of us, but for me and another kid there was more. We were into sucking each others cocks. He had taught me to do it at the very first. I'm not sure I would have thought of it, but I sure was glad he did because it felt good, very good, both ways, to give head and to get it. But this was something we didn't talk about to the other guys. It was just our thing. He and I had another common bond. We were the smallest two boys in the extended group by height and weight, but we were by far and away the owners of the two biggest cocks. I think that was a bond between us and I know for sure that it bought the two of us a great deal of respect and envy from the other guys.

Looking back, I think it was the oral sex between the two of us that was the provocative thing for me about male to male sex. I enjoyed the comradery of the group of boys as a whole for sure, but it was the size of my oral partners cock and the sucking of it and him sucking mine that really aroused me sexually and kept me coming back for more on almost a daily basis. At the time, I did not recognize it as provocation. I'd never heard that word at that point in my life, but looking back it was provocation without doubt.

Looking back at that provocation and remembering it and the absolute joy it brought, it makes me think, that from my own experience, at least, sexual orientation can, at least in part, be learned behavior. I certainly learned rather quickly to enjoy male to male sex in the group at large and especially the oral activities the two of us engaged in.

Fast forward a few years and at age 12 or so I found myself beginning to notice girls and perhaps just as important, I found they were beginning to notice me. It was a new and exciting time in life. At age twelve, I didn't now what homosexuality or heterosexuality was. I was just along for the ride as my life unfolded around me. I don't remember when I came to know the definitions of those words but it was probably at some point in my junior high days. There was a smidgen of concern, I guess. Could I be homosexual? But the answer seemed pretty clear to me that I wasn't. So many of the guys that were a part of my life played around together that it was just normal and by now all of us were quite interested in the opposite sex to be sure. It was just that the same sex was much much easier to find and far more reliable.

Just after my eighteenth birthday, I became engaged to be married. I was deeply in love and scared shitless. I was already in my first year of college having graduated from high school at age 17. My girl was at the same college and sex with her was at such a fever pitch that my past life with the boys had almost vanished from my memory. I certainly wasn't worried about being a homosexual. Not with the feelings I was having now and not with what we were doing together.

If there was a learned component to one's sexuality then I was no doubt going to be a straight heterosexual man because my girl could and did rock my world sexually. And what was even better I was destined to find that with practice she would get better and better at rocking my world. Nothing the boys had ever provided could match it.

My biggest source of fear was getting her pregnant. We had both seen it happen to friends and it was never a pretty thing. It was a road we didn't want to travel, so we tried to be very very careful. My life began to pass before my eyes once when she was a week late. I could see my plans for a college degree slipping out of my reach and I could see the disappointment that would be on my parents faces when I told them I was going to be a 19 year old father, that is if I survived telling her father and mother.

Luckily, we didn't have to go down that road. But together we decided that it would be better just to go ahead and get married. At least then if something unplanned happened, it would be socially acceptable.

So when we married a few months later, there was much going though my mind. I still had three  years of college left and so did she. How were we going to make all that happen? It seemed daunting at the time. Looking back, it just seems crazy. At that time an 18 year old guy could not marry in Texas without parental permission. I don't know how my parents ever had the confidence in me to sign the license application.

So there was much on my mind as we married, but my sexuality was not one of them. I was a horny devil but the object of my desire and my drive at this point was all about my new wife. It stayed that way through college. The answer to how we'd get through it evolved. She decided to drop out of school and get a full time job (here degrees were delayed until our children were in their teens). I fast tracked my education enrolling in Fall, Spring and Summer classes taking as many hours as they would let me take in each and working full time at my own job along with part time jobs when I could find them and work them into my schedule. My wife worked some days and some nights on a rotating schedule. I wove day and night classes in and around a job that also required day and night work. All I did was work, go to class, study and eat and sleep. Entertainment was an occasional movie and sex. The sex made it all worth while. It was great.

I had plenty to worry about, keeping my old car running, paying the rent and passing my courses at school. Any worries I had about my sexuality were simply buried under the pile. I didn't have time to worry about such things and those worries seemed far away now.

A few days ago, I ran across a blog for straight married women who have found their husbands are interested or active in male to male sex. The lady who writes the blog has had more than her share of provocation from a homosexual husband along with a boat load of hurt and pain and down right incredulity about how she managed to get into the situation in which she finds herself.

She's human. She has expressed her pain in the blog. She has given into righteous anger; but she has also maintained a sense of balance in her life and in her belief systems in spite of all she has been through. That sense of balance is clearly visible in her most recent blog concerning Secretary of Defense Panetta's  decision to end the United States Military's reliance on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and join many other of the world's nations in allowing homosexual persons to openly serve in the military where they have been serving closeted for as long as the United States has had a military.

This woman, who has plenty to hurt over, ends her current blog by saying, "All I can say is, "It's about time!" Now if we can get same-sex marriage okayed in all fifty states and repeal that idiotic Defense of Marriage Act, we'll be headed in the right direction. Nothing will ever stop homophobia but if there are laws in place to allow gays to marry and live an openly gay life, maybe they'll be less likely to marry straight women and ruin their lives."

She's absolutely right, of course, in her feeling that gays, given the right to their own lives and a sense of respect for what they can do for the world rather than being denigrated for whom they have sex with, will marry and live their lives openly and be much much less likely to marry straight women and ruin their lives and bring pain and hurt to the lives of the children they share together.

What she's wrong about is that homophobia can be stopped. Homosexuality cannot be stopped because as she states elsewhere in her blog she, even as a Christian, believes that homosexuality is not a choice. It is a birth assignment. But homophobia can be stopped. It can be stopped in exactly the same way racial discrimination was stopped in this country. Now, of course, those of you who are quick to say that racial discrimination still exists are correct; but it exists in a form very much different from the racial phobia that was a part of this country for so long. This country was not afraid to elect a black President in 2009. We are no longer afraid to sit by blacks in restaurants and schools. We work side by side with them. Racial discrimination exists but only among the most ignorant and recalcitrant among us on both sides of the racial divide.

Such will eventually be the outcome of letting gay men and women lead their lives openly and enjoy the rights and privileges of all Americans. Not a single solitary straight marriage has ever been affected adversely by two gay guys getting married in one of the six states which such a thing is legal.

Thousands and thousands of marriages have had adverse outcomes and thousands and thousands of women and children have been hurt because they found themselves, through no fault of their own, in a marriage in which one of the partners was a homosexual man.

I am actually very optimistic that the future is brighter for marriage between a man and a woman because marriage between same sex couples is becoming a viable and open option. The only caution we should be taking when we try to find solutions for keeping traditional marriage alive and well is to remember than more than half of all marriages in this country end in divorce. Most of those divorces have nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality. There are real live challenges to traditional marriages today. Same sex marriages are part of the solution, not part of the problem as the right wing radical Christian community would have us believe. Even the straight Christian woman who has been so hurt by her gay husband understands that and writes about it in her blog. Hopefully more and more Christians will throw off the misinformation and the rhetoric of those who choose to hate in the name of God rather than love and support in the name of God and we'll be able to see the progress this woman believe can come about.

So, I see hope for the future where so many in the Christian Right see nothing but sin and despair. But as the father and grandfather of girls the fear that haunts me is the fear I am closest to and it is not homosexuality, it is bisexuality.

I can see answers for homosexual men and women in the form of same sex marriages and the adoption of children by same sex couples or even having their own children with the help of science and/or surrogates. The future for bisexual men and women is not as clear to me and I think there may be plenty of pain still waiting to be unleashed because of bisexuality and no clear way to handle it in our society.

At this point in time society cannot even agree that bisexuality even exists. Many straight researchers and therapists do not believe it does. Many in the gay community do not think it does either. Because of the pain they endured on their journey through their homosexuality, they see men who claim the label of bisexuality as being cowards who simply cannot bring themselves to admit their homosexuality. And, of course, the Christian Right is steadfast in their idiotic belief that anything other than heterosexuality is just a sinful life choice which can be "fixed" if one simply acknowledges the sin and seeks redemption. As bisexuals, we seem to provoke denial every where we turn. Perhaps it is because we provoke the worst in every community's fears. As I have said, I consider myself a bisexual man and it causes me fear for my own daughters and grand daughters. I don't think I'll ever be completely at peace with my own bisexuality. Unfortunately, I have no doubt it is real.

I have no idea what the answers are for bisexual men and women who want families and marriages and a normal life. I do know that no answers will ever come as long as bisexuality itself is denied even to exist.

In my own case, my wife knows. It's not the happiest thing she's ever found out about me, but neither has it put an irreparable strain on our marriage. Perhaps part of that is because, as a psychotherapist, she sees the real reasons why more than half of all marriages end in divorce. She sees the mental, emotional and physical abuse that men inflict on their wives, but that also wives sometimes inflict on their husbands. She sees the affects of men who have no idea what fidelity means. She sees those who sink into and are devoured by the whirlpool of drug or alcohol addictions. But the thing that is worst of all is that because she has exercised her right to make her own decisions and evaluate her own situation in light of her own beliefs and experiences, she is denigrated by some of the women who comment on the blog for straight women who have found they are married to a homosexual man.

If there are answers to making bisexuality work, and at least in the study of other societies there are such answers, one of the areas in which these answers lie is in reaching a point in time for bisexuals in which they feel they can be up front about their sexuality with a woman they are considering marrying.

Currently, I know men who make it work by telling their wives. I know men who make it work by accepting their bisexuality but who through self restraint refrain from acting on their desires much as a straight man who is a priest restrains his own sexual desires. I know of bisexual men who are married to bisexual women and both enjoy each other and the company of others. I know of men whose wives have broken their marriage vows by withdrawing from any sexual activity with him leaving him reluctantly to turn to sex with another man. And then there are bisexual men who are much like promiscuous married straight men. These guys burn through other men and other women as fast as they can identify and bed them while managing to keep everything balanced at home. Sometimes they get careless and leave evidence behind that cannot be ignored or explained away and the marriage of another straight woman is suddenly in crisis. 

I've always been aware that no married guy is in this thing by himself. There is always a woman who is in it and may or may not know. I have a great deal of empathy for those women. In the blog for straight women who have found their husbands to be homosexual, there is a lot of anger expressed and rightfully so. Some of the women get locked in the anger stage and locked in their sense of "me." They become locked in pain and embarrassment. They fail to see his anger with his situation, his embarrassment about being less than a real man, his self hate, his downright fear of loosing a wive he often really does love as well as his kids and his home. They fail to understand that their has often been a lifetime of despair and not knowing what to do with an intractable situation he did not ask for.

A few of the women who have come to see the hurt and anger on both sides have written to me. It is this reaching out across the divide that separates yet binds us that holds the ultimate answers to the problem.

I don't know all the answers. If I knew them, instead of writing this blog I'd write a book and sell millions of copies and make lots of money. I don't know those answers. I do know there is no answer in hate no matter how badly one's been hurt. I do know there is no answer in being a victim and choosing to stay a victim no matter how much of a victim one is. I do know there is nothing to be gained from sitting and grieving for what might have been but will never be unless one gets up and tries again to find it regardless of which side of the equation one finds himself or herself.

I do know the only way to live life is to see reality and go for it. And I know the reality of life is not always, in fact seldom is, a neat little package. Life is always provocative.

Jack Scott

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Choice Responses & Helping Hands

I've always been fascinated about the order that seems to be a part of life. I'm not the only one of course who has noticed the phenomenon of something unseen and unknown which imposes, or at least seems to offer an order of sorts to our lives.

Theories abound. Some call it God. Some call it karma.  Some say it is merely coincidence and some say it's just an illusion. There is no order at all, they say, because when you get down to the basics all is chaos throughout the universe. I'm certainly not the only one to struggle with the question of whether or not there is God or karma or just humanity which by some cosmic accident possess a rather fantastic ability to reason at times and at other times possesses a rather unsettling ability to chain his brain and refuse to reason at all.

I can comprehend God, barely. I can understand the concept of karma; and to tell the truth, I usually try to act with the idea that it is what I put out into the universe that will come back to me. My experience in life has been that more often than not good begets good and evil begets evil. Personally, I cannot understand and do not believe the theories of randomness or chaos. There is just too much in the world, even in my mundane little world, that fits together too perfectly for there to be only chaos in the world and nothing of order and symbiosis.

Recently, I have been pretty involved with a couple of guys who are dealing with their sexuality. Both guys have been dealing with it in their own minds and in their own lives for many years. Neither has ever had the courage to mention it to anyone else until very recently. As "fate," whatever that may be, would have it, both came across the BisexualBuddies Group on line. There they came to realize, "at least I'm not alone." It's an important step. One came to the group having first found this blog site and the other came to the group at the recommendation of a friend of mine.

Talking with these two guys has been an enjoyable experience. And, as it always is, a learning experience for me. I'm never completely comfortable in "interfering" with a guy's life. I have enough difficulty keeping my own life between the lines. I tend to get nervous when I find I've become somewhat involved with helping some other guy I don't even really know keep  his life between the lines. I know enough to know that the only way I can help him is to guide him into making hard choices that will necessitate other hard choices along the way and that at any one of them he could stumble. I hate the idea of being in any way responsible for that stumble, yet I recognize the need for one to get beyond his present circumstance. I also understand the rewards which come with solving problems and coming to feel good about one's self. I'm glad others helped me along the way to get beyond the pain and guilt I once felt.

But, nevertheless, talking with and helping guys to reason out the mysteries of their lives has becomes somewhat of a norm for me over the last 15 years. Only in a few cases in which the guys become personal friends do I get any long term feedback. But the short term feed back is always overwhelmingly positive. That means a lot to me; and I always hope that short term gains will be turned into long term gains. In the case of guys who have become personal friends, I see them as they continue to rebuild their lives or build their lives around new ways of thinking. I see them continue to be happy and continue to grow in the new sense of self they have established. It is unspeakably rewarding for me, as well as them, as they were miserable and unhappy guys when we met years ago.

So anyway, I'm trying to help these two new guys. They're involved. They're motivated, so I'm motivated also; but as always I'm worried about saying the right thing and not saying the wrong thing and such. And in the middle of this worry, without my having said anything to her about it all, my wife hands me one of her professional journals and tells me she's marked a couple of articles I might want to read.

In one of the articles there is a dissertation on Choice Responses. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, but it reiterated to me what I already knew in a concise and bulleted format.

The dissertation reasons that when one is faced with threatening realities of life, there are, at the basic level, only two responses, Choice responses and Non-choice responses. Choice responses lead to responsible choices and actionsNon-choice responses are ultimately self-defeating and destructive.

The dissertation goes on to point out that there are ultimately only two Choice responses and likewise only two Non-choice responses. They are as follows:
Choice responses:
  1. Struggle against and try to change a threatening reality that we perceive to be changeable.
  2. Accept and use constructively a threatening reality we perceive to be unchangeable in order to gain new resolution and clarity.
Non-choice responses:
  1. Try to ward off a threatening reality through denial, rationalization or fantasy.
  2. Perceive (perhaps exaggerated)  reality but become paralyzed or crushed
I'm not the sharpest tack in the drawer, but having spent almost 30 years in what are described above as "classic" Non-choice responses to my bisexuality, the article got my attention. Needless to say, many married bisexual or married gay guys are still deeply invested in their own Non-choice responses to their sexuality. Homosexual guys deny they are homosexual. Perhaps, they think, "I'm just bisexual." Bisexual guys deny everything and try to rationalize it away or construct elaborate fantasies to explain it all.

In the end, faced with no resolution of the problem because they have invested fully in Non-choice responses to the  perceived (exaggerated) threat to their masculinity and the very real threat to their marriage and family, they end up in a paralysis of fear, self-hate and depression. I know because I've been there.

Human nature is such that it is not always obvious to us what we must accept and what we can possibly change. Human nature is certainly such that in many instnces we resist change until all else has failed. It is in this impasse that help from some where outside ourselves can become very valuable. Someone who has traveled the road before us and is willing to share with us new possibilities can go a long long way toward helping us meet the challenge of  thinking in terms of a Choice based response to our sexuality in spite of the threat which might be a part of it.

The challenge of this new way of thinking is summed up in the "Serenity Prayer" which everyone has heard: "God help me to have the courage to change the things that can be changed, the grace to accept the things that cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference."

It is important to keep two things in mind. Just because one has the knowledge and the will to face a threat with a Choice response does not mean the issue is no longer a threat or a problem. The threat or problem can still be very real in a variety of ways. But at least one is on the path to doing something constructive about it. At the same time, it is possible and really quite common for one who has responded to a threat in a Non-choice response to consciously or sub consciously exaggerate the threat. Building the threat up in one's mind gives one easier permission to remain immobilized in a do nothing stance. At least if I do nothing, I know what is happening. If I do something, I don't know what might happen in response to this terrible threat.

The heart of this Choice/Non-choice response to our common situation of being a married bisexual or married homosexual man is impossible to miss. The men in this situation who have found peace of mind and have mitigated the threat have correctly evaluated (often with help) the issue in terms of their choices. They have correctly perceived that their sexuality cannot be changed and they have proceeded (often with help) to make difficult choices about what they can change - their attitudes and their responses to their sexuality.

By the same token, those guys who have not made the Choice responses are still locked in denial or paralysis (sometimes in spite of offered help).

I found it interesting that the dissertation did not portray the helping process as just a matter of social science. Rather it hinted at deep truths that are part of the universe itself. And because the writer felt that helping one another is part of the fabric of the universe he very specifically points out that helping does not have to be tied up with Christianity or any religion or any form of spirituality.

At the same time the writer points out that the helping process is dependent on certain values and assumptions about the nature of man and the world that are not supported by all world views and all belief systems.

In the United States, the most common belief system is Christianity.  Almost all non-Christians and many Christians themselves tend to think of Christianity as a set of common beliefs and ideals no matter what particular denomination one might be a part. Nothing could be further from the truth. A Christian is not just any Christian. As a member of a specific order or denomination, he has a set of beliefs and a world view that is influenced or in many cases mandated by that denominational group. Some of these belief systems and world views are friendly to and supportive of Choice response and to helping one another as a part of the greater universal value system. Some are quite hostile to Choice responses and are fully dedicated to Non-choice responses and, indeed, require such responses of those within their spheres of influence.

At least in their "press handouts" all Christian denominations promote themselves as loving and supportive of the individual and his problems. The reality is not quite so pretty a picture. Both Capitalistic and Puritan assumptions along with judgementalism, works righteousness and worldly definitions of success have distorted Christian belief systems. One need look no further than Kansas and what has emanated from one small church there to catch the attention of the whole United States to see that all Christians, or so called Christians, are not loving people.

In the United States, the hundreds of Christian denominations can be identified and placed within three broad categories. These are Christians of Grace, Morality or Law.

I'm fairly familiar with many of the major denominations that exist within the United States and I could, I feel, pretty accurately distribute the major denominations among these three categories; but I won't. If you're a Christian, I'll leave it to you in the honesty and the privacy of your own mind and heart to place your denomination in the correct category.

If you're not a Christian be aware that you don't have to be to be either a helper of others or one who accepts help from others. Accepting or giving of help can be based on the most pragmatic of grounds. The principles at work in the universe can be seen in religious sources, but they are also seen in humanistic and agnostic groups which actually can show far more ability to understand and practice the processes of help than those who possess and work within some categories of religious faith.

If you are a Christian, it will be helpful to you to determine the category of your particular denomination and its world view. There should be no motivation to be anything but truthful with yourself. This is not something you have to share outside the privacy of your own mind. But within the privacy of your own mind, a realistic assessment can be a major step in helping you to reach the point at which you can accurately determine what you can and cannot change and help you to summon the courage to change the things that can be changed, the grace to accept the things that cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference through the power of a Choice response.

Christians of grace are characterized by a sense of gratefulness. They respond to the gospel (the good news of unmerited redemption) of Christ with gratitude and a genuine desire to share the joy they have found in knowing that they are children of an unmerited yet nevertheless bestowed grace which causes them to see themselves  as, in spite of everything, people loved by God. These Christians try to emulate their feelings of gratefulness with other people.

Christians of law are fearful. They are also grateful; but because they focus on the law and not on grace, they cannot be sure that God has forgiven them their sins or will continue to forgive them in the future. These Christians are like people who do not know when or if their next meal will arrive. There are laws they don't understand, can't always observe and can't change that affect how God sees them and how He provides for them. They fear that He will invoke the law to punish them (perhaps eternally).

Christians of morality tend to be self-righteous and controlling. These Christians started out as Christians of law; but unlike other Christians of law, they have come to see themselves as having met the requirements of the law and they have thus promoted themselves to God's staff and see it as their responsibility to help God keep the rest of the people around them, who have not achieved their level of morality, from sinning. They feel quite justified in using the most unloving means to accomplish this end. Christians of morality are the face of Christianity in the United States today. Especially when non-Christians think about Christians, they think of them in terms of Christians of morality as described here.

Obviously, only Christians of grace are capable of making Choice responses. Christians of law or morality simply cannot make such a response. Yet all Christians are not Christians of grace. Far from it. Here are a few more things to help you see where your denomination falls among the three categories. Christians of grace do not pass judgment on others. Christians of grace see sin as sin. They do not see special categories of sin such as divorce, homosexuality or abortion as greater and more significant in the eyes of God than any other sin; and their pastors do not single out these "special" sins for particular emphasis. Thus Christians of grace see themselves as sinners and are uncomfortable judging others.

Christians of grace will not focus on evangelism. They understand that people rarely change and grow because they are told that they have to.  Secondly, they understand people who need help the most often don't have a lot of trust in anyone or anything. Nothing in their lives has encouraged such trust. Requiring them to suddenly trust in an unseen Lord is not often going to be of much help to one who desperately needs help. For these and other reasons, Christians of grace will not focus on simply spreading the word. Instead they focus on sharing themselves and what they have to offer.

Christians of grace will not ignore material help for only spiritual help. As a Christian and a nominal (in the 3rd sense of that word) Republican that brings to mind very quickly the Religious Right's stand on abortion, i.e, "abortion is always wrong and we as Christians are always right in doing what ever we can to force every woman to give birth to unborn babies, but once we do that we've done our duty. We have no need of social programs, can't afford them. Cut them all out. Let those women take care of their own babies and bring them up to be educated and productive citizens. We did our spiritual thing by insuring their baby's birth. We have no material responsibility for the kid."

Christians of grace may not support abortion either, but they don't often judge a woman whose shoes they have not walked in and whose circumstance they have not found themselves. They see abortion, like all possible sins, a matter between the individual and God.

Christians of grace never ask themselves if someone deserves help. Christians of grace see no one as deserving before God, including themselves. What we deserve is simply not at issue. What we can do for one another is.

So, no matter who you are in this group of married bisexual or married homosexual men, the issue of Choice and non Choice responses has something to say to you. If you're stuck in the mire of Non-choice responses to your sexuality you need to come to the realization that non-choices will never lead to solutions, and they will never lead to peace and self understanding and happiness.

If you're ready to make choice responses you have to understand they will not be easy. The mitigation or the resolution of one threat or one aspect of the problem will lead to other threats and problems about which you will also have to make choice responses. Life is a constant progression of choices if you are growing. You have to resolve or mitigate each new threat and resolve each new problem. In reality, each new challenge is a new opportunity.

If you've long since mastered the ability and the wisdom to make choice responses, you can help others to do the same. To do that you don't have to be a humanist or a Christian or anything else.  All you have to do is not look for bad; but instead look for good in a person. You'll always find something good to build on in any person. Embrace reality and gently lead the person your helping to embrace it too. Life isn't fair. It isn't always pretty. But people do make choices to overcome even the most horrible of circumstances. Respect the freedom of the individual to make choices you would not make. Always examine and reexamine your own motives for helping. Don't be afraid to be a little tough. Always offer help with a genuine humility. Be wary of pridefulness. Even in our successes, we remain fully human.

If you reached this paragraph, congratulations. You're an exceptional man. There is hope for you and for what you want to be and where you want to be in life. No one ever told you life would be easy and if they did, you're well aware they lied to you. Be willing to make the hard choices and to keep on making them. Resolve threats or mitigate them. Be open to opportunities to help others along the way.

Jack Scott

Monday, July 4, 2011

And Then There Are the Special Days

I guess this may sound shallow to many of you who hold substantial places in the world, who are well educated and who lead busy and productive lives, and especially to those of you who have completed a formal study of philosophy, but music and reading have always held great influence over my life and these things have contributed greatly to the development of a personal philosophy of life that has sustained me more and more as I grow older. I enjoy these things a great deal.

A couple of years ago my wife bought me an iPod for Christmas. I hardly knew what an iPod was and I hadn't asked for one. I'm one of those people all of you have in your lives, more than likely, who is difficult to buy for at Christmas time. I like to purchase my own shirts and underwear and ties. When I want something, I tend to go out and buy it. So much of what someone might think to give me as a gift I already have or don't want or need.

But on that Christmas, a couple of  years ago, my wife decided to buy me the iPod. It's dark gray, very small and sleek; and I quickly came to see why Steve Jobs has sold millions of them and why he runs a multi billion dollar company.

I had never had an Apple product before I received that iPod. And to tell you the truth I didn't expect ever to own an Apple product. My impression of Apple was that it didn't play well with the rest of the world. I'd always had PCs since my very first computer. I knew PCs. I liked PCs. I had a cell phone which I really liked. Not all the bells and whistles, but it met my needs. I was satisfied with my cell phone and my PC and I didn't want to be troubled with a switch to Apple products.

But the iPod was a seducer. From the first, it simply amazed me. I began to load my collected CDs onto the iPod and when I had everything loaded from a big stack of CDs there was still a great deal of space left empty on that little piece of electronic gear. It was simply amazing to me what could be packed into that little electronic device containing a small electronic chip. Somewhat reluctantly, I made my first visit to the Apple Store's music download section. And I found a wonderful world.

I also found another reason why Steve Jobs is a billionaire. He not only hooks us with these well engineered electronic divices, but then he builds an electronic store to sell us all kinds of things to make them fill our every need. And in my case, needs I didn't even know I had.

There in the iTunes store I found all the music I've loved throughout my life, including the songs I had purchased as a teen ager on large vinyl LPs that inevitably became scratched and worn. Now I was purchasing them again and downloading them in digital format to this tiny little electronic device which would not only play the music but combine it all into various playlists and even remind me of music I didn't have but was sure to want. In addition to that the digital format would never get scratched and never wear out.

That little iPod renewed my lifelong love of music and I liked it so much I soon went out and bought my first iPhone. The things that iPhone will do are simply amazing to a guy whose family never had a phone in the house until he was a teenager. The iPhone lays the world at my fingertips almost anywhere I happen to be. And as an added bonus, I don't have to carry my iPod around with me. I can leave it in my gym bag because the same music library that is on my iPod is always in my pocket on my iPhone.

My son bought me an iPad for Father's Day recently; and now, I am busy stocking it with iBooks which amazingly I can read right there on my iPad in the font I choose and with just the right amount of backlight to suit my taste; and if I find myself waiting somewhere with time on my hands such as waiting in the doctor's office, I don't even have to have my iPad along. The same library that is on my iPad is on the iPhone in my pocket. I can just pull out my iPhone and it will pop up the very page I've read to on the iPad. So now that these divices have made reading so convenient I am reading much more than I have over the last few years and enjoying it more.

Music and reading have played a great part in building my personal philosophy of life. As I see it, song writers are among the greatest philosophers that have ever lived.  The wisdom that is embodied in the lyrics of a song can pack an awesome punch. And of course, through reading, one can go any place in the world or even out of this world and to any point in the past or the future. There is nothing imaginable that cannot be explored through reading.

It was through music and reading that I made the first dents in the hard armor of guilt and self hate that my bisexuality had constructed around my life and my being. It was Christian gospel music which spoke to me telling me that all I had to do was give whatever I had over to God, even my pain and my self hate, and he'd give the rest. He'd give whatever it took to make me whole.

It was in reading the words of atypical and unconventional Christians that I came to see that there were Christians, Christians with exceptional credentials, who had a view of God that did not line up with the view I had been bombarded with in my youth and found so troubling. They always said faith was meant to bring peace. The kind of fundamental faith that they tried to force into me as a child and young adult, I did not find in any way peace inspiring. But these unconventional Christian writers knew a God of love and grace. They did not know and did not believe in a God of wrath and vengeance that all to often is the face of modern fundamental Christianity.

And this view of God was not something necessarily new. It was just new to me. Books referred me to other books. One of the books that impacted me greatly had been written more than 150 years ago by a man named John Campbell McLeod. The book was entitled The Nature of the Atonement and it spoke to me of a God I thought no other Christian had conceived of other than me, the type of God I had always thought should exist but had been told all my life did not exist by other Christians.

That book laid the foundation for more contemporary books such as Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace? Yancey's book brought home to me that there was indeed a God whose grace was greater than all my sin, all my pain and all my self hatred. It changed my life and the way I see my life.

And it hasn't just been religious music or religious books that have impacted my life and contributed to my philosophy of life. Secular music and secular books have had their own contributions. I lead a blessed life. That is not to day that its always been a happy one or an easy one. It hasn't been. There have been big bumps and jarring collisions along the way. I've had my share of sadness and pain and feelings of hopelessness. There have been those days of doubt and despair and then there are the special days.

As I get older I find how very true, with a bit of a twist, the words to Marvin Hamlisch's Oscar Award winning song are: 

     Can it be that it was all so simple then
     or has time rewritten every line?
     If we had the chance to do it all again
     tell me would we? Could we?
     Memories, may be beautiful and yet
     what's too painful to remember
     we simply choose to forget
     So it's the laughter we will remember
     whenever we remember
     the way we were.

There was a time when life seemed simpler, but it was also a time when life was filled with more pain and despair. But life has been good to me. It has given me the opportunities to rewrite the old paradigms of hate and despair and change them into paradigms of hope and fulfillment. I have made a choice to forget the old paradigms which are too painful to remember and I choose to remember the good times when I think of the past. Some may think I'm seeing the past and the present through rose colored glasses. I'm not. I can recall the past, I have just learned to focus on the good side of it and on the new paradigms of the present.

And its not that life has now reached a point for me in which there are no disappointments and in which there is no pain. There are those days, of course; and then there are the special days. Its far more difficult to focus on the good of the present than the good of the past. I guess, perhaps that's because the present is dynamic and the dangers are still very much a possibility wherein the past is more static and the dangers past and handled. But while there are always nagging guilts and nagging questions and nagging burdens of life to deal with, I find that often enough if I only look for them, there are many of those special days.

And I'm not talking about a special day as a 10 year old would define it. I'm not talking about the day you get to spend in Disneyland. Special days are days more special than Disneyland, less pricy and much more priceless. Special days cannot be had for money. They can only be had as a karmic gift. Special days are the days you notice and experience the sunrise or the sunset. Special days are the days you spend with a friend who needs you or one you need and he's your friend in spite of your need.

And I still need friends. Everyone does, even with a positive outlook. Friends are a part of the anchor of our lives. They keep us grounded and integrated into the society around us. They support us when we need it. They let us know when we're screwing something up. I need my friends, but more and more as I get older, I'm happy to know my friends need me.

More and more as I get older, I find that the old admonition in the Book of Acts is indeed true, "It is better to give than receive." Even more meaningful to me has been the Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
Special days are the days when you really understand and you really believe that your bisexuality is a gift and like the gift of my iPod, that I didn't ask for, didn't want and didn't know I needed, opens whole new worlds of joy and understanding and convenience and peace and a sense of awe.

Special days are the days you enjoy giving to others and are thankful for what others have given to you along the way.

Special days are when you recognize that you can never repay what your friends have given to you. You can only take their gifts to you and pay them forward to someone else in need and you know in the doing of that paying it forward that they debt is paid.

I'm the guy who didn't want to fool with making a switch to Apple products. I am writing this blog using my new MacBook Pro. I've come to love this MacBook Pro just as I love my iPod, IPad and iPhone. They are not my life. I'm not that shallow. But they enrich my life and I'm very much aware that in enriching my life my acquiring them has enriched the lives of Steve Jobs and 12,000 or so people that he employs. It is in providing me and countless others around the world with great products that they received deserved reward. 

I didn't ask for my bisexuality. For years I didn't want it. I tried everything I could to send it back. I couldn't imagine needing it and I couldn't imagine liking it. But I've found that I do want it. I do enjoy it. It enriches my life. It has expanded my concept of life in ways I could not have otherwise imagined. It has introduced me to friends, I would have otherwise never have known.

Don't get me wrong. You're bisexuality can be a dangerous thing. So is your car. So is the plane you willingly and thoughtlessly board to fly around the world to your business appointments. So are the stairs you take every day in your home. Life is dangerous. It is filled with risks. But we learn, quite naturally, to negotiate these risks and we minimize the risks while making the things that are inherently dangerous serve our needs and enrich our lives.

You simply must learn to do the same thing with your bisexuality. It won't go away. It's inherently dangerous, but you can let it destroy you, or you can moderate it and use it in a way that will serve you and enrich your life. There are days we wish it were not so, and then there are the special days when we are filled with awe over the richness of our lives.

Look for the special days. You'll find them tucked right in there behind a change in your attitude about your bisexuality.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott