Friday, May 25, 2012

Living In Two Paradigms

This is the second part of a two part post on paradigms.

Pete and I met on line a year or so ago. Pete is what I commonly refer to as a "good guy." In fact, Pete is a very good guy. Like myself, Pete is a high profile man. By that I mean that Pete is in a job that makes him well known to a great number of people around the world that he does not necessarily know. In that regard, Pete has a higher profile than I do. I'm well known to people in Texas and around the country that I don't necessarily know because of my career. (For more thoughts on bisexuality and high public profiles see the April 4, 2012 post "What If You are Both Bisexual and A Public Figure?")

As I suggested in part one ("Wanting vs. Having - Finding Personal Peace") of this discussion of paradigms, building new paradigms is never easy. It's even harder for high profile men who must maintain old very public paradigms while building and living new private paradigms and make sure that the two paradigms coexist in some sort of harmony.

A conversation with Pete caused him to make the suggestion that I write something about bisexuality and public figures. The April 4th post was the result. More recently, Pete suggested the title for another post and even provided the name, "Living In Two Paradigms." Pete also provided me an outline of his thoughts on the matter as a public figure, living in two paradigms. Keep in mind that while living as a bisexual man is harder for a public figure, much of what Pete experiences applies to men who lead private lives as well.

"Living in two paradigms of thought is like living on two tectonic plates," says Pete. How true it is. Sometimes it is as if one is strataling the San Andreas Fault. The fault shimmers and shakes and one struggles to maintain his balance. Worse yet, sometimes one plate moves north while the other moves south and one must quickly adjust his stance or loose his balance and fall into disaster.

As Pete puts it, "Sometimes I'm on Plate One where I experience certain emotions, thoughts, perspectives and motivations. Sometimes I'm on Plate Two where I experience other emotions, thoughts, perspectives and motivations. And when I'm on Plate One, it makes perfect sense; and when I'm on Plate Two, it makes perfect sense. And [as] I move back and forth, I must cross the fault line. Sometimes I get stuck there for long periods of time. Much of the time I live on the fault line … and that is where the earthquakes occur. Sometimes the clash is just too great, and I retreat to Plate One, as far from the fault line as I can get. Other times, I move … into Plate Two where I explore, investigate, feel, and wonder. At this point in my life, it is important that I be able to retreat to Plate One for peace and security when I need to. There are intermittent times when Plate Two provides the same, but not nearly as often or [for] as long. I'm not sure if Plate Two will ever offer … peace.
The challenge presently is to live on the fault line with increasing peace with the ambiguity and tension that living in both paradigms causes, to feel okay about the ambiguity is a challenge. For so much of my life…, I have lived in Plate One, as far from the fault line as possible. To be venturing onto Plate Two and enjoying it is a very scary thing. It goes against everything I've believed …, thought, and worked toward. Living in two worlds seems to be easier if you can retreat easily to either one when necessary. Getting stuck in one world seems to create its own issues." 
As are so many of us, Pete is a Christian man. He's happily married and enjoys his sexual relationship with his wife. The last thing he wants to do is hurt her.

Pete is active in his church. In fact for much of his life, his faith and his church have largely defined him as a man. Its not that he hasn't always felt the difference in himself, he's just pushed it away. Like so many of us, he has pushed it away for so long that the constant pushing has exhausted him. And in his exhaustion he has begun to wonder more and more if personal fulfillment doesn't demand the forming and the living of new paradigms and the modification of old ones.

In his struggle for self fulfillment and personal peace Pete has given a great deal of thought to living in two paradigms. In his notes to me, he actually constructed an outline of the competing paradigms. The outline was divided into three columns. The left column with his older paradigms has a yellow background. The right column with newer paradigms which are presently forming have a green background. Dividing the two is a red column representing the fault line. Perhaps I read more into it than I should have, but the fact that the left column was yellow and the right column was green suggested there may be some unconscious motivation in Pete's mind. I think it would have been more traditional to put a green background beneath the present accepted paradigms representing acceptance and ease and to put a yellow background beneath the new forming paradigms representing caution and wariness. But then again, maybe his conscious or unconscious motivation for the colors was correct. Maybe he does see the old paradigms in yellow representing that he must cautiously change and modify them. Perhaps he sees the new forming paradigms with a green background beneath them representing a new chance for personal fulfillment and peace of mind.

Whatever the significance of the colors, or the possibility of no significance at all, Pete has filled in the left (present paradigm) column and the right (forming paradigm) column with their various components. They are as follows:

"Any male to male activity is sinful, wrong and degrading --- Men are wired for bonding, male to make is common and okay.
Anyone having these desires or attractions is sick, perverted, and only redeemable through intense and supervised spiritual accountability --- There is a range of sexual attraction between completely homosexual and completely heterosexual. Bisexuality lies in a range along that continuum. Any place on the continuum is okay.
Any sexual expression outside of heterosexual activity (including masturbation) is wrong  Male to Male desires cannot be fulfilled by my wife; therefore, it is a need to be filled elsewhere.
Anyone exposed as sinning in a male to male way should be … put under church discipline until they are 'healed' --- Male to male [relationship] is a private activity that is between the individual and God.
Living in Plate One is safer --- Living in Plate Two is interesting.
Plate One living brings acceptance by others --- Living in Plate Two is risky - I could lose all my friends, job, family, position in the community, respect….
Plate One living takes the Bible literally --- The Bible is a collection of people's writings about  how they characterize experiences they have had with God.
Every word of the Bible is written to me --- Words written in the Bible were for specific people in a specific time, in a specific context.
There is no leeway regarding homosexuality in the scripture --- The original words and contexts of the passages regarding homosexuality have different meanings than we have assigned to them.
I pledged my faithfulness and love to my wife for life. Male to male is breaking that pledge --- It is simply men bonding in a different way. It is not the same as the marriage bond."
Pete says, "living in the red zone is where so much stress occurs," and he's right in that, I believe. The red zone is where old paradigms scrape against new paradigms and keep wounds open and emotions raw.

"As one changes paradigms, or even begins to consider changing … the change is not only … how you view homosexuality, but what you will do with it in your own life. The fault line is dangerous. It is frightful, especially when this 'sin' has been preached as the ultimate degradation," says Pete.

Correctly, I think Pete feels one must combine the competing paradigms into a new paradigm that brings the most peace and contentment.

Until very recently, all of this was just a mental exercise for Pete. He had never acted on his desires or feelings. But recently, the chance to act came with a man he knew he had reason to trust, and he took the chance. It was a good experience for both men and both enjoyed it greatly. Pete has this to say after the experience, "When I was only riding on Plate One, there was little clash, just an occasional bump. Today, the clash is constant and I wonder if it will ever stop shaking."

Frankly, that is a question Pete, and every guy, must answer personally for himself. There will always be those who want those they feel are "sinners" to suffer. They consider it their place in life to help God punish those they feel are guilty of some error. Unfortunately, fundamental Christians are the poster people for this kind of thinking.

Opposite that are those who accept the paradigm of reality, and the paradigm of reality is that the question of sin is more difficult to master than funda- mentalist would have us believe. In reading the Bible and studying the three year ministry of Christ, one never once finds Christ shaking his finger in people's faces and telling them they are on their way to Hell. Instead of talking about sin and spending hours and hours defining sin, Christ chooses to talk of love and spend three whole years defining love as something that can never be changed because of anything we think, say or do. That message explicitly laid out in the eighth chapter of Romans is not taken very literally by fundamentalists who insist that every word of the Bible must be taken literally.

Fundamentalists say they believe that gay people have an agenda to change the world, to recruit people into the ranks of gay society. I don't think fundamentalists themselves really believe that, except for those who are truly sick; but it makes a talking point for them and gives them reason to hate.

Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Gays have no such agenda. Some of my closest friends are openly gay. They want nothing but the right to live their lives as they must live them, to build an estate with their partners that one or the other partner can control after the passing of the other, to have the right to exercise all the common rights that are guaranteed to citizens of the United States of America under the Constitution including the rights of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If one carefully reads the Bible, he finds that in the sight of God all sin is equal. There are no big sins and no little sins, just sin. He also finds that some things the churches and religious people define as sin are not sins at all. Drinking alcohol is one such thing. Dancing is another. The first miracle attributed to Christ was making wine for a wedding out of water and letting people enjoy same. Yet fundamental Christians say it is a sin to drink alcohol. Fundamental people say dancing is sinful, yet Christ says in the Bible that He, himself is "Lord of the Dance." And all through the Bible people dance to honor the Lord and demonstrate their joy in the Lord.

Homosexuality, as we know it today is never once referred to by Christ in this three years of preaching the Gospel. Evidently it was not a sin for which he had any great or specific concern. Perhaps it is not always a sin in and of itself at all.

Fundamental Christians and even some of  us who are gay or bisexual get really upset over our sexuality, but we don't get all that upset over telling a white lie. We don't get that upset over cheating on our taxes. We don't get that upset over working on Sunday. We don't get all that upset over any number of things that the Bible says specifically are sins. Why then do we get so bothered over something that the Bible does not even identify directly as sin?

The answer is that we have been taught a paradigm about sexuality all our lives. We have been taught various paradigms of what one must believe to be a Christian. The truth is, God doesn't care about what we think or do as much as he cares about us and having a relationship with us. That is a new paradigm for most of us and most of us need to learn it promptly and keep it in mind always.

Thanks Pete for sharing your thoughts on living with two paradigms. I think it will be helpful to others to think about what you've shared.

Jack Scott

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I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

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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