Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thoughts On Coincidence, Random Chance And Faith

This blog post was first published here on July 18, 2012. It has been edited and reposted on July 30, 2012.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross once said, "Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from."

On the other hand, Charles Caleb Cotton, a 19th century Cleric, said: "If we consider… how many events occur every day, we shall no longer wonder at those accidental coincidences which ignorance mistakes for verification."

How intriguing life is. I say, "Black." Another says, "White." You say, "Yes." Your friend says, "No." Ms. Kubler-Ross and I wonder about coincidences. Mr. Cotton thinks that to do such a thing is the mark of ignorance.

Differences of opinions are what make the world an interesting place. The only problem for me is the world has just about created more interest than I can wrap my mind around.

If sixteen years ago, one of you who is reading this blog would have told me I would be writing it, I would have said you were sorely mistaken. As a professional man who was required to make almost daily decision which affected the lives of others for good and for bad, I found it the hardest duty I had. I simply did not like making decisions that others would have to live with.

So it is in writing this blog, I often struggle with myself about the things I write. Will they lead someone astray? Will they cause someone to stumble? Will they help someone to find his way? Will they incite new ways of looking at old struggles? On balance, will what I write be a source of good or a source of evil? These questions are always on my mind.

This week I received a comment from an anonymous reader who feels I am "selling a lot of men short." His comment goes on to say there is never a good excuse for being unfaithful to one's spouse. He feels married bisexual or married homosexual men should buck up and stick to their vows no matter the emotional, psychological or personal costs. I understand where he is coming from in his comment, but either he has not through all the possibilities of life from both a woman's viewpoint as well as a man's viewpoint or he has led a very sheltered life. If all the unfaithfulness resulting from the excuses of men were to disappear, there would still be unfaithfulness in the world.  It simply is not true men simply need to grab onto their boot straps, pull themselves up straight (pun intended), and be happy to eliminate unfaithfulness.

I just can't live comprehend the world this anonymous commenter seems to live in. Not only are there good reasons for sometimes having sex outside of marriage, there are often good reasons for divorce. Sometimes sex outside of marriage makes both a man and his wife happier in trying to live in their broken marriage to provide support for their children. Sometimes sex outside marriage enables a man to keep his family together when his wife is unable or unwilling to have sex any longer. Absolute statements about anything beyond scientific fact hardly ever stand up to the light of open minded consideration for me or any other rational person.

That said, the anonymous commenter would likely be surprised to know how often I do worry about the things I write and if I am saying the right thing or not. Sometimes this worry gets so strong that it causes me to consider stopping my blogging altogether.

The reason I have not stopped blogging is a simple one; but one the anonymous commenter will most likely find difficult to believe. I keep blogging because the comments I get from my readers are overwhelmingly positive, easily ten positive comments to every single negative comment. And the comments are not just positive. Often guys and sometimes even women tell me I have changed their lives for the better. It is far from an isolated occurrence.

Even more interesting to me personally is that the comments most complimentary to my blogging more often than not, seem to come in just when I am thinking most seriously about shutting it all down. Is this a coincidence or is it something else? I guess if it just happened once, I would see it as coincidence; but it seems to happen every time I get discouraged or burned out.

I guess, in a very real way, how one sees the question of coincidence depends on whether one sees the world as Kubler-Ross sees it or sees it as Cotton sees it. As for me, I have been doing this for several years now and there have been so many "coincidences" I have lost count. Most of them have been unbelievably complex, not just events strained into some kind of coincidence in my mind.

I recently admitted to my readers though I am a person of faith, my faith is not unshakeable. I have my moments of doubt. I even have my moments of anger with God, if there is God, because He sure doesn't run the world as well as it seems He could sometimes. Some people would say such thoughts are the mark of a non-Christian. My own pastor says if one has never doubted God and has never been angry at God, one doesn't know God. I'm inclined to agree. Those with whom we are well acquainted, those who matter to us sometimes make us angry; and sometimes we make them angry.

As a man who tries to have faith, I see God at work in the things I do and in the things that happen as a result. While I do have atheist and agnostic friends, as I mentioned above, I've never had the opportunity to discuss with them at length how they view such coincidences in life. Perhaps they view them as Charles Cotton did, just the a statistical convergence of fate in billions of events. Perhaps they see them as the product of fate resulting from some power within the universe we do not yet understand. I don't know, but that is ok with me because I don't know for certain God exists either. I simply have a degree of faith He does. I have hope he does. But my lack of full unquestioning faith in the matter makes me very much unwilling to accost those who do not believe. Their lack of faith or belief is at least as reasonable as my faith.

A Leap of Faith
If any of you reading this piece is an atheist or agnostic, I would count it as a personal favor if you would take the time to respond on this issue with an open comment to me and my readers. Hopefully, I have assured you I am not going to be judgmental of your personal philosophy of life. As an atheist or an agnostic, I know there have to be influences in your life that spur you to take leaps of faith to achieve those things that are important to you, even if it is just faith in your own ability to achieve. My feeling is that people of faith should be as respectful and accepting  of those things that spur you to achieve and endure as those of religious faith would hope you are of their faith. In my view even those with religious faith must have some faith in themselves also to achieve personal success.

To me, some kind of faith in something bigger than oneself is a vital thing. I don't think I could live without faith of some sort. And honestly, I don't think one's faith has to be in God for it to matter and be effective. A four year old child does not have faith in God, but he has unmeasurable; and, to him, incomprehensible faith in his mother. I think the same sort of thing is possible for adults. Those who do not believe in God, it seems to me, must have faith in someone they love or someone who is their colleague. Perhaps they even have faith in a relatively benign universe which provides us with life and time and talents to use in the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. Again, I'd like to hear from those of you who are non-believers on this issue and who are willing to candidly discuss the values which guide your life choices.

Come Unto Me
Since I have often written that the United Methodist Church, the denomination to which I belong, is often a reconciling Church I am always happy to hear of reconciling churches around the country. There are many. The Lutheran Churches have been increasingly accepting of homosexuals. True, the stand has caused a split in the ranks of church members; but nevertheless a significant number of Lutherans now publicly welcome homosexuals to their churches. St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Atlanta is another reconciling church as is Bering United Methodist Church here in Houston. Bering UMC has built their web site to make it instantly clear that they support homosexual individuals, couples and families ( I wish I could leave it at that. I can't.

The sad truth is the United Methodist Conference is still denying full faith and fellowship to gay and bisexual individuals. The Conference and most Churches are happy to have these people as members, but they will not allow them to openly serve as ministers or deacons. Often they are not allowed to work in lay positions within the life of the church.

The truth is many United Methodist laymen and laywomen are ahead of the Church's leadership in their realization that homosexual and bisexual people are children of God just like all other people.

But the church is making progress. Recently the Houston Chronicle had an article within it that told of 200 United Methodist Ministers who have made the decision to civilly disobey Church authority and marry same sex partners who request such union. At the same time many individual United Methodist Churches are formally identifying themselves as reconciling churches in which homosexual and bisexual persons are welcome.

I think it important to acknowledge that gay men do not necessarily look for or want churches that espouse a gay gospel (Jesus was gay, some of the apostles and other figures of the Bible were gay). What they want instead is assurance God loves them and has a place for them in the life of churches who claim to preach the gospel of Christ.

This is the world for which I work and for which I look forward. I dream of and actually see in the not too distant future, a world in which being gay is no more of a "thing" than is being black or white or  hispanic. I see a world in the not too distant future in which each of us is accepted or rejected on his personal merits, not his sexuality or his race. I see in the not too distant future a world in which we have the freedom to agree or disagree with each other without anyone raising the issue of sexuality or race.

The increasing number of courageous gay Americans who are choosing to live openly as homosexual men are helping to bring about that future world. Already the benefits of their struggle are taking hold and the world is the beneficiary.

Will there ever be a time when we all accept each other without prejudice of some kind? No. But even the Fundamental Christians know their days of riding rough shod over people they consider to be beyond the love of God are numbered. That is why they are getting more and more shrill in their condemnations of homosexuality. They are scared shitless that the world as they want it to be is doomed. They are loosing the battles more and more often and they will ultimately loose the war.

Through President Johnson's civil rights efforts and the support of many others in government and in other positions of influence, there finally came a tipping point in racial prejudice; and Southern Democrats who had long run for office on racially prejudiced platforms found religion so to speak. Some of these national leaders had even been members of the Ku Klux Klan. As they quickly came to understand the new realities which would no longer tolerate racial prejudices, they quietly and quickly rewrote their personal histories to omit their racially prejudiced personas of the past.

So it shall be with homosexuality and bisexuality. A tipping point is coming when it will no longer be possible for Republican ultra right wing candidates to be elected or reelected to office while rejecting homosexuality as a lifestyle norm. When that tipping point comes; and I think it is coming sooner than many think, these Republican leaders will also rewrite their own personal histories, quietly retract their sexually prejudiced remarks and embrace a new world of sexual tolerance. The tie between these right wing politicians and what remains of the Fundamental Religious Right will be broken.

Guys who are willingly living openly as gay partnered men along with churches like St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Bering United Methodist Church in Houston, Lutheran Churches across the nation and other churches like them are leading the way to the new world.

If you know of reconciling and accepting churches in your area, please email me information about them or put it in a comment to this blog. I'll make a list of these churches for others to see.

Jack Scott

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Interview With Dr. Lisa Diamond

The following was posted in the "Huffington Post in May. Though it speaks about bisexuality as it applies to women, I felt it was well worth reprinting in this blog. Dr. Diamond certainly has the credentials to speak on bisexuality. She says that her next project is to devote her time to studying male bisexuality. I can hardly wait to read her conclusions. I suspect that many of the things she says about bisexuality in the post below will pertain to men. Some of the things she points out for female bisexuals will pertain more to men in my opinion. In the interview below I have added emphasis by adding red and blue font. I also added the illustrations.

The Doctor Is Out... And Outspoken: An Interview With Dr. Lisa Diamond

Posted: 05/15/2012 4:04 pm

When Dr. Lisa Diamond gave a keynote speech at the recent BECAUSE conference, I just had to sit up and listen. As whipsmart as she is unapologetically outspoken, this University of Utah psychology professorhas her finger on the pulse of human sexuality research -- and the attention of homophobic and biphobic conservatives who try to twist her findings to further their own agenda. She's the last person who's going to take that lying down.

Dr. Diamond isn't just the author of the groundbreaking book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire. She's also a lesbian, a self-identified ally to the bi community, and a social scientist who declares that bisexuals "represent the vast majority of individuals with same-sex attractions" and are the norm in the LGB (lesbian, gay, bi) population!
In this two-part interview I got a chance to learn more about Dr. Diamond's research, her precedent-setting commitment to the truth about bisexual lives and lesbian desires, and how she stands up to bigots at the federal level. Here is part one:
In your keynote speech at BECAUSE, you mentioned that many of the bisexual women and women with fluid sexual identities and behaviors in your longitudinal study (for the bookSexual Fluidity) said things like, "You shouldn't include me; my story is too unusual; I'll skew your data," even though their experiences are actually more common than those of lesbian-identified women who have a very fixed/static sexual history. How did you respond to these women when they said things like that?
I found it really heartbreaking when women would say that, because it demonstrated just how influential our "wacked" scientific models of sexuality really were. Our false, overly deterministic, incorrect understandings of "normal" same-sex sexuality were contributing to these women's distress. That really sensitized me to the fact that, as a scientist, I had an obligation to disseminate my findings to the broader queer community, so that women like this would no longer feel so "different."
In your speech at BECAUSE, I heard you identify as an ally to the bisexual community. Tell me what inspired you to become a bi ally.
You know it's honestly never something that I consciously thought about or ever made a decision about; for me it's just a natural outgrowth of two different things.

First, my long-standing involvement in the queer community, stretching back to my college days, and my awareness of how many people have been chronically underrepresented and marginalized in that community (most notably ethnic minorities, bisexuals, and trans individuals).

But second, and perhaps more importantly, has been my own research on sexual identity and orientation over the past 15 years. I have become increasingly amazed and outraged at the degree to which bisexuals (and I am using that term broadly here to include individuals who identify as bisexual as well as individuals who might not identify as bisexual, but who experience sexual attractions to both men and women) have been utterly ignored by social scientists, despite the fact that they represent the vast majority of individuals with same-sex attractions.

I still don't quite understand why other scientists aren't as disturbed by this as I am.

I guess it's a testament to the pernicious and pervasive influence of biphobia in our culture. So my experiences as a scientist have made me more aware of, and concerned about, the marginalization of bisexuality more generally. And over the years, as I have taught various courses on sexuality and spoken about sexuality at conferences and various settings, I have spoken to so many women and men who confess to me that they feel different and weird and abnormal because of their bisexual attractions. These are individuals who feel just as marginalized by the queer community as they do by the straight community, and that literally breaks my heart.

I feel that psychologists have a duty to get the message out there, to these individuals and to the teachers and therapists and educators who might encounter them, that bisexual patterns of attraction are absolutely normal and, in fact, common!
In your many years of research on women's sexuality, what has come as the biggest surprise?
I suppose it would have to be the transformative impact of specific relationships. Early on, when I first started my research, some of the women that I interviewed would say things like, "Oh, I never knew that I was really attracted to women until I became close friends with one particular woman, and I fell in love with her..." In my naïveté, I sort of discounted these stories as evidence of repression (which was pretty common at that time).

As the years went by and I would re-interview these women, and as I would talk to lesbian-identified women who would say things like, "Wow, I was never really attracted to men, but now I sort of feel sexually attracted to my best male friend!" I began to realize that there was something really profound going on within these relationships, and that deep emotional attachments had the power to really change one's entire way of experiencing desire.
It took me a while to really come to grips with this, scientifically; I kept rereading the interview transcripts, trying to interpret them within the conventional models of sexuality that were available at that time, and it just didn't work. I remember that there was a particular day... actually, I was on an airplane with a stack of transcripts, struggling to make sense of them, and I just put down my pen and said, "OK, I need to throw out everything I think I 'know' and just start again, and reread everything, from the beginning. And really listen this time."

The hard truth is that life is a lot more complicated than scientific models present it as being.
In your speech at the BECAUSE conference, you talked about anti-gay people from the far right using your data to argue that LBQ women shouldn't have rights related to sexual identity, because of the fluidity you've documented. What is your response?

This has been so frustrating for me, partly because I am aware that no matter how many times I endeavor to clarify what fluidity means, and what my research shows, it doesn't seem to matter: Those who are motivated to misuse my research will do so, regardless of what I say. For example, after I filed an affidavit in several of the court cases challenging DOMA, to clarify that the anti-gay marriage folks were misusing and misinterpreting my findings, the anti-gay-marriage folks filed a response to the affidavit, stating, "Dr. Diamond does not get to determine what her findings mean." I remember reading and thinking, "Huh?" On days like that I have to take a deep breath and just keep talking, keep sounding the alarm, keep standing up for scientific integrity and for basic sexual freedom.
Where do you see the future of our collective understanding of women's sexuality? As a society, are we moving forward or backward (or sideways, perhaps)?
On some days I feel that we are moving forward, on some days sideways. I am certainly delighted to see more and more visibility of same-sex sexuality in the media, more discussion of these issues, etc. At the same time my sense is that the models that are presented of sexuality continue to be unbelievably reductionistic; they are models that are decades old, and they don't reflect what we now know about the true diversity of sexual experience and expression over the life course.

I get particularly frustrated by television shows that have "bisexual episodes" in which one of the female characters ends up having some sort of sexual contact with another woman, and it's typically portrayed as being very titillating and exciting, but then the character not only goes back to men but makes some sort of declaration about how she now knows that she's really heterosexual because, hey, she tried the other side, and she still prefers men! So she's "uber-het" or something. That frustrates me because although it's certainly bringing visibility to issues of same-sex sexuality, it does so in the service ofconventional and traditional norms about heterosexuality. But in the broad sweep of things, I suppose you could argue that the net gain of such visibility is positive, and that the more we talk about same-sex sexuality, the better off we are as a culture, because we're getting further and further away from the "old days" in which individuals couldn't even encounter such ideas or individuals.

So it's a mixed bag. We're definitely making progress, but I think it's important for all of us not to treat all forms of visibility as equivalent, and we need to remain critical of the fact that in some cases visibility of same-sex sexuality is motivated not by progressivism but by the desire to make money off of providing titillating images to viewers.

What's next on the horizon for Lisa Diamond, in terms of your research?
More research on men! For years folks have been saying to me, "Wow, I wonder if there is as much fluidity among men as among women, and we simply haven't done enough research to know." And I have always said, "That's a great question! Someone needs to find out!" I assumed, early on, that someone would seize the day and start really investigating fluidity among men, but that hasn't really happened. So although the first part of my career was really focused on the distinctiveness of women's experiences, the next chapter will involve greater attention to men, and to figuring out just where the similarities and differences between women and men really are, and where they come from.
Finally, what message would you like to get out there to other bi allies and bi-allies-to-be about how to be a good ally to us bi folk?
I guess my message would be this: It is simply ridiculous, in 2012, for there to be as much marginalization of bisexuality as there continues to be, both at a mainstream community level and also at the level of scientific inquiry.

We need to wake up: Bisexuals are not the exception; they are the norm! Study after study has shown this to be the case. How much more evidence do we need?

If we really want a powerful, cohesive, empowering queer community, then every single individual who cares about sexual freedom and self-determination -- regardless of how they personally identify -- has an obligation to speak out against the pernicious biphobia that continues to distort our science and our politics. Integrity demands no less.
Jack Scott

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Psychology of Happiness

What is happiness? How does one achieve it? Is true happiness even possible in a world filled with economic stagnation that has led to a huge underclass of "have nots" yet surrounded by others enjoying the greatest prosperity the world has ever known? Can those of modest means be happy? Can the rich really be happy? Can a married bisexual man be truly happy?

These are but a few of dozens of questions one could ask concerning happiness and the roll it plays or fails to play in our individual lives.

Perhaps in fairness I should disclose that I have always enjoyed a privileged life. Not privileged in the manner displayed by the "upstairs lives" enjoyed by the folks of "Downton Abbey" by any stretch of the word, not a life of ease and free of challenge; but nevertheless privileged in the ways that make a difference in a boy's life and point him to a happy and successful life.

I was born into a lower middle class family to a young couple whose lives, like the lives of millions of others, had been put on hold by World War II. I was born in a little three room shack of a house that was, to say the least, modest but which was always tidy and clean and made to look as nice as could be.

About the time of my birth, the post war economy was beginning to kick into high gear. My Dad had returned home from the war and began working in the booming oilfields. It was hard, dirty work; but that didn't bother my father. With less than an eighth grade education, he was happy for such work because he knew it was his passport out of the lower middle class into the mid ranges of the middle class. His job enabled him to purchase new siding for the old house. The board siding that had long sense lost most of its paint was covered over with gleaming white siding tiles. A big covered front porch was added complete with a porch swing. Trees were added to the front yard along with a fence intended to keep me from wondering off though it was entirely ineffective for the purpose. The house no longer looked like a shack at all.

All of my memories from those first few years of my life are happy memories. To me the world was a benevolent and wonderful place I wanted to explore. I was walking by the time I was 8 months old and it fell to my poor mother to try to keep me out of harms way. It was sometimes too much for one person. There was the time I wanted to explore the top shelve of my mothers free standing metal dish cabinet. It ended up on top of me on the floor along with dozens of broken plates and dishes. There was the time I pulled a two gallon bucket of onions off the kitchen table causing it to land right on my big toe. For years afterward I had problems with that toenail. There was the time when I was still in diapers that I ran away from home. I had somehow defeated the yard fence and crossed the vegetable garden to my grandmother's house. I would have made it, but crawling under her gate, my diaper became entangled and I was stuck until someone heard my frustrated and indignant cries and came to my rescue.

But while I frazzled my mother, I was, from my earliest memories, a happy kid. There was nothing in the world to be unhappy about at all.  When I was 16 months old there was a new comer to our home, a baby brother. Luckily for my Mom, he was nothing like me. He was quite and content to just observe the world around him.

My brother and I spent a lot of time in that front porch swing. My Mom had somehow attached a baby seat to it for him and I would sit on the swing beside him and make sure the swing was swinging. It was from the vantage point of my seat on that swing I began to realize for the first time that the world I lived in, which was safe and secure and full of wonders for me, was not the world everyone lived in.

The little house backed up to a railroad track, and just behind our house the track took a sharp left curve. Trains would move slowly but noisily around the curve. It was a good place for hobos to exit the train in search of food. Fortunately for them, they didn't have to go far. If they knocked on my Mom's door, she would cook a couple of eggs and a piece of toast for them. They would sit on the steps of the porch while my brother and I sat in the porch swing watching them.

As time passed I began to talk and to ask questions as all young kids do. It was not just my Mom who had the good luck to field my endless questions. I would sit on the porch swing peppering the hobos with questions while they sat on the porch steps eating.  I usually got no satisfactory answers. As young as I was, they probably couldn't even understand my questions; but I was nothing if not determined to get answers. As was to become the norm for many of the questions posed by my life over the next eighteen or so years, I eventually turned to my mother for answers about who these men were and what they were doing riding the freight trains. She explained to me they were homeless and, for the most part, jobless men who rode the trains all over the country. Some of them, she explained, had no work skills and could not find jobs to support themselves, so  they rode the trains from town to town finding food where they could, often trading a little work for a plate of food. Others among them had skills and even educations, but chose the hobo life for its adventures and its freedoms.

For a young boy who also enjoyed exploring, it seemed a good choice to me in many ways. I think as a three year old, I probably thought growing up to be a hobo would be fun.

It was a different time than now. The hobos were not like people living on the streets today. They were not mentally unstable, they were not angry. They were not militant about some cause or the other. They were actually pleasant and respectful as a rule. I watched them remove their hats as they asked my mother for food. I listened to them thank her and ask God to bless her for her kindness. My Mom was never afraid of these men and so I was never afraid of them either, just curious about their funny clothes, their beards and their riding the trains. In their own way, the seemed perfectly happy individuals who were living the life they wanted to live.

When I was four years old, a significant event took place in my life. My Dad got a job with a major oil company in Texas. We left the little house behind. Loaded everything into pickup trucks and moved west to Texas.

Strangely, for a kid born to explore and keen on adventure, I have no memory of the actual trip to Texas. I do remember the rental house we moved into. It was a small simple frame house on a big lot with a detached rather ramshackle garage with no door. But to me the house was big because for the first time, my brother and I had our own bedroom we shared together.

Life was different in Texas and exciting. More people came into my life. There were three kids next door who were older than me but nevertheless tolerated me well. I considered them my friends. The oldest girl would baby sit my brother and I on occasion.

Another difference was my mother returned to work as a teacher, something she had not done since my birth. This brought a regular baby sitter into mine and my brother's lives. She was the next door neighbor just across the street from the little  house. She was a kind and gentle woman and I came to love her. During that year she saw my brother and I through the Chicken Pox, a new adventure that I definitely did not enjoy, yet survived in a darkened room with constant admonitions not to pick at the sores which covered my body no matter how much they itched.

With my father in a well paying job with a major oil company and my mother teaching, life began to take on more of what would have been luxuries  in my first four  years. There was a new car, not really new, but new to me and my parents. Likewise a new pickup for my Dad. In fact, it was a very old black pickup; but it was interesting to me and exciting to ride in. There was even an occasional meal at the restaurant down town on main street. There was a jukebox which fascinated me beyond measure. I would be given a nickel  to put in the selection box, one of which was attached to each booth table. When the selection began to play, the curtains on a miniature band box fixed high on the back wall would open to reveal a miniature orchestra with miniature instruments seemingly playing the music while being led by a miniature director who waved his arms in time with the music. I loved that band box as a 4 year old. It remained on the wall of that restaurant until I left for college years later. It is one of the many happy memories of my childhood.

Almost exactly a year after moving into the little frame house, we moved again. We left the small town and moved 15 miles out into the countryside, ten of the 15 miles on a dirt road. My mother had gotten a job teaching in a little four room country school. It was a good move for my parents because as a teacher my mother received a free house to live in on the school grounds in one of several houses furnished to the teachers and the school principal and the school janitor. It was an exciting and happy time in my life. Right out my front door was the school play ground with swings, slides, merry-go-rounds and jungle bars. The other houses that lined up on either side of my new home were full of boys and girls, some of them my age. Across the street from the school was a small General Store, a Post Office and a Church. The little community was surrounded by miles and miles of ranch land and oil fields. In the coming years as I got older, it was to become a child's wonderland of fun and opportunity for adventure.

That little community no longer exists now. Everything is gone. The ranch land has reclaimed everything and one would never know that once it was home to a small gang of happy children who roamed far and wide and knew every inch of the land in all directions, as far as we could ride our horses. It was a childhood, the memory of which I would not trade for a million dollars. I am convinced that my childhood in that little community surround by friends I knew intimately had a great part in molding my character and my life. The little community is gone, but it lingers still in my mind.

I believe my childhood experiences along with the constant attention and teaching of my parents set the stage for the person I am and for my future happiness. It's not that life did not have its problems and its challenges in those years, it certainly did. There were problems and challenges for my parents and problems and challenges for me and my brother; but I watched my parents overcome the problems and live up to the challenges and I saw our lives get steadily better and better. Problems and challenges were, more often than not, opportunities for rewards. Life was exceedingly good. We were all exceedingly happy.

Always one who was ready for a new adventure, I married a month or so before my 19th birthday. I had no doubts about getting married. The prospect of taking on such a huge burden at such a young age did not frighten me or concern me. I knew from 18 years of watching my Mom and Dad that hard work and openness to opportunity would bring rewards. I was ready to make the sacrifice. There would be immediate rewards in the form of unlimited sex. At 18 years of age, it wasn't like I was an experienced young man in heterosexual love making, but I was more than a willing student. The fumbling learning sexual contacts my wife to be and I had in the back of my car and on a blanket in secluded spots on the lake were as good as it got as far as I knew, and that was plenty good enough for me. I had no idea at all how awesome and wonderful sex would become as we practiced it over the next several decades. I know of nothing on earth that is more fulfilling than sexual intercouse between a man and a woman who truly love each other.

Yet shortly after our marriage, life began to present its first real tragedies. Only four months into our marriage, my wife's father died. Just under 20 months after that, my mother also died. These were tragedies that no matter what one did could not be made right. My wife had been  her  Daddy's girl. My mother and I had been close all my life. She had answered my questions, she had pointed the way for me with patience and love. She had taught me to be me and to be proud of myself. Even though I had accomplished almost nothing by the time she died, she had a certain knowledge that I would, and I have.

I have accomplished much in my life because I stand on the shoulders of giants, my Mom and my Dad. It has been 43 years this month since my Mom passed away. I have long since come to terms with her death, but I have never accepted it. I still carry anger at God for allowing it to happen. God has blessed me beyond measure, but He's never made up for that loss which simply happened too early in both my life and my mother's life to be acceptable to me. My mother had so much she was willing to give but she died so young. I get angry still when I see so many who have nothing to give and wouldn't give it if they did who seem to live on and on of worth to no one including themselves. It just doesn't seem right.

But because my mother knew she was dying and accepted it with grace and a sense of peace along with a willingness to submit to God's will, it has helped me to at least put my anger on the back burner of my life. Now, that I am living with terminal cancer, the memory of my mother's gracefulness and sense of peace in the face of death serves as an example for me to strive to walk the same path. Even in the face of death, I can honestly say I'm happy. I have everything I need and more, even if I no longer have everything I would have wanted at this point in my life, my  health. As the Country/Western song says, I have even found there are good things about living like you're dying. It makes each day a special day to "Live Like You Were Dying."

There is a definite psychological choice to happiness. I was so lucky in my life to have experienced a positive and optimistic outlook on life through those I loved. I was lucky to be taught that work not only solves problems but provides enormous opportunities and its own unique self-satisfaction.

I was privileged to learn that deferring satisfaction for a later time or place more often than not brings exponentially greater rewards and satifaction. I learned that even in the face of irreconcilable tragedy, happiness remains a personal choice. We cannot always control what happens to us or around us, but we can aways without fail choose how we perceive and react to what happens to us or around us.

I write this blog because identifying and reconciling my bisexuality to the other parts of my life was the hardest challenge I have ever faced. It was much harder than getting a college education while being married and working full time while taking a full course load. It was much harder than raising two kids who are now happy and successful adults with happy and well adjusted children of their own. It was much harder than building and executing a professional career which was fulfilling and fun yet allowed me to take an early retirement when the point came that I was ready to move on to a new part of my life where work was optional.

For many years my bisexuality was the thing that went bump in the dark of the night. It never went away, but I was able to ignore it for most of my young adult life because I simply did not have the time or the means to confront it as a young father and professional man. One of the things my Dad taught me was to never start a war I could not win. I took that advice to heart. I took pleasure in the other parts of my life and let myself be happy, if somewhat troubled, in spite of the demon in the dark.

Eventually, I knew the time had come when I could go to war with that demon and have a better than equal chance of winning. Winning was one of the hardest struggles I've ever had. I had to find and study new ideas and ideals. I had to learn new viewpoints of God shared by men who had spent a lifetime studying theology and writing about the things they had learned and about their own struggles. I had to throw away old paradigms that had been a part of my life almost all my life and replace them with new paradigms that allowed me to see me, and God, in a new way. I realized one cannot, at the same time, cling to all his past and still embrace all  his future. It simply is not possible. Something has to give. Almost always the correct thing to do is let go of the past that no longer contributes anything positive to ones future.

Unfortunately, more people than one would imagine, simply cannot or will not cease their embrace of the past, and in keeping themselves bound to the past they sacrifice the opportunity for peace and happiness in the present and in the future. It is a human tragedy that most of us have observed in others but we often fail to recognize in our own lives.

When I took on the demon in the dark part of my life, I found it was not a demon at all. It was a remarkable part of me that only looked scary in the dark. In the light of acceptance and reconciliation, it made me a new person. It brought new friends into my life. It gave me a whole new tool to be of service to others and through that service to find a fulfillment that has been incredibly valuable to me and to others. I have been blessed with a wife who understands me and accepts me for what I really am although she had no idea about that part of my life for almost the first 40 years of our marriage. I'm smart enough to know that for her it was more than just the capability to understand. Her understanding was anchored in our love for each other. It was molded by our friendship and by our mutual trust. If we had not have had a life together that was the most valuable thing we had in life, the experience would have more than likely turned out differently.

The poet reminds us that "no man is an island, no man stands alone." So it is with our lives. No part of our personal lives can really be successfully isolated from any of the other parts. Every influence that enters our lives must be evaluated, cataloged and filed. We are the librarians of our own lives. We decide the categories under which we file the components of our lives. To the extent that we recognize and embrace the happy events in our lives, to the extent that we accept the struggles and the bad times in our lives as opportunities to overcome and grow in strength and wisdom, to the extent we choose to dwell on and remember the triumphs of our lives more clearly and more often than the tragedies, the more we have put in place a psychology of happiness which will always sustain and uplift us. Doing all these things is nothing more than a personal choice.

I have a friend who is always complaining. You can't say good morning to her without her immediately  falling into a litany of her current problems, health issues and family disappointments. She simply complains all the time. Yet she seems happy. She frequently smiles and even laughs when going through her troublesome list of woes.

She was a mystery to me until one day it hit me. What makes her happy, what brings her contentment is sharing her victimhood with others. She would not be happy if she couldn't complain. Complaining fulfills her and makes her happy. True enough she has no idea of the burden she puts on her friends who have to listen to her, but her ignorance of that allows her to actually be personally happy.

I think she is an example that we are meant to be happy. I think it shows that we will go to great lengths to embrace happiness. The only mistake she has made is finding her own happiness in a way that does nothing to help bring fulfillment and happiness into the lives of others.

Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you are a homosexual or bisexual man or the wife of one. Either way there are challenges you must face in your life. There are decisions you must make. You deserve to be happy. More than likely, your spouse deserves to be happy too. You must make the decisions that contribute to your own happiness. You must remember that unless you are happy, you cannot contribute to the happiness of those around you. You must understand that what you fear most may not be so fearful at all in the light of day and in the long run.

True happiness may be found in bringing  your secret out into the open and sharing it with your spouse and/or your friends. It may be simply bringing it into the openness of your own mind and admitting it is a real part of you.

In the end, choosing to be happy with the things that are irreconcilably a part of you is the only way to find happiness. Your sexuality is an unchangeable yet reconcilable part of you. Your view of religion; and more importantly, your parent's views on religion are not irreconcilable parts of you. Your fears are not an irreconcilable part of you. Your self hatred is not an irreconcilable part of you. It only seems that it is.

The choice to be miserable and unhappy is certainly not an unchangeable part of you. You can choose to replace it with the psychology of happiness. Give it a try. It's your choice!

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