A Little List of Awesome & Not-So Awesome!

Things that bother me intensely:

*Dishonesty – Boom, right up at the top there.

*Elitism – that is, considering you and your approved peers as better than other rejected individuals or groups, affording your consideration to this very small circle of friends, and forming your sense of identity (incredibly!) around the exclusion of others.

*Cutting Off Communication – Yep. It’s called not being a jackass.

*Littering – There are more than just Native American’s crying because of your ignorant and self-absorbed dumbass.

*Apathy – Yeah, apathy is pretty cool right now in a lot of circles, principle among them the hipster, that amorphous, stand-for-nothing type of person that floats among the sea of options, whether activist or entertainment, much like how they go shopping. What activist issue best expresses ME? None of them? Op, oh well. Maybe I’ll try on a pair of these ridiculously over-sized sunglasses. Because that’s what matters.

*Fake agreeableness, compliments and smiles (also called insincerity) – If you want to talk about creepy this takes the cake.

*Ego Games – Though, I gotta admit, if you can see the cosmic drama of life in a comedic light, and aren’t overly attached to your particular ego in the play, they can be pretty damn funny sometimes.

Things I like a Lot:

Well, the opposite of all of the above, really.

*Authentic Being-ness, for starters – No false fronts. No masks. You are you yourself, just as you are. Part of this comes from 2:

*Deep Communication – Being able to express your desires, needs, intentions, issues, hang ups you’re grappling with, beauties, joys, and dreams all with honesty and up-front transparency.

*Compassion – Ahhh yeah. This one doesn’t get a lot of play in the fashion or lifestyle magazines, but it’s pretty awesome. Loving someone when it may not necessarily fulfill one of your own desires may not be sexy. It may not promise the on-demand satisfaction and entertainment value that a more selfish, material-oriented world-view can offer, but I think it offers the difference between the instant satisfaction of Taco Bell verses the slow satisfaction of growing, cooking, and eating food you made yourself. Tasty!

*Mindfulness – Mmm, yeah I could devote a whole book to this… but fortunately someone already has. It’s called Teachings On Love by Thich Nhat Hanh. Read it and be amazed.

*Ego Relativism – Did I just make this term up? If so I’m putting a copyright on this term. Feel free to use it and send royalties to my home address. Haha. So what is Ego Relativism? It’s realizing that every conscious being on the planet earth has an ego, and that, as it was so finely put in Earthlings, we are all the psychological centers of a life that is uniquely our own.

That part we all understand. Here’s the crazy part: Our ego is not more or less deserving of happiness than any other ego. We all view life through the filters of our own ego’s needs and desires, but an ego relativist often steps outside of this filter to see a situation from all the other egos involved.

An example would be good here. Let’s say you’re dating a woman and she loves you but also still has feelings for her ex. The default habit here would be to put our own considerations above the considerations of the other two people, and especially the ex. The ex becomes a threat to our own ego’s happiness, so we get intensely jealous and possessive and may get angry and hate the ex and get mad at our partner for having any feelings that might threaten our own wants. An ego relativist, on the other hand, can see that their own wants are no more valid and deserving than their partner or their partner’s ex. Their egos are thinking exactly what you’re thinking. They want to be happy. You want to be happy. And from this realization, the only inevitable reaction becomes to work towards fulfilling the happiness of everyone involved – as best as you possibly can.

Now when I told my friend Eli about this, the first thing he asked was, “Well what if you’re in a situation where everyone’s needs can’t all be met? What do you do then? What if one of them is staunchly monogamous?” And I said, well, if you are firmly an ego relativist, then a flexibility to explore possibilities flows naturally from this original logic. Their happiness is your happiness. Their suffering is your suffering. From this understanding, a willingness to explore third-dimensional options beyond the usual 2D, black and white monogamous option becomes second nature. You might even attempt these explorations without even knowing there is a name for it. You just do it because it makes sense.

But, if you or the other two people are definitely not into an open-relationship situation, and there is no way for the needs of all three people to be met, then an ego relativist would handle the situation in the following two ways. Ultimately, your partner is put into the undesirable and tricky position of having to choose (a real tragedy in my opinion, but hey, it’s their choice to go this route).

If they choose you, then you can simply try to be as loving and considerate to the ex as you possibly can. You will probably experience deep empathy and ambivalence because you’ve been on that end of the equation many times before. You share their suffering as if it was your own, and whatever you can do to lighten this suffering, you do it.

If she chooses her ex, it is difficult, but you can experience some peace knowing that her ex is happier now that he can be with her, and that she is happy with him. Their happiness IS your happiness, too. Their happiness is equally as deserving as your happiness, and the dice just happened to come up snake eyes for you – this time. Next time it will probably come up sevens, and that’s just the nature of life.

Another question Eli asked, playing Devil’s Advocate at this point, “What about when two countries want the same oil?” And I said, simply, “They share.” It’s called the Oil Depletion Protocol, an international treaty that has not been put into place, but follows the same logic of Ego Relativism on an international level as it follows on an individual level.

Now as some might have guessed by now, when we believe that no ego is any more deserving of happiness than any other ego, this applies not just to human egos, but every conscious ego on planet earth – anything with a nervous system, in other words. Suddenly, consenting to the mass slaughter and suffering of chickens, cows, and pigs at the moment of our purchase and consumption of meat seems entirely unethical.

Of course, my decision to become vegetarian came from many angles, but what sealed the deal was the realization that the human-centered view that puts human interests above the interests of all other species was not based on any objective truth, but definitively a culturally conditioned mythology. It is speciesism – a step up from sexism and racism in the moral hierarchy of today’s culture, but a form of baseless and selfish discrimination nonetheless. It seems like if we are to follow Ego Relativism to its conclusion, then fighting for the rights and happiness of all animals seems to arise organically.

Hmm, I’m wondering how many people reading this were gung ho about Ego Relativism right up until this moment. Our eating habits are certainly a sensitive topic. It puts us face to face with our own limits to compassion – “Yea I’ll be compassionate all you want until you start talking about what I like to eat! Then we gotta a problem here.”

Well, fortunately, a side-effect of Ego Relativism is a good degree of moral relativism. I believe in being vegetarian and I hope someday all humans are, at least 90%, but I don’t hold it against anyone that isn’t. Everyone’s got to make their own choices in life. It’s why I’ve never held it against anyone I’ve dated that wasn’t a vegetarian, either.

Ah, trying to harmonize a strong belief in social justice and compassion with not judging people or cutting off my heart from them – it is one of the most beautifully complex balances to find, but it makes for a great life adventure!

Ah ha! Well. I seemed to have went on a bit of an unproportional tangent on that one. What’s the last thing I really like a lot you ask?

*The willingness and desire to learn and grow from every situation. – Yea, without this one, the rest seem pretty hard to achieve.


Lessons From a Future Self

Talking to one of my past relationship partners, I’ve felt on several occasions like I’m talking to a former self of mine from five years ago. I’m trying to smack some sense into him, trying to get him to not make the same mistakes.

If I could say something to myself five years ago it would be this: When seeking a life partner, be careful to not chase after an illusory “ideal” that may not even exist. You may have found someone great. You’re 70-80% compatible with them, could easily marry them, but they don’t have some things you want, so you break up to keep looking for that perfect person with the extra 10% compatibility.

Now what’s the trouble with this approach? First, do we even know what we want? Do we know what that 90% consists of? Figuring this out can take some time, and it often changes with age. But this perfect person you seek might have the 10% you were looking for, but they will likely lack qualities that you valued with previous partners.

So just be careful. Be careful you don’t get greedy or get lost seeking a fantasy ideal that does not exist. It’s true your current partner may not be “one of the ones.”They may not have one or three of the qualities that you have decided is absolutely important to have in a life partner. Just be careful you’re not taking them for granted and are simply lusting after the possibility of “more.” It’s the grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome. A problem, I realize, that is more temperamental when you’re young and still lacking experience. You may not know what you have when you find it, and you may not know what really matters, because you just haven’t lived long enough to get it – not intellectually, but in your core being. What “really matters” I’ve found tends to change as you get older.

But knowing the wisdom that I do now, I realize it’s possible I still might make the same decision. “I gotta date others before I settle down.” It doesn’t matter if I’ve met one of the ones. I simply haven’t dated enough people, haven’t absorbed enough life experience from a diversity of people yet, and I want to bring that kind of diversity of experience, wisdom and maturity to whatever life partner I do eventually find myself with.

But if this is the case, and my current partner and I are meant to part ways, I should like to hope that we can change the form of relationship like adults. Not break-up like high-schoolers and fall into the same predictable clichés of most breakups, with all the expectations about how to act towards our ex’s, putting them into a narrow category – ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend.

If you’re still really compatible and nothing’s changed on that level – if you still get along great – why should we close off our hearts just because they’re an “ex”? Where is there room for the possibility of intimate friendships?

Well, I think it is a question worth exploring. But either way we want to go about it, I think we just have to be careful about the expectations we have about finding “the one” – this perfect person that will fulfill all our needs and wants forever. Yes maybe the two of you aren’t meant to be together forever, but so what? I think this special focus on finding “the one” can really prevent us from enjoying the beauty and uniqueness of each person. Our focus on the future and the constant comparisons we make really keep us from appreciating the present moment.

When you think about it, we put pressure on our partners to fulfill some very unrealistic expectations. That is, we always think the last one wasn’t the one, or the one before that, or the one before that, but we always expect that this new person will *definitely* be the one. And if they’re not, then we better figure that out soon so we can move on and keep looking. It’s kind of like speed-dating but on the macro-life level.

I think it’s worth considering that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they’re not going to be “the one.” It is a simple statistical truth of life. And when we desire that every person we meet fulfill these hopelessly ridiculous expectations, we inevitably will end up disappointing ourselves, getting hurt and hurting others one time after another, for at least a decade or more of our life. Realizing this, I have to wonder if there is a better way to approach our relationships early on in life.

When our main relationship goal is finding “the one,” I think it takes a lot of the fun and adventure out of life. At least, I feel like it eliminates so many other beautiful possibilities, possibilities that open up when we can finally stop judging and evaluating our relationships for “the one” potential and simply start loving our partners for whoever they are. We may find that throwing off the burden of this romantic goal may be incredibly liberating.

Who knows what kind of deep, meaningful love two people could discover when they can love each other fully but also know and accept they aren’t meant to be together forever?

Imagine that for just a second.

You can love them completely, right now, knowing they aren’t the one. As I found with the person I dated last year, when I let go of my expectations of who I’d like her to be, suddenly it became possible to appreciate her just as she is, and nothing more was necessary. If I had approached this person with my usual attitude, I probably would have checked her off my “the one” list after a few dates. I’m glad I didn’t, because I would have lost out on a lot.

It seems each choice offers us different lessons and different experiences. Whether we decide to simply break up when we decide they aren’t the one, or we decide to explore third-dimensional possibilities, they will both offer different life experiences. If we decide to go the usual route, the potential for a beautiful and unique relationship that could have lasted many more meaningful years will definitely be lost.

In fact, choosing to seek this fantasy of “the one” almost guarantees that most of us will get to enjoy at least ten to fifteen years or more of cyclical hook ups and break-ups, broken hearts and dashed hopes. Our love life becomes this pattern of starting a new relationship, cutting it off to start something new and then starting all over again. Cut and stop and go; cut and stop and go. Add. Repeat.

I have to wonder if there are other ways to approaching life that are worth exploring. Considering that it is statistically a fact that most of the people we date, by definition will not be “the one” maybe there is a way to redefine the rules of the game during this period in our youth, so that we can maximize the mutual happiness of ourselves and the people we get into relationships with, and minimize the levels of drama and disappointment.
Instead of seeking the “one” when we’re young, what else could be our goal?

Wanting to learn from people different from us could be a goal. Being open to seeing what we can learn from someone, even if it’s not what we “want” to learn could be a goal – just to expand our horizons. For those that like traveling, it’s like going on a vacation, but instead of having to pack any bags, it’s an inter-personal journey into the imagination of the mind. Infinite personality combinations creating a rubix cube of unique experiences, like a Swedish massage for your brain.

Sounds good right? I knowww…

Focusing on other aspects of life could be another goal, with no hurry to find the one. You could accept that because life is continually changing, the one that’s perfect for you now will often be changing. You might believe that being with someone who’s good for you – someone who supports you and compels you to grow and challenge yourself is the most important thing right now in life. If they support your current life goals and your personal direction in life, even if it isn’t their own, that could be all that matters.

What’s really funny is that “the one” you might find perfect for you in five years might not be right for you right now in your life. You might break up with her if you met her now. For people in their early twenties, it’s a pretty crazy time; people are changing directions rapidly. “The one” that you want now may not be right for you when you decide you want to live someplace else, or move back, or you change a lot personally, or you pick a career. To make a legitimately serious commitment to someone, you’re mutually agreeing to take the same life path together, that you are both accepting who you are, as you are right now. You’re promising, to some degree, not to change – that you will stay enough the same to follow the same path together. It’s a big life choice. You will be moving from having many possibilities before you, to having chosen one possibility over others, and knowing that looking back, that will be one of the forks in the road that determined the shape of your life.

It’s a crazy trip. You’re baking your bread. You’re putting the soft and moldable dough of your youth into the oven, and out of the oven is gonna come some of the finest bread, you are gonna love it! At least that’s what we all hope. But truthfully, the shape of our bread will be determined by the choices we make in life now.

What kind of bread do we want to bake?

How Relationships Are Like Muffins, and Why I Enjoy Building With Blocks

Why do we seek out relationships? Well, really that is pretty obvious – for the companionship, for the sexual intimacy, for the support and joy of sharing your life with another. But of course, for many people there are several other fruits to be found from our relationships, not just the ones we enjoy in the traditional sense. Personally, I see our relationships as a continual source for growing and learning.

I want to learn something new from every relationship I’m in. Everyone is unique. Everyone can challenge us, often times without them meaning to, if we have the ears and eyes to listen. There are amazing lessons to be learned tucked away and hidden in every experience, especially the more difficult ones, if we are open to finding them.

Our intimate partners can teach us so much about ourselves, our short-comings, our beauties, things we didn’t even know there were to learn. Our partner is like a mirror, holding up to us a clear view of ourselves, and all the ways we can still improve.

It is a big thing I’m in to apparently. Challenging myself and the other. Learning. Great stuff!

And you know, the best parts come after you’ve known them for awhile. To really be able to challenge your partner, offer something insightful that they hadn’t thought of, and for them to do the same, you’ve really got to get to know the person well. The best lessons come when you sustain that spirit of friendship over a long time, especially even after you’ve decided to just be friends, or change the relationship form in some other way.

I suppose that’s why it’s unfortunate when I meet people who are only interested in the relationship part, and not so much with the growing and learning part. When they want to break up, they’re done. See ya. The only real “learning” to be had is in the context of the honey-moon phase of the relationship. It is like people who only want to eat the soft, top part of the muffin, and once it’s gone, they throw the rest away and move on to the next. Agh! So wasteful!

The best lessons come from long-term relationship. It’s a great feeling to be able to offer someone an insight that they missed because of their own blind-spots, and it’s amazing to have this revelation yourself, when a friend points out something you missed in your own line of thinking.

That’s why it just seems like a terrible waste to cut off a relationship when it “ends.” You lose out on so much, and it takes a lot of time to build back up to that point with someone new.

Until then, you’re back to your old self with all its conclusions and established narratives. It’s pretty easy to pretend to be whoever you want to be when the person doesn’t know you at all yet. You can usually do a pretty good job of only showing people the side you want to show, until your belt loosens and your true self inevitably hangs out. Until then, you could appear to be a totally positive, good-natured person. You could have that idea yourself. There’s no way they could know that you actually have problems communicating your true feelings with people, and that due to your established “reputation” as an always positive, bubbly person, you feel a great pressure to be agreeable and complimentary, and have trouble expressing deeper emotions – of doubt, of needs not being fulfilled, of annoyances. So honesty becomes this difficult thing for this person, but they see themselves as honest. They have other rationalizations for their behavior, and it becomes a blind-spot.

Of course, being able to see this, their past partner could point this out, but this person has already moved on and cut their ex out of their life, and thus, no lessons to be learned. They’ll go on to their next partner, make similar mistakes, not learn from them and move on once more, burning along a long path of desires, not likely to grow up until some truly hard lessons are learned.

Another variation on this is when the person is aware of their own flaws, but rather than try to change themselves, they break up with their current partner in the hopes of finding someone else who will accept their flaw. It may take two years in the relationship for this flaw to even reveal itself. It may be an attitude or behavior that only comes to the surface after they’ve been in the relationship for awhile, but that causes conflict in the relationship great enough to need addressing. Some of the biggest lessons we can learn are the ones that only come to the surface after a couple years with someone, and if we break up then, or do not make an effort to stay friends, then we have squandered the opportunity to learn and improve ourselves in that particular way for another two years, until it inevitably comes up in the next relationship.

Building long-term relationships with people is a lot like stacking wooden blocks on top of each other. New lessons don’t become available until we have stacked up a lot of blocks. And if we abandon those blocks when we start a new relationship, we are starting from scratch, not able to reach the higher lessons for a long time. Unless the relationship turned horribly abusive or unhealthy, in which case cutting the person out of your life would be the healthiest choice, we should never abandon our past blocks. We should continue to build on them – for the growth of ourselves, for the growth of the other, and for a greater mutual happiness for everyone we will come in contact with in our life.