Sunday, January 31, 2016

On sexual freedom

Beverly Harrison said, "If greater genital expression were really the solution to our social miseries, we would expect ours to be the happiest society around.
" What would make us a happier society? Rod Dreher said that sexual liberation can go too far: "Liberals believe that what consenting adults do in bed with their bodies is immune from moral judgment. Social conservatives recognize the falsity of this view, understanding that immoderation in sexual matters corrupts individual character and can have deleterious social consequences." Mary Daly, on the other side, suggested that sexual liberation in itself does not go far enough: "The lifting of taboos on genital sexuality does nothing to liberate from sex roles.

Alan Watts reflected that this may be the wrong question to ask. Since sex is not entirely good nor entirely evil in itself, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to whether and how it should be permitted.

"But if puritanism and cultivated licentiousness are not fundamental deviations from nature, they are simply the opposite poles of one and the same attitude – that, right or wrong, sexual pleasure is the great delight....When sexuality is set apart as a specially good or specially evil compartment of life, it no longer works in full relation to everything else. In other words, it loses universality. It becomes a part doing duty for the whole – the idolatry of a creature worshipped in place of God, and an idolatry committed as much by the ascetic as the libertine."

People take sex differentiation most seriously when they have sex, wrote John Stoltenberg, "as if their identities or lives depended on it. For males, generally, it tends to be their identities; for females, often, it is more a matter of their lives."
 Elizabeth Abbot wrote that many sex therapists "say (or they mean), in Carolyn Gage's bitter words, 'We just want to help you get to the place where you will want to fuck,' instead of the words that would begin to heal a woman's chronic pain: 'You don't have to fuck. You never have to fuck.'"


Beverly Harrison, quoted by Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990. p 206.

Rod Dreher in The American Conservative. Quoted in The Week, Sept. 28, 2012.

Alan Watts, Nature, Man, and Woman, p 156-7

Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1973. p 176.

John Stoltenberg. Refusing to Be a Man: Essays on Sex and Justice. New York: Meridian, 1989. p 28.

Elizabeth Abbot. A History of Celibacy. Da Capo Press, 2001 (originally 1999). p 414.

Quotes on masculinity and feeling and expressing emotion

"It is indeed possible to soften men. But to make them 'care' is another thing, and the project must inevitably fail."

Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, p. 129

"It is very much in style today to urge men to feel. However, this urging is partially reminiscent of taunting a crippled man to run."

Herb Goldberg, quoted by Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p. 108

"But a man who is emotionally paralyzed cannot be male, that is, he cannot be male in relation to female, for if he is to relate himself to a woman there must be something of the woman in his nature."

Alan Watts, Nature, Man, and Woman, New York: Vintage Books, 1991 (Copyright 1958). p. 113

"Genetic men, it seems, are taught to deal with the onset of this chemical [testosterone] that makes our feelings so much harder to ignore by getting rigorous, brutal, almost crushing training that frequently forces them out of contact with all their feelings. This is akin to using a nuclear warhead to restrain a werewolf...surely there is a better way?"

Raven Kaldera. Hermaphrodeities: The Transgender Spirituality Workbook. XLibris Press, 2001. p 177.

"Want to tell people about your problems? Get a sex change."

BusterB,, Accessed Dec. 16, 2001.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Quotes on the human attempt to dominate nature

Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan:

Human beings are not particularly special, apart, or alone. A biological extension of the Copernican view that we are not at the center of the universe deprives us also of our place as the dominant form of life on the planet. It may be a blow to our collective ego, but we are not masters of life perched on the final rung of an evolutionary ladder. Ours is a permutation of the wisdom of the biosphere. We did not invent genetic engineering, we insinuated ourselves into the life cycles of bacteria, which have been directly trading and copying genes on their own for quite some time now. We did not "invent" agriculture or locomotion on horseback, we became involved in the life cycles of plants and animals, whose numbers increased in tandem with ours. ... The reality and recurrence of symbiosis in evolution suggests that we are still in an invasive, "parasitic" stage and that we must slow down, share, and reunite ourselves with other beings if we are to achieve evolutionary longevity.

R. W. Fevre:

"The real truth is that, not only has man failed to overcome nature in any sphere whatsoever but that at best he has merely succeeded in getting hold of and lifting a tiny corner of the enormous veil which she has spread over her eternal mysteries and secret. He never creates anything. All he can do is discover something. He does not master nature but has only come to be the master of those living things who have not gained the knowledge he has arrived at by penetrating into some of nature's laws and mysteries. Apart from all this, an idea can never subject to its own sway those conditions which are neessary for the existence and development of mankind; for the idea itself has come only from man. Without man there would be no human idea in this world. The idea as such is therefore always dependent on the existence of man and consequently is dependent on those laws which furnish the conditions of his existence.

George Alfred Wilkens:

"All nature stands on a par with man. I do not take too kindly to that portion of the first chapter of Genesis which puts into the mouth of God the injunction for man to subdue the earth and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over everything that moveth above the earth. ... However, my quarrel is not really with Genesis and that it has God give to man dominion over all the earth, as it is with the implication that because of dominion we are 'better.' Whether one's lot is dominion or subjection doesn't really matter.

Mary Oliver:

" the wheel that drives our world; those who ride it willingly might yet catch a glimpse of a dazzling, even a spiritual restfulness, while those who ... insist that the world must be piloted by man for his own benefit will be gathering dust but no joy.


Alan Watts:

"The rush of waterfalls and the babbling of streams are not loved for their resemblance to speech; the irregularly scattered stars do not excite us because of the formal constellations which have been traced out between them; and it is for no symmetry or suggestion of pictures that we delight in the patterns of foam, of the veins in rock, or of the black branches of trees in wintertime.



Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan. Microcosmos. California: University of California Press, 1986, 1997. pp. 195-196

R. W. Fevre. The Demoralization of Western Culture: Social Theory and the Dilemmas of Modern Living. London: Continuum, 2000. p 28.

George Alfred Wilkens. Justice of the Universe: A Philosophy in Accord with Science. Boston: Christopher Publishing House, 1957. p 131-132.

Alan Watts, Nature, Man, and Woman, New York: Vintage Books, 1991 (Copyright 1958). p 124.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Quotes on love and freedom

Barbara Chase-Riboud:

"Love demands freedom. Love exists only in freedom – not only of choice, but place, gender, race."

Rollo May:

"Hatred and resentment are destructive emotions, and the mark of maturity is to transform them into constructive emotions. * * * Furthermore, if we do not confront our hatred and resentment openly, they will tend sooner or later to turn into the one affect which never does anyone any good, namely, self-pity. Self-pity is the "preserved" form of hatred and resentment. One can then...refrain from doing anything about [the problem]. * * * No one can arrive at real love or morality or freedom until he has frankly confronted and worked through his resentment. Hatred and resentment should be used as motivations to re-establish one's genuine freedom: one will not transform those destructive emotions into constructive ones until he does this."

Starhawk: "The self-hater is the literal embodiment of structures of domination.

Michael Keeling:

"As one of the participants in the SCM conference put it: 'Love is the right to protect the freedom of the other'."

Fernando Pessoa:

"How wearisome it is to be loved, to be truly loved! How wearisome to be the object of someone else's bundle of emotions! To be changed from someone who wanted to be free, always free, into an errand boy with a responsibility to reciprocate these emotions, to have the decency not to run away, so that the other person will not think one is acting with princely disdain and rejecting the greatest gift the human soul can offer. How wearisome to let one's existence become something absolutely dependent on someone else's feelings; to have no option but to feel, to love a little too, whether or not it is reciprocated."

Clive James:

"Was he [Arthur Schnitzler] right about the impenetrable mask? Wrong at the start, and right in the end: because love, unlike loneliness, is more of a process than a permanent condition. In the German, the "most impenetrable masks" are undurchschaubarsten Masken – the masks you can't see through. (We might note at this point that "loneliness" is feminine: arbitrary genders really are arbitrary, but in this case it's a nice coincidence.) When love comes, there is no mask: or shouldn't be. There is nothing to see through, because you are not lonely. There really is another person sharing your life. But later on a different truth – one you are familiar with, but hoped to have seen the last of – comes shining through. Unlike light in space, it needs a medium to do so, and the medium is the mask itself, seen in retrospect. You are lonely again. You were really lonely all along. You have deceived yourself.

It would have been a desolating view if Schnitzler had been quite sure of it. But if he had been quite sure of it he would not have gone on worrying at it. On the same great page – great books have great pages, and in this book page 117 is one of the greatest – he tries again. "That we feel bound by a steady longing for freedom, and that we also seek to bind someone else, without being convinced that such a thing is within our rights – that is what makes any loving relationship so problematic." The question here is about possessiveness, and the first thing to see is that there would be no possessiveness if there were nothing real to possess. So this is not loneliness concealed by an impenetrable mask. This is the other person, whom you love enough to be worried about her rights. You are worried, that is, about someone who is not yourself. You want to be free, and assume that she does too: but you want her to be yours. You could want that with a whole heart if your heart were less sympathetic. There have been men in all times, and there are still men all over the world, who have no trouble in believing that their women belong to them. But those men are not educated. If Schnitzler's writings on the subject can be said to have a tendency, it is to say that love provides an education. What is problematic about the relationship is essentially what tells you it is one. It might not be an indissoluble bond, but as an insoluble problem it gives you the privilege of learning that freedom for yourself means nothing without freedom for others. When you love, the problem begins, and so does your real life."


Character of Naksh-i-dil. Barbara Chase-Riboud. Valide: A Novel of the Harem. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1986. p 316.

Rollo May, Man's Search for Himself. New York: W.W.Norton & Co., Inc., 1953. pp. 151, 153, 154.

Starhawk. Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery. New York: Harper Collins, 1987. p 96.

"A Christian Basis for Gay Relationships," by Michael Keeling, in Towards a Theology of Gay Liberation, p. 106

Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet. Edited by Maria Jose de Lancastre. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. London: Serpent's Tail, 1991. p. 161. (It is a collection of writings that were unorganized upon Pessoa's death in 1935).

Clive James. Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts. (2007) New York: Norton, 2008. p. 702.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Memory and relationships

The novelist James Meek wrote:

"If he’d had the kind of mobile in Afghanistan that could take pictures, a year ago, Kellas would have a photo of Astrid now. Perhaps it was best that he hadn’t. She wouldn’t have aged. She was thirty-four then. But a person’s nature shows in motion and change, and this made the stillness of every portrait photograph a kind of lie. Memory was more plastic. The gap between how you remembered a friend and how they were when you met again could be pinched, joined and smoothed over by memory when there was no photograph in the way. Now that Kellas had a camera phone, he knew the game, where you kept taking pictures of each other until you were left with a single image that pleased you both. If months passed without meeting again, the agreed truth of the moment became its possessor’s holy image. You either stopped believing it, or you began to give it your faith.

Rosalind Cartwright said: “Memory is never a precise duplicate of the original; it is a continuing act of creation.”

Diana Butler Bass wrote:

In a very real way, memory is dependent on relationships; in a culture in which relationships are broken, memory becomes impossible. Thus, forgetfulness has deep consequences for religious communities. French theorist Daniéle Hervieu-Léger goes so far as to argue that contemporary societies are less religious because they are 'less and less capable of maintaining the memory which lies at the heart of religious existence.' They have become 'amnesic societies.'"

The Week Magazine reported the following apps available in 2013:

"KillSwitch makes breakups less painful by enabling a user to erase, in one click, all traces on Facebook of a failed relationship. No need to unfriend the ex or untag joint photos; the app calls up all information the two of you share; you choose whether to store the data in a hidden folder or scrap it permanently. ($1, iOS or Android) Eternal Sunshine functions as a gentler version of KillSwitch. With this Google Chrome Web app, you don't have to take the drastic step of unfriending an ex to keep him or her from popping up in profile updates or suggested friends."


James Meek. We Are Now Beginning Our Descent. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2008. p. 25.

Sleep researcher Rosalind Cartwright, quoted in The Boston Globe, quoted in The Week, Feb. 6, 2015, p. 17.

Diana Butler Bass, Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith, HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. p. 236.

"Best apps...For getting past a romantic breakup." The Week, Sept. 13, 2013. p. 36.