Friday, October 28, 2005

Long-Lost Lovers

I feel like Billy Pilgrim, the lead character in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, the guy who comes unstuck in time. He wanders around time to various points in his life, living and reliving various moments from his past and future.

It’s not really that I have come unstuck in time, but as I look out across my life, I look at my lovers in a way that is not socially acceptable. I still love them.

Social forces want you to hate them, or at least ignore them as if they never existed. I have a hard time doing that. I like to think of each love relationship that I had as being a gift. Sometimes, and probably most of the time, it was a gift that emerged largely after painful circumstances exposed them.

In my current spiritual belief structure, I see each lover that I had as a teacher. I believe that in some other dimension of reality, we still gather outside of time and space. We shed our ego memories and exist in our spiritual universe. That’s where we know the big picture.

I see physical life as if it were a big movie. Outside of physical life, you are like the cast and crew of a movie. You sit around over coffee and pastries and discuss all the nuances of the movie you are in.

Thus, say that you are in the middle of a big row with the major love of your life. Maybe you’re in the midst of a betrayal or a disappointment or a bitter break-up. When you leave your bodies during the night, you gather together for a script conference, like actors discussing each character part in the movie. “Boy, you sure nailed that scene!”

“Thanks. I noticed by your reaction that you think I’m nuts!”

“It was a very believable performance!”

Having this philosophy is why I still think of long-lost lovers as an intimate part of my life even when they are not physically present in my life anymore. And most of them aren’t.

In my case, I am not unstuck in time, but I am unstuck from culture. As a creative personality, I continually play with tradition, mostly rearranging it to see if I can dream up something better. For the most part I am not too happy with how the planet is doing. I think there is vast room for improvement in how we are conducting our social affairs. I am unstuck because I don’t watch much cable TV. I don’t have any disposable income, so I can’t afford many customary distractions. The end result of that is a positive, in my opinion. I do a lot of creative thinking. That leads me to looking at many alternatives that people ensconced in normal culture don’t consider.

Holding grudges, for example. If you watch much TV, you come away with the impression that it is normal if not somehow righteous to hold grudges. Much of cable TV is all about fighting the good fight. Talk shows often pit one side against the other. It’s all great entertainment, isn’t it?

A juicy area for holding grudges is the arena of romance. If you were betrayed, cheated on, abandoned, raped (metaphorically or literally), shamed, belittled, used—you get the idea—it’s part of the ordinary consciousness of the times to get a lot of good juice out of it. Tell great stories at parties about how abused you were. Get some pity points or even suck up to another lover by spilling your guts about the miseries from your past.

The problem with all that is that spiritually—and this comes from different sources—many of the instances of abuse were scripted in advance, just like in a movie. For example, a common thread running through past-life regressions is how certain souls volunteer to play the heavy in a next life just like an actor elects to play a role of some creepy character. This is ostensibly done to teach and learn lessons in our cosmic journey.

Over the years, several of my lovers turned out to have been raped or otherwise sexually abused as children. They suffered for it greatly. A few of them had what appeared to be multiple personality disorder or borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder. Ultimately, they could not sustain a relationship and did some pretty mean things to me as they unleashed torrents of anger from their emotional past. Yet before that phase, we had some delicious experiences.

I like to remember those delicious experiences the most.

From what I understand from reading spiritual books and listening to near-death experiencers, these women all signed up for their abusive childhood experiences. It’s not much different than Halle Berry signing up to endure a lifetime of angst in Monster’s Ball—except that they don’t get the fame and fortune for being a Hollywood star! Meanwhile, all the other actors signed up to play their roles in the experience, too. It’s one big happy tortured family.

If that’s true, it makes sense to me not to hold grudges against these women for what they did to me. And chances are very likely that as a soul I chose to be with them for a reason. The fact that I ran into so many of them even indicates to me that I needed the exposure to women severely damaged in childhood. It’s all part of the plan.

Sometimes when events evoke memories of the pain I have suffered in the past, I do find myself feeling anger or hurt or sadness. But as I become aware that I am just churning through old emotions, I switch channels and envision happier times with that person so I don’t stew in the bad feelings.

It often turns out that it was the incredible highs I felt with someone that eventually led to the lows. Had those highs not happened, there never would have been a relationship leading to the lows. There would have been nothing.

Feeling this way, I must confess, does lead me to missing former lovers. I want to share with them what I have learned. In my idealism bubble I think of them as equally open to sharing and forgiving and celebrating. I think of them as eager to step into the light with me and shine.

At times I want to write former lovers love letters. I want to share with them this bounty of good feelings. But I don’t. This world seems compelled to highlight the negative. If I sent a love letter, they’d wonder what I wanted from them. Or they would think I was needy for affection and choosing them to victimize with sentimentality over bygones.

If a past lover were hooked up with a new lover, she would see my love letters as an invasion into her new life. Or if he ever got hold of it, he would see it as a threat against his claim of his new relationship. I have experienced the flip side where former lovers have contacted me while I was in a new relationship, and the woman I was with threw jealousy tantrums, convinced (through her imagination) that the old lovers were attempting to steal me back.

So I don’t write letters that I send, but nothing stops me from going there in my imagination. Oh, baby…

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Staying in Touch—It's About Love

I am single, 56, male, and living alone. I have a wildly creative mind (which is not always an asset), a huge love for humanity, and I long to see changes made in how our dreary society works.

For me, one of the most serious yet seriously ignored social problems of our time is loneliness. We live in a materialistic, highly competitive culture that stresses job security, earning your way to riches, and spending more than you can comfortably afford on a huge variety of objects. This creates many situations where people’s whole lives are dedicated to earning enough money to keep on keeping on.

As a single person I have met too many women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who feel very much alone in any romantic context. Many are divorced with adult children, and much of their lives are devoted to mothering and grandmothering. This may be quite fulfilling for them, but they still lack (and secretly crave) adult-to-adult intimacy in their lives. They confess to me how much they want a man.

The standard-issue model for finding adult-to-adult intimacy is to miraculously find that one special person with whom to fall in love. Yet falling in love in later years is much different than before. For one thing, there’s home ownership. Who moves and who rents or sells—and what happens in that arrangement if there is a break-up? For another, there’s proximity to jobs, assuming everyone’s fortunate enough to be happily employed. Third, there are often considerations involving the children or grandchildren that have a way of interfering masterfully with growing middle-aged love.

In romantic love, I’ve experienced a series of “near-misses.” I’ve found enjoyable relationships, but each one had a major obstacle, mostly related to the above list, that prevented the romantic solution from growing to fruition. I also discovered that each of these relationships contributed to my life in some positive way, even though the eventual outcome was painful.

For the longest time I have wondered why our society continues to support systems that don’t lead to fulfillment. It doesn’t take a rocket sociologist to know that there are droves of lonely people out there longing for meaning, stimulation, a sense of inclusion, love. Why don’t we do something to solve this?

I’ve wondered what a solution might look like. Putting on my idealist’s cap for awhile, I have always been fascinated with the idea that people who felt as I do should form a group, like a support group, that addressed these needs for intimacy. Call it a hugging group (hence Staying in Touch), a healing group, an intimacy group. It would be a safe place to gather to fulfill a craving for intimate connection.

What is intimate connection anyway? I look at intimacy as something wholistic—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I look at it as being real and authentic, which means that people talk from their hearts without censoring or filtering what they say. They don’t mince with political correctness. They let it all hang out.

Over the last quarter-century, in my view, people have been steadily creeping (imperceptibly, like drifting tectonic plates) away from intimacy. Rather than being intimate we’ve been lured by cable TV, the Internet, and corporate marketeering into bubble worlds of isolationism—the antithesis of intimate connection. We’re so bombarded with stimulation we don’t have time to think and feel. Deliberately focusing on intimate connection is making time to think and feel.

What do you do if you’re lonely? Turn on the TV or log onto the Internet? Many lonely people tell me that they “just like background noise.” Some swear that they don’t pay attention to it. Yet I firmly believe that the preponderance of negativity that is strangling our country’s vitality is directly related the numbing influence of the media. Thus, lonely people who turn on the TV for background or to escape loneliness are essentially tanking up on artificial conflict, which noticeably adds to their stressed and gloomy demeanor.

Intimate connection is also about love. Here’s where it gets tricky because we live in a country that is predominantly about monogamous romantic love. Very few of our social conventions support loving more than one person at a time—except, oddly, children. You can have and love all the children you want without penalty. There aren’t any conversations about how having and loving more than one child fractures and dilutes energy. However, if your affection for a second adult reaches beyond a moving target level of intimacy, lightning bolts and thunder rain from the heavens in an outburst worthy of a TV soap opera.

Yet I have found in several time zones in my earthly journey that sharing love with more than one adult at a time can be a very good thing. Many people cannot accept the idea of this possibility for them, and I am the first to support their stance. However, for others, the journey of loving more than one person can be awesome. Different people with different personalities open different doors for you. The composite effect of two (or more) simultaneous intimate relationships is having more people reflecting back your personality—through a process called mirroring—in different ways. If you want to know bunches about how you really tick, try having two lovers, each of whom sees a different personality in you and draws out different facets than the other.

But what about sex? Oh, yeah, that. Can you have intimacy without sex? Yes. Can you have sex without true intimacy? Many do. Even in deeply monogamous relationships, people sometimes feel empty inside because they have not learned how to share their souls intimately during physical lovemaking. Arguably the most contentious issue about multiple love is nonmonogamous sex, and in my experience the orgiastic behavior mostly dwells in the fantasies of the monogamous ones who have never been there, done that.

I have a big issue with how immature and uninventive our society is about sex. From Puritanism to porn, hardly anything casts the sexual relationship in a positive, healthy, wholesome light. If you want to find something positive about sex in the media, where do you go? It’s not easily accessible.

In my own perfect universe, a Staying in Touch Network would be composed of people who for whatever reason wanted to share intimate connection. Part of this network would be local small group meetings where some folks would gather in a safe home environment. Like many support groups, people would share what’s going on in their lives and get feedback from the group. Unlike many support groups, this would be done in an environment where people would share physical touching—hand-holding, neck rubbing, back rubbing, cuddling, hugging.

This idea springs out of some real-life experiences I had, mostly in the late 1970s and early 1980s—not ironically before cable TV and the Internet wired everyone. It just never dawned on me then how important these experiences would be in my retrospective memories thirty-some years later.

I really don’t know of any more powerful and quick feel-good tonic than sensual touch. Sexually, it doesn’t have to go anywhere to be potent, and, in fact, making a quick transition to “hot sex” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) can be a quick energy bleed. The idea is to build energy, not deplete it. If a man gets a you-know from cuddling, great, let him enjoy it. He may need to learn about the joys of amping up his sexual energy by not leaking it every time he stiffs out.

I firmly believe that one of the huge reasons why we’re so grumpy is that the average person has so few opportunities to be touched in any meaningful way. We’re out of touch. Being touched does absolute wonders for my mood. Those I touch frequently repeat the sentiment as true for them.

Having been involved in many collisions between monogamy and polyamory, I am well aware of the pitfalls of a group like this. But I am also aware of the potential joys.

The next step is sure to be more controversial, yet for me sounds very appealing in a create-the-world-you want-to-live-in way. I would like to see a Staying in Touch Network where people felt comfortable visiting one another for hugs and cuddles and conversation. That is, people from within the group could meet independently outside of the group.

Just imagine coming home from a hard day’s work to an empty house. You’d really like some time well spent with a trusted, intimate friend. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a few different people you could contact for some spontaneous intimacy? Some cuddling and conversation?

Most people raised in our crazy society will immediately think something like, “Oh, he wants to create a network where it’s easy to get laid. He wants to realize his porn visions of having a no-strings-attached harem.”

In our society many people equate touching and sensuality with seduction. Some people don’t touch unless they want sexual release. Their intentions are clear—they want orgasms. When people don’t like to hug or stroke, it’s usually because they fear being invaded, losing control, or being vulnerable to someone whose mind is on seduction, not intimate connection. In my experience and in my bubble world of idealism, I’m thinking of this networking in terms of refreshing and energizing each other through touch and consciousness. The people involved in this network would be drawn to it primarily for its emphasis on wholistic intimacy.

How does this concept differ from “booty calls” or swinging? It’s all in the mindset of the participants. When people are motivated to give gifts of love, to make someone happy, to heal with energy hugs, and so on, they’re coming from a fundamentally different place than someone who is looking primarily for sexual adventure without emotional involvement. (This is not to be read as a blanket criticism of swinging or booty calls. Many people in the sexually liberal lifestyles pursue their adventures with generous and loving hearts. However, intent is still the name of the game.)

My vision is that these support groups or networking opportunities give participants a sense of connection with people that society isn’t providing. Almost always what makes life worthwhile is love. In my view, society has an uncanny knack for squelching love, and any effort made to counter that ghastly trend is a positive step.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Salem/Independence (Oregon) IANDS in the News

Here is an interesting article about the Salem/Independence Friends of IANDS group.

What's especially interesting is that this appears in a mainstream (albeit small) newspaper.

Since the newspaper that published it has removed the article from easy linking, I'll provide it here:

Group offers support
Story by: Erin Zysett
Date Published to Web: 10/5/2005

INDEPENDENCE -- Statistics show that the number of Americans who believe in some sort of afterlife is between 75 and 80 percent.

It is estimated that more than eight million people in this country claim to have had a near-neath experience (NDE) in which they claim to have seen "the other side."

Ron Parks of Independence is one of those believers. He doesn't claim an NDE himself, but he does head the local chapter of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS).

Once a month Parks facilitates a discussion/support group for people who have had a near-death experiences or are interested in them.

Many of the people he talks to, or has read about, have trouble readjusting to earthly life after brushing shoulders with the afterlife.

"These are life-changing experiences, and ones that are intensely personal to the people who have them," Parks said.

"They quickly find that they have to be very careful about who they share their experiences with. People sometimes wonder if they are "crazy" or just imagining things ... you can imagine having this profound experience and nobody wants to talk to you about it ... your family is -- understandably -- scared. They don't want to talk about when you nearly died," he said.

According to Parks, IANDS and FOI (Friends of IANDS) were created in 1978 to provide sources of information for people interested in NDEs.

The organization also provides forum where people can discuss their experiences without fear of ridicule or other negative reactions.

Parks stresses that "IANDS is not a religious organization, in any sense of the word, although it is definitely a "spiritual" organization because many people consider the experiences as a proof of the survival of the spirit and the existence of an afterlife."

The idea that something exists beyond this life is appealing. It makes coping with the death of loved ones and our own mortality much easier.

Researcher Dean H. Hamer argues in his book, "The God Gene," that humans are hard-wired to believe in something bigger and wiser than themselves. Something spiritual.

"Spirituality is one of our basic human inheritances. It is, in fact, an instinct," Hamer said.

"A lot of people try to discredit NDEs by asking "why aren't they all the same?' Well, it's not like going to Toledo. Yyou're dealing with the spiritual realm," Parks said.

Two main types of NDEs are reported: pleasurable NDEs and distressing NDEs. Pleasurable episodes comprise the majority or experiences with "Being of Light," "Long Tunnel," and reunions with deceased loved ones being common themes.

A small percentage of experiencers report black voids, hellfire and the devil.

It is interesting to note that many fundamentalist and orthodox Christians are alarmed at the increasing number of people who believe in NDEs -- not because of their implications of an afterlife, but because of the high number of people who claim to have had positive NDEs who have never been "saved."

Many Christians believe that these NDEs are quite real, but originate, not from God, but from the devil.

David Ritchie, an orthodox theologian, wrote in an article for "Orthodox Life: "New Agers presume that the 'being of light' is God, or Christ, or perhaps a holy angel. The orthodox Christian ... must reach just the opposite conclusion. Enlightened by both Scripture and the Patristic writings, orthodox Christians can attribute many commonly reported NDE elements only to the deceits of the devil, who is perfectly capable of appearing as an angel of light when it suits his purpose to do so (II Corinthians 11:14; Galatians 1:8)."

People who promote and believe in the life-affirming quality of near-death experiences argue that the orthodox view of judgment and hellfire is incorrect.

"What the religious traditions of the world perceive to be 'sins,' NDE testimonies reveal to be 'mistakes' which God allows humans to make for the purposes of their higher education and spiritual evolution," Kevin Williams, an NDE researcher and believer said.

Parks doesn't get into the theological debate. He has one rule for his group: respect. He said he realizes many people don't agree with his view of the afterlife, and he can respect that. He simply asks for the same courtesy.

"We don't promote any one theological ideal here. We just create a safe place for people to discuss these ideas," Parks said.

The Independence IANDS group meets on the second Sunday of each month.

For more Information:, or Ron Parks at 503-838-3436 or