L’amour: l’énigme

A friend who had grown up in a Far Eastern country told me the other day I have never been in love. I do not know what love is.” She asked me if I knew it, had I experienced it. As I thought about how to describe it, I was hampered by some pity for her; many people I knew and dear friends and family knew of love, consuming love. But no one or my friend should ever go through life without loving and being loved passionately. Never! Why, why, WHY our obsession with either or!?

I was reminded by this classic story about love and its complications. You might remember the ancient story by a famous poet in a time long ago. For my allegorical blog-post here I begin in its third book toward the end, and continue, hopping forward, into the fourth:

A Laborious Stormy Life

“Here, after endless labours, often toss’d
By raging storms, and driv’n on ev’ry coast,
My dear, dear father, spent with age, I lost:
Ease of my cares, and solace of my pain,
Sav’d thro’ a thousand toils, but sav’d in vain
The prophet, who my future woes reveal’d,
Yet this, the greatest and the worst, conceal’d;
And dire Celaeno, whose foreboding skill
Denounc’d all else, was silent of the ill.
This my last labour was. Some friendly god
From thence convey’d us to your blest abode.”

[…]

But anxious cares already seiz’d the queen:
She fed within her veins a flame unseen;
The hero’s valour, acts, and birth inspire
Her soul with love, and fan the secret fire.
His words, his looks, imprinted in her heart,
Improve the passion, and increase the smart.

Though the wayward, seafaring Prince of refuge had encountered many storms and had been thrown off course in his noble journey, he assured the beautiful Tyrian Queen his misfortune and delay was apparently quite fortuitous, nigh… serendipitous? The Queen was taken by this Trojan’s story, seized and smitten, swept by winds unknown, yet dripped with sweet intoxication.

Traps, Temptations and Diversions – Or Fate?

When next the Sun his rising light displays,
And gilds the world below with purple rays,
The queen, Aeneas, and the Tyrian court
Shall to the shady woods, for sylvan game, resort.
There, while the huntsmen pitch their toils around,
And cheerful horns from side to side resound,
A pitchy cloud shall cover all the plain
With hail, and thunder, and tempestuous rain;
The fearful train shall take their speedy flight,
Dispers’d, and all involv’d in gloomy night;
One cave a grateful shelter shall afford
To the fair princess and the Trojan lord.

Fault Not the Forces of Storms, Satyr and Nymph

Meantime, the gath’ring clouds obscure the skies:
From pole to pole the forky lightning flies;
The rattling thunders roll; and Juno pours
A wintry deluge down, and sounding show’rs.
The company, dispers’d, to converts ride,
And seek the homely cots, or mountain’s hollow side.
The rapid rains, descending from the hills,
To rolling torrents raise the creeping rills.
The queen and prince, as love or fortune guides,
One common cavern in her bosom hides.
Then first the trembling earth the signal gave,
And flashing fires enlighten all the cave;
Hell from below, and Juno from above,
And howling nymphs, were conscious of their love.

While her accidental guest from the sea leaves her arms to return to his men and army, Queen Dido cannot help but long for him and his return. For her, the official public vows of eternal love and marriage could not happen soon enough. She had fallen, hard, and floats head-over-heels. From that night forward there was no return to her previous life. In a near hypnotic trance she recalls their fiery night in the cave while storms raged. Fate had delivered a succulent honey-coated future together, forever squirming in gooey sloppy love. Everything she had ever hoped or dreamt awaited her and the Master of her heart Poseidon miraculously tossed onto her shores. Dido’s yearning is not unlike this modern song that ominously tells of nonstop, irrepressible passion and love:

But as the adage goes, all good things either change or come to an end.

As Pietas, Minerva and Athena before Her

The Gods and Goddesses are angry at Aeneas! They must remind the Trojan Prince he has a much bigger date with destiny and with glory of an empire. Duty, honor, and unwavering loyalty was most prized and sought by Greco-Roman culture, sometimes at the expense of beautifully simple things.

DEGENERATE MAN,
Thou woman’s property, what mak’st thou here,
These foreign walls and Tyrian tow’rs to rear,
Forgetful of thy own? All-pow’rful Jove,
Who sways the world below and heav’n above,
Has sent me down with this severe command:
What means thy ling’ring in the Libyan land?
If glory cannot move a mind so mean,
Nor future praise from flitting pleasure wean,
Regard the fortunes of thy rising heir:
The promis’d crown let young Ascanius wear,
To whom th’ Ausonian scepter, and the state
Of Rome’s imperial name is ow’d by fate.”

Insatiable love, desire… or duty, honor, glory? One must choose principles or passion. You cannot have both. Surrender to irrationality or stay the course, stern and cold. Much of human history has taught us through myth, legend, and prose that we must always choose one or the other. In my life I have gone through this battle more times than I care to count. Now, well into the last half of my expected lifetime, I have only just learned and confirmed the last fifteen years… it is not either/or, one or the other. I ask when, in the history of humanity have we always been giddy and content with restraints, limits, injustice, enslavement or being told “No. Impossible. It cannot be done!”?

Honor and Loyalty. My Dad taught me a lot about honor and loyalty, the kind that ignores death, ignores irrational emotions and passion or fear for the sake of the mission. Semper Fi”! He believed those two virtues were the highest qualities to aspire and live out. They are invincible, impenetrable, and unmoving for a U.S. Marine and man of principle. I believed him, to the marrow of my bones and to the deepest corner of my heart I believed him. I’m sure too he unflinchingly believed the Trojans and Spartans. Then April 25th, 1981 happened.

Like Aeneas to Dido, in my senior year of high school on Halloween night I was consensually seized, taken and swept downstream by the voluptuous beauty, spunk, vivacious lure and charm of my Roxanne. I lost my virginity that night, but it didn’t matter. I was lost on another planet and I did not care. I thought, this is what Dad has been talking about and trying to teach its profound meaning, its euphoric highs and explosions. Oh yeah… and with possible life-altering, lifetime consequences. My 17-year old brain libido kept repeating one thing in my head:  Woah! I want/need more euphoric explosions! Every night or second night if possible!

But as it turned out I was very young and naive in the arena of love. Nothing I had hoped, dreamt, or expected for Roxanne and I played out. Five months later I caught my Roxanne inside another man’s kiss and heated embrace. I was so devastated the next 6-8 weeks, not only had I gotten fired from my great-paying summer job—a graveyard shift I had lost too much sleep from my Love’s betrayal—but I also sank into utter apathy over school grades combined with as many opportunities to drown myself in bottles of Bacardi Rum or in search of Jose Cuervo’s worm at the bottom. Those were some of my worst, last three-months of my high school senior year. They were also leading up to university where I had a near-full soccer/football scholarship—based on my athletic ability yes, but also high marks of course—waiting for me and my very promising collegiate then, as it turned out, pro soccer career. Did my foolish heart and Roxanne ruin my destiny?

Hindsight had taught me then and now that unleashed, reckless, teenage libidos are exactly what the Greeks and Romans feared most; like eruptions of Thera and Mount Vesuvius fear and terror… they cowered and ran from Earth-trembling, roaring, explosive, consuming eroticism. And I have learned by firstloins firsthand, many times (over 70 times to be precise) why they feared it so and were paralyzed by its voracity as had overwhelmed the aimless, smitten, refugee-Prince from Troy, Aeneas.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Queen Betrayed and Abandoned

Once the intentions of Aeneas had been discovered Dido was hurt and angered by the Prince’s unscrupulous plan of secret escape. Rightly furious she hunts Aeneas and gives him a piece of her mind:

But soon the queen perceives the thin disguise:
(What arts can blind a jealous woman’s eyes!)
She was the first to find the secret fraud,
Before the fatal news was blaz’d abroad.

[…]

At length she finds the dear perfidious man;
Prevents his form’d excuse, and thus began:
“Base and ungrateful! could you hope to fly,
And undiscover’d scape a lover’s eye?
Nor could my kindness your compassion move.
Nor plighted vows, nor dearer bands of love?
Or is the death of a despairing queen
Not worth preventing, tho’ too well foreseen?
Ev’n when the wintry winds command your stay,
You dare the tempests, and defy the sea.
False as you are, suppose you were not bound
To lands unknown, and foreign coasts to sound;
Were Troy restor’d, and Priam’s happy reign,
Now durst you tempt, for Troy, the raging main?
See whom you fly! am I the foe you shun?

[…]

Justice is fled, and Truth is now no more!
I sav’d the shipwreck’d exile on my shore;
With needful food his hungry Trojans fed;
I took the traitor to my throne and bed:
Fool that I was—— ’tis little to repeat
The rest, I stor’d and rigg’d his ruin’d fleet.
I rave, I rave! A god’s command he pleads,
And makes Heav’n accessary to his deeds.
Now Lycian lots, and now the Delian god,
Now Hermes is employ’d from Jove’s abode,
To warn him hence; as if the peaceful state
Of heav’nly pow’rs were touch’d with human fate!
But go! thy flight no longer I detain;
Go seek thy promis’d kingdom thro’ the main!
Yet, if the heav’ns will hear my pious vow,
The faithless waves, not half so false as thou,
Or secret sands, shall sepulchers afford
To thy proud vessels, and their perjur’d lord.

Despite Dido’s outrage, tears, and pleas he would remain, to alter Aeneas’ heart back to her’s, the redirected Prince on the other hand feared more the reprisals of the gods if he failed to attend his greater destiny and glory. The modern rendering might be described as ‘service to social customs’ first and always—abiding to all at the expense of a beloved few.

Which is greater? It is a classic dilemma, an enigma that Virgil, at least, and certainly divine beings rip at our human nature and egos, whether insidious or not. It could be argued today that not too much has changed since 19 BCE, hence this blog-post’s title, Love: The Enigma. No, not Love the Enigma. However, many would enjoy the misread, macabre, but false title. Thanks to the Greeks we are darkly fond of a tragedy aren’t we? Ah, I mustn’t digress so much.

Dance of the Swords, Chronic Gods and Burning Hearts

Since Aeneas could not be dissuaded, that night in her chambers Dido flounders back in forth between bitter anger and fierce love. Her memories of passion now become unbearable torture with only one end in sight: waiting for Aeneas with no assurances. Her impending emptiness could be told by a song, this (2017) song, which conveys just one or another effect Dido could’ve lived with and longed for it’s return:

Eventually, unable to sleep and in emotional exhaustion, she hatches a rather impulsive scheme to escape her cruel fate and glory-smacked Lover.

The wretched queen, pursued by cruel fate,
Begins at length the light of heav’n to hate,
And loathes to live. Then dire portents she sees,
To hasten on the death her soul decrees:
Strange to relate! for when, before the shrine,
She pours in sacrifice the purple wine,
The purple wine is turn’d to putrid blood,
And the white offer’d milk converts to mud.
This dire presage, to her alone reveal’d,
From all, and ev’n her sister, she conceal’d.

Tragically, Queen Dido could never compete with a man’s fame and destiny, much less the Gods of Mercury, Jupiter, and Zeus. The latter made sure of it by going again to Aeneas that night, disturbing him so deeply that he chose to sail to Italy with his fleet before sunrise. Atop her city walls and taller palace Dido watched Aeneas and his Trojan fleet take to the sea. It was a sharp spear pushed deeper into her broken heart and dreams. In tears, she turned toward the large pile of all Aeneas’ items he left for her, but was now among stacked wood, sticks, and kindling. A platform was on top with Aeneas’ dagger.

Then swiftly to the fatal place she pass’d,
And mounts the fun’ral pile with furious haste;
Unsheathes the sword the Trojan left behind
(Not for so dire an enterprise design’d).
But when she view’d the garments loosely spread,
Which once he wore, and saw the conscious bed,
She paus’d, and with a sigh the robes embrac’d;
Then on the couch her trembling body cast,
Repress’d the ready tears, and spoke her last:
“Dear pledges of my love, while Heav’n so pleas’d,
Receive a soul, of mortal anguish eas’d:
My fatal course is finish’d; and I go,
A glorious name, among the ghosts below.
A lofty city by my hands is rais’d,
Pygmalion punish’d, and my lord appeas’d.
What could my fortune have afforded more,
Had the false Trojan never touch’d my shore!”
Then kiss’d the couch; and, “Must I die,” she said,
“And unreveng’d? ‘Tis doubly to be dead!
Yet ev’n this death with pleasure I receive:
On any terms, ’tis better than to live.
These flames, from far, may the false Trojan view;
These boding omens his base flight pursue!”

Quickly after lighting the pyre, the flames surrounded Dido and soon would engulf her. She picks up Aeneas’ dagger. Stricken by unbearable circumstances, betrayal, humiliation of her throne and dishonored love—and one must presume her virginity too—Dido thrust the dagger into her chest and soon falls breathless with no more tears of pain. She had freed herself from the heartless cruelties of patriarchal gods and glorified princes:

Meantime the Trojan cuts his wat’ry way,
Fix’d on his voyage, thro’ the curling sea;
Then, casting back his eyes, with dire amaze,
Sees on the Punic shore the mounting blaze.
The cause unknown; yet his presaging mind
The fate of Dido from the fire divin’d;
He knew the stormy souls of womankind…

Once again these damned obsessions with either or… by men, women and their kingdoms—customs or ancient traditions too—and the God(s) that supposedly made them and chronically intervene when their created go awry or follow their hearts and natural passions! Why? What a madhouse of celestial rulers (or Ruler) we’re under and terrestrial, accidental(?) circus we mortals reside and travail!

Glorious Duty or Hastened Death?

An odd question? Maybe not. If there are some lessons we can learn from Virgil’s culture, and his ancient Greeks, they did indeed know a few things about passionate, perhaps reckless irresponsible love believe it or not. For them love had at least six forms, in no order or hierarchy:

  • Eros, or sexual passion, including steamy gooey eroticism
  • Philia, or deep unbreakable friendship
  • Ludus, or playful love and lust, but not hidden or deceiving
  • Agape, or love for everyone without discrimination
  • Pragma, or longstanding, reliable love
  • Philautia, or love of self or a very healthy self-esteem

These six different forms of love indeed exist around the world and are practiced quite well. Furthermore, this concept is applied and functions in expanded forms beyond six. In some parts of the world they are not bound by two people or a couple, let alone marriage. I dare say proudly (with full confidence), in various regions they are not limited by gender or sexual orientation either. Not in the least, thank all the stars and galaxies for that! Rhetorically speaking, do the customs and norms of Virgil’s day or any days in early to late Antiquity still govern and apply today?

If the art of coffee deserves its own sophisticated vocabulary, then why not the art of love?
Roman Krznaric — “How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life,” BlueBridge Publishers, 2013

The answer is no, they do not govern or apply today. For me, this begs another question, Why couldn’t Aeneas and Dido gain every single component of complete love, more whole love? History has shown many times that individuals and humanity have the ingenuity and courage to recognize, adapt and make it work… often with sheer brilliance!

This brings me full circle, back to my friend’s question to me:  Do I know what it is like to be head-over-heels in love with someone? Yes I do, unequivocally. Not only that, but I have grown past my fears of being horribly hurt or betrayed like Virgil’s Dido, that ironically liberated me allowing my natural, fiery passion to love and live more fully! This far and away includes my two painful divorces! Sadly, like many things in life and lifestyles, it disturbs others, even loved ones and endeared family members, unfortunately and unnecessary my own two children included. 😞

Loving so intensely, so passionately it will seem time stands still and all “normal reality” disappears or gets suspended. Today several, maybe most, social conventions receive less of my valuable time and energy. They fall by the wayside as more organic, meaningful, helpful, and impactful relations replace anxiety, confinement and a spoken or unspoken stress to look good for the Joneses as well as keeping up with them. This isn’t just with me either. Around the world this is the case. And living without shame or being shamed or wrongly and naively judged has remarkable health-life benefits! No comparison. I want to share two more quotes for you to think about that I often remind myself with:

Fear stifles, courage fulfills.
My version

‘Tis better to have loved [with all you have] and lost than never to have loved [so passionately] or be loved [so passionately] at all [liberally in return].
Alfred Lord Tennyson, with my slight tweaks

This brings me to my question for you, my readers and followers:

Why must we magnificently imperfect, intelligent, and passionate human beings so limit ourselves during this short life with each other, unable to rewrite what’s past, and yet write what’s next? Why cheat ourselves from more?

By the way, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! 😍🤭

————

Live Well — LOVE MUCH — Laugh Often — Learn to Fail Better

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Cheating: More Fashionable & Popular!

Yes, the results of the “anonymous” polls and the historical court records are in, cheating on your spouse (sometimes called “irreconcilable differences”) is today more popular, perhaps run-of-the-mill and even expected, more than ever in our societal facade of til death do you part! Why? Why in the early, middle, or latter years of a long-term commitment do two people wonder away from each other emotionally, mentally, and/or sexually from lifetime vows, promises, and contracts? How many acclaimed cinema films tell the truth about love, dying love, love rediscovered, or mistaken naïve love despite the noble vows, promises, and contracts?

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A May 2016 New York Magazine article says women now “cheat” or have extramarital relations as much as men always have throughout cultural history with their mistresses, concubines, courtesans, and harems, but fortunately with much fewer severe consequences.

It is, perhaps, another milestone in the march to equality. Women and men are now taking an equal-opportunity approach to extramarital hanky-panky. A report out of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University found that, for the first time in modern history, women are cheating at nearly the same rate as men. Another study, published in the National Opinion Research Center’s 2013 General Social Survey, found that while the percentage of men who admitted to infidelity has held constant over the last two decades, the percentage of wives who reported having affairs rose almost 40 percent.

[…]

Another recent study found that some women are genetically predisposed to “extra pair bonding,” euphemistically speaking. Men don’t have this gene.

But the prevailing theory is that modern marriage is what’s killing marriage — that the more deliberation women put into whom they pair up with, the more willing and motivated they are to make a move when something’s not working.

[…]

Women now are more aware of the alternatives to monogamy and more inclined to demand to have all their needs met. That’s because happiness is such an important part of marriage. Fewer women are marrying out of need; instead, they’re marrying to please themselves. But that also means when they’re dissatisfied with something they feel justified to go elsewhere.”

I would argue quite earnestly on the validity of one claim the article made. It says The crazy part, [Rebecca] elaborates, is not the apparent epidemic of adultery, but that it’s the women who seem to be fueling it. I disagree. As the popular and truthful cliché goes it takes two to tango — that is, consensual tango. Thriving and loving lifetime marriages are a 50/50 responsibility as well as a 50/50 risk or reward, no more, no less… always. Is that not the correct definition of full and true equality? And using the description epidemic of adultery is unnecessarily harsh when an action/behavior is a choice, not a contagious virus which is not chosen. Last I checked, adultery is a human choice.

What is wrong with having dreams and hopes in life? Isn’t it inherently and socially accepted, even encouraged, for a man or woman to “have it all” in a lifetime monogamous marriage? The article later reads:

Lauren, 41, admits she wanted it all: “the best friend, the domestic partner, the professional equal, the lover,” she says. She had two out of four when, some eight years and one baby into her marriage, she began sleeping with a co-worker — a guy who was more her professional equal than her low-earning husband, who’d largely given up on his career. “A healthy attraction to a person does demand you have a little bit of intrigue and imbalance, which in male-female-empowered relationships is not a priority,” she says. “Wanting some hetero-normalcy isn’t something people want to talk about, not in that bougie Brooklyn world I live in. A lot of women I know stick with it and suffer through it even as they have that fantasy of being with someone who is their equal, or even their superior.” — New York Magazine article

The journalist Alyssa Giacobbe reports the very real and justified anger of a husband who has been deceived and cheated-on sharing two examples of his public shaming of the unfaithful wife. But once again, if one is expected to impeccably honor their words, vows, promises, and contracts, then it applies equally to both husband and wife. Yet, examining our human social, patriarchal history doesn’t quite bear that ideal, does it? What I found very comically intriguing in Giacobbe’s report was what Dr. Ian Kerner, a sex and relationship psychotherapist, had found in his decades of practice:

When the woman strays, there’s anger, yes, but there’s also much more interest from the [husband] than there ever was to collaborate and talk and work it out, [while the wife has been having an affair with] some douche bag down the street. — New York Magazine article

The husband erroneously thinks it is a phase she is currently going through and will pass like a common cold. Many men rarely ask, Might it have something partially to do with me, or a LOT to do with me!? What a novel question! But to be fair, a novel question for either spouse. And why does it take something so painfully dishonorable or negligent by both spouses, and so late in the infection, if you will, in order for a sudden inspiration “to work it out” and improve, to be a better husband or wife? Why the delay?

Most or perhaps many of the stories of marital struggles and/or infidelity are quite familiar to you the readers I’m sure, and among your social or job circles, possibly within your own family or your own past relationships or marriages. Cheating is honestly not uncommon (to utilize a juxtaposition here 🤭) despite those appearing as “civil” marriages that underneath are hush-hush and closeted. It is however, unsurprisingly, a long distorted and ‘mystified’ result frequently manifested by limiting, proprietary, phobic or paranoid protective (hyper-jealousy), verbally silent, and repressive structures in those marriages. Furthermore, one should never presume that one’s own marriage or long-termed relationship is forever immune to such changes, possibly major surprises and challenges, when humans and circumstances are constantly fluid, moving and changing. I purposely emphasize this to my own heterosexual gender fooled into thinking that a socio-religious contract is unbreakable or unsinkable! Many old and ancient marriages — including those of our grandparents, great grandparents, etc. — simply remained intact due to the potential hardships the woman faced having to survive solo as a divorcee, even harder if publicly labelled an adulterer. Not so for the man.

man checking out another womanWith all of the above said, known, or unknown — intentional distortions, deceptions and mystifying of cheating — is there more to it, something mainstream traditional society has not considered, or is too afraid to seriously consider for far too long? I think so.

I suggest that the old, antiquated, mainstream construct of marriage, in particular monogamous marriage, was never ideal or realistic in the first place. Traditions that fail to evolve and adapt eventually die-out. Therefore, there are a number of reasons (supported by continued, advancing sciences) for our apparent(?) rise of marital cheating. I will list just five important reasons and the last two are critical to understand, possibly requiring our acceptance and embrace if you are a strong advocate for total marital monogamy. If so, if you believe lifetime monogamy is the best or only marital setup, then put on your thickest battle armor and prepare for years of relentless, 24/7, 365 days of acute alertness, attentiveness… never letting your guard down. Warning! Keeping a lifetime monogamous marriage/relationship in tact, much less thriving, is and will be a visible and sometimes invisible struggle upstream against natural (rarely against immoral or evil) forces everywhere. And even if you foolishly believe you have been victorious, sometimes your “enemy” is in and has been in your encampment for a long time and you did not notice. Faulty intelligence is ever-present, anywhere at anytime. That is simply human nature.

Nevertheless, for those who believe in Walt Disney-style eternal love and romance with one person their entire lifetime, it can be done. I have 3-4 different married aunts and uncles who have done it for 50-60+ years. They all have one thing in common:  societal remoteness. In other words, they are quite recluse when it comes to daily social engagement; it’s very infrequent. Think about that.

To the five contributing factors of marital cheating. The first three reasons are summarized from Dr. Susan Whitbourne’s excellent report on PsychologyToday.com. The fourth reason is summarized from Ker Than and LiveScience.com. And the fifth and final reason below is from yours truly. I feel it is an overlooked or badly ignored factor in an already maligned, faulty, antiquated marital construct. Hence, I list it last.

Emotional Dissatisfaction
These spouses are seeking emotional intimacy and understanding they feel they are not experiencing in their primary relationship or marriage. Feeling appreciated and valued on a regular basis is an integral component in marriage if it is to last lifetimes. The precise details of this dissatisfaction can and do change over time for various reasons. The priorities of partners/spouses change and fluctuate over time, for example, when children enter the picture. Or a residential move or job-relocation occurs. How attentive we are to those fluid changes and what actions we take (or not take), verbally and non-verbally, will also dictate or influence future solutions and/or behaviors.

Sexual Dissatisfaction
This is the most common reason cited by clinical-counseling studies. I find this very interesting for two reasons. One, I discuss below in Mammalian/Primate Biology; it’s a natural biological force in 97.9% of humans, for a segment of humans it is a raging force relative to their sexual organs and hormonal makeup, starting as an embryo and genetically from their parent’s families and ancestors. Let me say this though.

Humans want to improve and/or explore their natural sexual desires. Medically, this does not generally decrease until a person’s late 40’s or 50’s, later if they lead a healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, participants in these studies cited desires to experience additional sexual encounters with non-partners or outside of their spouse. This number is typically and predictably low due to societal pressure of it being unacceptable, historically of women, as if a marriage was NOT 50/50, but 30/70 or 20/80… where the woman either was expected to have the lowest desire for good/great sex or the higher expectation of responsibility of always pleasing the husband! HAH! Yeah, riddle me that one.

Dying Love and/or Redefined Love
This is a lower cited reason in clinical-counseling studies probably because love is difficult for many people to unanimously define. Today, it is indeed more complex socially (vs. biologically) than it was 100, 500, or 1,000 years ago. Overall, the studies suggest that deeper emotional and sexual intimacy are more compelling reasons for extramarital behaviors. They both can be simultaneous expectations or demands too, not necessarily one or the other. And falling in love with someone new is not often cited as the driving force for infidelity. This might be because keeping an affair secret often requires a sometimes exhausting amount of preparation, forethought, juggling of schedules, physical, mental, and emotional energy, and the careful explanations (disinformation, deception) for activities “without” the spouse and/or kids involved. When a cheater’s secret lover usually only comprises maybe 5% to 20% (give or take) of the cheater’s realistic available time in a day or week (factor in children), there is little to no time for deeper definitions of love to develop. Not in a reasonable, sane(?), stable fashion.

I want to quote one of the paragraphs in the PsychologyToday.com article and invite commentary on its validity:

The findings also show that a substantial group of people who engage in extramarital affairs are pretty good at shifting the responsibility away from themselves. Many claimed that the decision to enter into the affair was a mutual one, that their affairs were justified, and that they felt no guilt.

My contention with these spouses claiming the decision to enter into the affair was mutual, I would immediately rephrase by adding and asking “Was it a verbalized mutually understood decision!?” In other words, penetration was consented to? What type of penetration? What about fellatio or cunnilingus? And often the real biggie, what about emotional attachment or love? Allowed? Disallowed?

what-does-it-mean-when-a-woman-stares-at-youWhy should these liberties or boundaries not be openly discussed, negotiated at anytime in a healthy marriage? Better still, BEFORE the wedding day! More on this later in my last reason for cheating while married. And when should guilt and remorse be genuinely felt and expressed by the cheater, or should it at all? Is this the popular PR counter-move of turning oneself from a villain into a victim while portraying the true victim into a villain. We see this save-face tactic too often in politics by officials in power positions or celebrities in the public eye. The tactic does have its successes, though warped as they are. Take Tiger Woods or President Trump as two prime examples. Both are blindly adored by their fan-base despite their adulterous habits.

In the end, should any of these conditions, reasons, or results be the standard, the higher road? I don’t think so. I think it all stinks, or they set themselves up for future repugnance of the most vilest stench, if I can be frank!

Mammalian/Primate Biology
We humans, us Homo sapiens, are unequivocally lifetime members of the aquatic and terrestrial animal kingdom on Earth. We all share the same origins, period. DNA sequencing has put to bed any slight, wild doubts, misconceptions, or ill-founded blatant denial that this is not true. Much can be learned about ourselves by studying and thoroughly understanding animal mating behaviors. Let me begin this section by quoting a portion of Ker Than’s article from LiveScience.com:

Of the roughly 5,000 species of mammals, only 3 to 5 percent are known to form lifelong pair bonds. This select group includes beavers, otters, wolves, some bats and foxes and a few hoofed animals.

And even the creatures that do pair and mate for life occasionally have flings on the side and some, like the wolf, waste little time finding a new mate if their old one dies or can no longer sexually perform.

Staying faithful can be a struggle for most animals. For one, males are hardwired to spread their genes and females try to seek the best dad for their young. Also, monogamy is costly because it requires an individual to place their entire reproductive investment on the fitness of their mate. Putting all their eggs in one basket means there’s a lot of pressure on each animal to pick the perfect mate, which, as humans knows, can be tricky.

Our closest relatives, or cousins you might say, are the bonobos and common chimps of the Hominidae family of which we also belong from 4.5 – 5.5 million years ago (click here). We share 99.6% of their DNA. I likely do not need to go into the mating and social behaviors of the Bonobo chimpanzees; it is well-known. Read this article if you are unfamiliar with their distinguished behavior and social structure.

As it turns out, the neurotransmitter chemical dopamine is heavily linked to sexual and emotional love. But news flash, it isn’t that simple. Dopamine does not distinguish between monogamy or non-monogamy as some biased experts may claim. In the animal kingdom as well as with humans, individual, familial, diet, exercise, and the social dynamics surrounding those components play a significant part in levels of dopamine production just as much as sexual and/or emotional situations do. According to Healthline.com, there are 10 natural methods of increasing healthy levels of dopamine. No surprise, of those 10 ways, frequent exercise is one. Now, how many various ways can we humans regularly, erotically exercise? Exactly. By the way, emotional exercising is a part of exerting ourselves physically and/or mentally. Hence, how many different ways can we exert and challenge ourselves and our partner/spouse, or significant other(s), mentally and emotionally? I can name a minimum of five ways! Not all discomfort or nervousness is bad or life threatening in moderate, short-term amounts.

Like many different animals in their natural habitats and social environs, we humans also require regular mental, emotional, and physical stimulation in order to live, thrive, grow in strength, i.e. 3-part strength, and pass on the best possible genes and lifestyle to our descendants. That said, why then are cheaters labelled with or risk such distressing, troubling, negative feelings and connotations after engaging in extramarital affairs? Again, it is not so simple.

Poor, Ambiguous, or Impeded Unreserved Communication
These marital situations are not simple primarily because of one initial reason:  communication. Communication between cheating partners or spouses typically has not been open, voluntary, articulated well or accurately to reflect behavior, honest in other words, and therefore not well understood or erroneously understood by the listening, inquisitive, attentive partner/spouse. These ideal, lofty components of a happy, thriving, intimate relationship or marriage are an essential foundation for a long-term commitment to one person, much less a lifetime commitment. Why?

Because everything about humans change, evolve over time and the circumstances around them, e.g. family, careers, finances, ups, downs, health, births, deaths, and a plethora of societal and regional variables are constantly in play, whether weekly, monthly, annually, or longer. The only setup where these variables and components have little effects on a relationship or marriage is if the couple are consistently recluse, or lacking in those aforementioned healthy emotional, mental, and physical exercises. In those recluse cases, the “changes,” the “fitness” tends to be slower (non-existent?) due to much less diverse stimulation and exertion. You don’t know what you don’t actually experience or push yourself to achieve. You are unable to honestly say you have it best if you haven’t tasted the joys or pains of many bests and disasters. Many!

Therefore, everyone should always ask themselves, monitor attentively, maintain attentively their committed relationship, by gauging its health and asking… how freely, how proactively, how accurately, honestly with no reservations or shame or fear of shame do we both vulnerably express ourselves to each other? How often does this intense, safe level of intimate communication/expression occur between us? If your answer is not at all, or not so much, or could be better, or all of these above case studies of cheating spouses and victims admitted the same, examined the same, then the likely conclusion is that they, yourself, and your partner/spouse have poor, ambiguous, or reserved, impeded (greatly impeded?) communication with each other.

Paolo Coelho quote

That silent, distorted, secret or fearful relational environment becomes a nitroglycerin catalyst for much bigger problems and less time to redirect or solve if allowed to fester. In today’s mainstream, traditional, moderate relationships/marriages dishonorable cheating apparently then becomes one of the most common (easier, quicker?) reactions or results of poor, ambiguous, or impeded unreserved communication. The quick fix that doesn’t really fix at all.

What do all of you think? Why has “cheating” become more popular, more accepted, fashionable? Is there an easy or easier preventative measure to be implemented? Let me know in the comments.

————

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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The Bastard Muses

Democracy. What does it mean? The Oxford-English dictionary defines democracy this way:

1.0 — A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. (1.3) The practice or principles of social equality.

Yet, it is more than that. In fact, it is a LOT MORE than that. Stanford University in a 2004 lecture for humanistic studies breaks down democracy with four pivotal elements.

  1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

It is #3 that is the focus of my post here. But it is not the advocacy of “protection” that I’m going to address. I like a process I sometimes call Reciprocal Comprehension, or examining the positive and negative aspects of an image, in this case principles. Here is Stanford’s breakdown of #3…

  • In a democracy, every citizen has certain basic rights that the state cannot take away from them.
  • These rights are guaranteed under international law.
  • You have the right to have your own beliefs, and to say and write what you think.
  • No one can tell you what you must think, believe, and say or not say.
  • There is freedom of religion. Everyone is free to choose their own religion and to worship and practice their religion as they see fit.
  • Every individual has the right to enjoy their own culture, along with other members of their group, even if their group is a minority.
  • There is freedom and pluralism in the mass media.
  • You can choose between different sources of news and opinion to read in the newspapers, to hear on the radio, and to watch on television.
  • You have the right to associate with other people, and to form and join organizations of your own choice, including trade unions.
  • You are free to move about the country, and if you wish, to leave the country.
  • You have the right to assemble freely, and to protest government actions.
  • However, everyone has an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others.

[emphasis mine]

There is also an inferred responsibility to all law-understanding and law-abiding citizens to be informed about and keen enough to understand the difference between rhetoric/propaganda and facts/truths regarding a subject. Just because someone has the right to say whatever they want, however they want, doesn’t make it right or true. Each of us, me included, are responsible to discern what the real facts are or what the probable or highly probable facts and truths are so as to properly identify bastard muses.

nine muses

Cleanth Brooks is often referred to as one of the Fathers of New Criticism. He also is credited for composing formalist criticism of literature and poetry. While being the keynote speaker at the 2011 convention of History Makers in New York City, Bill Moyers spoke these words about literature, journalism, Cleanth Brooks, and to modern social-media:

…while “most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence,” the research found that actually “we often base our opinions on our beliefs … and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions.”

These studies help to explain why America seems more and more unable to deal with reality. So many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign, that they pick and choose only those facts that will serve as building blocks for walling them off from uncomfortable truths.

[…]

George Orwell had warned six decades ago that the corrosion of language goes hand in hand with the corruption of democracy. If he were around today, he would remind us that “like the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket,” this kind of propaganda engenders a “protective stupidity” almost impossible for facts to penetrate.

[…]

The late scholar Cleanth Brooks of Yale thought there were three great enemies of democracy. He called them “The Bastard Muses”: Propaganda, which pleads sometimes unscrupulously, for a special cause at the expense of the total truth; sentimentality, which works up emotional responses unwarranted by, and in excess of, the occasion; and pornography, which focuses upon one powerful human drive at the expense of the total human personality. The poet Czeslaw Milosz identified another enemy of democracy when, upon accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature, he said “Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterized by a refusal to remember.” Memory is crucial to democracy; historical amnesia, its nemesis.

Against these tendencies it is an uphill fight to stay the course of factual broadcasting.

I would like to personally clarify Brooks’ three bastard muses of broadcasting, or social-media, and Milosz’s amnesia muse on democracy, and modernize, more specifically distinguish, those bastard muses as opposed to the nine inspirational Greek muses.

Propagat Bastard

Propagat, or propaganda, is as most of you know a selling, marketing, or diffusion technique of hype and/or disinformation of an ideology, cause, product, or service that may not necessarily be factual or truthful. Who or what can you name, past or present, that was a masterful or sinister propaganda machinist? Here are six rules-of-thumb from one of history’s most successful propaganda campaigns by one of the world’s most elite, most notorious propagandist:

  • Propaganda must be carefully timed, reaching its audience ahead of competing propaganda.
  • Propaganda must have a theme that must be repeated over and over.
  • It must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.
  • It must evoke the interest of the audience.
  • It must diminish anxiety.
  • It must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium.

Who was this elite propagandist? He was Nazi Germany’s and Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He was also primarily responsible for much harsher discrimination policies across continental Europe including the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust. This is the power of unchallenged, unscrutinized propaganda.

Addendum — The Pink Agendist below in comments offered an exceptional article that further reveals the spine-chilling, remarkable power of propaganda. I highly recommend reading it. Thank you Pink.

Nostalgia Bastard

Sentimentality, or as I’m calling her nostalgia, in my opinion is the most covert, the most misunderstood bastard muse. Brooks correctly describes above that it is unwarranted emotion and in excess of the occasion; it panders to a gullible human sentiment to “rewrite history” as this Vox video informs us:

Sadly, much of modern racism, discrimination, and segregation in America can be attributed to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. They’ve kept much of the old Confederate prejudices alive today.

Pornographos Bastard

Pornographos, or pornography, perhaps the antithesis of Erato, but only from a conservative, pious, or puritan viewpoint. She is derived from the Greek word Eros that in ancient Greece is historically just one of six forms of “love.” Modern-day conservatism rarely understands the full experiences of endearing Greek relationships of Antiquity.

Despite the fact that Brooks does indeed give in very few words the correct, yet truncated definition of pornography, I feel the fuller understanding of the muse Pornographos should be understood in her expansive form. Bill Moyers may have described her more fully at some other place and time, I’m not sure. But he did not elaborate or hint in this opening speech what he means by “total human personality.” That is what I wish to do.

Pornography, or Eros, belongs with another 5 or 6 siblings:  Ludus, Agape, Philia, Pragma, and Philautia. The sixth sibling, in my opinion is the antithesis of jealousy:  Compersion. It is unfair for societies and religious ideologies to separate out or orphan Eros (pornography). Though she can be the center of attention for a period of time and degrees of sublime endeavor, she will always be one of six sister muses. When her other six sisters are neglected, that is when habitual problems and implosion creeps in. When sexual organs and associated body parts are exploited and/or abused for the gains or pleasures of another, while at the expense or humiliation of the entire person/victim, then CLEARLY that is wrong, illegal, and detrimental to everyone involved. All become less human.

Based on what I know about Bill Moyers and what I’ve briefly read about Cleanth Brooks, this latter specified condition of an orphaned Pornography is more their “bastard” muse. It is still incomplete. Their description is the modern connotation of pornography within conservative-puritan society, but it does not represent her family of six sister muses.

Amnesia Bastard

Amnesia, or historical amnesia, is indeed an infection to democracy. On the distinctions of history, national or individual, known or unknown, there is probably no better an expert, a firsthand expert, than Czeslaw Milosz. While becoming an acclaimed poet, he survived ethnic cleansing, exiles, and two world wars in Europe and the constant annexations and occupations of his homeland by Russia/USSR twice and the Nazis occupation 1939 – 1945 during World War II. Plain and simple, the man knew much about history and truth. Milosz writes:

“The creative act is associated with a feeling of freedom that is, in its turn, born in the struggle against an apparently invisible resistance. Whoever truly creates is alone… The creative man has no choice but to trust his inner command and place everything at stake in order to express what seems to him to be true”

The 20th century culture surrounding him worshipped victorious power-versions of history, but Milosz is the artist who through his poetry worships truth. His craft allows him to save his and the reader’s soul. Perhaps the trick (or struggle) for all free citizens of democracy — the type of democracy Stanford describes above — should be which muse you fall in love with, which muse beguiles you and why, yes?

nine muses

(paragraph break)

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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