Andy Stahl

Just words -- a name, in fact -- means something to me,
probably nothing to you

Where do words get their meanings?
How much of camping in the rain, carrying rocks, playing cards,
occasionally torturing the English teacher with an excess of rationality,
how much meaning,
how much is attached to the words?
How much is from the being I used to be?

How do we weave words into the meanings of our lives?


Making a Show of Community

Trying to tie these threads together: I started with the realization that Revels is the theatrical representation of some community. The represented community is a pastiche of historically and culturally rooted organic ommunities, idealized, polished, abstracted and presented on stage. The representation is compelling. Isn't that in itself valuable? The representation of an ideal of community, of community as deal, of community as creative force or at least creative context? By presenting that as the ideal, we help move it towards reality. Besides which, the Revels troupe does form a community during the production. As does any theater troupe; that's part of the joy of theater, is that it's a collective endeavor. So the representation of the ideal of community is also a presentation of a real community. The real presented community can of course be wildly dysfunctional (ah, the legends of the theater). But at its best, the inner reality reflects and deepens the presented reality.


Justice for All

I don't want gay marriage to be the only goal. It's a start at some kind of justice, but I also want justice and respect for the leather dykes, the transvestite hookers, the truly outrageous and transgressive. Not tolerance. We tolerate bad things because tolerance is the lesser of two evils. I want respect and admiration for those who are creating themselves anew, through all the pain and glory of rebirth.


Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, and Michael Bérubé

Addison and Steele wrote The Spectator for, and helped create, the emerging coffeehouse culture of London in the 18th century. It is still read because it's damn good writing.

They wrote it daily for a couple of years, then went on to other pursuits. Broadsheet burnout.

It was a blog on paper, distributed via the emerging popular communications channel of the day.

See the Spectator Project


Love is not a mirror

If you look at your lover and see yourself, your vision is obscured.

If you love your lover in how they are similar to you, your love lacks respect.

Nor is love for difference a good thing. If you love your lover for their strangeness, you are seeing them as an adjunct to your life, an accessory.

Love your lover for who they are, complex, complete, self-created, seeking, searching.


Sex is like Dancing

Sex is like dancing: creating art by merging body and mind. Kinæsthetic art.

A performed art; transient, ephemeral.

Sometimes more structured, sometimes more free-form. There is sex that follows known and agreed patterns; there is sex that surprises. Sometimes the best dance has surprises within the constraints of a structured form; sometimes the best sex is not spectacular or newsworthy.

Sometimes dance is bad; sometimes sex is bad.

When they're good, though, they knit together mind. body, and soul in a glorious way.

PS: Rather far from anything John Ruskin would approve, I'm afraid.


Love and Need

Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.
[from Robert Frost, "Two Tramps in Mud Time", 1934]

What's the difference between loving and being-in-love?

What does love have to do with need? There's this awful word, "needy"; I have an idea what it means, I own up to being needy at times. I think it's an awful word because it implies that to need is bad, and I don't think that that's the root of the problem described as "neediness". I think the root of the problem has more to do with power and control.

The behavior twist called "neediness" is, I think, better described as an attempt by one person to extract their salvation from another, in the absence of consent. It comes from fear and pain; it leads quickly to a downward spiral; it becomes a pattern of unuseful behavior because it does not solve the fear and pain -- it can easily get to be a stuck pattern, obstructing the clear thought necessary to find a solution.

I take this thought from Dworkin via Figleaf: not until no really means no, and maybe really means maybe, can yes be free. This applies equally in the emotional sphere as in the sexual one (a sexual sphere? how roly-poly!): emotional blackmail will not pay off.

The cure? Well, there's always a chance of finding interlocking neuroses by blind luck, or by a suitable application of the "Prince Charming" and "Sleeping Beauty" myths. We call it "falling in love" mostly in the magazines.

I think the fear and pain behind "needy" come from scarcity thinking -- the feeling that there is a limited and insufficient amount of love that exists. If we feel like that, then we tend towards grasping and clutching. The counter is to engage (wilfully) in abundance thinking -- there is an abundance of love, and ever-growing. One way to make that concrete in your life is to give, to yourself and to others, as if it were true.

Another idea is clear and explicit negotiation. The BDSM communities have learned to negotiate clearly about limits; consent freely given. It's more difficult to do this in the emotional sphere, for many reasons: it's harder to see emotions, it's harder to reach the common understanding. Also there's a lot of cultural message that tells us that our emotions are beyond our conscious control: we "fall in love", which is by definition involuntary. I think that's not right, I think that our emotions are no less a choice than is our vision. I'd rather say "leap into love" than "fall in love"; I'd rather take responsibility for my whole self, not imagine that my self is my ego, washed helplessly by the overwhelming tide of my id.

There should be no shame in making a conscious decision about a relationship, nor in using an emotional safeword to indicate a need to take extra care, to re-open negotiations. And consciously-chosen love is not less true than the involuntary, imaginary, kind.

Every human needs to love. Every human needs to be loved. Those needs can be met, without self-deception. You don't need to trick yourself, or anyone else.

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