Labels…

I tend to find labels exhausting. But truth be told, they are necessary in our world today. As much as I’d like to live in a time and place where we are just individuals and nothing is thought of our political beliefs, sexual practices, or religion that is not the case. It is never “this is what Peter believes”, instead we use shortcuts like “Peter is an atheist”. We try to compact complex ideas into single words so that we know who is an ally and who is an enemy. This sucks, but it is reality. And as a writer living in reality there is value in defining terms so that people know what I am talking about. As a person it also challenges me to put my beliefs and views into words… often it seems people adopt labels without knowing why they call themselves it.

So, here are some of my labels and what I mean by them. I may add more to this post and reference it in the future as needed.

Anarchist – An ideal world is one without violence or threat of violence. Because government in all forms is backed by violence we should move away from government solutions to our problems. It should be remembered that anytime you say “there ought to be a law” or something similar you are really saying “this situation is so bad that the only way to handle it is to allow people with guns to take people against there will and put them in cages if they disobey, and if they resist with force they sacrifice their lives”.

Atheist – I do not believe there is a conscious being that created and/or interacts with the daily lives in humans that is morally superior to us or should be worshiped.

Introvert – When I am mentally drained I recharge by time alone or time with close friends in a comfortable place. This doesn’t mean I’m shy or avoid public places, it simply means I find new conversations or unfamiliar places draining and need to be in a comfortable place to recover. Yes, this means I stay in 5-6 nights a week and would prefer being curled up with a book or Netflix over putting on clothes and going to a bar or club.

Libertarian – I believe the only person who has the right to control the body, mind, or labor of an individual is that individual. No person, organization, institution, or concept can morally restrict the freedoms of the individual as long as they are not harming another. A peaceful society requires maximizing freedom for all and equality under the law.

Nudist – The human form is beautiful to me and I am comfortable being naked and around naked people. To much emphasis is placed on turning people against their own bodies and forcing us to be embarrassed if we see another person nude. The body is not explicitly sexual and when you start to view it in non-sexual environments regularly you increase respect for individuals and appreciate the beauty that comes from our diverse forms.

Pansexual – For me sexual attraction is not fluid or binary. The people I am attracted to is not determined solely by their organs but depends on time, place, and the individual as a whole, not just their genitalia.

Partner – I am in a relationship with a wonderful partner who I love dearly. The decisions I make do not solely effect me so I take my partner’s thoughts and feelings into strong consideration when I make important decisions. We see eye-to-eye on all important things (marriage, children, and lifestyle) and we communicate openly. I would not be with her if I didn’t feel we complimented each other, can grow together, and are in many ways family.

Polyamorous – If relationship orientation has “only monogamous, one-and-only, no sex, intimacy, or attraction” on one end (let’s call it “1”) and “only polyamorous, must have or pursue multiple sexual partners, intimacy, and relationships” on the other end (“10”) then I range closer to 10… probably fluctuating between 4 and 7 depending on time, place, and individuals.

Promiscuous – Sex is not something that is spiritual, super-natural, or of great importance to me. I have no moral problem with having any kind of sex with consenting people if I wish. (Note: Being a partner means that she gets a strong say in this)

Transhumanist – Thanks to technological advancements humans will someday (possibly in my lifetime) be able to move our consciousness out of the body and into something more durable. The exact form of this will change many times and the initial advancement that grants the option of immortality is still unknown.

Skeptic – I prefer objective proof over subjective testimony. Humans are capable of understanding much through scientific inquiry and those tools should be used whenever possible. The “supernatural” doesn’t exist, though there may be natural forces and mechanisms in place that we have yet to discover or properly understand… in fact, I am sure of it.

Spiritual – I believe that there is something unique about at least humans (possibly other earthly animals and very likely extraterrestrials) that is more than just body and mind physical reactions as we understand them. A soul/spirit exists and exercising it can be beneficial to both the mind and the body. No organized religion has a monopoly on the truth but certain common threads among some “prophets” like love and honor each other, forgive, immediacy, etc provide a foundation. This are internal areas where objective measurement is not yet possible so we must use subjectivity. Whether the soul lives on after bodily death or not I am unsure of.

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I am an introvert… really!

When I define myself as an introvert it seems to really surprise people, particularly those people who know me primarily online via Facebook or this blog. I can understand this perception… I’m obviously comfortable naked (particularly in public), I share my intimate experiences, I very vocally advocate for non-traditional relationships, and I fully participate in communities like Burning Man. I’m not a shy person usually, particularly if I am even remotely comfortable, but I am still an introvert.

Introverts are not defined by how active they are in public, it is all about how they get energized. I get exhausted when interacting with strangers, particularly when there is small talk involved, so I hate “mixers”, networking, happy hours, and any other form of forced association with people I don’t know. I am not a fan of dancing or clubs, even bars tend to drain me unless I am with close friends. One night out a week is plenty for me and I would rather lounge at home watching Netflix or reading than go out… but I have also found a way to be an introvert but be social and lose the shyness when in public.

The most important thing for me is to have close friends I can retreat to even in social environments. Yes, I did a naked bike ride, but I did it with my partner and one of my best friends and the entire time I hung out with them. Yes, I share moments I have but these moments are with people I love and I share them on the internet but I can control what feedback I get in these venues. I need the people I am closest to around me, I would be lost and exhausted and anxious without them. My dearest open-minded friends are now geographically close to me which is part of the reason you don’t see many events like the ones above from my time in Washington DC.

Another tool in my “I’m introverted but want to get out there and have adventures” is a having a distraction. I don’t like dancing when people can see my face but if I have a firestaff, a mask on, or some sort of LED tool that distracts it helps me break out of my shell. While logically I realize on a logical level that on a dance floor or out on the Playa I am hardly the focus of attention for anyone it still helps me to have a distraction that is within my control… the whole experience drains me less when the focus isn’t on me. Actually, in retrospect this paragraph is more about shyness than introversion but I wrote it so I might as well leave it…. maybe someone will get some value out of it.

As an introvert I store energy by being alone, I stay energy “neutral” when with close trusted friends, and I exert a lot of energy when dealing with strangers. Now, it doesn’t take long for some people to move from stranger to close friend, but my close friend circle still stays small in numbers. That is just how I operate, I may not understand extroverts who love going out nightly to happy hours or want to talk when they get home from work, but the beauty of this world is the diversity and I don’t need to understand. Extroverts create beauty, just like introverts do, and if we can respect our different ways of processing energy I think we can all learn from each other.

Words

Language is a funny thing, but for me it can also be incredibly confusing and annoying. I came from conservative upbringing, served in the military, went to college in the South, worked in the liberty movement in DC, and now live in Los Angeles, and all this has taught me that most people don’t listen and that even English speakers are often speaking a different language. When political debates unfold it seems incredibly rare that the two people debating even agree on definitions, but instead of clarifying language people scream past each other. Words like “coercion”, “legitimate”, “oppression”, “equality”, and “freedom” can mean very different things to different people depending on their background and experience.

Personal relationships do not always seem to add much relief to the confusion. When two people have even slightly different personalities or perceptions there can be a lot of confusion. I’ll give two recent examples from my life where my INTJ nature and confidence issues lead me to miss language cues that may have been obvious to someone with a different personality. First, when I asked my best friend what he was up to at night he said he was going to the movies and dinner with some mutual friends of ours. I assumed that if he wanted me to join then he would have explicitly invited me. He assumed that because we have known each other for over 20 years I would know that I am always welcome to hang out if I want.

The second situation was me overanalyzing what a word meant. A hot girl that I’ve talked to for a while and flirted with a bit called me “dude” in a text. I assumed I was being told that she saw me as only a friend and really didn’t think we had a connection beyond that. I asked her about it (which was out of character for me) and my assumption was wrong. I tend to be overly cautious with women because I fear making them uncomfortable, which makes communication very difficult. I basically can’t read implicit signs and fear making explicit comments.

I don’t really know where I was going with this. It was just on my mind and I think we could all benefit from clearly saying what we mean and make an effort to clarify terms when needed. In order to make ourselves, our relationships, and our world a better place I think we need to spend the time communicating clearly instead of assuming the other person knows what we mean. 

Hoisting the Flag

 “Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed.” – Terence McKenna

I think it surprises some people how quiet and reserved I am when they first meet me, particularly if they were Facebook friends with me first. I sometimes fear my introverted nature may actually come off as stuck up or something, but the truth is that I just am not comfortable in person when I first meet most people (I’ve actually noticed a “three day rule” where I am not truly comfortable with someone until I’ve interacted with them meaningfully three times). That is very different from my online presence where I tend to very openly share my views and activities, even things that most people would likely keep secret. I’ve been thinking a bit about why I am so open online, I hate to admit it but I think a lot of it has to do with other people.

First, being open online allows me to let my thoughts known in a comfortable atmosphere. Whether I am sharing sex-positive links, thoughts on drug use, polyamorist and open relationship experiences, or anarchist memes it is relatively harmless to put them online. The internet is a place where I won’t need to see any discomfort I make others feel, which is really my greatest fear. Rejection does not scare nearly as much as the idea that I made someone else uncomfortable.

Secondly, online forums allow me signal to similar people that I exist and am an ally. I have had several experiences where people have approached me online or in person to discuss issues that I have posted on Facebook. This has allowed people to more comfortable approach me to discuss sex, drugs, polyamory, or libertarianism and how our society portrays each of these. The dialogues have advanced into deep conversations and shared stories that would not have happened without a willingness to share my thoughts and not hide behind social norms. The willingness to challenge has built communities.

Lastly, it just feels right. It feels like I am being true to myself when I don’t try to be one person in public and another person in private. I can’t imagine the internal stress that would come from trying to keep up a facade like that. Being open online also allows me to bypass small-talk (which I find exhausting) and filter out negative people, in the same way it attracts like-minded individuals it also shields me from those who would put me down for my peaceful choices. I have an amazing network of friends who love me for who I am. I am very thankful to live in a time when billions of people can connect and there is always someone a mouse-click away that feels similarly. The world isn’t perfect but we live in a time when people have more ability to be true to themselves than ever before.

the perks of being a wallflower

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On the recommendation of an amazing friend I read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. I’d never read it before, though I wish I had, particularly when I was in high school, though I wonder if my conservative self would have made it through the pretty innocent sex scenes in the book. I somehow doubt it.

I really enjoyed it for two reasons. First, it’s a pretty good book with some interesting insight into “wallflowers”, something I think accurately describes me from time to time. It is much easier for someone like me to sit and observe a situation instead of becoming involved. I certainly think a certainly level of observation is necessary for an introvert like me but it is easy to get lost in that. Life is to be lived, not watched. I struggle with this constantly but I find it getting easier as I get older and am able to cast off any stupid social concerns.

The second reason I enjoyed it is the important one to me. This is a book that is important to a friend of mine and she even sent me her copy in the mail to read. It was filled with highlighted passages from her reading and it gave me a glimpse into her personality… it was a bonding experience, almost intimate to read this and see what was important to her. I am someone that often gives away my books with notes written in them, but I give them away for two reasons: I think the person could benefit from it or the person is important to me. I feel like I received this for both of those reasons and for that I am very grateful.

Fear of Success (or how I run away from girls at bars)

I’ve talked in the past about my introverted nature and how I often wait for women to make a pretty explicit move on me, but an event last night had me thinking that there is more to it than that. While at the bar with a group of friends random guy came up to me and said, “Hey, my female friend is really into you, would you like to meet her?” I said yes and asked where she was, I was hoping to get a look before talking to her so that I could prep myself. I’m not really good on the spot and the holy trinity of gin, vodka, and PBR was working its magic on my system.

He said he had to grab a drink and would be back in a second to take me over to her. After he left my sight I did what I usually do when I am approached or hit on in a bar, I ran away. I got up and moved across the bar to chat with some other friends with the intent of avoiding that guy and any situation that could develop. For some reason my knee-jerk reaction was to avoid any discomfort I may cause her even when I had pretty solid proof she was attracted to me, and my retreat likely caused her the discomfort I wanted to avoid.

As I look back at all of my past relationships and partners 86% were someone I met through a friend and only 1 was a result of a barroom style pickup (and yes, she approached me). I’m undecided on how to moves forward, I really don’t know if this is something I should accept about myself or should try to change. I feel like I’m missing a lot of opportunities to meet great people. As I think about it I realize this type of behavior is prevalent in my interactions with people on OKCupid as well, despite the friendly poly and open community there.

Oh well, just something I need to think about.