Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Two Sides

"There are two sides to everything." This might be true, but it's wrong. We MAKE everything into two sides.

A recent painting I finished about an elopement, and the time spent viewing and pondering the newlywed couple's photo albums, made some things clearer to me than ever before. This was combined with some interesting discussions with Dearest about a very funny JC Penney ad (Beware the Dog House) and how people understand the messages it contains about sexuality, relationship, romance, love, and gender.

We have an awful lot wrong with our current "normal" views of these things. And a lot of what's wrong is due to dividing things into only two "sides."

Let me take a small tangent and discuss another "two sides" item - American politics. We complain regularly about the limiting aspects of a two party political system. It polarizes everything and the two views end up skewed and providing little balance about issues. I know very few poeple who think about issues who felt that either party represented their views. Most people I know have spoken for decades about election of the lesser of evils, or, at best, a disappointing compromise. People don't seem to be running for office - parties are. And parties aren't human - they're machines. George Washington warned against much of this in his departing speech...

Well politics isn't the only part of our social landscape that is mapped wrongly and divisively because we artificially divide it into two camps. The same is true of gender and sexuality. Battle lines seem to be drawn, with the resulting misunderstanding of the "other side" and ourselves, between male and female. Men and Women.

And I suddenly realized that the deep loss caused by Proposition 8 is not just for Gay and Lesbian couples, it's for ALL of us. We have limited our view of sexuality, gender, and love to two sides - and the results are militancy, misunderstanding, and the oversimplified shaping of young minds into molds that don't function well for happiness, love, or relationships. We need those other views and definitions to be welcomed, fully accepted parts of how we see PEOPLE - how we see sexuality and gender, love and attraction. PEOPLE are being hurt every day by the oversimplifications - and I'm not just talking about Gay and Lesbian people. Because the two sides we define everything into now don't work, and with just two sides there is no real hope of making the model more complex, more realistic, more human. Our compulsion for seeing only two sides, and for using labels, is causing great harm. We are unable to properly understand OURSELVES.

If you think this is about tolerance for the "other side" it is - but it's even more about misunderstanding your OWN side, and your own self, with dire consequences for mental and emotional health.

The Bible, referenced for much of the ammunition in one side of this struggle, says "Male and Female God made them." Eve came from Adam and is bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. Aren't we reading this wrongly to oversimplify this and think it means something about the separateness of men and women? You're either male OR you're female? Doesn't it make a lot more sense to think these words mean that we're ALL male and female? Think about it - look at those words above. And polarizing everyone the way we do means denying that everyone is more complex - it means denying parts of ourselves, denying attractions for and relationships with others that are more complex than just X and Y chromosome. It hurts everyone, not just those attracted to the same physical gender.

All of us. All the time. We need those additional perspectives on human love and sexuality. We need to see them lived all around us, for our mental and emotional health. We need gay and lesbian couples - they are part of the healing we will all receive for our personal view of our own sexuality, our own gender, our own emotions, ourselves.

We need the plurality. If you believe in the Trinity, then you believe that even God is more complex than just two... It's not that simple.

So how is your rejection of another viewpoint impoverishing your own view? Clouding it? Twisting it into the "other side"? And whose view is left out entirely?

Think about it. It's important. For you.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<<
Perhaps les Grenouilles can offer a good example for our human friends? Mating only once a year, reproduction is not on le brain amphibienne for most of the year. Reproduction seems to humans to be a grande part of la vie grenouille, because that is when you hear us, and that is the continuation of the circle of life. Oui, Biologistes study that reproductive cycle and courtship among frogs, but mating itself is but a small part of our story, and many frogs never mate. The story is about ALL frogs, is it not? Not just about those who reproduce? And what, then, can be said of those who choose not to mate, or are not chosen by another for that feat? And what of the tres jolie rest of the year, when there is no difference between these frogs and those who do mate, or even between male and female? That time of year when we are all sunning, swimming, catching and eating insects délicieux... Or when we are sleeping quietly side by side on the bottoms of ponds? All are here, all are frogs, all are important. Do you see us creating a class system among frogs or among l'amours de grenouilles? Do we decree that the bedding down for the winter must only be boy, girl, boy, girl?


The Cunning Runt said...

You couldn't be "righter."

I believe there's a part of our human nature which gravitates toward the existentially lazy paradigm of duality; black and white requires so much less effort to understand than shades of gray. Maybe this springs from survival strategies necessary in more primitive times; perhaps it once served us well.

But just as booting the contrast on a photograph eliminates the entire world which exists between the black and the white, our culture's denial of the broad continuum of living and loving leaves only the raw, ugly edges of what we all could be.

Thanks for getting it, and for expressing it so beautifully.

Anonymous said...

You remind me of something that MathMan often complains about regarding the media. Oversimplification. It's either this or that. No room for gray area. That perspective definitely permeates our culture and maybe all of human nature. Still - it isn't right or correct.

Steve Emery said...

Cunning Runt - So well put, as usual. And you got photography in there, too... The contrast black/white comparison is excellent.

DCup - I'm not at all surprised that MathMan hates oversimplification. I tend to oversimplify, so I'm pleased to be on the correct side of this issue (oops - look at me taking sides) and being closer to the heart of the issue gets me a nod from the brighter half of my particular favorite duality - the Dearest and I. Learning to unlabel everything and to look for the grey has been my mission lately. People like Dearest and MathMan help show the way.

L'Adelaide said...

In the west, we see with dualistic minds based on generations of religious teachings linked in concepts of right and wrong, male and female, good and bad, darkness and the light. How did the dark become bad? How did women become silenced? There is really no such distinction and you are very correct.

To be fully human, we must embrace both sides of our nature, the male and the female, no matter what gender we happen to become..we need to become ONE being with ourselves firstly...how we choose to procreate is not anymore important than how we eat our food.......

sometimes I think there is no hope for humanity, especially when I see the blindness I live with everyday. But in the end, it only matters what we do as individuals, that is all we have "power" to see and change, our small circle of those we touch based on our own knowing of who we are....our growing compassion for ourselves and thus, others.

there are 6 billion individuals, all of whom need to become acquainted with who they are alone, in the dark, alone with only the beating of their frightened, lonely hearts, before there will be change...I don't see it happening anytime soon. It is much easier to throw grenades, real or otherwise, at others, strip them of their lives and loves, anything but see who and what they really are - a mirror image.

Steve Emery said...

Linda - the image of the 6 billion individuals in the dark, alone with their frightened beeating hearts is very powerful. Scary and powerful.

To me it is a wonder so many people actually DO strive for real understanding and compassion. A miracle.

Unknown said...

I've never understood why western family units seem to be limited to one male parent and one female parent. In the modern era, where it seems that two incomes are needed for a family to live comfortably, wouldn't it make sense (both emotionally and financially) to have a third adult tending the home and children?

Does the gender of the parents really matter? I know that boys and girls are different, and that children learn from male and female role models in different ways, but is it absolutely necessary that each gender be represented in equal amounts? Does that even happen in the ideal nuclear family?

A family should take the form that best provides for the education and protection of its children.

Steve Emery said...

Alex - I'm fascinated and a bit chagrined to notice that I was only thinking of couples... I haven't thought about other family scenarios. Heinlein dealt with this back in the 50s and 60s in some of his later Sci-Fi novels - the more controversial ones. And his stories made it clear that it was largely about the children - and about love and commitment.

Unknown said...

Don't feel too badly, I completely ignored the idea that some families are not geared toward the prospect of offspring.

From my own perspective, I consider child rearing the primary function of a family. Reading your post and the responses, including my own, I came to the realization that I have been unconsciously dismissive of families who chose not to have and raise children. Don't get me wrong, if someone doesn't want to have children, I'm the first in line to defend their right not to reproduce.

Amazing how one dimension of a philosophy can be open ended and all inclusive while another dimension of the same philosophy can be narrow minded and exclusive.

Unknown said...

The world has changed. But the masses haven't caught up; refusing to see that their Biblical version of fantasy is no longer useful or relevant.

That is nothing against religion. People should live and worship as they please and allow the same fundamental rights to others who may do so differently.

Nice writing, Steve. Be back later to comment on the art posts. I guess I'm working my way up today.

Steve Emery said...

Alex - It's almost as if to add any definition and structure to our understanding we have to erect walls or divisions. And that necessarily means excluding or cutting off. To have a door to go through we have to have a wall to hang it in. To grapple with reality is to cover some parts of it with our hands and lose sight of those. To face one thing we must turn away from others.

I think this post has spawned some of the most thoughtful comments on my blog.

Pagan - I agree; the world has changed, and we're trying to catch up. I think that's what people always seem to be doing, or not. As long as they don't hurt others, that should be everyone's choice.

I'm looking forward to your other comments. I'll go looking.

Unknown said...


Wherein some big name hollywood celebs appeal to the baser instincts of the conservatives to get them to change their tune about Prop 8.

You know, It almost makes me wish for no walls or boundaries of any kind... Until I think about how dull it would be to stare at an endless, unbroken horizon. The walls and doors have to be there for us to walk through and discover new ideas and new perspectives.

The real disservice lies not in the fact that the walls exist and compartmentalize our world, but in our unwillingness to go through the doors and accept what's in the next room.

Steve Emery said...

Alex - I love that last paragraph!

Unknown said...

Thanks, you paint your way, I paint mine. :D