Friday, 26 February 2010

How can we get over the teenage crush our society has on being a teenager?

A question on the front page of the BBC news web-site today asks the following: "Are children exposed to adult sexuality too early?" There is a link to the following related article: 'Why can't I look like that?' ask teenagers

This question is a curious one to me, both because of what it conceals and what it reveals.

What is actually being referred to here, by use of these words "adult sexuality"?

I rather suspect that what is in fact being referred to here by the use of these words "adult sexuality" could more accurately be referred to as "teenage sexuality" - that kind of wonderful all consuming lust that overwhelms us all at the onset of adolescence. Our popular culture, whose centre of gravity finds itself very at home in a teenager's way of seeing the world, has a teenage crush on this kind of sexuality. The cinemas (on this side of the Atlantic) and movie theatres (on the other side) are filled up with this. As we have all been there, we can all identify with this kind of sexuality. It is a count-on-able lowest common denominator that unites us all with regard to sex... All that falling in love with someone who has film-star looks (naturally enough because they are a film-star), having your heart broken and then put back together, falling in and out of love, etc. etc.

Teenage sexuality can be both wonderful and horrible. I certainly wouldn't want to suggest we ought to ever grow out of the pleasure of overwhelming passion and lust.

However it is surely a mistake to let teenage sexuality masquerade under the name of "adult", since this would be to imply that teenage sexuality is as adult as it gets, and if that was actually the case it would be a tragedy for all of us.

Older people amongst us, and even people in the ever increasing ages called "middle", will be able to confirm my assertion that teenage sexuality - as promoted (and capitalised on) by people like pop-stars, magazine model footballers (and their wives) and glamour models like Jordan - is really just the beginning of the journey regarding what is possible with sexuality.

Although it may be true that for a lot of people that wonderful first stop on the journey of the sex train is the place they are happy to spend their whole lives, for many others amongst us it is really only the beginning. The range of possible sexual activity that adults engage in is so rich and various that to put it into a single category and call that "adult", is a bit like saying there is only two kinds of weather - good weather and bad weather. (Us country folks know better than that.)

If the older and wiser members of our community are not willing to be a bit more forthcoming about where the sex train can go later on its journey - visiting places like love, and commitment, and having children together, and building partnerships of ecstasy, and fantasy, and even spiritual fulfilment, it leaves our culture with the uninspiring misunderstanding that adult sexuality is something that happens in adolescence, and becomes gradually less interesting as we get older.

The question asked by the BBC news homepage may be an important one. It must be right to protect children from the images of teenage sexuality that fill up our advertising media and popular culture. However it must equally be a mistake to call those teenage-centric images "adult". It is not surprising that our children find these images appealing, when we think of them in this confused way as being "adult". These are not "adult" images at all. They are teenage ones. We must start to ask the question: how can we get over the teenage crush our society has on being a teenager?

Although it is a mistake to propel our children into becoming teenagers before they are teenagers, endorsing the trance state we are in that allows our whole society to remain teenagerish about sexuality indefinitely and for the foreseeable future is a more fundamental matter of concern.

Magazines like Cosmopolitan and Maxim and celebrities like Jordan and Simon Cowell endorse the idea that it is good to behave like a teenager for as long as our bodies can hold out under the pressure. It is a mistake to think that behaving in this way is anything more than a weigh station on the road of being an "adult".

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Hans Rosling : "The seemingly impossible is possible"

Hans Rosling's new insights on poverty from 2007

Stick with this talk... it is so much more than a talk on the statistics of poverty!
.... Hans Rosling tells us that "The seemingly impossible is possible"

If you aren't reading this on my blog, you probably don't see the video...
It is here .... Hans Rosling's new insights on poverty from 2007

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Who makes the best tour guide?

The question: "what is every thing like?" is a different question than the question: "what is everything like?"

In the days before finding out that none of my thoughts were my own, I used to think it mattered what I thought, and what I "believed" (for "believed" translate as "the set of thoughts I was stuck on").

Subsequently it becomes clear that the best tour guide is one who has covered the whole territory; the one who has visited All the places, and been down All the paths. The best tour guide is the one who knows the quickest route from any of those places to any other place, and also the most scenic route to travel (on days when the sun is out, and there's plenty of time and good company).

The best tour guide is the not the one who has spent their whole life never going outside their own valley - nor someone who may have travelled but secretly only likes their own home.

The best tour guide is the one who can speak to the locals in their own language, who knows how to get invited round for supper and treated to the local bonhomie, who can guide you through the mine field of local customs, and protect you from the likely hazards that are an intrinsic part of any adventure into the unknown.

And then further, indeed, the best tour guide is the one who understands that this entire world of thought is only a construction of thought. The whole universe can be re-created in the wink of an eye, and the process of exploring an entirely unknown and unknowable universe (even down to its barest constituents) must begin entirely from scratch (from nothing) all over again.

Ecstatic union is the world you come to when you have the opportunity to live before the horizon of a self-designated relationship with the eternal.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Our coming of age

It is interesting the lies we tell our children,
pretending to know things which really no-one knows:
who is god, or indeed is god, or indeed is that a good question?
what is everything?
what is everything like?
what is this moment?
how do we know what it is?
and how do we know that?
why are we so desperate to hold on to life when it was (after all)
so easy to come by?
is it all meaningless (and meaningless that it is meaningless)
or does it actually mean something?
and if so, what?
or is it actually a mistake to think within the box of that either-or
... a mistake to think that there could be An Answer to that question?
... a mistake to think there is some "truth" about that?
... a mistake ultimately to think that everything Is some way, at all?
should we just let it be, and take it for granted,
or should we bother to ask difficult questions?
what is the next question after this one?

The glib assertion that the only (non)thing that really matters is love,
hides a paralysis of foolishness,
"and courage, and justice, and hope, and beauty, and and and"

Every unanswerable question is precious jewel – a blessing from heaven;
Some (non)thing to be prized, and treasured, and kept safely
in the keeping of the unanswerable.
Don’t let the ignorance thieves brake in to your safe with easy answers
and steal our precious mysteries!
Every time you tell your child "no-one really knows",
god (or the absence of god) celebrates our coming of age.

I am not agnostic in the sense that:
I am absolutely certain that:
when it comes to subjects like god or art or our relationship with the eternal,
questions are a lot more beautiful than answers.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Last of the mortals - immortality becons us

Over on my poetry blog last night, following the Horizon program on the current state of some of our attempts to extend human life spans (which program curiously left out Aubrey de Grey), I wrote the following poem:
Last of the mortals
What pathos is this!
To be here dying,
in the company of those who are the first humans to not die;
or else they live so long that death is merely
the last thing that they haven’t tried yet.

(see: poetry blog)

The curious thing about our desperate scramble to stay alive, is that we each of us know from our own experience that life came to us as a gift.

Why are we so desperate to keep hold of something that is after all so easy to come by? (By "so easy to come by" I mean the gift was given to us without an invoice.)

If we squint hard with our mind's eye, it is not hard to see that everything we glorify about our own particular instance of life (what we call "my self" or in the realm of the physical what we call "my body") is expressed over and over in other places in this extraordinary miracle of being (our universe) that is So designed to be taken for granted and designed so well that it Is taken for granted.

However much the universe may indeed be a mystery even to itself, the insight is inescapable that the universe really knows what it's doing.

Of course we must act in any way we can to reduce the suffering of those around us, and make the world a better place for each other in any way we can. That opportunity is part of life's gift. Therein lies the paradoxical perfection of imperfection. The state of our universe is so perfect for us that it even bothers to include something for us to do with our lives! (It even includes a little bit of imperfection - or depending on your viewpoint a lot of imperfection - just to give us the pleasure of completing the perfection.)

But even more amazing is the inescapable insight that any inclination you or I might have to worry on behalf of the universe, is blissfully unnecessary. The universe can and always will take care of itself. We are consequently completely free to let it be exactly the way it is, and not have to worry about that.

Whether or not the universe is "up to something" I think can only be a matter of speculation. But whether it is or whether it isn't, it clearly can get on happily doing whatever it is that it is doing without us "human beings" needing to be worried about that.

I don't mean to suggest that we should shy away from our attempts to become immortal, or even our attempts to become gods and be able to design our own universes entirely from scratch. I would hazard a guess that this universe (our universe) would actually love it if we did achieve that.

I picture her sitting there smiling wistfully and thinking to herself "How about that! Bless them! The kids have finally started to grow up and have universes of their own!" 8-)

Last of the mortals - immortality becons us (this post as it appears on my blog)