Friday, March 22, 2013

Pedestrian Polyamory

Shira B. Katz is a personable young woman and a very polished podcaster.  She and her husband, Gavin Katz, record a podcast series called pedestrian polyamory, which can be found on iTunes.

Shira recorded two shows during the poly con, one on Saturday night and the other on Sunday morning.  On the Saturday evening podcast, Shira interviewed several of the five members of one of the two poly families featured on Lisa Ling's Our America series.  The program aired on the OWN network several weeks ago and represented poly life objectively, one of the few programs to do so.  I watched Lisa Ling's program, the podcast and sat in several workshops with members of this sizable and very interesting poly family.

The final segment of the podcast featured a comedic performance by CJ Wells, a kick-ass, crazy talented funny man.  The audience was in stitches during his entire performance.  I can't begin to describe the hilarity of his show; you will just have take a listen for yourself.

On Sunday morning, Shira recorded an excellent show on the topic of  impermanence.  While not presented as such, impermanence is a Buddhist philosophy of non-attachment.  With an understanding that nothing in this world is permanent, we can live in the now without getting distracted by the future.  We can better appreciate what we have now without clinging to someone or something out of fear of abandonment or loss.  We can learn to let go.

The philosophy of impermanence is very pertinent as it applies to polyamory relationships, which can be fragile due to the complex dynamics of multiple relationships.  It reminds us to enjoy our relationships to the fullest in the now, absent undo worry about fear of loss or abandonment.  And if the time comes to let go, we are better prepared emotionally to do so.        

The following quote is known as the Broken Teacup: The Buddha purportedly told a student, "Every morning I drink from my favorite teacup. I hold it in my hands and feel the warmth of the cup from the hot liquid it contains. I breathe in the aroma of my tea and enjoy my mornings in this way. But in my mind the teacup is already broken." 

I had the good fortune of sharing a few moments alone with Shira at the hotel bar Saturday evening.  Not surprisingly, I found her to be a very friendly and charming woman.  This comes through on her podcasts, so listen to as many as you can.  Unfortunately, the con podcasts have not been uploaded as of this date, but they will be so keep an eye out for them. 
This concludes my five post series sharing a little information about Atlanta PolyCon 2013.  I hope you have enjoyed reading, and perhaps, learning a little more about polyamory.  As always, call, text or write if you have questions or desire more information.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Purposeful Polyamory

Jessica, a young woman around thirty, started a blog two years ago, calling it Polyamory on Purpose.  The blog addresses many life problems encountered by poly families, including such matters as living arrangements, safer sex, pregnancy, raising children and legal matters.  She is working on a book series covering each of these issues in depth; the first book release, addressing pregnancy issues, was celebrated during the conference.

I attended her workshop on Purposeful Polyamory Friday afternoon.  It was immediately obvious that she was distraught and unable to maintain the flow of her presentation.  People began walking out of the room.  They should not have.

Jessica abandoned her presentation and asked the remaining attendees for permission to tell a story.  The few of us remaining gave her a resounding show of support with an affirmative response.  She began by saying that her two relationships lacked purpose and within a brief time, first one partner, then the other left her.  She blamed herself for the lack of purpose, and while not defined, I took purpose to mean direction and focus.  Instead, her relationships drifted like leaves in the wind, and absent purpose, they were lost. 

As if this was not bad enough, her dumbass parents sued for custody of her three children, which was awarded to them by a dumbass judge.  There is still hope as she has another custody hearing next month, hopefully in front of a judge who understands his or her job absent moralistic judgment and infringement.  I pray her children are returned to her.

Jessica fought through her emotional anguish and completed her story.  This required courage, as her instinct could easily have been to run out of the room.  The story was gut-wrenching to tell and gut-wrenching to hear.  Yet, her story is important and deserves telling.  It speaks to an intolerant society where only a cultural normative family (as in a family consisting of one man, one woman and 2.5 children) is relevant.  Families outside of this cultural norm are at risk of losing jobs and even custody of their children.  Sadly, Jessica is only one example of this tragedy.

Upon returning home, I sent an email to Jessica, thanking her for her courage and inspiration.  Nothing drives home a point like a real life example, and her story was a reminder to always work hard on relationships and to take nothing for granted.  Purposeful couple-hood is hard enough; purposeful polyamory is much harder. 

Polyamory and Skeptics

I have been observing and studying polyamory for about two years now.  Over this period, I have noticed that poly folks often come in one of two flavors: mystic or skeptic.  I am a Reiki master, practice sacred sexuality and attend pagan festivals, so you can guess my flavor.  For 15 years, I have studied and/or practiced differing aspects of nonphysical energy.  I'm certainly not an expert, but I do know a little about the mystic flavor.

Certainly not all, but some mystics are a throwback to the sixties and can accurately be called hippies, both in dress and attitude.  Religiously, mystics practice a broad range of paganism or attend the Unitarian Universalist Church, a denomination strongly committed to social justice.  Politically, many identify with the Green Party, consistent with their earth-centered religions.  On the other hand, it seems skeptics are atheists and often libertarian.  (I don't mean to imply an overly strict dichotomy.   As with most matters, there is a continuum of belief in the poly community.)

While somewhat knowledgeable about mysticism, I have to plead much ignorance about skepticism and atheism.  The study of atheism has been on my radar for some months, but I have yet to get around to it.  For this reason,  I was excited to find a workshop about skepticism on the Atlanta Poly Weekend 2013 schedule.  It was called Polyamory and Skeptics and proved to be the most interesting workshop I attended during the conference.

I have noticed that the poly skeptics who cross my path seem to be highly intelligent.  The workshop panelists did not disappoint in this regard.  All three were knowledgeable and very committed to skepticism, which they use as a philosophical approach to various issues and beliefs.  While the workshop centered on religious skepticism, one panelists gave an example unrelated to religion of how she used skepticism to solve a life problem.  I don't remember her circumstances, but I'm sure many examples unrelated to religion can be found.  For example, a scientist undoubtedly employs skepticism in the course of scientific research.  

Skepticism, as I understand it, is a process of seeking truth by using rational thinking and logic in search of evidence supporting whatever it is that is being tested.  If solid evidence is found, it is true; if not, it is untrue.  While often synonymous in common usage, skepticism and atheism are not the same.  Rather than blanket non-acceptance of the existence of God (or gods), skeptics apply reason and logic in the search for evidence that God exists.  In the absence of such evidence, skeptics become atheists.

I did learn some interesting nuances about atheism.  Theism is the belief in the existence of God; atheism is the absence of such belief.  Thus, those who have never been exposed to theism, such as newborns, are sometimes considered atheists.  I had never before given thought to the possibility of a newborn being an atheist. 

The difference between atheism and agnosticism was explained as the difference between belief and knowledge.  Agnosticism is the view that whether or not God exists is unknown, and probably, unknowable.  Stated another way, the knowledge needed to justify either theistic or atheistic belief is nonexistent.  Further, there are blended bodies of belief such as agnostic theism and agnostic atheism.  In other words, in the absence of knowledge, it is still possible to either believe or disbelieve in God's existence.

Sometime in the future, I will share my thoughts about atheism as a movement.  This was not presented at the workshop, but I have overheard atheist activists discuss the atheist movement at poly meetups.  But first, I have to educate myself on this topic.      

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

PolyCon Aloneness

Have you ever been in a crowded room and felt lonely?  

Last year, Connie and I attended Atlanta Poly Weekend 2012 together.  Our girls were away on a girl scout trip, enabling us to fit in neatly with the other partnered folks in attendance, whether configured as dyads, triads or quads.  This year was different.  Connie remained home to be with our daughters and help our older daughter prepare for her high school prom on Saturday evening.  Thus, I attended APW 2013 alone (for awhile).  

Although the divide between polyamory and swinging can be narrow in practice, the cultural gap is wide in a number of ways.  For instance, I would not consider attending a swinging conference as a single man, unless invited by a couple.  Yes, some couples desire a single guy to join in on their fun; however, too many women view single guys as creepy and too many men feel threaten by them in a swinging context.  Polyamory is much different in that nobody gives a shit about partner-hood (with or without or number of), love-styles, family configurations and so forth.  Thus, I experienced nothing short of open arm welcoming at APW 2013.  

This level of tolerance and welcoming is also extended to folks in other alternative lifestyles, such the LGBTQ and BDSM communities.  You will never find more tolerance anywhere than that which can be found at a poly con.  Nobody gives a shit and this is a good thing.  

I mentioned I was only alone at the con for awhile.  After spending a long day observing an abundance of poly love on Friday, hormones kicked in causing me to suffer from an acute case of hornyitis.  My condition worsened overnight, and by morning, I was in serious need of relief. Fortunately, a friend knocked on my hotel room door early Saturday morning.  Highly skilled in hornyitis therapy, her treatment was a godsend and my condition soon improved dramatically.

Feeling very well, I was able to spend an enjoyable day Saturday participating in the con events with my friend.  Later that evening, I bid her farewell at a marginally reasonable hour.  On Sunday, there was no time to grieve over my state of aloneness.  That was okay.  PolyCon aloneness really is okay.  Nonetheless, a mid-con therapeutic visit never hurts.  (Thank you ma'am; you know who you are.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Atlanta Poly Weekend 2013

During St. Patrick's Day weekend, while many folks were attending outdoor events and drinking green beer, I was indoors for three days at a conference.  To add insult to injury, this occurred during the most beautiful weather of the year in Atlanta, Georgia.  That's the bad news; the good news was the conference itself.  Atlanta Polyamory, Inc. (API) sponsored its third annual poly con, aptly named Atlanta Poly Weekend 2013, and it was outstanding.  I feel fortunate to have attended the past two poly cons and both easily met and exceeded all of my expectations.

During 2013, I attended 14 workshops, the keynote address, a presenter's panel, two podcasts, a comedy show, the closing keynote and an API membership meeting.  I missed three of the four workshops running concurrently during each session period, and for various reasons, the talent show, the Saturday night dance lessons and dance, and the con wrap-up session.  With these few exceptions, I was a full participant and regret being unable to attend some of the concurrent workshops.  

Looking back, all of the workshops were good and several were genuinely outstanding.  I will write about these in future posts.  For now, I will briefly discuss the API membership meeting, which was open to all conference attendees.  It was announced during the meeting that the board of directors voted to dissolve API, a 501c-7 non-profit corporation.  A new non-profit corporation will be formed as a 501c-3; as I am not a corporate attorney, no attempt will be made to explain the differences.  I do know that API outgrew its charter, which limits the amount of funds that can be accepted by non-members.  This has potentially serious tax consequences and puts the officers and directors at financial risk.  Simply put, something had to be done.  

The technicalities of the corporate change probably had little meaning for the majority of folks in attendance.  However, when it was announced that the conference would continue on into the future with very little noticeable change, the audience response was a resounding round of applause.  There was no doubting the importance of the conference in the minds, hearts (and probably genitals) of those present.   

The name of the new corporation will be Relationship Equality Foundation (REF), with a broader geographical and inclusive scope and purpose.  REF will focus on the southeast and will continue to educate and advocate, but going forward, for all relationship and family structures.  I am excited about the change.  I believe it is needed, but I also feel a certain sadness for the organizers, directors and officers, who for legal reasons, cannot assume the same positions with the new corporation.  I also confess to some concern about a possible leadership void.  Billy Holder, Chairman, more than anyone, has poured his heart, soul, blood and tears into API.  He is a natural leader, and his leadership will be greatly missed.  (Although, I suspect he will find ways to add his talent to the new venture.  I certainly hope so.)         

As previously stated, there is much more to write about and I promise to do so.