For Florida peeps: CryoFeast 2005 is coming up!

Alcor is sponsoring a free seminar on cryonics and cryomedicine in Palm Beach Gardens on Saturday, September 17th. Free food, talks by a bunch of people (including the Alcor CEO), announcements about cryopreservation, and a bunch of other good stuff.

Shelly and I are planning to go, and we’d like to make a caravan of it. Anyone else in the area interested? datan0de and company? smoocherie and company? Anybody?

Whew! After the heavy processing of the last two posts…

…some lighter fare, about kitties and about social dynamics.

First, the kitties. My kitties love John Woo movies!

Every animal that exists is bequeathed by God with a unique gift. Human beings are bequeathed with an amazing hubris that tells us we’re the chosen of God, for example, as a sort of “sorry, my bad” for the whole hairless-ape thing we’ve got going on. Dogs are gifted with boundless, enthusiastic optimism to compensate for the eating-off-the-floor thing.

But cats have the greatest gift of all. Cats are granted a special and limited immunity from the law of gravity.

Three nights ago, S was over late, and the kitties were feeling frisky. In a beautiful and stirring tribute to the Great Director, the two of them faced off against the vast expanse of the living room hallway, then charged each other in a stirring reenactment of that scene in “Mission: Impossible” with the motorcycles. About three feet apart, they both leaped high into the air, and collided with all four paws outstretched several feet off the ground, whereupon they fell heavily to earth in a ball of savage mock fury.

The performance was somewhat marred by the fact that they were both purring madly, but it was amazing nonetheless. I’d give the right arm of a crippled child with leukemia for a photograph, as long as it was a reasonably patient child who wasn’t using the arm for anything and liked cats and John Woo.

In other, and also amusing, news, I recently left a post about transhumanism on one of the Macintosh technical forums I read. I’ve been a member of this particular technical forum for many years, and I’m usually quite prolific. Another member of the forum told me that there was a conversation on transhumanism on a different forum he belonged to, and did I mind if he quoted me? I said no, not at all, and he sent me a URL to that other forum.

I went over, took a peek, and discovered that I have a fan obsessed freak. She used to use the Mac technical forum, disappeared around three years ago…

…apparently because of me. Seems I’d posted a comment in a conversation about using digital cameras with a Mac, and she’d said “Oh, a fellow photographer!” and visited my Web site, and read my polyamory pages, and, well…

“Creep” figured prominently in her comments on the other forum. “Depraved sexual appetities,” too. And other, even less flattering things.

She quit using the Mac technical forum because she couldn’t bear to use a message board I belonged to, and has over the past three years spent a great deal of time and energy talking about me on this other forum. For the sake of curiousity, I did a search on that other forum for my name. Thirty hits, in all, representing messages about me this woman has left.

In the most unkindest cut of all, she said something about how she can’t understand how I get all these women, because she’s seen pictures of me and I’m “sure not easy on the eyes.”

“Depraved sexual appetites,” that’s cool. “Sick pervert?” Hey, it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. “Dedicating an entire Web site” to my “unnatural perversions and lusts?” Well, hey, it’s something to do on a Saturday afternoon. But “not easy on the eyes?” Man, that just hurts. 🙂

Y’know, the funny thing is, I barely even noticed when she stopped posting on the Mac forums, and I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a conversation with her. The emotional energy she’s invested in me is kind of flattering, in a peculiar way, but damn…

More on the Green-Eyed Monster, or Fixing the Refrigerator for Love and Profit

So, in my last entry about jealousy, dealing with the emotional responses that deal with jealousy, and developing the fine art of fixing refrigerators, I said “there’s more to say on the subject.” And indeed there is. I would’ve said it then, except that (a) I had to run out the door to see a client–I can’t spend all my time on LiveJournal, as much fun as that would be–and (b) we all know that nobody’ll read a seventy-six-page LiveJournal entry, anyway. So, to save my bank account and your patience, I didn’t get into everything that really needs to be got into about fixing refrigerators.

If you don’t have the faintest idea of what I’m talking about, you need to read that post first. Really, you do. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Anyway. You wake up one morning and discover that something’s wrong in your relationship; something your partner is doing is creating an emotional response in you that cascades, like those little metal balls in a pachinko machine, until you feel jealous. Metaphorically speaking, your refrigerator is broken; you can fix it, you can replace it, or you can pretend that nothing’s actually wrong and just make up a rule that says no refrigerated or frozen food in the house. After all, if you can avoid the thing that makes you confront the broken refrigerator, it’s all good, right?

Now, I would argue that fixing the refrigerator–identifying the things leading to the jealousy, identifying the fears or insecurities that underlie the jealousy, and then dealing with the jealousy at its root–is the best course of action. I would also argue that the most common response is ignoring the problem and banning any kind of frozen food in the house.

But these two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. If you’re on your hands and knees behind the refrigerator with a flashlight in your mouth, you probably don’t want your partner trying to pile more food into the fridge while you’re working on it, right? So it seems reasonable to say “Honey, don’t put any more food in there until I fix the problem, ‘kay?” And this is exactly what many people will tell you they’re doing when they say “My partner does something with someone else, and it makes me feel jealous, so I told him not to do that thing any more–but only until I get to the bottom of it and deal with the jealousy.”

All well and good, but you have to be really careful with this approach. If you’re not, then what happens is that days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, you’re still uncomfortable with your partner doing whatever it is, months turn into years, and what’s actually happened is that you’ve said you’re going to fix the refrigerator but it’s still sitting in the corner dripping water all over everything and, effectively, you’re just not buying any refrigerated foods any more.

When dealing with a jealousy or insecurity issue, it’s important to differentiate between not wanting to do something because it’s uncomfortable, and not wanting to do something because it’s actually harmful. Some things are a no-brainer.

People often accuse me of being against rules of any sort in a relationship. Actually, this isn’t the case at all; I have rules in all my relationships, and certain standards of behavior which are essential and non-negotiable for anyone who wants to be partnered with me. I do not intend to come across as saying that there should be no rules in a relationship. Quite the contrary; some rules are reasonable and prudent, and some fears are rational and justified.

A trivial example is sexual health. STDs are real. they exist, and they can kill you. Anyone in a sexual relationship of any sort, especially multiple sexual relationships, is well-advised to keep that in mind, and design a minimum standard of behavior for himself and his partners to deal with that risk. In fact, you’d have to be a fool or a madman not to think about STDs when you create your relationship arrangements, and fear of STDs is not only rational, it’s downright prudent. Creating rules to protect yourself from this risk is a damn good idea.

Things aren’t as clear-cut when you’re dealing with emotional risk, however, Fears and insecurities are very, very clever at protecting and justifying themselves, and separating something that is actually harmful from something that’s merely uncomfortable isn’t always easy. It requires work. It requires examining, with an unflinching eye, what it is you’re afraid of and what it is you think will happen if your partner continues doing the thing that makes you jealous. And above all, it requires that you ask yourself, on a regular basis, What is the point of all this?

Many people in the poly community seem to be inherent pessimists, and to have a worst-case scenario of relationship.

What I mean by that is that many people start their polyamorous relationships from the perspective that polyamory itself is inherently destructive, you can’t reasonably expect your poly relationships to be healthy and positive, and if you don’t ride herd on them all the time and manage your relationships and your partner’s behavior strictly, all that will happen is you’ll lose everything.

You see this in the language that people use to describe their relationships. “Well, we do primary/secondary in order to protect the primary relationship.” Protect the primary relationship? Protect it from what? The basic premise is that if you DON’T do primary/secondary, then you’ll automatically find yourself in a situation that destroys the primary relationship; after all, if that were not the case, why would you need these structures to “protect” the existing relationship in the first place? If you believe that you need these rules in order to make sure your needs are met, then what is it that makes you think that another person’s needs must automatically come at the expense of your own?

When you start from the default assumption that other relationships are a threat, and you need to manage and control that threat, then of course it makes sense to assume that part of managing that threat means passing rules that place strict controls on your other relationships. But if you start from the default assumption that polyamory is implicitly threatening to your existing relationship, then what the hell are you doing poly for?

But wait, it gets worse! You see, people’s behaviors don’t spring from a vacuum. People act the way they do for a reason. If your partne’s behavior, left unchecked, is disrespectful to you and recklessly disregards your needs, then you don’t really solve the problem by placing controls on his behavior. The problem runs deeper than that. And contrawise, if your partner loves and respects you and wants to do right by your relationship, then you don’t need to place controls on his behavior; his behavior will reflect the fact that he wants to do right by you, and does so because he chooses to, not because you make him. As Shelly wrote elsewhere, behavior is an emergent phenomenon. You don’t actually control your partner’s heart by controlling his behavior. If your partner’s heart is not really with your relationship, making rules won’t protect your relationship; if your partner’s heart is with your relationship, making rules to protect the relationship is unnecessary.

But back to not putting vegetables into the fridge while it’s being fixed. Yes, this is a very, very good idea. It is not always true that a person who says “not now” actually means “not ever.” There are many people who say “not now” because they are, in fact, working on the problem, and sometimes working on the problem takes time.

Here’s the thing, though. Working on the problem means working on the problem. It means taking affirmative action toward addressing the underlying jealousy. It means making progress.

What can sometimes happen is that a person can sincerely believe that he wants to address the underlying insecurities or fears behind his jealousy, and he can genuinely imagine a time when he does not have those fears and his partner can do whatever it is that triggers the jealousy. But you aren’t going to get from here to there without discomfort. If you wait for a time when you no longer feel uncomfortable, then you’ll be waiting forever, and that time will never come, because the very act of working on the fears and insecurities means being uncomfortable. You cannot challenge a fear without exposing yourself to it. You cannot fix the refrigerator until you actually get on your hands and knees and crawl around behind it and start tinkering with the guts of the thing with a flashlight in your mouth, and that’s uncomfortable. If you say “Don’t do this until I feel comfortable with it” and then you don’t challenge your discomfort, you are saying “Don’t do this” and sneaking the rule in the back door. If your relationship is broken and three weeks later you’re still saying “No, honey, don’t bring any frozen foods home yet, it’s still not working,” what kind of progress are you making?

Things can get a little trickier still (this business of romantic relationship is messy, isn’t it?) when your partner has done something, intentionally or unintentionally, to damage your trust or to mistreat you in some way. When this happens, it takes time to rebuild trust and to repair the damage, and it’s reasonable to expect not to keep doing things which are threatening until you get enough time and distance to separate the damage from mere discomfort.

Of course, i say “mere discomfort” even though I know full well that that “mere discomfort” can be an overwhelming tidal wave of jealousy that so completely washes over you that it leaves you shaking and twisted up in agony and unable to do or say or think about anything save for making the feeling go away. Hey, I never said it was easy–only that it’s possible, and necessary.

Some Thoughts on Practical Jealousy Mangement

This entry started out as a reply to a comment elsewhere in my journal in this thread, and expanded until it touched on some of the things I was saying in this entry in the polyamory community, and grew too big to be posted as a comment anyway, so I’ll probably just end up putting this whole thing in my journal and in polyamory.

One of the central fixtures in most polyamorous relationships, especially polyamorous relationships between an existing couple who begin with a monogamous relationship and then expand the relationship to include polyamory, is a set of rules or covenants designed to protect the existing relationship and to make the people in the relationship feel secure–in other words, to deal with issues like jealousy, insecurity, and threat. I’m going to borrow peristaltor‘s metaphor of the refrigerator and bend it to my own ends.

Let’s assume your relationship is a refrigerator. One day, a problem arises in your relationship–the refrigerator quits working. You walk into your kitchen, there’s a puddle on the floor, and all your frozen pizzas and ice cream are a gooey mass in the bottom of the freezer. There are a few things you can do at this point, once you’ve mopped up the mess and scraped the remains of last night’s lunch out of the fridge. One solution is to fix the refrigerator; another is to replace it. A third solution is to leave the refrigerator exactly where it is and change your life around the problem–“From this day forward, I will bring no frozen or refrigerated foods into this house.” In the poly community, the last option is the one most people choose.

I’ll get back to the fridge in a bit, though, because first, I think it’s important to address something that peristaltor said, which is that sometimes, fears have a purpose. I’m going to spend a good deal of the rest of this entry talking about fear and threat, and it’s important to keep in mind that not all fear is irrational. Fear of snakes? Positive and healthy. fear of spiders, or falling, or drowning? Positive and healthy. A lot of our distant ancestors had to die to bequeath us with these instinctual fears, and they’ve served us well. There’s a difference between a rational fear and an irrational fear, a difference between a fear that genuinely keeps you safe and a fear that makes you contort your life (and the lives of the people around you) for no good reason. The latter kind of fear seeks only to protect itself, not to protect you–and ironically, sometimes it creates the very thing you’re afraid of!

In a relationship, a fear or an insecurity is a symptom of a problem. In some cases, the fear is perfectly rational and justified. An abused child lives in fear of his abusive parent for good reason; he has tangible reason to fear. In a healthy relationship, though, these fears are almost always irrational and unfounded.

Jealousy itself is an interesting emotion, because jealousy is a composite emotion, that is based on other emotions. It’s a second-order emotional response–something happens, that thing causes you to feel threatened or to feel insecure or to feel something negative about yourself, and then that fear or insecurity makes you feel jealous. For that reason, the root of jealousy is often surprisingly difficult to pin down and understand.

Instead, what happens is that people look at the event which is the proximal cause of the jealousy and assume that that event is the source of the problem. “My partner kisses another person, I feel jealous; therefore, it’s the kiss that makes me jealous. The way to deal with the jealousy is to address his habit of kissing people.”

Back about thirteen or fourteen years ago, I was dating a woman I’d met at college, R. During the course of our relationship, R started dating another close friend of mine, T. And for the first time in my life, for the first time in my history (at the time) of a half-dozen successful long-term poly relationships, I was jealous.

I don’t mean “You know, this makes me uncomfortable” jealous. I mean “completely overwhelmed, smashed to pieces beneath a tidal wave of feelings I could not anticipate or predict or control, gut-wrenching, wanting-to-puke” jealous. I mean the kind of jealous that consumes every other feeling and leaves nothing but ashes behind. I’d never felt those things before, and when I was in the middle of those feelings the only thing–the ONLY thing–I could think about was making the feelings stop, however I could. Because it happened when she was with T, and didn’t happen at other times, I made the logical, reasonable, and totally stupid assumption that the cause of the feelings was her relationship with T. From there, I reached the equally stupid conclusion that the thing which would make the jealousy go away was if she changed something about her behavior or her relationship with T. (I also didn’t really recognize the jealousy for what it was, powerful as it was, because I’d never felt it before, which only reinforced the notion that it was “caused by” her relationship with him.)

I behaved pretty reprehensibly, playing passive-aggressive games and just generally acting like…well, like a lot of people dealing with their first crisis in a poly relationship act. predictably, it destroyed my relationship with her. She went on to marry T and cut me out of her life completely; the very thing I was afraid of came to pass because of my jealousy. Had I not behaved the way I did, we’d probably still be close, almost fifteen years later.

In hindsight, now that I have a lot more experience and a bit more emotional wisdom under my belt, I can see where I went wrong. When a person feels jealous, and attributes the jealousy to the things which trigger the jealousy, he doesn’t actually understand the jealousy. It’s a bit like a person who has never seen a rabbit except when it’s being pursued by a dog believing that the dog is the cause of the rabbit. In reality, jealousy is built of other emotions; jealousy is not “caused” in any direct sense by the action which triggers it, but rather by a different emotional response to the act which triggers it.

In my case, R and I had never really discussed her relationship with T; nor had we talked about, in any capacity at all, what her intentions with T were or what effect, if any, that would have on her intentions with and her relationship with me. Put most simply, I saw her and T together, I had no idea what that meant for her and I, so I became afraid of being replaced. The fear of being replaced, in turn, led to the jealousy.

Now, had I actually taken the time to examine the jealousy and really try to understand it, I probably would’ve figured that out. And, once I understood that the jealousy was caused by a fear of being replaced…well, a fear of being replaced is a fear that you can work with. A fear of being replaced, all things considered, is really not that difficult to address. All it requires is conversation about intentions, perhaps a bit of reassurance, and time enough to demonstrate that the conversations and reassurance are genuine, and hey, there you go.

Getting back to the refrigerator:

Fixing the refrigerator means doing exactly that. It means saying “I know that I am feeling jealous. I know that the jealousy is brought about by some other emotion–some emotion which is triggered by the action that makes me jealous. I need to figure out what that other emotion is, and I need to figure out why that action triggers that emotion.”

Until you do that, you are helpless in the face of the jealousy. If you don’t understand it, there is nothing you can do to address it. Trying to understand it isn’t easy; when you’re ass-deep in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial goal was to drain the swamp, and when you’re entirely overwhelmed by gut-wrenching emotions that are tearing you to pieces, it’s easy to forget that these emotions are grounded in some other emotions. In the middle of jealousy, all you want is for the jealousy to stop, and you don’t care how.

So, you confuse the trigger with the cause. You believe, erroneously, that the source of the jealousy is the action that triggers it. You see your partner kiss someone, you feel jealous, you want the jealousy to stop, you pass a rule: “No more kissing.”

This is the equivalent of saying “No more frozen food in the house.” The problem is still there. The root has not been touched. The broken refrigerator is still sitting in the corner, dripping water. You haven’t actually dealt with the underlying causes at all; you haven’t addressed the insecurity or fear of loss or fear of being replaced; you’ve just “solved” the problem by shielding yourself from situations that might make you address it. You’ve “solved” the broken refrigerator by passing a rule against bringing refrigerated food into the house.

And then you do the same thing to anyone else who comes in to your relationship. You tell anyone coming into the house, “Look, here’s how it is. You can come over, you can have dinner with us, you can spend time here. but under no circumstances are you to bring any frozen food into these premises.” And if anyone asks ‘why’–well, secondary partners don’t get to ask ‘why,’ do they? Those are the rules, take ’em or leave ’em. We Just Don’t Talk About the giant, leaky, broken refrigerator in the corner. We don’t talk about it and we don’t allow anything that might make us confront the fact that the damn fridge is busted. No frozen foods. No kissing, no saying “I love you,” no doing anything that might make us actually have to deal with the fucking refrigerator.

Take it or leave it.

Not to pick on leotheseadragon, but I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several days thinking about what he said here in the polyamory community, and my response. My response to the situation he talks about now is a lot different than my response would have been thirteen years ago.

The situation leotheseadragon is an excellent example to use when talking about jealousy, because it happens so often. I’ve seen similar situations no fewer than a dozen times in the past three years; it’s a microcosm of the kinds of emotional responses people can have to a situation, and the kinds of rules and covenants they put into place to deal with those responses.

Abstracting from his exact situation a bit, the general idea is this: A person has an existing, primary relationship. He, or they, then begin sexual or romantic relationships with others. One of the people in the primary relationship has a jealousy response, such as “I don’t care when you are with a partner of the same sex, but when you are with a partner of the opposite sex I feel insecure.”

This happens amazingly often. (Sometimes it works the other way: “I don’t mind if you have partners of the same sex, because I know what they can offer you and I know I can compete with them, but I get insecure when you have partners of the opposite sex because they can provide an experience I can’t.” Whatever. The emotional process is pretty much the same.)

Now, put yourself in that position: you are jealous when your partner has some sort of relationship with some other person under some particular circumstance, such as when your partner has sex with someone of the same sex as you. What do you do?

Well, you can take the “I’m not the boss of my partner, so I will let my partner do his thing; my healousy is my issue to deal with, and I souldn’t feel it, so I won’t” approach. That usually involves squashing or suppressing the jealousy, which in turn usually means sitting in a dark room crying and feeling like you’re going to throw up when your partner is out having fun, sometimes combined with moodiness and passive-aggressiveness when your partner returns..y’know, just to spice things up.

Of course, you’re going to feel like crap. Getting back to the refrigerator, this is like continuing to put food into the fridge even though you know it’s broken. Result: wilted lettuce and sour milk. Bon appetit!

Or, you can say “I get jealous if my partner does X or Y with a person of Z sex, so we’ll make a rule in our relationship: no X or Y with someone of Z sex.” There you go, you don’t feel jealous any more. Of course, the underlying cause is still there–you haven’t fixed it. What will likely happen then is that six monthsdown the road, you’ll find that action W triggers the same jealousy. Okay, no biggie–we’ll outlaw W too. But wait, action Q and S trigger jealousy too–who knew? Hey, we can handle this; we’ll pass rules against Q and S. Oh, and against T, too, because T is, y’know, kinda like S. And we’ll pass rules against–you know what, this other partner of yours is just making me feel jealous in general. Veto!!!

And then you end up with problems in your own relationship, because, y’know, unintended consequences and all that. One of the unintended consequences of vetoing a person your partner loves is that you hurt your partner; one of the predictable consequences of doing things which hurt your partner is you damage your relationship.

Or, there’s a third solution. You can break up with your partner, because you feel jealous when your partner does X with a person of sex Y, and your partner wants to do X with people of sex Y, and you don’t like controlling your partner and you don’t like feeling jealous, so this isn’t the relationship for you.

Hey, at least it’s an honest response. You’ve thrown the refrigerator away, and replaced it with a new one.

And that’s about where your options end, right?


There’s another option. You can fix the fucking refrigerator.

Rathewr than retype it, I’ll simply repost here what I said in the thread to leotheseadragon:

“Were I in your partner’s shoes, the conversation would go a bit differently:

“I am uncomfortable with this, and for some reason the idea of you playing alone with a person of the same sex is OK with me but the idea of you playing alone with the person of the opposite sex is not OK with me.

I do not understand these feelings yet, but they seem like they are rooted in some kind of fear (such as the fear that I cannot compete with someone of the same sex as me), or possibly some jealousy. I need to work on this, because I recognize that it is irrational and unjustified. Therefore, it is OK with me if you play with someone of either sex, but I will want to talk to you about it afterward, and analyze my feelings and reactions, and try to understand them so that I can address whatever is causing these reactions. After you are done, I will need some time with you so that we can work together at identifying what is causing this irrational emotional response on my part.”

That’s what I mean when I say “fix the refrigerator.”

The nice thing about doing this is that you can, if you have isolated the emotional response beneath the jealousy and identified positive ways to deal with it directly, end up in a position where you don’t feel jealous any more. Even when your partner does the things that used to trigger the jealousy. You just don’t feel jealous any more. You do not need to pass rules banning certain behavior and you do not need to veto someone, because you don’t feel jealous any more.

The downside, though, is that your irrational fear will fight to protect itself; it won’t go down easy. The thought process goes like this:

“If my partner does these things with someone of the same sex as me, then I might lose my partner, because someone else might give him the same things I give him. If I lose my fear of losing my partner, I will no longer have a reason to ask my partner not to do these things. If I don’t have a reason to ask my partner not to do these things, then my partner will do them, because I know he wants to do them. If my partner does these things, I will lose my partner, because then someone else will give him the same things I give him. So I better not get over my fear, because if I get over my fear, then i won’t have a reason to ask him not to do these things, and that means he’ll do these things, and that means…I’ll lose him!”

And ’round and ’round it goes. You don’t want to lose the fear, because you’re afraid something bad will happen, and you can’t give up the fear of something bad happening because if you do…you’re afraid something bad will happen.

Fixing the refrigerator requires a leap of faith. It requires believing, even if your fear is telling you otherwise, that your partner is with you because your partner wants to be with you. If you start with the assumption that your partner wants to be with you, then anything becomes possible–including defeating your jealousy without passing rules.

But you got to start there. You got to take it on faith, even when your fear is telling you otherwise–and believe me, it will.

There’s more to say on the subject, but this message is too long anyway, and I have a meeting with a client.

Goddamn it!

I just did something cool, and wanted to upload an image to my Web server so I could post it here, and…

…my Web site is down.

MOST of my Web sites are down. Everyone hosted on one of Earthlink’s largest and busiest servers is down, which means: My clients are down. My business site is down. Gah!

Goddamn Earthlink anyway. Just spent 45 minutes on hold for tech support, they’re having serious internal problems and their mail servers are down, too. Going to be down ’til 5 AM at least.

Suck, suck, suck. At least the sites I have hosted with GoDaddy are still up…


My BDSM site hasn’t received a lot of love lately, so I just added a new page–a glossary of BDSM-related terms and expressions. It’s significantly longer than most of the glossaries I’ve found online; I’ve spent the last four days or so trying to define every term I could come up with, but I’m sure there are probably a few I’ve missed.

Comments, suggestions, ideas, and missing words are all appreciated.

Link o’ the Day: “Intelligent Falling”

From an Onion article: Evangelical Scients Refute Gravity with New ‘Intelligent Falling’ Theory

Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein’s ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

“Let’s take a look at the evidence,” said ECFR senior fellow Gregory Lunsden.”In Matthew 15:14, Jesus says, ‘And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.’ He says nothing about some gravity making them fall—just that they will fall. Then, in Job 5:7, we read, ‘But mankind is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upwards.’ If gravity is pulling everything down, why do the sparks fly upwards with great surety? This clearly indicates that a conscious intelligence governs all falling.”

Critics of Intelligent Falling point out that gravity is a provable law based on empirical observations of natural phenomena. Evangelical physicists, however, insist that there is no conflict between Newton’s mathematics and Holy Scripture.

“Closed-minded gravitists cannot find a way to make Einstein’s general relativity match up with the subatomic quantum world,” said Dr. Ellen Carson, a leading Intelligent Falling expert known for her work with the Kansan Youth Ministry. “They’ve been trying to do it for the better part of a century now, and despite all their empirical observation and carefully compiled data, they still don’t know how.”

Hey, it’s no less asinine than this ridiculous “Intelligent Design” nonsense.

In other news, it appears that the ceiling in our new apartment is made of concrete. This has posed quite a significant challenge; I haven’t been able to set up the computers yet. Bought a special drill bit designed for concrete and a bunch of masonry screws the other day, and spent a good deal of last night standing on a table with concrete dust raining down on me, and I still haven’t been able to set up the computers.

This is a serious problem, because I’m having World of Warcraft withdrawal.

In other news, Shelly found my airbrush while we were moving, which means I may need to paint her some time in the near future. 🙂

And finally, we’re desperately trying to pare down our total quantity of Stuff, as we’ve moved from a three-bedroom to a one-bedroom apartment. Things to be got rid of include about 50 “egg” style vibrators (new, unused, in original packaging) and a stunning number of cobalt-blue coffee mugs. We’re considering a Sex Toy and Coffee Mug Giveaway party in the not-too-distant future. Anyone interested?

My kitties are a metaphor for social change

Snow Crash, the tabby cat, is not an extropian.

We’ve spent the majority of the week moving–an experience which is, for most cats, traumatic. We’ve relocated from a three-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom apartment–and we had too much stuff to fit in the three-bedroom, so, as you might imagine, the new place is rather a wreck.

Snow Crash has spent much of the past week in hiding. He quickly learned to open the cabinet beneath the sink in the bathroom, and there he has stayed, hiding from the frightening and overwhelming upheaval in his environment:

Molly, on the other hand, is having a ball. She loves very little more than exploring new places, and the new apartment, with boxes piled to near-ceiling height everywhere, has given her endless little nooks and crannies to explore. She’s had a blast poking her nose into, under, over, around, and through everything she can find, and just to make things even more delightful, it all keeps changing! Every time we come into the new place with another armful of boxes, we rearrange stuff and there’s more to explore! If she could have her way, I’m sure she’d have us move twice a month. I don’t think Molly has stopped purring since we took her over.

According to the Myers-Briggs theory of personality types, the majority of the population, by a wide margin, is “Guardian” personalities. Guardians, the theory goes, are people who favor consistency, conformity, rules, order, and continuity in all things. Guardians are uncomfortable with change, particularly social change; fond of hierarchy; and feel threatened when things stop being like they were. A Guardian is the personality most apt to say things like “We do it this way because that’s how it’s always been done.” Far rarer are personality types which embrace and even thrive on change, which discard systems that don’t work well and refuse to cling to them merely because they are traditional.

Now, you may argue that the Myers-Briggs personality types are flawed. The granularity is poor; there’s a lot of overlap within the personality types…whatever. Be that as it may, there are clearly people in the world who favor continuity over function, who feel threatened by change, who prefer safety and stability even when that stability comes at a cost to others; and there are people in the world who embrace change, who seek to improve the way things are done, who look to drive society forward, technically and socially. And no matter which way you slice it, these two philosophies are inherently incompatible.

America in the dawn of the 21st century is a bad time and a bad place for social conservatives.

On the surface, this may seem like a wonderful time to be a social conservative. The conservatives dominate all aspects of American politics; Fundamentalist Christianity, and the rigid, dogmatic inflexibility that accompanies it, is so powerful that the American president is among its number; the political party to which he belongs has become little more than an extension of the ultraconservative religious right, and has openly embraced and championed the causes of social conservatives. A good time to be a conservative indeed.

But do you feel that? That vibration underfoot? Bet you thought that was the enormous, unstoppable juggernaut of conservative zeal passing by, right? Wrong. That’s a seismic shift. That’s tremendous pressure building up along the fault lines of American social politics. That’s the earliest warning signs of an approaching earthquake that will rearrange the landscape in ways that many people don’t have even the slightest idea about…at least not yet.

You can already see some of it coming. The skirmishes being fought right now over gay marriage, over polyamory, over the asinine and intellectually bankrupt doctrine of “intelligent design,” these are the opening salvos in what will be a long, bitter war whose outcome is already decided.

Every single time the Guardians have waged war against social change–every single time, from the days of Galileo to the end of slavery, from the civil rights movement to women’s suffrage, every single time the Guardians have lost. Change is inevitable. Social progress is inevitable. No matter how many times we go down this road, the result is always the same–the people who have been denied their full and complete participation in society at large win in the end. Always. Gay marriage? Get used to it; it’s going to happen, just as surely as the end of slavery. This is a story we’ve seen before, and no matter how the forces of tradition may scream and fight (and plant bombs and drag people behind pickup trucks), anyone with any understanding of society already knows how this story will end.

And in the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing, really. It will make as much difference as the elimination of ancient and bigoted laws barring mixed-race marriage made–society, if that’s all that changes, continues on more or less as it was before, despite the inane squawkings of a few indignant traditionalists. The sky didn’t fall when women started voting, the world didn’t end when blacks married whites, and the universe won’t collapse when men marry men or women marry women–by and large, it’s just not really going to change all that much.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The social conservatives who fear gay marriage, polygamy, and the teaching of evolutionary theory are missing, as they often do, the real upheaval.

Snow Crash is not an extropian.

Snow Crash is not an extropian. It’s hard to be an extropian when you fear change. Extropians and transhumanists generally have noticed something that other people have missed–the technological and social change gripping the world right now, the shifts in society and gender and economics and politics that are fuelling wars and creating redefinitions in the most basic institutions of Western society, these aren’t like other changes. These are the tip of the iceberg–because now as never before in human history, technology is changing in ways that are increasingly rapid and increasingly unpredictable. We’re nearing the really bendy part of the exponential curve, the part where things start getting really, really interesting.

We like to think we’re advanced. We like to think the Information Age is a marvelous new thing, that we’re enlightened and advanced far beyond those poor primitive savages who lived, oh, a hundred years or so ago. In reality, this is nothing like the truth. The most advanced technology we possess today is still embarrassingly primitive, still just a notch or two up from flint knives and bearskins. Our ability to make things is still horrifically crude, wasteful and inefficient, little more than increasingly sophisticated variants on the same old primitive themes we’ve been using since far before the Industrial Revolution. But that’s changing, and if you think that wars for oil and social chaos because a couple gay men in San Francisco want to marry each other are a big deal, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Back in the 1800s, the official stance of many religions was that black people did not have souls. This was a socially convenient stance, because if these people didn’t have souls, then they weren’t really people at all; the thing that separates man from the lesser animals, it was reasoned, was possession of a soul, so if black people didn’t have souls, then that cleared the way for exploiting them the same way one might exploit an ox.

It was all bullshit, of course. Wasteful, appalling, immoral, costly bullshit that required a major war and at least two civil rights movements to fix. But let’s think about this for a moment. If we find it so easy to deny personhood to an entire class of people based on the color of their skin, imagine how easy it will be to deny personhood to an entire class of people based on the fact that they are birthed outside a womb. Or uploaded into a machine. And if you think these things are impossible sci-fi fantasies, you’re not paying attention.

In the past, social change has generally meant changes in religious traditions, or changes in civic arrangements, or changes on political or economic structures–prompted, usually, by changes in technology. We’re on the horizon of changes in what it means to be human–changes in how we see ourselves, changes in how we think about the very things that separate us from other animals, changes in those things which differentiate us from every other form of life we know about. And oh, my God, is that going to make people upset.

We are social beings; we live in a social landscape every bit as real and relevant as the apartment my cats are in. Right now, we are where the cats were a couple weeks ago–a few little things are changing, stuff is disappearing from the shelves and cardboard boxes are appearing on the floor. Something’s up. We have an advantage over the cats, though; they could not possibly hope to anticipate the cataclysmic rearrangement of their lives that was coming, whereas we can, if we have the wit to do it, look ahead and see that these things are signals of a greater change than we might imagine, and see that our entire environment is about to be turned upside-down.

Most people fear this. Most people can’t even handle the idea of a trivial rearrangement to what the word “marriage means, much less complete redefinition of what the word “human” means.

Snow Crash is not an extropian. Molly, though, very well might be. And there’s a lesson in there.

Snow Crash was, and still is, traumatized by the move. Molly could not possibly be more delighted. The move was inevitable; neither one of them could have done anything to stop it. But one of them is happy and the other is not, and the choice about which to be is a choice we can make.

Shelly argues that you don’t have to be a neophile to be a transhumanist. That may be so, but it certainly helps. And in times like these, those of us who embrace change, who welcome it and adapt to it, have an enormous advantage over people who don’t.