When I made the post “Sex in America,” I was clearly upset about something, writing: “there is a degradation of the sanctity of sex in America,” although I wasn’t exactly sure what was bothering me. ” The statement I made was not intended to be anti-sex, but rather anti-mechanical and unemotional sex.
This concept of unemotional, meaningless sex is a confusing one. It often gets mistaken for meaning only sex that is outside of a committed intimacy. On the contrary though, sex can be meaningful with someone you’ve just met or be meaningless with someone you’ve known for years. It all has to do with the place it’s coming from.
Is the sex you’re having passionate, uninhibited and serving to open both of your hearts? Or is it mechanical, boring and trite?
Your capacity to open your woman in love or to receive your man’s love is completely indicative of your relationship to life. If you’re settling for an uninspired life in the bedroom, where else are you settling for an uninspiring life outside?
Open yourself to love and open yourself to life, or close down and settle for a life of mediocrity. The choice is yours.
“But if Quality or excellence is seen as the ultimate reality then it becomes possible for more than one set of truths to exist. Then one doesn’t seek the absolute “Truth.” One seeks instead the highest quality intellectual explanation of things with knowledge that if the past is any guide to the future this explanation must be taken provisionally; as useful until something better comes along.”
–Robert Pirsig, Lila (1991)1
Debates between philosophers and intellectuals about the ‘truth’ about reality have raged on for centuries, never with any definite conclusions. But what are these truths that they are trying to determine if they are not just mere intellectual constructs overlaid on top of an ultimately unknowable universe?
Pirsig then continues that:
“One can then examine intellectual realities the same way he examines paintings in an art gallery, not with an effort to find out which is the “real” painting, but simply to enjoy and keep those that are of value.”2
Is this not a much better and more relaxed way to approach philosophical thought? To understand that any construct of words will ultimately fall short of the immediate perception of reality? To understand that to try and come up with any pedantic definition of reality is ultimately a fool’s game? That it would be an impossible task much in the same way that it would be for a bacteria cell inside your stomach to try and determine the nature of the world outside of your body?
Pirsig’s way of looking at intellectual realities as if they were paintings in an art gallery benefits not only those seeking truth and knowledge, but also anyone who loses faith in science when it is constantly disproved by a newer and better theory. Would we lose faith in a respected artist if someone new came along and made a better painting?
This way of thinking is all based on what Pirsig calls his Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ); a metaphysics that if it were to replace the subject-object metaphysics that dominates Western thought (he argues), would naturally solve many of the problems that we currently face. The MOQ differs from the standard subject-object metaphysics first and foremost where it makes the first split. As opposed to a subject-object dichotomy, the MOQ makes a dichotomy between static and dynamic, thus allowing room for both subject and objects as well as things that are neither: intangibles such as values, morals, and beliefs; things that formerly had no place in the subject-object metaphysics. Is it any wonder that spirituality and God-like states have had no place in the Western scientific world? If they are neither a subject nor an object, if they can’t be scientifically proven to exist, then according to this whole line of thinking, they cannot exist at all.
It is too easy for science to disprove intangible spiritual experiences, thus having people give up their beliefs and coming over to science because it is something you can touch and feel and document specifically, but then when science itself gets disproved over and over again, the thing that people thought was going to save them from a life of ambiguity turns out to be just as unstable. People then get lost in a cross-fire that they have no way to protect themselves from.
Pirsig defines life as: “a migration of static patterns towards Dynamic Quality.”3 By this he means that all life is a movement away from the status quo; and this is exactly the force that has evolved life from inorganic material to single-celled bacteria to more and more complex organisms. What is evolution if not a breaking free from established norms? He claims that this is all done based on a moral or value choice of the cells. It may be strange to think about cells as making a value choice, but it makes sense when you understand that at a particle and subatomic level, there are no stable patterns whatsoever and that it appears as if particles can do whatever they wish; i.e. light photons behaving as both a wave and a particle with apparently no rhyme or reason as to why.
“One could show that the degree to which an organism disobeys this law [gravity] is a measure of its degree of evolution. Thus, while the simple protozoa just barely get around on their cilia, earthworms manage to control their distance and direction, birds fly into the sky, and man goes all the way to the moon.”4
This idea that the evolution of a species can be represented by its degree to which it flaunts the laws of nature is an interesting one. In his MOQ, he defines five patterns of value: chaotic, biological, social, intellectual, and Dynamic change, with each one being superior to it’s previous. By superior he means that it is moral for a higher order to consume a lower order to propel itself further, i.e. it is moral for intellectualism in the form of the writ of habeas corpus to keep society in check, it is also moral for society (police) to keep biological urges such as fighting in check.
Pirsig claims (along with many others) that there is a degeneracy that has been occurring in recent decades, to which I pose the question: Is this degeneracy not fitting the exact definition of his own Dynamic Quality? Is this ‘degeneracy’ not a blatant disobedience of the natural law that states a living organism must work and fight for it’s own survival? Is being able to do nothing your whole life while at the same time not having to worry about food or your survival not a flaunting of the natural laws in the same way Pirsig claimed man’s superiority by way of defying gravity? It’s easy to point to countless examples of what we believe to be degeneracy, but in the end we know nothing until ample time has passed to allow us to see where our path is taking us.
So then what comes next? What’s the next cultural wide dynamic shift that will occur? It is impossible to know, but it appears as though it has something to do with technology and artificial intelligence. The term artificial intelligence itself is inherently very egotistical, assuming that our intelligence is the real one and anything else, any intelligence that we ourselves create for that matter, is artificial. Is it not the same intelligence that we’re all tapping into? Where does the intelligence to create a robot come from? A collection of carbon based matter inside our heads? Can a collection of biological matter in and of itself design and create something so grand as New York City? I think it’s clear that we are receiving this information from somewhere, or moreover that we are at least building towards something. So can this artificial intelligence that we are creating perhaps be the things that are going to replace humans as ‘the highest evolved beings’? Are we not creating something that can more efficiently tap into the greater intelligence that we are all receiving? It appears to me that humans are no more than a transitory period in the evolution of life on this planet, with some form of robot life being the next evolutionary choice.
This may come off as dismal, but it’s not if you think of it as us being the honorary evolution bearers, the ones who will advance intelligence to realms higher than we ever could on our own. It’s easy for some of us to drag our feet, to denounce technology, because there are always people who are more resistant to change than others; not to mention that it takes a very holistically minded person to accept the fate of their species and their family as ultimately doomed and only paving the way for something greater than themselves, like a modern day slave worker, but is it really just a coincidence that we are facing potential massive population devastation in the coming decades, right at the same time that artificial intelligence is predicted to be able to stand on its own? Only time will tell the true answers to these questions.
 Static Quality is that which exists and doesn’t change. Dynamic Quality is that which occurs at the edge of reality and which brings about change. You can’t have one without the other, static Quality is what provides substance and form, without which there would be chaos, and dynamic Quality provides the change, without which anything would stagnate and die.
This is an incredible speech given by one of the great minds of our time. In it, Wallace talks about what it truly means to ‘learn how to think’ and how in doing so we can achieve what he claims to be the hardest thing we will do in our adult lives: to remain conscious and vibrant well into adulthood despite the monotony of routine.
The holy grail
Is to find in the mail
The quiet contentment
That you sent away
The day you decided
To be led astray
The issue doesn’t have anything to do with the way our particular culture is run, but rather the core fundamental way all of our modern, Western societies are set-up; namely that with the advent of agriculture, away went the peaceful, easy, care-free life that our pre-historic foraging ancestors enjoyed.
“Human beings will be happier – not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia.” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Many people hold the notion that for hunters and gatherers, life was dismal, unbearably hard, and not the least bit enjoyable. In Sex at Dawn, Dr. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha argue that this notion is entirely a myth (a myth that comes not without some emotional reassurance of how we’re living today).
On the contrary, Ryan and Jetha go on to write about how lifestyles in the prehistoric time were largely based around socializing, sleeping, having sex, and eating the large abundance of food found in the forest.
“We used to hunt and fish all day and have sex all night, and then the white man thought that he could come in and improve upon that.” – Unnamed Native American tribesman
I believe that one of the biggest issues we’re facing as a culture that is unprecedentedly unhappy (with anti-depressant sales and loneliness figures to prove this) is how to live in more natural terms. Live is strong communities where people care about you and hold you accountable. Remain in touch with the energies and cycles of the earth. Not be caught up in an ever-growing infinite number of choices of how to spend your time.
I believe that these are a few of the huge steps back towards happiness just being a normal part of every day life.
Sex in America today has reached a level of epic tragedy. Everywhere one looks they see signals of how sex is the highest pleasure one can achieve. If you’re sleeping with a beautiful woman or a man of status, then you’ve lived your life well and you can now enjoy the fruits of your labor (or natural gifts).
One of the issues with the prominent role that sex plays in our society today is that there are so few people outspoken against it, and those that are have to deal with very blurry lines between sex and love. It’s easy to point to countless examples of people living a happy and fulfilling life without, for example, money, but how about without love? With intimate love comes sex, and so it’s tough to draw those defining lines.
Turn Hollywood on and what do you see? Rich and powerful men surrounded by a harem of women with some enticing looks from one who’s particularly beautiful, as if everything that this man has done in his life has culminated in this one moment. Don’t mind what he’s achieved or the love he’s felt or the contributions he’s made, all that is meaningless (or the buildup towards) the seductive stare of a woman in her prime. Then a sex scene devoid of emotion, just flesh pounding on flesh, our decaying bodies, as if there are any secrets to be discovered in our aging, decomposing bodies.
Sex has come at the forefront of our minds precisely because it has taken the best marketing strategy anything possibly could: repeat something over and over again until nobody even thinks to question it anymore.
The sexual revolution is generally deemed good. Sex is only natural, right? It’s your body, right? But the thing is that the way sex between humans was ‘naturally’ intended was in-tribe only. Until recently, humans would go their entire lives without meeting a stranger. And then to meet and sleep with a stranger until recently was completely unheard of. But now that we have the option to do this to essentially an unlimited extend and with very little consequence, sex in modern society is no longer natural.
Since going back to tribal societies is out of the question if we are to preserve modern society, there needs to be a way for sex to be regulated and made to work with the lifestyles that are very different from those with which we evolved. Older, more Victorian ideals were doing just that. By making it socially shunning to be promiscuous, the evil side of sex such as walking around all day feeling lustful and having nothing but sexual desire fill our heads and bodies, leaving no room for any of the more important thoughts such as figuring out your purpose on this planet or how to bring more light into the world, was kept at bay. In the absence of asking these very difficult questions, people have no idea how to spend their lives, and so are at the whims of society with how to spend their lives. They fall into meaningless, draining jobs and shop at IKEA on their days off. They’re unhappy with their lives, but don’t even know where they went wrong and so know even less how to get back on track.
Is all of this because there’s a mental prison sitting somewhere that used to house the negative sides of sex? Probably not. There is much more at work that got our society to where it is, but I do know this, that people’s constant preoccupation with sex isn’t leaving much room for them to figure out any solutions.
Jack was a boy who knew what he wanted. He wanted to go in the house that was haunted. He’d heard the stories of ghosts in the attic. And was afraid that without adventure his life had become rather static. His parents had warned him about that house from a young age. They said: ‘A war on your soul, that house will wage.’ But Jack as he was, being young and naïve. His parents, Jack, did not want to believe. Of course he thought he knew what was best. And he planned to live his life to the fullest, and forget the rest.
So one time in the middle of the night, he managed to overcome his fears and sidestep his fright. He crossed the lawn in front of his house, being sure to make no more sound than a mouse. He reached the stoop of the house that was haunted, and realized that adventure was what he had wanted. He opened the wooden front door with a creak, and realized that his dull future was no longer looking so bleak. He took a step inside the large cobwebbed foyer, and no longer wanted to follow his father’s advice becoming a lawyer. He wanted to go out and discover many a new thing, and realize all the joy that adventure can bring.
Up the old wooden staircase he walked, in pursuit of something he could not see, he stalked. He reached the top of the rickety, worn-down stairs. And suddenly, he found a world without cares. Breathing in deep he looked around the space, with a mixture of fear and anticipation on his face. He took a few steps forward and the floorboards groaned; inside his body, his soul had moaned.
So excited to be on an adventure, his soul found a joy his heart could not measure. As he walked forward down the hall, he could hear something giving his first name a call: “Jaaack. Jaaack.” The voice sounded ominous and light, as if it were weak and trying with might. It sounded as if it were coming from above him. His attention, the voice, was trying to win.
So a way to the attic, he was now trying to find. The potential consequences to his actions, he did not seem to mind. A drawstring in the ceiling he found, that pulled on a plank, and a staircase came down. Up the narrow steps he went, and right then the ghost was sent. Far into the depths of Jack’s soul, so that when it came out, it left only a hole. Jack could barely feel what had just been done, but he knew deep inside him, that the devil had won.
Jack went back to the world feeling a void, and forever feeling just slightly annoyed. For now he knew he had done something he shouldn’t, but resist the temptation, he just couldn’t. For the rest of his life he rued the day, he descended into the evil he thought was okay. He fell into a life he thought he could miss, but he failed to listen to his screaming moral compass.
He’d gone on to have children and married a wife, but a void he still carried for the rest of his life. Occasionally he’d forget the void was still there, but even when he didn’t, his soul felt so bare. So he’ll tell you this story if you give him some drink, and it will always make you stop, wonder and think: “Where have I gone where I should not have? What have I tried to reach, strangle and grab? Where have I left pieces of my soul? Where have I become much less than whole? At what place had I become lost? Where have I stopped to finally pay the cost? For my past actions in life will always catch up. And at some point I must learn to stop. Stop doing the things I know that I shouldn’t. Even though I’d thought for sure that I couldn’t.” Because your moral compass will not lead you astray, and only you, can truly find your way.
I want what I have not
I figured I’d give it a shot
This life of ease
I asked nicely and said please
But still she wouldn’t give me contentment
And so out the door I went
Looking for it elsewhere
And then life gave me a scare
So back I came
And there she was just the same
Patiently waiting for me
And this before I couldn’t see
But now I know
That the universe is just as so.