Nothing obligatory about this at all

I’ve resisted writing this post for a while, since it’s so common for everyone in our hyper-connected society to issue a Thanksgiving message (well, in the States at least). But how are you giving thanks by offering an almost obligatory message? Obligation != a genuine giving of thanks.

But here I am writing a Thanksgiving post the day before. Hrmmm.

The older I get* and the more counter-cultural I become, the more I love the idea of American Thanksgiving. Of all our major holidays, it is the least commercialized. There’s an appealing irony to that fact, since it’s also the holiday with the least explicit religious overtone or source material. One would expect to least religious holiday to be the most susceptible to commercialization, but history has proven otherwise. It’s about getting together as a family and celebrating over a meal. That’s it.

2014 has been an interesting year for me. As a person. As a husband. As a father. I’ve changed and grown a lot. With this blog and my other mind palace a number of you have joined me on the journey as fellow travelers. Sages even. I’ve had so many amazing inter-personal interactions this year. It can be tiring since I am an introvert, yet because I’m also highly empathic it touches me at a deep, core level that I find difficult to express in words. Pathos** sometimes can’t be translated into logos.

Those who I love and am loved by know how thankful I am for them. In the interest of breaking out of the traditional Thanksgiving message, and thus its distasteful obligatory connotation, my expression of thanks is going to be a little out there. There’s a lot I could write about, and there’s still more I wish I could, though I lack the words. I’ll keep it simple. Not restrained, but elegant.

I’ve always known, to some degree, how empathic I am. I think that’s why I love to write, even though I’m terrible at finishing anything. I just love exploring the different headspaces – and entire cognitive worlds – of fictional characters. I’m very sensitive to the emotions of others if I don’t intentionally ‘detune’ myself. I think sometimes I’ve done this more as a defense mechanism than anything else. True empathic listening is exhausting. But seeking first to understand, before trying to be understood is amazing. To do this, you must get out of your head. In doing this, you teach yourself it’s okay to be here. Practicing this habit takes a lifetime but I’m thankful for learning about it in a way that’s finally clicked.

Alongside the discovery above, I’ve recently learned about karezza. I won’t go into much detail, but the separation of sexual intimacy into two categories – calm, non-orgasmic (bonding) and conventional orgasmic (procreative drive, even if you take preventative measures) – is an incredibly powerful concept in personal union. As mammals driven, at some level, by selfish genes lifelong sexual intimacy with conventional coupling is fraught with peril. The research behind karezza demonstrates first why that is, and second, the amazing alternative at the fringes of many different ancient traditions both East and West.

The final thing is something I’ve talked about at length here but communing with something fundamentally unknowable yet which you can commune with at a level floating fuzzily between logos and pathos (and occasionally beyond both) synergizes really well with the prior two thanksgivings. God, though I hesitate to give that which is hyperousios (beyond-being) a positive name, is fundamentally unknowable but we can commune with it by living according to our natures. Embracing seasonality, living close to the earth and in good stewardship of it, communing with the unknown agency at the core of each other. All of this is worship, not in the stale sense of ritual and the polluted hierarchical functions of organized religion, but worship in the pure sense of giving honor (and thanks, for that matter).

I doubt I could find a way to say it without sounding like an asshole, but I wish in celebrating the winter holidays which come next month by saying – in genuine love and affection – “Happy Midwinter.” I’ve mentioned this series before, but the way the longest night was celebrated in Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series still gives me chills thinking about it. I wish we had traditions half as powerful as either the formal masque or the stoic vigil of Elua. Sigh.

*I’m 30. I realize how absurd it is for me to talk about how old I’m getting 😛

**Pathos need not carry the common connotation of dysfunction. Pathos just means ’emotion’. In contrasting it with logos, it means something closer to ‘language of the heart’ (as opposed to logos as language of the mind).

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5 Comments on “Nothing obligatory about this at all”

  1. anon says:

    I never really thought about my age when I was 30. But at 37, it’s definitely started. Unfortunately, I think we’ll be getting older before we get any younger.

    Appreciated your comments on writing – the bit about it forcing you to get outside of your head resonates. It’s also a large part of why I read, so I can consume the thoughts of others instead of my own, which repeat in a loop after a while. It’s wonderful to read about your personal progress, btw — Congrats and thanks for sharing.

  2. envisionhappy.com says:

    I’m really impressed by how your goblins seem to fit into your frugal, value based lifestyle. Any suggestions on how to achieve this with kids? I have 2(8 and 9 years) – and they don’t currently seem to share some of my values. This is especially hard when every kid at school apparently has an Iphone, is in 3 or 4 expensive classes, etc.

    • David says:

      Homeschooling makes it MUCH easier. That could easily be misinterpreted as saying I shelter them, but I don’t. There definitely was more friction when they attended school, however. The life standard kids lead is just nuts. Even more nuts than the nuts lifestyle my own parents criticized when they raised me.

      One small way is to make them save money via jobs/allowance. I let them spend it on whatever they want (within reason) but for every $1 they spend, $1 has to go into their investment account.

      But when talking about values and spending, try as much as possible to talk with them eye-to-eye as an adult. My 8 year old surprises me with what she can grasp about saving, frugality, and the environment if I take the time to explain it and LISTEN to her questions and comments.

      Hope that helps 🙂 By all means feel free to continue the conversation!

      • envisionhappy.com says:

        Great ideas. Kudos to you for being home with them all day – I’m sure you get in a better routine than we have. 2 working parents = a lot of food on the run, wasted money+gas, stress, etc. I think I’ll work with them on the allowances and savings – right now they have no idea what investing is, or saving for the future beyond the next thing they want.

        My kids really arent very materialistic, but I need to start shaping their values better. When I was a kid – I got some great toys, but a lot of the fun was saving and waiting for them, the anticipation. Kids today expect everything on demand.

        Thanks!

      • David says:

        That’s where the concept of “negabucks”* comes in handy. For example, I generate negabucks by:

        1. Homeschool: $10,000 p.a.
        2. Stay at home parent (versus childcare for kids after school and during summer in my area): $16,000 p.a.
        3. Cooking savings (versus our previous food budgets): $5,000 p.a.

        So that’s $31K of “income” I generate right there, and then there’s all the other intangibles of lower stress lifestyle, etc. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth at least thinking about it 🙂

        *Not sure if she coined the term, but I first learned of negabucks from Erica at NWEdible.


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