What’s Sex Got To Do With It?

For those who have been following my 150-year goal of coming up with a new system to foster lifelong learning from conception to death, you will know that I tend to look at a whole system to judge the success of a particular solution. For instance, increased pay for teachers is a nice thought, but pointless in light of the nature of the public education system to ignore the individual, forcing unnatural age grouping, and reward the average.

So it was with some interest that I read Why We F*ck by David Cain. At first, it struck me as an article I would more likely find on The Good Men Project, a good source for discussions around human sexual experiences. David quickly traces mankind’s current (last couple thousand years, or so) insistence on monogamy to the agrarian development of property:

Much like today, when a landowner died others wanted the land, and the issue of who had legal claim to it had to be settled. The most intuitive arrangement was for a landowner’s offspring to inherit it.

So for the first time ever, it became absolutely necessary for a man to know that his children were his. In the age before birth control and paternity tests, there was only one way for a man to be certain:

He had to make 100 percent sure that his woman never, ever had sex with anyone else.

And so men came to control land by controlling women’s sexuality, and the new “normal” sculpted by this economic trend is still the primary model for us today: sexual monogamy. To secure themselves economically, men demanded virgins and had zero tolerance for any hint of non-monogamy. Fidelity was enforced by vicious social contracts including religious dictates and cultural beliefs, for which women were humiliated, stoned or worse for even expressing the desire to bed with another man.

So monogamy appears to be a cultural phenomenon that has its origins in economics of all places. There isn’t necessarily anything instrinsically wrong with it, but looking at the divorce rates one can’t help but wonder whether it’s a round hole, while humans — biologically at least — carry square pegs.

Interesting as that premise is on its own, David’s thoughts later in the comments are what really got me thinking:

I think culturally enforced monogamy is more likely to create heartbreak and unrealistic attachments than a culture in which it is accepted that people may express love to multiple people.

Which brought me to ponder this: what system would accommodate physical intimacy with more than one at a time? As with most entrenched systems, the interdependencies make it very hard to only “fix one symptom” of a bigger problem. In the one we address here—the foundation of most societies active in the 21st Century—so much of the legal and tax structure is based on the understanding of transfer to heirs that just thinking what would happen if lineage was not easily determined makes the head spin.

It’s the 200+ comments where the discussion of this topic really takes off. I won’t transfer all of that here, but encourage those of you who like a good mental exercise to read this first, then explore more of David’s blog. I think you will enjoy the expanse of topics and depth of thought.

And if you have any ideas on how to build a better societal system, feel free to start that conversation here!

Greatness Passes in Sharon, MA

More and more I believe everyone is great in their own way. Sometimes a person’s excellence is easily apparent to even the most casual observer, sometimes only the most intimate friends know what makes a person uniquely excellent in one or more qualities. A friend of the town of Sharon just made his transition yesterday and leaves many who knew him to miss him, for now, and then to wonder how we will fill the gap of excellence that he leaves behind.

 

Some Other George Bailey
Some Other George Bailey

George Bailey (not the fictional one in the picture) was a man committed to his family, friends, town, and state—roughly in that order. He developed an encyclopedic knowledge of everything he had an interest in and an equally impressive recall to provide constant, ready access to his experiences and knowledge. In matters of civics, he  knew in detail the relevant sections of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and then went about making them available to all those who needed his gift. I suspect that the town of Sharon benefited from George’s mastery of his interests more on a daily basis than did any of the other state agencies and task forces that called upon him to be a member or consultant. During the course of my first 23 years as a resident of Sharon I never served on a committee with George. However, one could not live in Sharon and profess even the slightest modicum of involvement in the town without becoming aware of the value of his amazing recall and total commitment to the progress of the town. He was a fixture at Town Meeting, all the nights of Town Meeting, and could remember key issues, votes, positions, proponents, opponents and virtually any other detail of seemingly every Town Meeting he ever attended – to include the incredible number of Town Meetings he had attended! George’s voice would emanate from the TV in the evening as I passed through the living room and I would know that my wife, Abigail Marsters, was watching a town committee meeting of some sort on the local access cable channel. Abigail and George served on the Charter Commission together and she would often tell me of the nights where George would gently remind the committee or someone being interviewed by the committee of a recollection of a meeting twenty or more years ago that became the foundation for an amendment of those General Laws so that they now define what the committee is charged to do. 

 

The Real George Bailey
The Real George Bailey

Abigail and I recently had the pleasure of speaking with George and his wonderful wife Lucy at a mutual friend’s Christmas party. This was one of the most extended conversations we had ever had with George, and probably the only one that included little to no town politics. The only current events we spoke of were his recent diagnosis of leukemia and the chemo treatments that were soon to start. For the most part, though, George regaled us with tales from that rich trove of memories he had gained as a sailor, a mass transit advocate, a college student, and so many other roles. More than anything I remember thinking, “This is a life well lived!” At some point in the evening before Lucy took him home to rest, George mentioned that he would probably need a mask the next time he saw us as the chemo would weaken his immune system. Karin and David Hagan, our hosts that evening, picked up on that and immediately thought that we should decorate masks for George so when he did host friends at his bedside, he could do it in style and with humor. So just last week David, Karin, Abigail and I met for dinner and a mask decoration session for George.

Masks For George
Masks For George

Unfortunately, the masks were not allowed into the hospital, but George heard about them from his family. And while George had invested heavily, and unwittingly, into being a truly great human being, he was still a human being. And that human left us yesterday. I have been blessing him and his soul that it may make the transition smoothly. I suspect as wise as George was, he knew well of his spiritual nature and was at peace with the process of going back to pure spirit. I now direct my thoughts to his family, and to the town. For while I know that grief will be replaced by joy in having been blessed to know this man we called George Bailey, the many committees of people, the entire town for that matter, will be feeling the loss of his experience for many years to come. 

I know there are some who never perceived the greatness of George Bailey. Being a man of principle he had to take a stand on issues and sometimes that positioned him in opposition to his neighbors. But for those who did, immediately or eventually, take heart. George taught us all that person with a calm demeanor and respectful attitude, embodied in a thoughtful listener, and motivated by an inquisitive nature could make quite a mark on this world. Thank you for that lesson George.

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