Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughts on Intimacy

I used to think that intimacy pertains to sexual relationships. Now I realize that sex has become one of the least intimate acts in our post-modern world. College campuses are full of parties where students "hook up". Sometimes they actually introduce themselves to each other, but there are cases in which they see each other at a party and go--they don't even know each others names. But why limit it to college students? Pornography rules the internet--teaching men and women just what they will never get out of sex--honest communication through the body. Sex has become such a commodity that it has nothing to do with love.

When I met my husband, I asked him about his sexual  past. I assumed he had gone to prostitutes, watched porn and lived at stripped bars because he was ex-military. He answered: "I never could deal with casual sex. It hurt my feelings." He just wanted to love someone.  I wanted someone who I could talk to--someone who would hear me and not judge me, someone who didn't think I was crazy because I am so hypersensitive, someone who understood my thoughts, even if he didn't share them.

Intimacy is about revelation. We share what is dear to us, and we are embraced for it. Intimacy is about acceptance. We take each other for who he or she is, not for what we want them to be. Intimacy is about courage. We expose ourselves, and that rawness can be soothed or scraped. Intimacy cannot exist without honesty, couched in reciprocal concern. Intimacy is friendship.

Crimes like rape are intimacy abducted. But there are less violent versions. Indifference kills intimacy. Selfishness will destroy intimacy, because the love is all about oneself. Without empathy, we can't know another person's pain, but we also can't know their joy. We are a world that hides from anything real in a relationship--lover, family, friend. Why are we so frightened?
I can speak for myself. Even though I still want to see the good in people, I seem to attract so much evil. One friend told me: "Don't ever let anyone get close to you. That's how they hurt you."  I am close to few people.  I really prefer my own company.  But every now and then I am reminded of what my friend said. I let someone get too close. They hurt me--badly. It isn't always malicious. They are wounded too, tormented by the demons of the painful past. So they hurt the ones they love. And both of us draw back, too afraid to try again.

I yearn for that proximity,so tantalizingly within reach; I can't find a way to shut it down. It is more than romantic. It is the admission of life itself--that need that says: "You and only you can touch my heart, be it through my body or my soul." I would like to say that I know how to do this. It is the lesson that will keep me alive. But learning genuine intimacy is like a return to childhood: your innocence is left unguarded, and the vultures circle around, aiming for your broken carcass.
 George Harrison calls God "the lover that we miss." I am not comfortable with that term. Do I really know what it means to be a lover? If I can get close to God, can I know intimacy? God wants us to love one another, take on each other's pain and share our burdens. Most of us can't do that. I can't do that. Maybe our bodies and minds can't handle all of that genuine feeling. Perhaps heaven is a place of oneness where we aren't separated by individual identities, but part of the one who creates and preserves us. That is reality and this world is the illusion. We are meant to be something that seems so impossible. Is that what this journey is about?


  1. Just look at prostitution. Their #1 rule is "no kissing"....why?....because it's too intimate. Sex is not. I loved this post, thank you for sharing this.

  2. Thanks, Deb. You know, someone just said that to me. I don't remember where or when, but it was recently. I wonder if that counts as deja vu.

  3. Hey Dr. B.,

    I hope this won't weird you out, but I was actually JUST talking about this with my friend who is an engaged Buddhist. His view of sex has altered drastically throughout his college experience.

    Basically, what we fleshed out in our discourse (not sure if that's a bad pun or what), we both reached the same conclusion that sex is a very powerful medium, and it has the potential to severely enlighten or severely damage one or both of the participants.

    I mentioned how in many ancient myths the visible world was oftentimes invoked through the sexual union between what could be considered a goddess and god -- the point is they are equal and opposite, and the conjugation of the two manifests all that is fathomable. Of course, there are many, many, many Creation Myths -- some mention a Cosmic Egg, others self-birthing (which you could say is true in the Judeo-Christian sense). But I think what's important is the fact that there is that one point of unity (God, Brahma, Allah, Dao etc. etc. etc.) and the act of sex is a way to represent and essentially create that Oneness -- this does not come through an illusory definition of the self, but an all-encapsulating mutual one.

    If there are endeavors to participate in the act without an understanding of mutuality, someone is very likely to come out hurt (this is essentially the precept for something awful like rape) -- not only this, but what is often generated in the long-haul are things you could call "Promethean wounds." Despite the fact you treat sore daily, it persists in opening its ugly mouth.

    I think these same principles related to the super-intimate also translate over to the intimate -- I guess you could say if a person continually rejects his or her "duty" to sustain mutuality and wholesomeness in a relationship, the other, who is constantly putting everything out will probably:

    (1) Hastily grow tired and forced himself or herself to break away.

    (2) Begin questioning his or her own worth (especially if he or she has not grown accustomed to the capriciousness of the world).

    But with all of this talk of hurt and uncertainty, I think there are people that strive towards a constant being -- I have met quite a few and you're certainly one of them.

    So, you know, I'll just end with the phrase that I revert to pretty often because it's sure to put fuel in your metaphysical vehicle:
    "It's all good!"

  4. Oh, Lord, Alex--how did I luck out with such a student like you?

    You need to come to a Kirtan with me. There is one next week and I'm hoping to go--they are Krishna devotees--one who works with the group knew George Harrison. He's one of the reasons I began taking George seriously again, as I feel I'm on a similar path, but obviously I didn't deal with what he had to face. Plus I am not a Hare Krishna, and I'm not sure George was either; he just got onto the path through them and he was quite devoted to their well being.

    This has nothing to do with your comment, but I'm just so glad to see you here.

    Call me Susan.

  5. The answer to the last question does seem to be yes. Very thoughtful here~

  6. GW: Jealousy can occur even if nothing is going on and there is no appearance of anything going on. When that happens, people are possessions. People are also subject to all sorts of drives-- it depends if the "true friend" is indeed a person that is loved--like a soul mate kind of thing. Think of the George Harrison, Patty Boyd, Eric Clapton triangle, AND the two men remained friends. Personally I believe that if there is sexual attraction, friendship is very hard if not impossible.

    Erik: You are probably right. It distresses me to be surrounded by people who don't even ask these questions, and I include all members of the herd, religious, political, careeraholics. I feel lost in this world sometimes.

  7. not sure i can say much about THE journey, or even your traveling in your journey, but in MY journey this was just playing on the radio, radio...

    traces in the dew on morning's rude awakened shoes

    there is no place where love lives
    she won't be sat and tied
    she blows in winds of heartache
    and in moans of vanquished pride

    she rips up from the earths full weight
    in streaming wisps of joy's belief
    to sing of life's full measure
    in a ragged chorus of relief

    in this basis that is love
    seen in the stasis that is mind
    there is a self-embedding mirror
    in which to look but never find

    that which never left the building
    where it seems love can not last
    yet in the heart time is not hidden
    from days, today, lived in the past.


  8. Susan, a thousand steps and many conversations take place around the world everyday about intimacy.... each person will arrive at their on definition...
    the bigger question is how do we as humans express ourselves so that intimacy becomes something that is cherished and not used for a five minute... maybe ten minute fix???

  9. (1) Anyone who has cared for a parent (or in my case, a grandparent) with Alzheimer's knows that sex and intimacy are two different critters.

    (2) What you say about casual sex today emphasizes (or illustrates) something I've been pondering for some time. I came across an interesting statistic a couple of years back, but can't remember where. It said that about 11% of people born before 1985 (or one out of nine) have posed for nude photographs. For people born after 1985, that figure is one out of four, or 25%.

    While that sounds a bit high for me to accept as gospel truth, it does seem to kinda make sense in a culture where one can expect less and less privacy. If you're on Facebook, for example, the terms of service and privacy policy exerts the right of Facebook to collect information on you (whether or not you actually use the service) to sell to third parties. Who knows who uses that information, and for what purpose? Would your insurer, your employer (or worse yet, a potential employer) use that as a rationale for discrimination? In many major cities (e.g., London, New York) cameras capture virtually every bit of action happening on the streets. Credit cards, websites, ATM machines and hunt all track our movements automatically. And sure enough, everytime you do something stupid (as all human beings do from time to time--it's the nature of the beast, after all), someone could be next to you with a cell phone to record the action and upload it to YouTube.

    Intimacy can only exist when privacy is respected; when the individual can choose with whom to share their most rawest thoughts and states of being. If a generation is brought up that privacy is tantamount to subversion (often articulated as concerns for security, or of joining the majority--what's wrong with you? got something to hide?), then it would seem logical that they come to expect it, or even treasure it. If so, intimacy becomes something that has little value, especially when compared to something as primal and driving as sexual satisfaction.

    I guess to make a long thought more concise, I sometimes worry that intimacy is on its way to becoming a meaningless concept.

  10. I think a lot about boundaries. Through the internet, many are broken--before I would never have begun a letter without saying Dear__________. There are also a lot more hurt feelings as it is so easy to write an email in rage and let it go, hence more isolation and a need to feel loved. The nudity part is all too true: it is one reason I avoid IM unless it is absolutely necessary for communication--I once had a guy send me an image of his penis via IM-AIM. Really!


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