As I write this it has been six months since I told the world that I have been living with a chronic disease (you can read about it here). I am at the start of my seventh year of living with Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO). A disease that I will never be able to spell….This is my journey towards a radical reversal.
When I was diagnosed I was convinced that everything I loved was being taken away from me one-by-one. First my legs would go numb, weak and tingling as if they were permanently asleep taking away my love of walking through the woods. Next my right hand would go numb, stiff, clinching into a fist taking away my ability to playing guitar. Then my vision would go in my left eye, fearing my right eye would go soon taking away my livelihood of taking photos, not to mention the overwhelming fear of not seeing my daughter grow up or to enjoy a smile from my wife. Then the left side of my mid-section of my chest would go numb causing muscle weakness taking away range of motion to practice yoga (my personal workout of choice). To end the list of “Poor Me” is the electrical shocks that will randomly attack me by zapping me out of restful sleeps (and right out of any chair I happen to be sitting in at the moment).
The reason that I am sharing my story with you is because there are very few success stories out there for people living with a chronic disease. My intention is that you will share this will everybody. When finding a success story it is usually attached to some snake-oil sales pitch. Buy this, take that, place this trinket on your head, travel to this island for special treatment…the hope is always a giant leap of faith, money and a lifetime away. It is always directed at the desperate needing for you to have to place your faith in somebody else, which turns out more times that not to be a scam. This is not about purchasing! It’s about doing!
When I chose to no longer be guided by the prophecy listed in the medical propaganda, when I chose to no longer look for “what to expect” ghost symptoms in my life got better….
I began to observe my story, to observe myself, to discover that I am not a disease or a symptom. I observed what is true and no longer identified myself as having a disease. That was a breakthrough moment when I could say:
“I still have all of the symptoms listed above. What I no longer am is a person who identifies with being sick. I am not infallible…I get sick for periods at a time, I get flare-ups and attacks, I have an illness without a cure, I live with the effects that this disease has over me, but I am not sick. I live a well life. A life filled with effort and purpose by living a healthy and creative life.”
Today I not only walk without the aid of cain but I run, and run far. I have a new love for trail running, my enjoyment of the woods is back.
Today I not only play guitar but I play better than ever. It does hurt to hold a guitar pick so I switched to a picking-style that I enjoy more than my previous years of playing.
Today I daily see my beautiful wife and daughter and not only am I taking photographs but I am creating the best work of my life (so far)…
“Religious education should be part of normal human discourse. Information is not the enemy. An inability to handle information is the culprit. Epistemology is, no pun intended, humanity’s salvation. If we can’t think clearly, intelligently, and critically, nothing else will really matter.”
Indeed. I want to join the chorus of those few advocates of mandatory education in comparative religion for high school students. Alternatively, students could be offered the choice of taking a course in contemporary perspectives on spirituality or perhaps comparative anthropology and psychologial anthropology, looking at a diversity of world’s cultures through a lens which encouraged stepping outside of a narrow ethnocentric paradigm.
Some parochial high school courses in theology could serve a similar function, if they were truly oriented towards critical thinking as opposed to indoctrination, but so long as the course were narrowly focused on a single religious tradition or simply presenting one religion’s view of other religions it is unlikely that it would serve the students’ need for development from ethnocentric to more worldcentric frameworks of meaning. On the other hand, it could still be a valuable experience in its own right.
It’s almost a diversion from the main point, but I have to share this. Along the way, Kozak’s article relates one of my favorite stories from the Buddhist scriptures:
“It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and kinsmen were to get a surgeon to heal him, and he were to say, I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know by what man I was wounded, whether he is of the warrior case, or a brahmin, or of the agricultural or the lowest case. Or if he were to say, I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know of what name of family the man is; or whether is is tall, or short, or of middle height; or whether he is black, or dark, or yellowish; or whether he comes from such and such a village, or town or city; or until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a chapa or a kodanda, or until I know whether the bow-string was of swallow-wort, or bamboo fiber, or sinew, or hemp, or of milk-sap tree, or until I know whether the shaft was from a wild or cultivated plant; or know whether it was feathered from a vulture’s wing or a heron’s or a hawk’s, or a peacock’s; or whether it was wrapped round with the sinew of an ox, or of a buffalo, or of a ruru-deer, or of a monkey; or until I know whether it was an ordinary arrow, or a razor-arrow, or an iron arrows, or of a calf-tooth arrrow. Before knowing all this, verily that man would have died.” Majjhima Nikaya)
Once we really understand that there is no true escape from feeling, including unpleasant or distressing feeling, we may start, at last, to consciously and consistently turn toward such feeling, like a loving parent turning, with full presence and compassion, toward their just-hurt or badly frightened child…
I struggled to express whether I agreed or disagreed with this sentiment and ultimately concluded that much depends on the sense given to the word “feeling.” The word “feeling” is often seen as a synonym for “emotion,” but the two words have a different feeling to them, don’t they? Maybe they even create subtly different emotional responses in you?
A “feeling” is closely connected to what we perceive through the fingers. The first definition in the dictionary says it’s related to the “function or the power of perceiving by touch.” Feelings tend to be warm or cold. Feelings are not responses that are linked to sight, hearing, taste, or smell; thus, feelings have less precision than emotions. Feelings are often vague, and more frequently flow down than up, just as liquid flows downhill but never uphill. People feel bad more than they feel good. They feel pain more than they feel pleasant. Feelings are rarely complex.
On the other hand, “emotions” are very complex. Like feelings, they are connected to the life force or chi; however in emotion, the chi is more directly referenced, not mediated through touch. Emotions take life energy and move them from one place to another, swaying like the tides in the ocean from incredible, tsunami-like highs to waves crashing against cliffs. Emotions involve such things as joy, sadness, fear, hate, love … emotions that may be loosely called “feelings,” but which are much more complex than more tactile feelings like warm and cold, good and bad. Emotions can be easily agitated, and once disturbed they tend to flow in negative or neutral directions.
Yes, “feeling” and “emotion” may be roughly equated, but there are subtle differences. From a spiritual perspective, we must understand that both emotions and feelings enact a process which directly or less directly stirs the life force, making it loose and liquid as with feelings or putting it into motion in ocean-like waves as with emotions.
You may hear spiritual teachers tell you that there is no need to escape from feelings, no matter how unpleasant or distressing, but this is subtly off base. Feelings can be avoided if they are unpleasant or distressing, much as you would remove your finger off a hot stove or remove your foot from an icy pool. There is no need to wallow, no need to lose peacefulness unnecessarily.
It is the emotions that can’t be avoided, and ought not be.
Emotions begin with chi, unmediated, not with an ephemeral bit of friction. It is their nature that they must be encountered; there is no getting around them whatsoever. The only question is where they can be moved, not whether.
Like the ocean, they can rise to the surface or fall to the depths; they can stay out in the wide blue yonder or crash upon shore. And when they crash, they may find their way to soft, sandy, white pristine beaches or jagged, mountainous fjords.
With Robert August Masters, I believe there is wisdom in not bypassing emotions. But I do not see the point to “consciously and consistently turn toward … feeling,” which would do little good but to distract our equanimity with pointless diversions. It is emotion that we must consciously and consistently turn towards, so that we may open ourselves to Love and allow Spirit to move the oceanic waves within us to their most auspicious resolution.
Awake, Aware & Alive will be featuring short dialogues with some of the leaders of the World Spirituality movement. Our first dialogue is with Marc Gafni, Director of the Center for World Spirituality.
Joe: Let’s limit our dialogue today to about 10 minutes so it won’t overwhelm readers of my blog. I sent you a few questions earlier to get us started. With that in mind, let’s begin by talking about your vision of World Spirituality and go from there.
Marc: Fantastic. It’s great to be with you on the phone, as always. You sent me three different questions: What is World Spirituality? Is World Spiritualilty a new religion? And what’s the difference between World Spirituality and the interfaith movement? Those are awesome questions and I understand why you limited it to 10 minutes; we could easily talk for eight hours on just these three questions.
World Spirituality is not a new religion. A new world religion is exactly what we don’t need.
Particularly in the World Spirituality framework where Unique Self is a key lodestone, we have a realization, not only a belief, but a realization, that every human being has a Unique Self. And that every religion has a Unique Self. Every great system of knowing, pre-modern, modern, and post-modern, is a unique epistemological expression of Knowing.
We use a number of images to describe this. One is a symphony in which each instrument is playing its own music, recognizing that the essence is not the instrument but the music, but the uniqueness of the instrument is irreducible and each reveals a different dimension of the music. In that sense, the great systems of knowing in the world are music. Each great system of knowing is approaching the knowing asking different questions, using different methodologies, enacting different inquiries, and those different instruments produce different faces, dimensions, notes in the music.
Joe: Are you suggesting, Marc, that each of the world religions is like a musical instrument or a band, and somehow World Spirituality steps into play like an orchestra conductor might?
Marc: Exactly. That’s right. … Each system of knowing is a unique instrument in the symphony of gnosis. The job of World Spirituality is to act precisely as the conductor and help these different instruments find their right tone, find their right relationship to the other instruments, and ensure that each instrument is listening to the others, so that what emerges is not noise but music. That’s what World Spirituality is. Not heaps, but wholes. Not noise, but music. It’s a grand symphony with enormous texture and depth in which the integrity of every instrument is honored and yet a larger whole emerges from it.
Joe: That’s fine, Marc, but you know there are people who don’t want that. They would say that if every religion is like an instrument, then each individual is his or her own symphony conductor and they don’t want some holistic framework or universalizing narrative to enter the scene which can become another competing instrument. They want every individual to be her or his own orchestra conductor, not to look to some outside authority. How would you respond to that?
Marc: That is green [post-modern] thinking, classical green thinking. Green thinking says there is no canon, no authority, and so everyone does it in their own way and they’re all equal. That’s not true. It’s impossible for even the wisest person to swallow whole all the great systems of knowing, and be able to independently navigate them, find the right weight of each one, etc We need an operating system. An elegant operating system to allow us to get what we need from each, establish right relationship, etc.
Now that doesn’t mean that the operating system is the one eternal authoritative voice. It’s an evolving operating system. You could have open source code. People could participate, share their insights, and more deeply evolving what World Spirituality is. But at its core, it’s a “framework/symphony” in which the job of World Spirituality is to create an ability for people to see the patterns that connect the dots. An individual is practically and epistemologically usually unable to do. It’s an evolving system.
One last point. To take issue with one word you said: you referred to the world religions. As you know, when we talk about great systems of knowing, we aren’t just talking about world religions. They are almost exclusively pre-modern, with exceptions for Mormonism and a couple of small exceptions. We are talking about a framework which includes modern: for example, science and psychology, which come out of modernity; and post-modernity, which is this deep understanding that context is essential, the crucial recognition of development and finally the great insight that everything arises and develops within an evolutionary context.
We want to take all the great systems of knowing, give them all an appropriate place at the table, and then show the patterns that connect. What are the deeper structural understandings that will allow us to live in a context of meaning? That’s what World Spirituality is. It’s to create a shared framework of meaning in which an individual can realize the full gorgeousness of their Unique Self, in which every great system of knowing can be honored, reverentially received … and evolved.
Joe: I think you’ve begun to answer my question about interfaith. At least one way that World Spirituality differs from the interfaith movement is that interfaith leaves out of the picture science and post-modernity. They’re interested in inter-religious dialogue. What are some of the other distinctions?
Marc: That’s an important distinction. That’s distinction one. First off, interfaith has made an important contribution. We bow to it. It’s critical and necessary.
There are two versions of interfaith: version one — what I call “soft interfaith” — says, “Hey we’ve been killing each other. We need to respect each other. That’s not helpful. We need to respect that we’re all doing our best, we have good intentions, we are all engaged in spirit in some sense, so let’s respect each other and love each other if possible. And so we need dialogue.” Clearly important.
A second, what I would call a “hard interfaith” says that the depth structures are identical, even though the rituals and other surface structures may be different. The same core practices and core understandings are shared. Another name that has been given for what I’m calling hard interfaith is perennial philosophy.
Perennial philosophy is a version of hard interfaith. World spirituality transcends and includes. It negates the problematic elements of each one of these, to borrow Hegel’s phrase, including both soft interfaith and hard interfaith. In that, clearly we need to respect each other.
Clearly there are shared depth sstructures. But the next step is to recognize that actually there are evolving depth structures. The cosmos is evolving and everything is evolving at the same time. Everyone is tetra-evolving. All four quadrants of reality. Everything Spirit is evolving. We don’t want to reify what we know today and freeze it. We wan to recognize that in a thousand years from now these depth structures will have evolved.
World Spirituality is perennial philosophy in an evolutionary context.
Joe: We’re out of time. I think that’s going to have to be the end of part 1 of our conversation. Let’s continue next with a discussion of where we are at today in the development of World Spirituality as a distinct movement.
A fascinating analysis of data on American religiosity today shows the rise of a new ethos in the United States: a stunning 48 percent of Americans now describe themselves as BOTH spiritual AND religious, with another 30 percent preferring the “spiritual, BUT NOT religious” formula.
Now here’s the stunner: only 13 years ago, a majority of 54% of Americans described themselves as religious BUT NOT spiritual. If these surveys are correct, we are witnessing a hidden sea change whereby Americans have now largely accepted a divide between the religious and the spiritual, and the spiritual is winning in spades.
In a 2008 survey, Pew research found that one in 10 Americans now considers themselves an ex-Catholic. The situation is so dire that the church launched a PR campaign inviting Catholics to “come home,” to woo back disgruntled members. There was a slight uptick in Catholic membership last year, mostly due to immigrant Catholics. There is no data indicating that Catholics are returning en masse and much anecdotal evidence suggesting that leaving-taking continues. Catholic leaders worry that once the new immigrants become fully part of American society they might leave, too.
She does not talk about the developing world, however, where there are few signs of secularization. After describing the American decline of Protestant denominations as well as Catholic, she continues:
The religious market collapse has happened with astonishing speed. In 1999, when survey takers asked Americans “Do you consider yourself spiritual or religious,” a solid majority of 54 percent responded that they were “religious but not spiritual.” By 2009, only 9 percent of Americans responded that way. In 10 years, those willing to identify themselves primarily as “religious” plummeted by 45 percentage points.
In the last decade, the word “religion” has become equated with institutional or organized religion. Because of crises such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Roman Catholic abuse scandal, Americans now define “religion” in almost exclusively negative terms. These larger events, especially when combined with increasing irrelevance of too much of organized religion, contributed to an overall decline in church membership, and an overall decline of the numbers of Christians, in the United States.
Today I’ll begin a regular series of posts discussing my own views of the Story of Enlightenment, an important theme in the thought of Marc Gafni, one of the world’s brightest lights in terms of awakened consciousness.
Gafni’s pioneering work on the Enlightenment of Fullness — a vision to be set forth more fully in upcoming books and workshops and trainings — has the potential to revolutionize the world’s view of enlightenment. It is already catalyzing a World Spirituality movement based on integral and evolutionary principles. One of its core ideas, a teaching extended from the Kabbalah tradition, is about understanding the distinction between separateness and uniqueness.
Here’s a quote from one section near the middle of the talk:
The great [religious] traditions are beautiful, they’re holy, stunning, they’re deep. But they’re pre-modern. So if we are going to actually be guided by the shared depths structures of pre-modernity, we’ve made a regressive move. We’ve gone backwards.
So a World Spirituality has to integrate the best and deepest insights of the pre-modern, the modern, and the postmodern. We have to weave those together in a vision that actually allows for a shared story that we can actually transmit and hold and live in.
It’s not that the story knows everything. There’s so much we don’t know. We hold the uncertainty, we dance in the mystery. But there’s also that which we know. That which we can feel. We know it not because of faith. We’re not interested in faith. We know it not because it’s a dogma someone has told us. We know it because we have first-hand, first-hand experience after having done experiments in Spirit. Having done them in double-blind structures all over the years for thousands of years. We’ve gathered the results. We’ve checked them with the community of the adequate, which is precisely the scientific method, and we have revealed using the faculty of the Eye of the Spirit a shared story, which actually is one which can unite us.
Marc’s first point is that the great traditions are pre-modern. Straightforward enough. Or is it?
Look around at the traditions called “World Religions,” we see that at around 2000 BCE, there were was Judaism and religions in Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and Brahmanism; Theravada Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism emerged close to 500 BCE, Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism, around 0 CE, give or take a few hundred years. The last great tradition was the founding of Islam around 610 CE, to say nothing today of the important faiths to emerge in the last 200 years.
Science cannot give us omniscience, but it can clarify how we see things through the power of observation (whether by the naked eye or as extended through scientific apparatus). It does become a problem when coupled with the arrogant attitude which dulls the imagination and disenchants the universe.
The Rune Soup (Adventures Beyond Chaos Magic) blog is running a series of posts to make an intelligent case for believing in the power of magic. A quote from the latest one:
DNA: Your real autobiography
A single strand of your DNA is only ten atoms wide but stretches for over two feet. It is 120 times narrower than the smallest wavelength of visible light. This single strand is contained inside the nucleus of one of your cells. A cell nucleus is roughly two millionth of a pinhead. String the DNA from all your cells together and it will go around the earth five million times.
Here’s a quote from the classic pseudohistorical DNA text, The Cosmic Serpent:
All living beings contain DNA, be they bacteria, carrots, or humans. DNA, as a substance, does not vary from one species to another; only the order of its letters changes. This is why biotechnology is possible. For instance, one can extract the DNA sequence in the human genome containing the instructions to build the insulin protein and splice it into the DNA of a bacterium, which will then produce insulin similar to that normally excreted by the human pancreas. The cellular machines called ribosomes, which assemble the proteins inside the bacterium, understand the same four-letter language as the ribosomes inside human pancreatic cells and use the same 20 amino acids as building blocks. Biotechnology by its very existence proves the fundamental unity of life.
Each living being is constructed on the basis of the instructions written in the informational substance that is DNA. A single bacterium contains approximately ten million units of genetic information, whereas a microscopic fungus contains a billion units. In a mere handful of soil there are approximately ten billion bacteria and one million fungi. This means that there is more order, and information, in a handful of earth than there is on all the surfaces of all other known planets combined. The information contained in DNA makes the difference between life and inert matter.
So there is a ten-atom-wide, universal coding language inside every living thing that suddenly appeared one day a few billion years ago, whose double-helix shape was probably discovered while high on LSD, that absolutely refuses to be replicated in lab settings.
Don’t listen if they say it has been. Balls of fatty acid built on PNA rather than DNA, splicing short genomes into empty bacterial cells… this is just moving the building blocks around a bit and saying you’ve discovered where building blocks come from. I call shenanigans on that! Clearly it isn’t just pseudoscience that speculates beyond the data.
To quote New York University chemistry professor, Robert Shapiro, on the most famous ‘recreating DNA’ experiment from the University of Chicago… it’s like accidentally producing the phrase to be by banging randomly on a keyboard. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of Hamlet is going to follow. “Any sober calculation of the odds reveals that the chances of producing a play or even a sonnet in this way are hopeless, even if every atom of material on earth were a typewriter that had been turning out text without interruption for the last four and a half billion years.”
This is an example of what Rupert Sheldrake, one of Britain’s best wizards-at-large refers to in a recent interview as science’s “recurrent fantasy of omniscience.”
Sheldrake talks a good deal of the fact that, as all good Brian Cox viewers know, 83% of the universe is now thought to be “dark matter” and subject to “dark energy” forces that “nothing in our science can begin to explain”.
Despite this, he suggests, scientists are prone to “the recurrent fantasy of omniscience”. The science delusion, in these terms, consists in the faith that we already understand the nature of reality, in principle, and that all that is left to do is to fill in the details. “In this book, I am just trying to blow the whistle on that attitude which I think is bad for science,” he says…
“Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity … Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom …. love as the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. True love is an act of will that often transcends ephemeral feelings of love or cathexis, it is correct to say, ‘Love is as love does’.” — M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled
Actually love is a feeling, I believe, but as a feeling it is only one part of something central and radiant at the heart of all things in the universe … and to the extent that it is a feeling, it is only showing its fleeting and furtive face, not its essential nature.
True, love is an action, an activity. But activity is not its origin or its essence, but its final realization. Its end is activity in the same way that the end of forgiveness may be to mend a divided friendship or the end of giving is to release greatness. The expression is important and conclusive, but it is not really what Love is about.
True, commitment is at the heart of love. So too is communication. So too is communion. So too is understanding. So too is enough-ness. Luck is at the heart of love. Luster is at the heart of love. Luxury is at the heart of love. So too is the Sun itself, a radiant source of Light and Luminescence, taking us to higher realms above. So much is implied by love that what can we say about it is to point, as the Buddhists say, to its suchness.
I believe that the exercise of wisdom is connected to Love, but the connection may be more elusive than M. Scott Peck said. Very often love seems closer to loopiness than intelligence. When the power of love is too strong, when its sunshine comes too soon, when its fun turns to foolishness, and when its course is run and it becomes ruined … that’s when love is not at all skillfully expressed. The Sun of Love leaves with lustrous loss; the Moon of Love remains with mournful loneliness.
Is the will to love really about extending oneself for the purpose of another’s spiritual growth? That may be so, when one is looking at love as something one person does to another person. But it looks quite a bit different when one looks at Love as what one person is as his Full Self and what another person is as her Full Self, and that One Self which they have in common.
When One is Love as opposed to one self doing love, the will expressing itself is not his or hers, but Ours; the purpose finding itself too is Ours; the nurturing is the We feeding Us; the spiritual growth is nothing but the finding of our True Nature.
Is it so, as M. Scott Peck says, that love is as love does? I would rather say that love does as Love is and as Love evolves. Love is not something which requires a purposeful act; it is a surrender to the power of Light and Aliveness at the heart of all things, a surrender to God.
As much as I notice all the things that Facebook gets wrong, it’s worth pointing out something that it gets very much right. In terms of the user profile, it allows members to select a sexual preference without forcing them to select a particular label (gay, bi, queer, etc.), but simply by choosing to indicate whether they are interested in women, men, both, or unspecified. Simple and useful.
One thing it forces the average straight guy or gal to do is to consider stating publicly that they are ONLY interested in members of the opposite sex (or at least implying that much). Having to check the box next to “Interested in:” raises the possibility of sexual fluidity in a way that can be awkward especially for men.
Women indicate an interest in women many times more often on Facebook than men indicate an interest in men, even though some research suggests that homosexuality is more prevalent in men than in women. This is probably attributable to the higher degree of social stigma for men to indicate an interest in men. But increasingly today, men who are predominantly heterosexual are facing the choice of indicating a bisexual interest whenever they choose for as long as they choose. The social stigmas are fading, and indications are that in the U.S. at least there is increasing tolerance for men to experiment sexually.
I last addressed this topic with two postsin October on my own efforts to reflect on sexual fluidity in my experience. I suggested that “Fluid” might emerge as a new term to replace older terms for sexual orientation such as gay and straight:
Fluidity is not merely about the gender of one’s sexual partner. It’s about appreciating the nuances and complexities of attraction, a willingness to follow one’s attention into spontaneous enjoyment of whatever arises, without preconceptions. It’s about purity insofar as it insists on a moment-to-moment innocence and friendliness to discovery. It’s about worth insofar as it is grounded in the source of all worth, the sacred force of all life in the cosmos.
As a practical matter, the use of Fluid as a label for sexual identity may face obstacles. Unlike, say, “Bisexual” “Poly,” or even “Pansexual,” the term is a new use of an old word, a usage not recognized in the culture today; and if the term is used in connection with sexuality, as I have noted it is generally thought to refer to the ability of some women and men to be attracted to different genders at different times in their lives (an aspect of the Fluid identity which is not the most important thing).
However, the lack of general awareness of a Fluid identity could be beneficial. The label could be taken up as a moniker especially well suited for post-conventional sexual identities, a way of describing sexual identity not in gross terms (i.e., by the genitalia of one’s object of desire), not merely in subtle terms (i.e., the masculine essence or feminine essence of one’s partner), but in causal terms (i.e., identification with the ground of Being) and nondual terms (i.e., the indistinct force of Eros itself expressing itself through the uniqueness of one’s object of desire).
I always considered myself straight, and spent a lot of time in life engaging with women as lovers. I was married, since-divorced, and afterwards began to give voice slowly to thoughts I had about being sexually attracted to men. After several years of this questioning, I began to speak it aloud recently, and I have opened a pandora’s box of intense feeling with regard to other men – alienation from them, attraction to and admiration of their bodies, fear, desire, and fundamentally the glimmerings of a closer intimacy with them – and my own father – than I had ever had in the past. In the process I myself feel more like a man in many ways, more intense, more sexual – and not only towards men but towards women.