On Affairs

When one is wronged, it is easy to feel angry. Anger robs us of the necessary sobriety of thought we need to grieve – something the end of an intimate relationship may need. Anger hi-jacks us of our faculties of thought required to think clearly and deeply about our loss.

“Intimate relationships are perilous because of the exposure and lack of control they involve. Being seriously wronged is a constant possibility, and anger, therefore, a constant and profoundly human temptation. If vulnerability is a necessary consequence of giving love its proper value, then grief is often right and valuable. It does not follow, however, that anger is so.”
~ Anger and Forgiveness, largely based on Nussbaum’s 2014 Locke Lectures in Philosophy at Oxford University.

We all deal with pain in our own way. Sometimes our way may not always be the best way for us, but its likely the quickest or the easiest. Dealing with betrayal in a relationship is often that very difficult situation to bare and anger is neither beneficial nor constructive.

I was once advised by some wise and well-meaning friends that the best way to get over someone that has betrayed me is to get under someone else. As this might work for some, my approach is to write a two-thousand word essay whilst on a plane on the philosophical reasons why someone of a good heart may find it necessary to stray, to have an affair.

We should spend time to think deeply about why humans do things, in an effort to understand, than to merely remain angry, hurt, and incensed by the betrayal and the loss of a loved one.

In the moral landscape we live in, the boundaries between right and wrong can often become blurred. Society offers us a particular code and contract to conform to, but this is merely a general guideline for the masses and should not be taken as a definite rule to the wise.

What is good, as we come to understand by the moral landscape, is what we agree to be of benefit to our general well-being and which does not harm ourselves, others, or the environment. We can then, from this base, build our own understood contracts with ourselves and with our partners.

If we are to honestly and deeply explore where affairs arise from, we will find that it emerges from the oddest parts of our romantic psychology. Specifically from three possible areas:

1. The misalignment of our needs of closeness and distance in a relationship.
2. The conflict between our need for freedom and our requirement of security.
3. To gain externally and to bring back internally parts of a successful relationship that seemed starved.

On closeness and distance.

Too often affairs are seen as being the result of random bouts of horniness or even vengeful cruelty. This is rarely the case.

We are borne into conflicting natures:
The need for closeness and the requirement of distance.

Most relationships attempt to carefully calibrate their mutual needs of closeness and distance with their partners. Making sure that they have the right degree of closeness and distance in a synchronistic state with their partner. This is the ideal relationship. To require the same degree of closeness at the same time, to need the same amount of distance at the same time. The trouble is we are not perfect and being out of sync or not of the same level is a key problem.

We want to have the closeness where we are able to love, hold, cuddle, hug, caress and be relaxed and intimate with our partners. We want them to exist in every sphere of our lives.

We also want the freedom of distance. A place we can go to call our own, a private place to be ourselves and exist in our own pure individuality, apart from our partners.

When these states of need occur in a couple at opposing times, it can easily and often be quite catastrophic.

If we are in the need for distance and our partners are in the need for closeness we can be driven to stray purely to prove to ourselves that not everything about ourselves is part of or owned by our partner. To feel and confirm that we do remain desirable to the world – a world that excludes our biased partners perceptions. This form of straying has very little to do with lust but more about escaping the feeling of losing ones individualistic identity within the couple.

If we are in the need for closeness and our partners are in the need for distance we can be driven to stray just as powerfully. This distance causes us to feel an affliction of constant rejection – where most of our intimate advances are met with distance, sighs, and headaches. Here, we stray, not because of a lack of love for our partner but – with complete irony – because because we love them very much but the distance that is being afflicted upon us feels humiliating and unendurable.

It is tragic that two people very rarely enter into a relationship with the same requirements for closeness and distance and with the understanding of the others needs. Had we a better understanding of these polarities we would hear far less about the clinginess of one partner or the coldness of another.

Should we be more mature in our relationships we would be able to understand each others different needs for closeness and distance very early in a relationship and are able to communicate, very early, about the gap that the difference has made between us and to acknowledge with grace our own distinctive contribution to it. Doing so will make sure that such a gap will not lead to a secret ‘friendship’ or a late night office romance with a married co-worker.

This view, however, is not as simple as the constant negotiation of closeness and distance in a relationship but also between two distinct types of mindsets that exist in modern-day long term relationships.

Enter, stage left.

The libertine and the loyalist.

Monogamy, for many years, has been the approved default state for security as confirmed by community, society, religion (some), the media, and general romanticism. It has offered us the security we have needed for centuries to run furtive households and raise children – it offered security; a defense against jealousy and protection from chaos. This is still just a part of the spectrum of our psychoemotional needs. The other side being our need for exploration and freedom – often contrary to the security begotten from monogamy.

For a long time, these two fundamentally opposing parts of our nature have been in search of reconciliation. An alternative that could allow us to simultaneously experience the pleasures of exploration and securities of romantic love was sought after. Free love and polyamory, not new concepts, re-entered the stage with a stronger vigor and maturity than previous centuries allowed. This gives rise to the seemingly distinct mindset types that enter this field of thought – the libertine and the loyalist.

The loyalist is acutely aware of the fragility and the fickleness of human emotion and offers deep recognition to the fact that any meaningful relationship requires large quantities of reassurance, safety, security, and collaboration on the part of both partners. However, the loyalist believes that sexual adventure is an incompatible quality to sit with a secure relationship.

It is, after all, a very difficult feat to not be deeply rejected at the thought of ones partner being enchanted by the smile of another, to be in anothers arms, and to share intimate experiences with another.

The libertine struggles to see why sex and love are seen as wholly equivalent things rather than one an activity, much like tennis, and the other a state and emotion. The libertine views the world through hedonistic and somewhat liberated lenses and has a difficult time reconciling societies propagation of songs and movies of longing, lust, and ecstasy, of night clubs, revealing clothing, and constant images of desire with the somewhat polar acceptance that a certificate may one day entail the renunciation of sexual discovery purely due to an unthought and unexplored ideology that the contrary must be all wrong.

In the often painful aftermath of betrayal, it is the one who strayed that has done all the harm – at least that is societies view. The libertine would argue that there are subtler, simpler, possibly more damaging ways of betraying the beloved than by sleeping with someone else. To stop listening to each other, to stop trying, to stop dating ones partner whilst together, to be too distant and aloof, or more inconsolably to be our limited selves. Is it not somewhat cruel to set the bar of truthfulness so ruthlessly high that we force our partners to lie for no higher reason than to submit to jealous insecurity masquerading as a moral standard.

The sad and terrible truth is that neither the libertine nor the loyalist are entirely right in their thinking. Both versions of a relationship can be disastrous. Fidelity does require the loss of exciting and possibly enlightening experiences with a variety of sincerely wonderful individuals. Monogamy is at times terribly suffocating and boring. Though, infidelity, does shake trust and security in a relationship, and are crucial aspects for our and the next generations mental health.

There is no position that offers a cost-free settlement where no party suffers a loss. Where all the good and exciting elements of each ideology could harmoniously co-exist without either causing damage to the other. We should acknowledge that there is wisdom to gain from both sides – with wisdom there is the experience of loss.

We can adopt the Melancholic Position that accepts the sad truth we all share that in some areas of life, there are no good solutions. The Melancholic position would require a more realistic, sadder, exchange of vows and promises if we are to stand a sincere change of mutual fidelity over a lifetime. Definitely something a bit more honest and downbeat should do rather than the usual contrived platitudes shared at the alter:

— I promise to only be disappointed by you and you alone.
– I promise to make you the sole repository of my regrets rather that to distribute them widely through multiple affairs.
– I have surveyed my various options for unhappiness, and it is you that I have chosen to commit myself to.

These are more generously pessimistic unromantic promises that we should be making at the alter if we are to truly be honest at the alter.

In Kierkegaard’s humorous outburst in his book Either Or, he writes:

“Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world’s foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too… Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don’t hang yourself, you’ll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy.”

The point? That we need to understand that Melancholia in relation to life choices is not exclusive to one area of our lives but is a fundamental requirement across the human condition. It brings forth the acknowledgement that in some areas of life, we lack an ideal solution towards happiness.

Couples that remain entirely faithful to each other should be aware of the vastness of the sacrifice that they are making. Sexual renunciation is after-all unnatural. The restrained libertine deserves a particular honor for their ability to both know the deep, genuine attraction of other people, and yet with great inner sacrifice, hold back.

A loyal marriage ought at all times to retain within it an awareness of the immense forbearance and pessimistic, stoic generosity which the two parties are showing one another in managing not to sleep around (or, for that matter, in refraining from killing each other). That is something to feel truly hopeful about.

This leads us to the next question regarding affairs

Is there a good kind of cheating?

We already understand the general societal stance on straying within a relationship. But, is there not enough maturity of thought available that we may ask if there are any situations in which straying in a way would be advised? not for the sake of betraying and straying, but for the sake of the primary relationship of which it directly threatens.

There may be cases in which we can treat the affair as a reservoir from which we take all the things we once lacked in ourselves and in the relationship and feed back into our primary relationship thereby nourishing it. We may often begin to lack confidence in ourselves and our own likability in a relationship, especially when the state of our partner may have devolved to one of distance and taking ones attraction and presence for granted. Consider how frequently we behave badly in love from feeling insignificant and undesired, a new persons affections can stir in us renewed sense of our own potential, our attractiveness, and our likability.

An affair will also allow us to acknowledge that our current commitment has not deprived us of beautiful alternatives in life. It makes us aware of our unfair suspicions that the melancholy we feel is the sole fault of our partners rather than a general feature of existence. It teaches us that everyone is rather difficult from close up. A new person is equal parts different and hard to deal with. Its merely a situation of weighing up the varieties of suffering and resigning ourselves to the suffering we are best suited to. We stand to remember that we surrendered our freedom for very sound reasons, because we wisely realized that we had found someone who was – in the end – as good as any decent human can ever be expected to be.

Ultimately, as far as there might be a ‘good’ kind of cheating, it would be the sort that would – without causing too much chaos and pain – quietly instruct us that it isn’t, in the end, worth it at all.

In Praise of Melancholy

As a species and a society, we have grown to over romanticize and popularize happiness and have exiled all feelings of the contrary to the unpopular and unwanted crevices of human emotion.

We strive only to increase those things that make us happy or that bring happiness to us, and at the slightest surfacing of alternate emotions we do everything we possibly can to “cheer” ourselves up and those around us. We forcibly excise sadness and inflate happiness.

We forget, or at least we do not realize, that what makes us complete individuals is our ability to access the full spectrum of human experience as well as the whole psycho-emotional range – low and high – enabling us to create rich, multi-dimensional, and meaningful lives. Continue reading “In Praise of Melancholy”

An Open Letter to Myself

Dear Leo,

Its me, you.

You and I have been on quite a journey together. We have been through it all; side-by-side. We have cried on our knees at 3am, on the shower floor, we have laughed on mountain tops, and smiled at sunrises. You and I, together, always.

You have been on quite the journey this past year.

I have seen you enter this year at what some might say was the highest you have ever been. I have watched you fall, plummet even, to the very depths of despair.

I have seen you have everything your heart ever wanted.
I have seen you lose it all, slowly, suddenly, cruelly, repeatedly.

I have seen you ecstatically plan for the future.
I have seen you feel each passing moment to be one moment too long lived.

Through it all, side-by-side, we have learned some important lessons.

One of the most important lessons learned:

I should have been the one to love you, to encourage you, to hold you up, to hug you, and to appreciate you.

Instead, I left you to watch those you loved, leave; and thus allowed you to feel unworthy of love, of care, of appreciation, even my own.

I allowed you to listen to the judgements of others.
I made you feel like you needed to defend yourself.
The judgements of others have nothing to do with you, they fear in you what they cannot bare within themselves; it is not your burden to carry, I am sorry I put it on your shoulders.

I am sorry, so sorry.
You are enough.

I know you are going through hard times right now. That life hasn’t given you what you hoped and hasn’t turned out the way you thought it would. I know you are disappointed and sometimes feel like a failure or that it is all your fault.

Together, we have learned that life is short, happy moments are rare, nothing lasts forever, and not everyone’s love is unconditional. These difficult insights are not as sad as they seem; they have given you gifts of wisdom that will prove to make you a far better man for it.

Often, the happiest moments of our lives are viewed in hindsight. Therefore, when life gives you a perfect moment, a beautiful sunny day, a deep and wonderful conversation, you need to drop everything and seize it. A good life is made up of a collection of these moments.

As Morgan Matson, an American novelist, said: “A thousand moments that I had just taken for granted — mostly because I had assumed there would be a thousand more.”

One of the key problems of life: we reject difficult but important knowledge because it comes wrapped the wrong way. The hardships we oft may face are, in hindsight, the greatest blessings/lessons we could ever wish upon ourselves.

Our hardships force us into new versions of ourselves that we may have never become without its cruel but necessary nudging.

“The most important thing to remember is this:
to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”
— W. E. B. Du Bois

Every new level of being will require a different you to conquer it.

It is how one responds to life that determines where the next step of living is placed. Most importantly, we should no longer be surprised by what life throws at us: good or bad; when Seneca wrote that “nothing happens to the wise man contrary to his expectation,” this is partly what he meant.

The reason that so many failures are devastating to us is that we never consider that things could happen any other way but the way we wanted them to.

Marcus Aurelius, another stoic, wrote:
“The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Time is limited. Failures are inevitable. Action is unavoidable.
If we realize this to the point of practice, we will no longer spend time on that which is not worthy of it, we will fail quickly and intelligently, and understand that practice makes possible and permanent, not perfect.

Just after your darkest hour the sun will rise. When you were in your darkest hours, feeling it pointless holding on, you held on anyway and the sun rose and shorn its light once again.

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, “And this too, shall pass.”

In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln: “How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

If there are more moments in your future, expect times worse than this, but also know that there will be brighter ones too.

Do not stop loving, Do not stop caring, Do not stop being you.

Above all else, be true to yourself.
Its gotten you this far.

I love you,
You, me.

Poem: Already gone.

(This is a poem about the thoughts & feelings that so many suffer with daily.)


He fought so hard“,
people would say.
And he did,
he did,
until he didn’t.

Gone, long before his heart stopped beating.
In a moment living merely became the passing of time.
He was defeated by the long hard struggle
of being alive.

He looked upon life and realised that everyone
should have the right to reject this gift
that they had never asked for.
Was it not more selfish to demand of another
that they endure the intolerable pain of existence?

In the end it takes more courage to stay
than to leave and everyone leaves eventually,
Everyone is going to hurt you.
He wished to leave, to give in
before He could see the rest leave too.

They taught him how to give up,
They gave up on him.
He gave up on him.
He gave up.
He gave.
Gave.
He poured all of his soul into the world,
He was now empty with nothing more to give.

He did not mean to drown. He was to swim until he sank,
It was not quite the same thing.
As an anchor, touching the depths of the sea,
It was comforting to know he could sink no further.

He could no longer see the point of getting up.
What was in this new day to look forward to?
All he was doing was suffering sunrises,
And the sun will rise again,
But one day he wouldn’t.

One mans treasure is another’s curse.
What he once saw as a curse,
He now saw as a treasure,
For he was no longer the same man.

For weeks he was afraid he may leave,
and then he was afraid that he wouldn’t.
There were so many things he could have become.
But he will remain, made up of possibilities,
for he was already gone.

Words, lasting longer than people.

My Talk on Mental Wellness at WordCamp Cape Town 2016

At WordCamp Cape Town this year, I gave talk on Mental Wellness, the WordPress Community, and You. An unusual talk for a tech conference, but one which needed to be spoken about – and I had no idea how it would go down.



Watch on WordPress.tv

Summary:

The main point of this talk was to raise awareness at the intensity, the struggle, and the seriousness of various Mental Wellness issues within our current space.

To raise the awareness of Employers who have Employees with issues, for Employees to understand their colleagues and employers better, for people to change the way they think about mental health in general.

To remove the stigma that mental wellness issues have, especially in the working environment, and even more so in our daily lives for those who live with it.

During my talk, I told my story. Maybe one day I will talk about it more here, but here are the main points I touched on:

  • We have too many people living in our midst who need help, but do not get it, and who are too afraid by the stigma to seek it and talk out.
  • I was one of them, I said the three hardest words during my talk: I have depression.
  • As a society, when someone breaks their arm, we run to sign their casts, but when someone has a mental issue we run the other way. We are okay with any body part breaking down, except our brains, our minds. This needs to change.
  • When you have a broken leg, you cannot leave it outside the office doors when you walk in in the morning – why do we expect this too of people who have mental health issues?
  • People should be as okay with speaking to someone on a regular basis, like a therapist, life coach, psychologist or psychiatrist. We should have subscriptions to these just as we have gyms subscriptions for our physical wellness.
  • Employers need to be more open and understanding, currently we are very far away from this.
  • Employees need to be more open with helping themselves, and seeking the help they need, or being supportive of their peers who need it.
  • We all need to be more open and understanding of the current state of Mental Wellness in the world.
  • When we ask people “How are you?” we need to starting caring about their truthful reply. When we are asked “How are you?” we need to start being more open and brave to give an honest reply. On the day of WordCamp, before my talk, I was asked sixteen times how I was, I lied sixteen times.
  • Started the WordPress Hashtag called #WPHugs, a way of sharing, appreciating and caring within the community.
  • I need you, you need us, we need each other. People need people.
  • When someone has an issue, in my case depression, people believe that its simply because of the things going on in their lives that are not going well. This is often furthest from the truth. In my case, life was at its best and I was depressed, absent, and in that time I started losing hold of life: Been through break-ups, losing friends, losing a home, feeling more hopeless, work performance dropped, and not being able to have any say or control of any of it. Those around me thought I was depressed, because these things happened. No, because I was depressed these things happened.
  • Depression is something that we know to be so common, yet know and speak the least about, as with all mental wellness issues. Its time this ended, I began the end of silence by telling the world my story, maybe you would be brave enough to tell yours? Or open enough to listen to anothers?
  • As an open source community that relies on the work of the people behind the scenes that make this possible, we need to also spread the idea of 5 for the future for ourselves, you cannot pour from an empty cup so before giving back, start giving within.
  • Stop the Silence, Remove the Stigma, Care.

After my talk, so many people opened their hearts out to me and for that I am extremely grateful. I was more than surprised at how well this was received and about how many people had been suffering in silence and are now brave enough to speak out.

Cory Miller, a very brave man told his story which inspired me to tell mine, will you tell yours? You can leave a comment or send me a link (Totally open to coffee too.)

Dear Mothers

Dear Mothers,
Please forgive us children who do not understand
That You offer only a helping hand.
A hand that has the strength to hold up the sky
and we reject you and we make you cry…
Please forgive us…

I have seen the love of mothers, of all mothers
with a love unmatched, unfathomable, unconditional.
A mothers love is love in its truest and purest form
given to all her beloved children.
You show love how love should be.

How cursed am I that God fashioned me into a man
for i shall never know the joys of being a mother.

The joys of carrying within me the life of another.
The joys of holding in my arms the life that has come
from within me.

The joys of having two souls occupy my body.
But I shall never know these joys as anything other than a witness,
a witness to the most beautiful thing in existence.
The Love shared between mother and child.

Kahlil Gibran said that Your children are not your own.

Yes, your children are indeed not your own,
They are the children of this world.
And Dear Mothers,
Although you may not have given birth to me,
You are my mother too –
all mothers to all children.

Dear Mothers,
We grow up believing you are invincible,
infallible and immortal – nothing can hurt our mother
because she is strong, the strongest being we know.
And yet, we forget that you are human too
and time will oneday take you from us
too soon… it will always be too soon.

And while you live in this mortal world
you nurture us, you feed us, you love us
and the moment we can do these things without you
Dear Mother, we forget you and all you have done for us.
We strive for “freedom and Independence”
We want to “make our own decisions”
We curse you and cast you away…

and yet, you never stop loving us.
Your love defines the word “Unconditional”
for in your every heartbeat we hear the rhythm
say, “No matter what you do, I will always love you!”
..da-dum…da-dum…da-dum…………………………

We have never stopped to think of the pain of our Mothers,
Who have children grow up to be ungrateful and uncaring,
and when their child hurts another, the mother sits crying
as if it was her fault the child was the cause of another’s dying.
We know that no Mother brings up their child to be murderers,
just as no mother brings up their child to be murdered…

We think we feel pain.
When we bruise our knees and hurt our elbows, mama kissed it better.
When we ‘grow-up’ we’re ‘too old’ for our mothers love because
no one could ever know our pain and our pain is great,
We curse you for always trying to help for it is the nature
of love to want to ease the pain of the object of love –
who loves more truly than a mother loving her child?
Yet we charge you for interfering.
“Leave me alone!”
“Stay out of my life!”
Never will we ever say such words we would do anything to be able to swallow.

But nothing compares to a mothers love
and nothing compares to a mothers pain.
To be unappreciated by ones own children,
or worse rejected and cursed…

What hurts more than a C-Section Birthing Dead Babies?

Thank God for not fashioning me into a woman
for I shall never know such pain as that of a mother.

My Dear Mothers,
I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.
Please forgive me,
I love you,
Thank you.

Presentation at Cape Town PHP Meetup Group on Efficiency in a Development Environment

Last night, 17th November 2015, I had the honor of speaking alongside Sarah Nicholson at the Cape Town PHP Meetup Group on the topic of ‘Efficiency in a Development Environment‘.

The evening was wonderfully organised by Shaun Morrow, who sets up these events in the PHP community in Cape Town as a wonderful way of giving back. Continue reading “Presentation at Cape Town PHP Meetup Group on Efficiency in a Development Environment”