I pour myself to sleep many nights either by masturbating or by reading a book… a form of intellectual masturbation that fills me with something good before bidding Nyx to wisk me away in her arms for the night.
Tonight’s book is “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan… and I was so struck tonight by a theory on relationship modality that bounded into my brain that I woke from bed and dragged my 17″ laptop into bed with me. Ace, as I call my big laptop, has not been in bed with me for quite some time… but this theory demands a full sized keyboard.
In the chapter “Big Organic,” Pollan introduces the work of Sir Albert Howard (1873-1947), whose book “An Agricultural Testament” has served as a bible of sorts for the organic farming movement for folks in the 60s and 70s hungry for information… but also a philosophy of sustainable agriculture that is not present in big business farming. A quote from Howard’s work:
Mother earth never attempts to farm without livestock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and prevent erosion; the mixed vegetables and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves against disease.Sir Howard was knighted for his work studying sustainable peasant agriculture in India. Even though the local farmers had no idea that putting fish in rice patties was having nitrogen from animal waste feed the root beds and produce higher yields, the farmers did it because it worked.
Howard was also known for his fight against NPK thinking. The brain child of German chemist Baron Justus von Liebig, NPK stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Von Liebig argued that plants needed these three elements to thrive, and adding them to soil could in turn up farm yields and allow for farming in lower productivity regions. And he was right… but at what cost. Howard saw it back in the 30s and 40s, that this system might up yields in the short term, but it erroded the land, sent toxins down stream… and nowadays our modern system is held by the throat of a dependence on NPK to keep monocultures alive.
So, I sat up in bed. No, really, it was pretty dramatic, as I ran to my notebook in the livingroom (shame on me, I had moved it from bedside), and naked as the wind I scrawled the following notes:
Biological (complex ecosystems)
Chemical (NPK/simple equations-reductionist)
approaches to D/s and relationships
Long term sustainabilityI stared. I’ve been spending the last week putting the final touches on the workbook for Delving Into Power. I’ve been breaking down challenges in a reductionist method- how do we look at various variables in the equations of our Dominant/submissive dynamics and manipulate them one at a time? What types of service do you expect? What behaviors do we want to encourage through the protocols we design? But as I stared at this equation, I realized my world had very systematically just been turned on its head.
Its not new. Nothing in this world is truly new. But suddenly I found myself with a metaphor I can speak to to explain what has been in my head for a while.
That WE as individuals, are each a complex ecosystem.
Yes, we can tool with ingredients and add a lover, a mate, a child, a father, a mother, a paycheck… and through it be able to take the Chemists approach, adding ingredients when needed to make a system work. But what about long term sustainability where the systems feed themselves? Where we do not have to keep borrowing from our spirit’s bank to be able to feed the needs of our social/emotional landscape?
For example, nature has these things called pests and diseases. The mass business farmer looks upon them negatively, because they kill his crops. However, nature (in a Darwinian model) uses pests and diseases as a tool to root out those things which will not thrive in this ecology, that will not last here, that are not the fittest to this environment. Mass agriculture has reduced systems down to monocultures- fields of soy and corn and more corn as far as the eye can see. It dumps on NPK to fuel the harvest, and when pests come, it dumps on toxins to keep alive a plant that is not meant to thrive in this stripped down and raw ecology.
In relationships we have these things called fights and friction. The mono-culture standards of happily ever after look upon them negatively, because they can kill relationships. However, an organic approach to emotional systems use fights and friction as a tool to root out those things that will not thrive in this ecology, that will not last here, that are not the fittest for this environment. By highlighting our challenges, fights and friction work as a tool to make us aware of our passions, our truths, our unique ecosystems both individually and as pairs or groups. We are given an opportunity to prune out the parts that do not serve us as a relationship, plant supporting systems of love into the ecology of our relationships, before the disease spreads and eats the entire system. Mono-culture relationship dogma has reduced the heart and our unique pairings (or groupings) down to being identical to one another- row after row of ticky tack and 2.4 children. It dumps pop slogans and biblical references to fuel our need for a better half, other half, we have no value without another half, and when pests come, it dumps guilt and pain to “just be nice and keep it quiet why can’t you be happy you have the perfect life” already, to keep alive relationships in the form they are in that were not built to thrive in the complexities of our lives and hearts.
Most of the relationship self help books out there take von Liebig to heart. When is the chemical equation of the issue. What ingredients levels need tinkered with? Can we add six pounds of sex toys, 27 hours of therapy and a couple’s retreat to the equation… if so, voila, the science shows it is all better now.
I find myself standing in the world of relationship big business wondering if I am about to shoot myself in the foot. But the reality is, I truly am a complex ecosystem.
And so are you.
The equations don’t work. They may, for most of our emotional fields, work if I keep applying the ingredients each week… but at what cost? Financially, emotionally, socially, spiritually?
If each of us is a complex ecosystem, how do we each develop systems that we can thrive in? That we can thrive with? What works and grows in the Rockies is not what will grow in the crags of the Black Rock. That does not make the spirits who thrive in the lushness of green and monkeys better than those whose relationship systems call to be at home in the wild plains, their hearts plucked at by bison and passing cranes.
This does not make the tools invalid. Gods the tools are amazing, the work is good, its still valid. I’m not going to overnight scream out that the work I’ve been doing in this field is false or bad. Its not- its good stuff. And yet, here I am seeing this so clearly. I can see the environments, can see this vista of layers, can see cow scat becoming food for larvae that feed chickens whose nitrogen becomes earthworm feed that plows into the soil and deposits rich nutrients for grass whose children open their arms and are consumed into the maws of hungry bovines all over again… and so it is with our relationships.
My passion for my lover gives him the support to breathe love into those around him dealing with loss. In turn he gives me the energy to give advise to my Girl whose clarity and love from me turns into strong dominance for her Boy who struggles to break cycles of emotional destruction. He leaves her believing she can do anything, and in turn that gives her the conviction to sit there as I wail for an hour about my emotional challenges, and bolstered by the insights I have had with her, I turn to my mother and father and can balance each of their ecosystems with the grace and love they deserve.
Our world is made of rich and complex ecosystems. They deserve to be given the chance to thrive. I have been working from a reductionist model, stripping down to base chemicals and helping folks find what needs added, what we are overdoing. I breathe in… and see the world of love organically, and find myself in awe.
In awe of the beauty of our spirits. Of your corn-rows, her swamps, his high crags, their seashores and sand dunes. I bow before you and feel blessed, at the diversity each of us offers. At the diversity each of us deserves. Show me the place where our pristine lawns and my rocky foothills can come together and the stories our lands will show when our ecologies, over time, have grown into one another. Where your pollen has fertilized the passions of my heart.
Or, simply hear that I think you’re cool, and you deserve more than rote answers to the complex natures of your relationships. Whatever those relationships might turn out to look like.