Posts Tagged ‘Rudolf Steiner’

In my late 20’s I began to formulate a life plan. I would become a man with the makings of power and buy five acres and achieve independence. I would find a pulsating, resonating Earth Mother for a wife, build a cabin, plant a sustainable organic garden and Live the Good Life. Scott and Helen Nearing were my avatars. Bucky Fuller was my Crown Prince. Somewhere along the way that plan began to compete with other needs and wishes that, in retrospect and with newly acquired brain knowledge, lay buried in a tangle of disorganized trauma patches deep in my right brain. As soon as they could, in their desire for opening, integrating and healing they began to make their way inexorably up to the top of the list on my Ordo Amorum.

Extraordinary Ordo

An Ordo Amorum, loosely translated from the Latin, means: the order of our loves. I’ve drawn it from St. Augustine’s observation that the good life consists largely in a well-balanced, harmonious ordering of one’s passions and priorities. In the common vernacular it means that as we begin to age and become Baby Crones and Apprentice Wizards, the profound, embodied realization that life has a beginning, middle and an end begins to take deep root. Out of that realization is born the knowledge that we must now begin to make the often difficult choices of spending time and devoting energy to the people, places and things we love … or to those we love most. And the process of making these difficult choices often works in concert with attempting to integrate the human shadow.

Down Home with Wonder Woman

Istockphoto image of a farm, barnIn the late 1970s I was living in the country on a farm called The Country Place. It also functioned as a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed teens. I had a girlfriend living there as well who wonderfully fit the bill described above. Not only was she a resonating, pulsating Earth Mother, but she was an Anthroposophist and a Biodynamic Farmer. In addition to being a Nearing-Fullerite, she was also a Steiner-Waldorfian, as well. She truly rocked my world! There was only one little problem, which I didn’t have even the slightest inkling of at the time: she wasn’t Jewish.

Slouching Toward Jerusalem

Neither was I, as far as I knew, but I long ago converted to Judiasm and I have come to strongly suspect that when my grandparents immigrated to America from Germany, fear of Antisemitism shortened their surname from Finkelstein to Finkle (The man whom my mother’s mother married). I would not be the least bit surprised to discover that my mother’s lineage has deep, strong roots in Jerusalem.

Growing up however, I was supposedly the lone gentile in a cohort full of Jewish kids all through middle school. I was also the lone kid living fatherless in the housing projects on welfare, emotionally frozen and deeply traumatized (which I’ve previously written about) by the shame and insecurity that trifecta inaugurated. How does all this connect to my Ordo Amorum?

The Heart’s Dark Reasons

One day while hanging out in the country with Joye, my Biodynamic Earth Mother, I decided to expand my intellectual horizons by taking a graduate psychology class in Family Systems. It would help me, I reasoned quite logically, in my work with the challenging kids at The Country Place. On the first day of the first class a woman stood up and gave a demonstration of what it was like to live in a Jewish family filled with great drama and untold suffering. Without me even having the slightest clue, Zuza profoundly filled the bill for being able to help me heal early developmental wounds I didn’t even know I had.

A Formal Invitation

I left that Family Systems class in a complete daze, drove back to the workshop at the Country Place and carved a block of maple with the words: “A FORMAL INVITATION.” I mailed it to Zuza, inviting her to picnic with me at the famous White Flower Farm. When she accepted, I made the very painful decision to move Joye way down the list on my Ordo Amorum.

Big Dad

The healing deal was sealed for me after Zuza introduced me to her family, in particular to her father. Big Dad was a former Navy captain and six-foot-eight college basketball star and football tight end. In an instant he became the father I never had and never even knew I was looking for.

Zuza and I married less than a year later, moved to the Bay Area and completed our graduate degrees. We both helped each other stretch and work towards fulfilling lifelong dreams; we provided great healing for one another in any number of areas, and lived a very good life together for more than 15 years. And it all sprang out of recognizing the deep need – the yearning call of Shadow-healing, and honoring the very difficult decisions demanded by my Ordo Amorum. Not work recommended for the frail of heart.

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When I was eighteen, I invited an “older woman” on a water-skiing weekend up to Lake Mead outside Las Vegas. Dusty was a 22 year old single mother, the first woman I’d ever spent a whole night with, and she had a healthy shamelessness about sex. I, on the other hand, had nothing but … High Anxiety. Well, it didn’t take Dusty too long to figure out that I was a virgin. Our sexual exploits would be best summarized for her by the Rolling Stones song, I Can’t Get No ….

So that was my reason for having sex: it was time. And, I was very lucky. Dusty was patient and kind and willing to hang out with me until I got the hang of this thing supposedly on the minds of men every seven seconds. Working in mental health for a number of years, and hearing stories of how emotionally and physically devastating the First Time can be, was when I realized just how very lucky I actually was. A First Time that is forced or painful or results in abandonment or humiliation often produces Robert Sapolsky’s Four Neuroannihilators. First Time Trauma can take a lifetime to repair. Some people suffer permanent damage and never do fully heal from painful initial sexual experiences. And some people never even realize the extent of the damage they’ve suffered. Having little other than Hollywood fiction to compare it to, they don’t know what’s actually possible in terms of love and sex.

First Time, Best Time

So, a bad first sexual experience holds great potential for conditioning the brain in less than optimal ways. But what might an optimal experience look like in general? Since our kids are most likely going to be having sex whether we like it or not, what guidance might be good for them to get? I think by looking at the positive side of Sapolsky’s neuroannihilators, we are offered  some very useful guidelines, derived from his years of observing … monkeys.

First, when engaging in sex both people need to be able to control their own involvement. They need to be able to say “Yes” or “No” without penalty, and both need to be able to change a “Yes” to a “No,” and vice versa, without fear of abandonment or ridicule (remember, we’re imagining optimal here).

Ideally, there next needs to be some predictability with the relationship and some continuity with the people involved. Years ago I recall a book in which Rudolf Steiner, the originator of Anthroposophy, postulated that anyone we have sex with remains a spiritual part of our energetic field for an extended period of time. In the best of all possible worlds, we might want to exchange such energies with people who answer the Big Brain Question “Yes” for us. To simply end up as a notch on someone’s bedpost is probably less than optimal for brain development. I’m guessing it’s not an accident that many spiritual traditions advocate for either celibacy until marriage, or having sex only within a committed relationship. There are neural consequences involved for the brain (not to mention, the heart). Unfortunately, such traditions rarely creatively address the urges and unfolding needs of the developing body.

After predictability, Sapolsky would probably argue for whatever forms of healthy social support might be available. Thankfully, these days there is certainly a lot more support available than when I was a kid. A number of my own students, in fact, have become effective professional sex educators and counselors to teens, counseling them on topics ranging from birth control to disease prevention to sex and spirituality to Second Generation Virginity.

Sex Stress Test

One important thing it’s useful to remember: sex is stressful. Even consensual sex. But according to Jonah Lehrer, my second most favorite neuroscientist, consensual sex stress is good stress. The glucocorticoids that normally diminish the growth of new brain cells, actually appears to increase them when released during consensual sex. If this is indeed the case, then sex itself would qualify as an effective stress management technique – the fourth and final requirement on Sapolsky’s list of neural enhancers.

So, there we have some food for thought. Lest I forget, here is the research cited in my title, the 237 Reasons for Having Sex. I find the presentation both silly and fascinating. The normal adult brain has networked 100 billion neurons making an average of 10,000 connections each (you do the math), and many of those connections process energy and information outside conscious awareness. Such complexity and unconsciousness suggests we may be simplifying things just a wee bit when we try to boil down having sex to only 237 reasons.  Finally, if you want to discover some surprising ways we all unconsciously affect sexuality in children, click HERE.

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