Entry 8

Check, dear mate!

Sometimes there is even internet on the remote island of Oligoamory. Via satellite link. On some days it doesn’t work – today it does. I quickly check news portals, browse through the colourful underbrushes of social media…
But then – Whäm! – All of a sudden a huge quote from Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh¹ pops up on my screen; adorned with some pretty imagery in the background:

We are born alone, we die alone. Between these two realities we create a thousand and one illusions of being together – all kinds of relationships, friends and enemies, loves and hates, nations, races, religions. We create all kinds of hallucinations just to avoid one fact: that we are alone. But whatsoever we do, the truth cannot be changed. It is so, and rather than trying to escape from it, the best way is to rejoice in it.
Rejoicing in your own aloneness is what meditation is all about. The meditator is one who dives deep into one´s aloneness, knowing that we are born alone, we will be dying alone, and deep down we are living alone. So why not experience what this aloneness is? It is our very nature, our very being.
(The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Talk #14)

Instantly, everything is churning in me: “Woah! That’s so anti-oligoamorous! And above all: Again, such a quote, which probably addresses most notably the young and healthy, especially as long as they have their own lives in their hand…! “
Of course, I try to calm myself a bit subsequently. For I know a few authorities on my side, who wouldn’t leave the issue at that, either. E.g. the paediatrician Dr. William Sears comes to mind straight-away, the attentive representative of “Attachment Parenting²“, who emphasises the naturalness and importance of being born into close human bonding from the first moment on. Likewise the Danish family therapist Jesper Juul, who has repeatedly confirmed concerning children and adolescents, how important it is for us humans to experience ourselves in community throughout our lives both as conjoined as well as free to develop social skills and self-efficacy. And last but not least, the great behavioural and primate researcher Jane Goodall, who has observed and proved even in our animal “next of kin” that even in these birth and death are processes of sophisticated group dynamics and sympathy of the community – and thus is anchored apparently very deep in our own sociology and biology.

However, a few days ago I met a Polyamorist on one of my excursions to their archipelago, who literally said to me regarding my last Entry about freedom and commitment:
In my experience, love is non-personal. I can choose to share my love with whom or with how many people I want. But if I seem to miss someone, I rather miss my idea of him/her or I miss what he/she contributes to me. Once, when I was longing for people and were missing them, I wondered what I really missed: The other person or the feeling he/she generates in me? And then I asked myself why I missed that specific feeling. The answer was quite sobering …: Because I myself felt a lack of just these feelings: closeness, appreciation, love, self-confidence, attachment etc. in me. And I have learned from the answer that a lack of attachment (closeness, appreciation etc.) in respect of myself can not be compensated by any attachment to others.
Especially when you apply teachings such as those of Rajneesh above on love concerning your “in-dependent self” this appears at first glance like thorough (self)cognition – and of course it sounds beautifuly and seems comprehensible too.

On the other hand, our basic need for other people or rather human company is an irrefutable fact as well…
What causes this contradiction – and is there even such a thing?

In the seventies and eighties of the last century, when Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh tried to introduce in his speeches to people of Western industrialised nations the devotion to “Emptiness” according to Hindu Sannyasa and Buddhist Zen, he directly confronted a lifestyle of noisy mass enterprise and the first great boom of popular entertainment culture. He notably counteracted the expression of “Togetherness” – which at that time was highly claimed by the hippie movement – with the concept of “Aloneness” and deliberately emphasised not to equate this with “loneliness”.
The manner of “togetherness” that Rajneesh observed with us Westerners then seemed to his point of view probably often superficial, exaggerated and like some sort of escapism. The term as well as the lifestyle of this kind of “togetherness” were criticised considerably by Rajneesh several times in his speeches3.

What we know today about the committed concept of Polyamory with its hallmarks of consent an honesty was literally still in its swaddling clothes. Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart gave the baby its proper name just in the very year in which Rajneesh died as “Osho” (1990).
“Togetherness”, as it is understood today in Polyamory and especially in Oligoamory, actually means something very important; e.g. Collins English Dictonary defines it as:
a feeling of closeness or affection from being united with other people” – and Webster’s New World College Dictionary even writes in its 4th edition:
the spending of much time together, as in social and leisure-time activities by the members of a group, esp. when regarded as resulting in a more unified, stable relationship
Thus, emotional and behavioural descriptions with which probably also Dr. Sears, Jesper Juul and Jane Goodall would have agreed.

How – in contrast – would it seem that Rajneesh in his teachings rather recommends an existence in splendid “solitude” or more precisely “Aloneness” nonetheless?
Modern solitaries who should strive not to put anything at the centre of their lives, to whom their pure self should suffice and to which the other people at best are a luxury4, a discretionary bonus.

Is it possible that “we Western people” have stumbled into the next trap by then?
Because actually, the Hindu Sannyasa and the Buddhist Zen want to express above all the following gist:

“Let go of the idea of your ‘I’. Then you truly can be ‘I’.”

This wish, this goal, is really wise: For in everyday life, above all, the ideas about ourselves as well as our ideas that we have about the others, are what makes life difficult for us.
Marshall B. Rosenberg, the “creator of non-violent communication,” called these ideas and assumptions accurately “diagnoses and judgements“.
Like Hindu Sannyasin or Buddhist Zen-masters, Rosenberg explains that these diagnoses and judgements are almost always irrational, because they arise, above all, from our own appropriated beliefs, how something/somebody should have to be – and are rarely founded in (sensory) perception of the Here & Now.
And that’s why the process of good relationship- and community-building is so difficult.
The US psychiatrist and psychotherapist Scott Peck, arguably the most involved in community-building practice, once identified the four stages of such a process as “pseudo-community,” “chaos,” “emptiness,” and “community.” For my purpose I will call them “superficial sympathy”, “crisis”, “clarity” and “real relationship”. And without elaborating these different stages too exhaustively, I want to try to explain what these stages have to do with what has been said so far.

I was confused for some time regarding Scott Peck and his community-building-processes when he wrote about groups of 60 or more people. I thought him hardly believable and assumed that small groups would have to be much easier to unite, because especially regarding the “chaos-stage” I applied the following equasion: more participants = greater confusion.
But my own close-knit- and multiple relationships proved to me almost the opposite: Fewer people can actually have a much harder time because of their much higher nearness-factor and indeed because of the few contributors.

Into the chaos/crisis stage we bring in exactly the aforementioned ideas, assumptions, diagnoses and judgements about ourselves and the others – and start taking it out on each other there.
With only a few “players” (two or three, for example), this can literally lead to a kind of “Relationship-Chess” or “Spite and Malice” (and even as “Relationship-Bridge” or “-Poker” it does not get much better with four to six participants). For in doing so, literally manoeuvres are planned and trumps played out against each other. And all in the endeavour to decide the “game” in the end for oneself. Which means: To show the other parties that only the own way is the most advantageous and therefore the right one (and of course to prove that the others are not successful and for that reason definitely in the wrong).
Scott Peck now describes that this competitive as well as chaotic stage ends not until all parties reveal exactly their strategy for themselves as nonsensical and not expedient.
And right there I am afraid that the “few” may have much more difficulties with each other until they can dismiss themselves from mutual clutches, attempts of humiliation or allocation of guilt and blame. Because regarding few participants it is all too easy to persuade oneself for a long time that there is always a chance or a hitherto unknown master-stroke to the alleged “victory” – or to cling to the hope that the others may just surrender eventually.
With 40, 60 or more participants, even the most stubborn player would rather sooner than later recognise the ultimate futility or folly of such a Sisyphean task…

Only when we reach this point in our loving relationships, then all the philosophies described here really merge and the supposedly persistent contradictions dissolve.
That’s why Scott Peck did not immediately call the subsequent third phase “community”, but “Emptiness”: Because this realisation, this letting go of one’s own bias and one’s sense of mission, is nothing else but the Zen of the Buddhists, the Sannyasa of the Hindus, and the freedom of judgment in “Nonviolent Communication”.
This “Emptiness” is the moment that e.g. athletes, craftsmen or artisans know as “Flow”, which consists of a unity of pure perception as well as doing and being all in one and at the same time – the moment from which many insights and achievements can emerge.
This is another reason why the “community” or the “real relationship”-stage does not follow immediately after the “crisis”, because this “emptiness” is also a “moment of great clarity”, which gives us back our freedom of choice and freedom of action in order to make open-minded decisions.
In a relationship this moment of great clarity can only fully unfold when all participants reach it together.
Which also means that this is also a state of great self-admitted and self-chosen vulnerability. Even and especially concerning oneself, if one has just gotten rid of beloved and often long-term meaningful beliefs..

No matter what happens then: Space has been created for something new and genuine.
Maybe it will be a true relationship; maybe it will be true togetherness.

But without the previous and serious crisis, without the subsequent confrontation, without the friction among each other, it would be quite possible to consider ourselves still as the sole centre of the universe for a very long time.
Because for that, too, we need other loving people close to us, from birth to death:
Not just to experience that it doesn’t matter at all if we are at that centre.
But to have the opportunity to experience that in our loving relationships and in true togetherness, the potential of our diversity becomes still infinitely greater than the potential of our uniqueness alone.

1 In the last year of his life Rajneesh rebranded all his writings and products under his just then adopted identification „Osho“. Since I knew his work by his proper name for the most part of my own life, I’m going to use that original name continually.

2 Dr. Sears view was directly influenced by the findings of the author and anthropologist Jean Liedloff (The Continuum Process)

3The Fallacy of Togetherness, 1968”

4The Power of Love, Chapter 2: He said / She said; Love in a Relationship

My thanks to Jason Leung on Unsplash.com for the chessboard-image.

You can find more on the topic of #trust and #commitment HERE in Entry 43

Entry 7

Committed Carpets Inc.

I am sitting on the shore of the remote island of Oligoamory. Small peaceful waves are rippling quietly towards the beach – the sun is shining, but here on the beach usually a fresh breeze prevails.
Somewhere in the distant woods of the islands’ interior behind me, I believe to hear a flute far away – a mere simple sequence of sounds.
The tale of Anday and Tavitih still echoes in me.
Would the Oligoamorists have been able to tell the story that way on the mainland or on the versatile archipelago of Polyamory, too?
Or would they have caused criticism and incomprehension?
Would the protagonists have been considered as occupying or even needy? Would their behaviour have been interpreted as possessive, their close, almost spiritual intertwining and sensitivity as interdependence?
Would the local audience have ticked off the story for themselves soon and furthermore – would they have urged Anday and Tavitih to better pay heed to the following sentence for future romance “Love is only true when it gives freedom”?

Lost in thought, I blink through my goblet glass full of semi-transparent cuja-cuja nectar into the distance, in which the sky and sea now appear greenish-yellow.
“True love”, I think – and I remember instantly several of the the numerous tales and legends that I alone already know which are entwined with this topic. Heroes are therein and villains, great ideals and jet-black abysses. Contradictory epics thus, in manifold guises.
“True love”, I weigh the words again on my tongue – and then think: “True love … – … first of all does… … nothing!”
It is – alright. And at some point in time, it arises between living beings – and they are almost always the ones who, in turn, do something with that love or at least in their name.
So if love is primarily a connection, a kind of energy between living beings … – might the aforementioned advocates then possibly be right that it would be therefore important for it to flow freely and unburdened – wherever it wants to go?

What would the Oligoamorists say about that?
They probably wouldn’t question the free flow of love. But as far as I know that sustainable bunch, they would probably have something to say about its quality:
“Free yes – but not arbitrary! Look, Oligotropos, that fits perfectly.”, they might exclaim. “It’s literally like your energy, which you call ‘electricity’: Seemingly neutral, it is available to you constantly in the same strength every day right from your socket-outlet. The electricity is always there – and it does not mind if you use it to attach a bolt or raise the sound of a whole orchestra with it. But it will probably mind to you if its source is nuclear fire or wind power! That’s where commitment comes into play – but commitment and freedom do not have to be a contradiction!”
Well. Sometimes these bold Oligoamorists overwhelm even me when they leap from sustainability to commitment in such a way… In that case, they often look for an example from which they assume that I would gain better comprehension: “Like knotted carpets…”
“Knotted carpets, I beg your pardon…”, I try to utter – but they already are deep into the topic:

“Yes, imagine, you are dealing with knotted carpets. Would not you like to buy the most pristine quality for your customers at the best price?”
“Most definitely…”
“Then imagine that you would meet a manufacturer that offers you all that: The finest texture, most delicate patterns – and at a price well below that of the other competitors.”
“Isn’t it? But now you would find out that the carpets are made so finely only because they are made by children who have very small fingers. And because they are kids, the manufacturer pays them badly and shares that with you in terms of low purchase prices …”
“I understand.”
“Although the carpets would be in fact excellent as well as a fine bargain, it would probably be no longer arbitrary to you, how this result was achieved.
Moreover, perhaps you would instantly make use of your freedom, namely your freedom of will and your freedom of choice, in the interest of your dear customers and possibly also in the interest of those exploited children – to not become part of this retail-system.”
“Very likely!”
“In doing so you demonstrate that you use your freedom both sustainably and committingly.”
“The part with the sustainability is apparent to me – but the commitment remains a bit nebulous…”
“Look Oligotropos: You sorted out the dishonest manufacturer…” “Yes …”
“Now, however, you do not want to just remain a passive shareholder in the carpet business in order to be no longer exposed to similar, dubious offers. That’s why you want to actively participate and to arrange things, to take some circumstances into your own hands.”

“Now it dawns on me…!”
“Yes, e.g. you are founding a quality offensive that promotes better conditions and fair trade. You are supporting the artisans on site and fight with them for the recognition of small local businesses…”
“And then I am committed?”
“If you are serious and consistent in your actions, yes. Do you remember that on the Oligoamorist’s Stone there was also the term ‘integrity’, which means that the individual’s actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles?”
“I haven’t forgotten.”
“That’s good, because it’s obvious that such a process can not always be a Sunday stroll. There will be challenges, difficulties and even setbacks …!”
“I think by now I know where this is going…”
“That’s right, we’re already on the relationship level:
If you are appreciating your own freedom as well as the freedom of the others in sustainability and commitment, you can not manage your relationships like an equity fund. Which means: Release your own shares and opt out, if there are any problems or the share price fluctuates – and start looking round for greener pastures then.
Which, by the way, also introduces the predictability again – that we have already mentioned when talking about trust: Integrity and predictability go hand in hand in relationships…”

“Clever philosophy, I guessed something like that …”, I murmur to myself, because I’m still sitting all by myself on the beach and no soul can be seen far and wide. Only the flute in the distant forest has been joined in the meantime by the tam-tam of a hand-drum, which resonates from time to time.
“That might be well as it is”, I yawn, “… but that way one still seems to remain somewhat dependent, yet: On the stock quotations, as well as on the well-being or woe of the loved ones in a relationship… ” With this thought, I doze off in the afternoon sun.

The sounds of the flute and the drum, however, seem to blend into my dreams and soon I can almost see the two musicians in their forest clearing with my mind’s eye:
They laugh and play to the sounds, thereby feeding each other lines, improvising and changing their parts over and over…
At that moment I realise that the Oligoamorists tried to tell me a deeper truth with their strange carpet example:
In matters, where I have a choice, where I intervene creatively and participate actively, I am not dependent. Especially in respect of things that are close to my heart, that I have embraced myself and which pursue with passion.
And all of that although sometimes there may be discords and even if – for a time – someone else carries the tune… Conjoined and yet free …!

I wake up abruptly. The cuja-cuja nectar is overturned and has long since seeped into the sand. The music has faded away. Oligoamory, you strange island…

I fold up my camping chair and return to our small eco-sphere, which has been the centre of our small camp ever since my arrival. At the entrance of it is my companion, she is just talking agitatedly into our radio. Maybe with someone from the press, but in any case with someone from the mainland. She gestures while exclaiming:
“Why is commitment possessive? Where is your problem?
I can not stand it when I talk to someone and want to know something about this person, when that one declares: ‘Hmm yes…, somehow I’m something, somewhere between… well, and…not quite…’
What does ‘Knowing thyself’ and then ‘Explaining thyself’ in subsequent communication, so that the other person has a chance to know – rather than to speculate where I stand – have to do with possessiveness?
And that doesn’t automatically mean that people may not develop or change anymore!
Or are you worried that people could rely on your statements, and you couldn’t bend it in the way that suits you if the occasion arises?”

I smile and think: “The Oligoamorists themselves could not have said it more distinctly…”

“You are free to choose,
but you are not free to alter the consequences of your decisions.” ¹

A paradox?

Not according to my reason: It is the appropriate self-attribution that our actions (or non-actions) are always switch points, which will therefore invariably have an impact on the whole chosen course.

¹Although circulated in various versions on the Internet, this quote originally stems from the former US Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994).

My thanks goes to Toa Heftiba on unsplash.com for his fine image of the carpet-empire and to my nesting-partner Kerstin for her ingenious remark.

Entry 6

The tale of Anday and Tavitih

Among the most popular legends told by the natives on the remote island of Oligoamory are the tales about Anday and Tavitih
One of the best known is this one:

Anday and Tavitih were two young Oligoamorists who loved each other and who already were living together for some while.
[Sometimes this story is told concerning already three or four affiliated lovers – but also on the island of Oligoamory some communities start by two people whose coming together establishes the smallest possible unit – and for the sake of simplicity I am going to tell this version today.]
Once, one morning, Anday awoke and spoke to Tavitih: “I had a very restless night, I hardly slept at your side. In the middle of the night I was even afraid in the dark – because I imagined half sleeping that there was something foreign in you.”
On that account Tavitih became very thoughtful, sat down pensively by Anday’s side at their table in the middle of the house and said: “I met Nabiku yesterday when I was travelling. It was a good day and we talked a lot to each other on the way. This morning I think I fell in love with Nabiku – and Nabiku in me as well. I wanted to tell you about it yesterday, but I was not sure what exactly had happened. I realise now that I should have told you immediately.”
“Yes,” said Anday, “now I can understand all this much better. You know – tonight – there it seemed to me, as if an unknown kind of power emanated from you. Like an energy or a kind of aura that I’ve never felt in you before. And at night I was insecure, because this influence was unknown to me and therefore seemed so strange and I was scared.”
“You have probably already felt the emerging affection, however small it might have been, from me to Nabiku”, said Tavitih, “as I felt it myself, even though I couldn’t name it then. This shows me how close our connection is, between you, Anday, and me, Tavitih. Our ancestors would smile – as the ancient Oligoamorists said – because the both of us have already established our ‘mutual we’ – especially if you are able to sense it as quickly as I do when it is stirred! “
“It may be as you say, dear Tavitih,” said Anday. “But last night it seemed to me more than just that. There was a moment, in which it seemed to me as if you had brought more than just yourself back home from your hike… “
“Oh, yes, you wisely sensed this new emerging connection …!” Tavitih exclaimed.
“No, it seemed to me in the midnight hour for a moment, as if you had brought along a proper guest, who then shared our bed next to me – but the moment passed – and because I still couldn’t understand what I know about you this morning, I was scared. “
In this way, Tavitih realised that Nabiku had already entered their house on the way of the heart and that Anday’s soul had noticed that instantly.
But Anday spoke cheerfully: “Let’s visit Nabiku today and tell me about your walk. And the two of you should also explore and nurture your new connection and see where it will lead you and us. Because the unknown is always the new with whom you didn’t have become acquainted yet. And it may well be new – but it should not stay alien any longer! “

So it happened that Anday and Nabiku immediately heard about each other as they met shortly afterwards. And Anday recognised what Tavitih appreciated about Nabiku, for Tavitih was truly familiar with Anday.
But there were also parts of Nabiku that Anday understood less – and a hint of doubt touched Anday, if Tavitih’s heart was really that predictable…
Nevertheless, during the following nights, Anday slept more quietly at Tavitih’s side, because Anday now knew about Nabiku and their new affection.
However, the unknown did not give way as easily as Anday had hoped, for the alien traits of Nabiku seemed to establish alien traits in Tavitih. For example, Anday observed that Tavitih was now doing a lot of water-trekking with Nabiku, something that Anday and Tavitih had never done before. That’s why Anday finally spoke to Tavitih:
“You often go water-trekking with Nabiku. We never did that. Of course I know well that you like being in nature. If you had the urge to go water-trekking, then you could have revealed that to me – then you could have been trekking with me ever since”
Tavitih replied, “I always knew that water-trekking meant almost nothing to you. Therefore it would never have occurred to me to press you with this request. Nabiku is water-trekking a lot, though, so I noticed again by the side of Nabiku that I, too, like to do it.”
In this way, Anday realised that each new person represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

And Anday also realised that a new world would always contain a lot of the unknown and thus alien – so it would take time to get used to it – or even to love it.
When Anday revealed this to Tavitih, Tavitih realised in turn that concerning Nabiku not only a new connection, not just a new person, but a whole new world had come into their house.
And Anday and Tavitih both recognised why the ancient Oligoamorists never spoke lightly of that “mutual we” in which “mine”, “yours”, “his” and “hers” could become “ours”.

The story of Anday, Tavitih and Nabiku, however, luckily succeeded because all three learned together in this way, what it meant to be connected and affected despite differences. And that when the differences of Nabiku entered into the relation between Anday and Tavitih, a new “mutual we” arose, which was different from the one that had previously existed only between Anday and Tavitih.

Now – as stories go – it happened that some time later Anday fell passionately in love with Mowin. Hence, right the next week there were Tavitih, trembling and shaking wide awake on the bed with Nabiku that night. When Nabiku asked in alarm what the reason was, Tavitih said:
“I slept peacefully by your side when a sound seemed to wake me in the dark. I turned to you half sleeping – but there you were no longer. Instead there was Mowin right by my side and looked at me with wide open eyes!”
Nabiku tried to reassure Tavitih by recollecting the story how Anday once had almost fared in the same way. Inside, however, Nabiku was a little worried, as there were no deeper affections for Mowin in Nabiku yet, although Mowin was a familiar friend. Had Anday brought Mowin’s presence to their house to such an extent already?
Tavitih kept on sleeping badly, and it is well known that bad sleep generates irritability, so that after a few days eventually there was an argument between Anday and Tavitih about some trivial matter. But even arguing with Anday, which often led to general clarity afterwards, did not seem to work for Tavitih, all too bothering seemed this “new world” of Mowin that day. That’s why it finally broke out of Tavitih:
“It seems to me, Anday, as if I was arguing not with you but with Mowin! Mowin is always as irritable and sensitive as you are today and dominant moreover. And like Mowin, you’re twisting all my arguments and playing intellectual tricks!”
But because Anday and Tavitih were truly familiar with each other since a long time, they managed to settle that dispute in the end – but to Tavitih the overall alienation simply did not vanish. Thus, as Nabiku brushed Tavitih’s hair the next day, Tavitih wheeled around confused and exclaimed:
“That’s how I saw Mowin brushing hair: complacent and without feeling. How can you, Nabiku, mimic Mowin it in such a way?”

Nabiku and Anday were very terrified by these events and immediately turned to a wise old Oligoamorist, whether he could speak to Tavitih, especially for the sake of the “mutual we, which seemed to be in danger.
The oligoamorous elder accepted this request and invited Tavitih to the Hearthfire of Stories in the middle of the village the next evening – where he inquired directly about Mowin.
Tavitih immediately exclaimed: “That Mowin seems almost omnipresent to me! Mowin is proud and self-opinionated – and on top of it all that even seems to attract Anday… Yes, it seems to me that this is suddenly implanted in Anday as well – and even in Nabiku it seems to germinate already! I do not appreciate all this Mowin and also in Anday and Nabiku I do not like it!”
At this point the oligoamorous elder reminded Tavitih that each new person represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
And he pointed out that Tavitih would probably now recognise things more clearly in Anday and in Nabiku, which had perhaps always been in those two, but which would now be more apparent through the presence of Mowin. “Do you remember your water-trekking?” the old one concluded.
Tavitih was silent for a long time – and seemed to understand. But then Tavitih’s face darkened again: “To me, Mowin is a hypocrite and concerning Mowin, I can not imagine any ‘mutual we’. I absolutely can not trust Mowin!”
The old Oligoamorist looked at Tavitih and replied thereupon: “I’m not talking to you about absolute or blind trust. But there is a difference between absolute trust and the assumption that others are entirely untrustworthy. Furthermore, you do not have to love Mowin and maybe you do not necessarily have to love Mowin in Anday yet. But consider if at least you might accept Mowin there nonetheless.”

The story of Anday and Tavitih, which by now has become the story of Nabiku and Mowin, too, is retold differently by the Oligoamorists from this point on.
In some versions Mowin does not become part of the relationship, in other versions even Anday and Tavitih split up in the end. And in some versions, everyone lives together happily ever after.

Nevertheless, all versions contain the same morality: Namely, what a strong force the others are in ourselves.
And how important it is for any oligoamorous relationship to recognise the unrefusable presence of the people involved in the other participants. That it is important to understand that one contains the others involved in oneself as soon as any loving relationship starts to emerge.
And that it would be a wonderful goal to respect these other persons in the hearts of all the parties involved and to love them passionately and dearly therefore.
But that it is at least important for mutual success to accept the other loved ones in each other, in order to perceive yourselves further as whole human beings and to value each other as such.

I am deeply grateful in respect of Anaïs Nin’s World-quotation in her diaries 1929–1931 “Am I able to love two men?“,
for Tanner Larson ‘s great campfire-image on unsplash.com,
and to Sandra Fels, without her this story would have remained an idea only.

Entry 5

About relatives and associates

One of the most interesting pieces of lore about the mysterious Oligoamorists, which had motivated me to travel to the remote island, was that in their seclusion they would not live together in classical families, but in groups called “Communities of Associates” [“Associates” as derived from the Latin word “associare” – “to join / to be united”]
Historically, this definitely made sense to me, because the island of Oligoamory was first settled at the beginning of the 19th century, as the increasing industrialization and the increasing labor migration to the cities started to dissolve the functions that once the classic rural extended family performed for its members.
However, I do not want to make this a historical excerpt, but I will return to some of the implications of this process that started at those times.

For I myself, who confessedly stem from the “Old World of Mono-Amory”, grew up there with aphorisms that seemingly upheld the old ideal of the family as an all-time support community, founded on biological affinity. One of best known proverbs in many European countries will be the maxim
“Blood is thicker than water”
which will also be given a long life by its recurring media presence in radio, television and on the internet. Additionally, in the bourgeois circles in which I used to live, the attendants were regularly sworn in on the reasonableness of the “Relatives-model” with the always passionately presented formula
“Friendship is a wonderful ‘maybe’ – family is a wonderful ‘must have’.”
In this sense, probably each of us “Old World-guys” will come up with some motto or statement, in which the value of the birth-family is emphasised or even put above everything else…

Some of my dear readers may now become irritated and think: “Now the ol’ Oligotropos is going against the family … – he will probably have had bad experiences there. But that is not the case everywhere else! “
And I would like to immediately turn to this and say that I know great families, in which several generations, connected in love and mutual support, promote every one and care for every one, while at the same time they still appreciate each other as individuals.
At the same time, however, these are almost always those families that do not have to emphasise any of the above mentioned beliefs in order to establish their inner dynamics.
I will try to point it out to you somewhat exaggerated: If grandfather sticks the grandson and his fiancée $ 500 for their planned carport at the family barbecue-party, then perhaps this may be a not entirely successful expression of “I love you – and I want to support you …”. But if grandson and fiancée go to the barbecue, just “… because there’s probably $ 500 from Grandpa …” – or if actually the grandson will be arguing with his fiancée beforehand, whether they would have to go to the terrible barbecue – for if they wouldn’t “… there would never be any kind of contribution from Grandpa again…” – then particularly in the latter example no blood or water needs to be cited anymore: (loving) “kinship” has long since given way to a “business relationship“. And to continue functioning, “business relationships” must be noisily proclaimed and asserted – whereas loving relationships are based on entirely different attachments.

Why then is the physical family still affirmed to this day with such striking terms as “blood” and a lot of superlatives?
Because it was not so long ago that above all the family had to serve as an emergency-alliance and as a protective community. This was particularly the case in Germany from the beginning to middle of the 20th century, especially during the post-apocalyptic collapse of all public support and order after the devastating World Wars. At that time, families and relationships became such emergency-communities, to which people always merge if their lives are utterly threatened. And therefore, there are such phenomena in all war zones and crisis areas, in bunkers, trenches, after acts of terrorism or natural disasters. Thus showing at the same time the awesome potential of humanity, such as spontaneous solidarity or even selfless behaviour right up to self-abandonment.
However, as e.g. Scott Peck writes in his book “A Different Drum” on community-building, emergency-communities gradually dissolve again and do not last forever, if the external threat that provides the community-creating trigger someday vanishes.
By the way, personally, I view that as a very hopeful sign for humanity: Otherwise, we always would have to rely on a feeling of threat and separation in order to stimulate fellowship or to conjure up the ability to relate! But that’s obviously not the fabric that binds us durably.
And that’s why I wish for us to stop looking at our birth families as such places to which we are bound first and foremost by literal imperative or obligation.

In the meantime, the realities of the 21st century have contributed to relativising purely biological bonds anyway: Only rarely do the generations still live together, more often many miles actually separate us. Sometimes folks have been able to choose their (separated) place of residence, but more often it is still the basic monetary security of our lives through paid work that determines it. Especially since the turn of the 21st century, our jobs have mounted additional demands on our flexibility, so that we usually spend more time outside than within our own four walls, that we have to change the place of work occasionally – and sometimes we are even more involved in our professional networks than in our social environments. Regarding that there are many causes that I’m not planning to highlight here extensively, not all of them are inevitable, but these causes affect some of our most basic human needs.

Concerning those needs, alongside the repeated crises of the 20th century, the psychologists Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Marshall Rosenberg focused on the appertaining rationales.
And no matter whether one assigns a hierarchy to their found parameters or not, they all identified our essential need for community, attachment and closeness, especially with regard to security, care, esteem and interest (in us from the others), autonomy and participation, communication and stimulation (by others), the possibility to show our feelings, as well as trust, stability and an emotional home.
Their research also started to show that our adopted lifestyle of increasing individualism and isolation scarcely guaranteed those goals to a sufficient degree, so that even our mental and physical health became endangered. In addition, there was increasing evidence that the ever-growing preesence of the “nuclear-family-model” alone, strictly speaking, is no longer able to ensure the fulfillment of the whole set of needs for its participants.
And, to the present day, research based on the results of these scientists confirms, that to experience community and attachment beyond mere goal attainment, the perception of these various emotional components is required for human beings in oder to maintain their mental balance and contentment.
These needs are of course fundamental to the healthy development of children, but regardless of that, they affect each and every one of us,regardless of age, throughout our lives and – as stated above: essential, belonging to our very being, vital.

This illustrated, it seems rather understandable to me why “blood relationship” or mere “relational-status” can not be an explanatory unique feature regarding this important need-fulfillment. How should my parents who live 300 miles apart from me contribute to it meaningfully every day? How ever a cousin with whom I have not spoken for fifteen years and who does not even know where I live? And if I already dread this meeting with Grandpa on his barbecue, then he will hardly be able to contribute truly to my well-being. That does not even necessarily have to be caused by Grandpa: For I myself decide and ultimately choose who belongs to the circle of people who really matter to me, who really have meaning in my life.

If this “meaning” is not only monetary or expedient in nature (after all, I have a “relationship” with my personal insurance agent as well …) but is provided with this famous metaphysical component called “love”, then transpires what I am describing in terms of Oligoamory as the “choice of my associates“: Therefore those are people who associate themselves with me. And to which, in turn, I feel associated to.
It is the moment in which emerges what is sometimes referred to as the “family of choice”, “the soultribe” or “the bonding of soulmates”. These “associates” are hence people who are mutually meaningful to each other, playing important, special roles in their lives, who truly share in each other. And – I would like to emphasise that in terms of Oligoamory – this “share” is quite comprehensive and tries to include the whole human being, with all its strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes and quirks.
But in the end, these “shares” establish what will jointly shape the benevolent “mutual we” described on the Start!-page and in Entry 4, when “yours”, “mine”, “his” and “hers” becomes “ours”.
(I have already written a bit about the time, the favourable proximity and the intensity required to this end – and I will continue to do so in the future.)

Exactly because of the above mentioned “metaphysical component”, I would also like that all my “associates” are always attached to me in an oligoamorous context: For if I’m in a good mood and brilliant, it might be easy to be fine with me, and I suppose I’m mostly enriching at those times. But even in an average week, I’m already dealing with deeds and mental games (about Oligoamory, for example), as to which not everyone may be thrilled.
But to whom can I entrust myself on those very days if even that is not the case? I will not always be attractive, eloquent and healthy. Presumably, times will come when I am in many ways in need of help or otherwisely unappealing…
At this point in time, hopefully, I have gathered around me those people who can endure me in the much-cited “bad times”, since we have previously contributed mutually to a sustainable treasure, which will comfort us even when things are not going so well anymore.

As an author, I wish that I managed to illustrate why even some “biological families” might be able to fulfil the criteria for such “communities of associates”. Or rather, that most certainly there is room for true relatives who contribute to each other in the “associates- model”, too.
But equally for any other form of heartfelt, emotional attachment that is mutually based in love and includes participation in terms of (intimate) nearness and everyday life (which, by the way, outlines the relationship-anarchistic share to my conception of Oligoamory).

Incidentally, I find the following two nonconforming platforms interesting in this regard:

Wahlverwandtschaften e.V. with the downright oligoamorous self-description
– Chosen familiy is
– showing interest
– listening
– committed
– designed for the long term
– The will to assume responsibility concerning each other
– Philanthropy: tolerance & trust
– pluralistic
– Solidarity: give & take

Bring-toghether.de with its website, App and newsletter

►Although personally I am not entirely enthusiastic regarding the concept of co-housing from my oligoamorous point of view: On the one hand, I’m worried that mere “communal housing” as a goal might lead to a latent objectification instead of a loving togetherness in the end.
And on the other hand, the further conception of whole Tiny-House settlements, which in my heart completely twist the whole purpose of Oligoamory, is frightening me because that way veritable colonies of modern hermits are created who can at best endure their fellow human beings for just a short time or in selected doses (e.g. in the central community building) before returning to their self-chosen ego-isolation again.

Last but not least, family-claims reloaded – and as long as it still has to be stated:

The German cultural philosopher, writer and literary scholar Friedrich von Schlegel (1772 – 1829) wrote:
“Only around a loving woman a family may evolve.”
Over a period of a few hundred years, this sentence – written to my regret by a Romantic – contributed to a myth that is still occasionally circulated to the present day.
According to it, in an adult human being, there appears to be some switch that predisposes to what kind of task the designated person would be particularly “fit”.
This myth has led over the above-mentioned centuries to the above-mentioned present to the fact that not only the remit “family” with its tasks of household, education, child care, nursing and geriatric care was attributed to the female sex, but also that this area was linked to the “metaphysical component of love” in such a way that all activities subordinate to this sphere of action would, naturally, be performed out of “self-sacrificing love” – hence voluntarily and free of charge.
I, Oligotropos, say that this myth contradicts Oligoamory’s belief in a justice of need in every way. Not only that there is no “switch” in any human being, of whatever race, sex, identity or gender, that “predisposes” her or him to anything. Further more: No one is born into this world as a perfect parent, educator, teacher, social worker, kitchentable-psychologist or qualified nurse. Nobody automatically seizes such tasks because it is supposed to be “her or his nature”, not even if such a task is already an inevitable and demanding fact.
In that regard love may be a foundation. But it is not a qualification and certainly not an implicit “vocation”.
If indeed we wish for such tasks to be performed truly out of “vocation,” then we must fully liberalise the choice of who feels called upon to do so. And these people must be adequately recognised and rewarded accordingly. Not with a romantic dedication, not with a social gesture, but as tangible as in respect to any other vocation.
That would be decent, committed – and loving.

Thanks to rawpixel on unsplash.com for great images,
to Gabriele Hartmann on Wahlverwandschaften e.V.
and Christoph Wieseke on Bring-together.de