There are two sides to the ‘humans are meant to be monogamous’ argument, which are passionately debated. On the con side, some say monogamy is separation, denial, ownership, possessive, limiting, compromise, ripe for conflict, selfish, etc. On the pro side, monogamy is simple, efficient, freeing, safe, enabling, secure, natural, creates paternalistic certainty, etc.
There are also two sides to the polyamory (i.e. humans are not meant to be monogamous) argument, also passionately debated. On the con side, some say polyamory is fear of commitment, indulgent, superficial, complicated, ripe for conflict, selfish, etc. On the pro side, polyamory is efficient, freeing, enabling, secure, safety in numbers, natural, creates community, etc.
The arguments have heated up as the practice of polyamory increasingly hits the mainstream. Some monogamists feel compelled to attribute polyamory as a cause of society’s breakdown. On the other hand, some polyamorists feel compelled to attribute monogamy as a reason for the breakdown of society in the first place.
Yes, the arguments regarding the pros and cons of each sexual relationship model are similar. It just depends on perspective, which is surely a recipe for circular debate.
As long as we stay distracted by labels and structures, without addressing the underlying fundamental needs and characteristics of human beings, we won’t get to the heart of the matter.
So what is the heart of the matter?
For me, the disagreement distills down to our approach to sharing; how we decide what and how we share. And how we apply what Willow and I call the “spirituality of sharing”, if we’re aware of it, to our lives.
At the core of our existence is the truth that we are all sharers, whether we acknowledge it or not. We must ‘share’ the total amount of energy available on earth—Mother Earth if you like—at any given moment, with everything else that she is comprised of. Even at the penultimate moment we call ‘death’, we share. Although our physical body dies, our ‘life energy’ does not. Energy cannot die or disappear, so we ‘share ourselves’ back into Mother Earth’s energetic system, transformed into something new. There is no decrease in energy. In the same way, a vegetable grown in our garden does not die when we eat it. The energy of the vegetable is simply shared, and transformed. Death, you could say, is an illusion. It actually represents an act of sharing.
It is humbling to understand that if every human on earth suddenly died it wouldn’t matter to Mother Earth. Our collective human energy would still continue, and she would share it with whatever life forms evolved after us. Mother Earth, if you like, with inputs of energy from the sun, moon and stars, is an ongoing sharing system of attraction and reproduction and flow. She shares. She ‘gives’ energy to all living things, to all types of matter. She has no prejudice or favorite. How the energy ‘pie’ is split up at any given moment is not her concern. Sharing is a divine mandate for all that we call life, and indeed for all matter. This understanding is at the root of the ‘spirituality of sharing’. (Willow will blog more on this later.)
It is ironic that for all our science and technology and centuries of thought, it was the earliest tribes of humans whose lifestyle most clearly reflected an intrinsic understanding of our connection to Mother Earth and the ‘sharing’ of all things.
Part of our rise to pre-eminence as a species was the adoption of sharing principles as a way of life. There were no ‘possessions’. People shared food, and housing, and land, and lovers, and children with each other. Early matriarchal societies were modeled after Mother Earth’s constant gifting. Sharing and gifting were spiritual imperatives. Women were central to the celebration and maintenance of the spirituality of sharing. They were viewed as having a ‘knowing’ and special alignment with Mother Earth’s gifting through birthing. And they were revered for it.
Yet somehow, over the past few millennia, we have ended up with a world economic system that is directly opposite the principle of sharing. Our exchange economy is all about possessions, and runs on the principle that for everything we get we must pay something in return. Everything has a ‘price’. This is reflected in the theology of Christianity and other ‘newer’ spiritual belief systems and in almost all of our social structures. The culture of possessiveness has, to a large degree, fueled the debate about monogamy and polyamory.
But, what if instead of focusing on frivolous arguments about labels and structures, we returned to Mother Earth’s imperative—the spirituality of sharing—and let that govern our relationships, politics and business?
What could it mean to approach all of life with a deep, abiding desire to share without attachment? To renounce ownership? To share what we consider to be precious: money, power, home, land---yes, even our partner. What would it mean? And how would it change our world?
Now that would be a worthy dialogue.