So as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been teaching myself Esperanto using Duolingo. It’s quick and fairly easy, something I do every day for around 15 minutes at least.

I really really like Duolingo. It’s free to use, unless you opt in for the pro version. I never realized before that it was a sort of open source language school. So much of their content is free.

Yes, they are a private company. But they’re clearly doing good in the world.

I know that in the month or so I’ve been actively using it, I am definitely learning. I’m able to read and write on a very rudimentary level in Esprinto already.

I first got the app a couple of years ago to try to learn Spanish. An ex of mine was married to a man who mostly spoke Spanish. I thought it would be a good idea for me to learn it too. That went by the wayside, but I still had the app and my account when I got bit by this new bug .

So about that goofy post title. For the most part I find the way Duolingo teaches me to be really smart, and on the nose. Instead of drilling grammar rules into me, it teaches me words and simple phrases.

Every once in a while though the app really surprises me, in a couple of ways. Sometimes the example Frases it wants me to translate are really odd, or are wonderfully inclusive and progressive. Just recently I translated a bunch of sentences about Adam and his husband, and Sophia and her two boyfriends.

One of the ways it teaches you is by having you select potential words for a phrase out of a pool of choices. Whenever I do this is zero in quickly on what I think are the correct terms. Sometimes after I’m done I take a look at the words that are left in the pool.

More often than not what’s left over is completely ridiculous.

Just now, laying in bed, I was taking a lesson where the phrase was: La edzino de mia frato estas mia bofratino. That is, My brother’s wife is my sister-in-law.

What was left over? You guessed it: sweet beef money niece.

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Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesgratitudeNow

Who what now? That is, a secret language for us. That language is Esperanto. Esperanto is a constructed language, created about 100 years ago by a polish ophthalmologist, LL Zamenhof.

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The Esperanto flag

The language has 16 grammatical rules which I’m still learning, and a vocabulary which is based on many different European languages. I speak French, although it’s been a while, and that’s been really helpful in my learning. Esperanto’s rules never have exceptions. This makes learning the language really fast and really easy.

Part of what sparked my imagination about doing this is that this is a language that is both everywhere and nowhere. It doesn’t really belong to anybody. There are about 2 million people who speak it, as a hobby. They are scattered all over the world.

It occurred to me that this could work in my favor, in our favor. That is, that kinky people in general and age players in particular could get a lot of use out of this thing.

Having the ability to have a conversation that cannot be understood easily if overheard is damn useful. The only people who know this thing are those who make the effort to know it.

Plus, in the month or so that I’ve been learning it, several interesting things have happened to me.

Learning something useful and real for its own merit on my own time feels remarkably childlike to me. The time I spend every day in practice is a bit like having piano practice, or chores.

There are some Esperanto words which just sound little and are fun to say.

Here are a few fun sentences, see if you can figure them out:

Ĉu via vindotuko estas malseka?

Vi estas tre fia.

Mi pensas, ke iu bezonas frapadon sur la fundo.

Mi volas tuŝi vin en specialaj lokoj.

So fun! I’ve been taking a Duolingo course to learn it. And over on the Big Little Podcast slack I’ve started a channel for others who are learning it with me.

I’d love it if you’d join me!

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesJust because

So, recently there's this particular someone I've found myself saying no to a lot.  

"No, you can't borrow my shark shaped hyper spanner."  

"No, we're not cleaning the EPS conduits."

"No, you cannot take an away team down to the planet's surface."

(I've also, consequently, been watching a lot of Star Trek: Enterprise, which I really enjoy, but that's a whole separate topic.)

Often when this particular ensign (go with me here, Star Trek metaphor) kept coming to me, I got the distinct impression that they saw me as the Captain of the ship, or maybe ship's counselor.  Some sort of senior officer, anyhow.

But I'm just a crewman, like anyone else.  Sure, I put together the shark dive on the holodeck, sure I'm willing to take a few minutes out of my duty shift to tell people an awesome zen story in between servicing warp coils, sure I led that infamous game of fizbin in the mess hall that went on for 72 hours straight.  Yes, yes, yes.

(Are you getting that I really like Star Trek here?  Because I really do.)

But I'm still just one guy on the ship.  Not THE guy.  And sometimes I need my sleep.  Or to catchup on my personal log.  (How the heck do star dates even work?)  I'm just a person.  

Still, saying no to Ensign Needhelp over and over was starting to feel really bad to me.  

Here's an infamous 15 minute long compilation of Security Chief Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation getting told no, getting shut down, over and over in various ways.

When I first saw this thing, years ago, it made me howl with laughter.  Lately I find I can watch about 5 minutes of it before I have to tap out.  Go on, give it a try.  Or feel free to tell me no.

I've been realizing something important, working on it for a bit, about that No I keep giving the ensign.

The no for them isn't about them.  It's the complement to a yes for me.

A who-what now?

A complement.  A thing which of necessity is required for balance and wholeness.  Like the way a coin has a heads side and a tails side.  You can't have one without the other.  "Oh but head and tails are opposites, mako?", you might say.

Sort of.  But also complements.  When I say no to something, I'm saying yes to something else.

So, everybody knows the yin-yang symbol, the taijitu, or "supreme ultimate."  Big swirly circle, two sides, two dots, Yin and Yang.  The reason the dots are there, the reason the sides are swirls is that they contain one another, extend one another, and define one another.

Kinda like this:

A gorgeous taijitu, showing a sunny day, with a green flowering tree by an ocean, with a hot sun in the sky, next to a barren tree, by a windswept snow covered hill top, with a wan little winter sun in a cold sky.

A gorgeous taijitu, showing a sunny day, with a green flowering tree by an ocean, with a hot sun in the sky, next to a barren tree, by a windswept snow covered hill top, with a wan little winter sun in a cold sky.

This is much more what I'm going for.  During the whole year there's not one instant where you're not heading toward midsummer and away from midwinter, or just the opposite.  Every minute, of every day, you come closer and closer to that pivot point.  

Just in the same way, when you say no to things you don't have the energy, time, interest, or whatever-is-required-to-do-it for, you're also saying yes to other things.  Everyone is.  All the time.

It's beautiful.

Today I explained some part of this to that particular ensign, and made sure I was clear because I wanted to be understood.

It felt good.

There's this favorite quote I understand just a little bit better today.  

"Wisdom is knowing I am nothing and no one,

Love is knowing I am everything and everyone.

Between the two my life moves."

--Nisargadatta Maharaj

I have this daily practice of meditation and contemplation. I spend some amount of time each day thinking on some idea, some concept about being... well, actually just about being.  I think about emotions, about people, about relationships, about what it means to be alive.  

I've been doing it for about 15 years now.  It's often really hard work, but just as often really rewarding.

Lately I've been focused on perspective taking, which is distinct from empathy or even sympathy. Perspective taking is the distinct action of trying to see things from someone else's perspective, to learn their feelings, their desires, their fears.

A cartoon.  In the left panel a castaway on a tiny island sees a boat in the distance, raises his arms, and cries out, "BOAT!".  In the right panel, the guy in the very tiny boat sees an island far away with someone on it, holds up his hands and cries out, "LAND!"

A cartoon.  In the left panel a castaway on a tiny island sees a boat in the distance, raises his arms, and cries out, "BOAT!".  In the right panel, the guy in the very tiny boat sees an island far away with someone on it, holds up his hands and cries out, "LAND!"

Take this cartoon.  Both these people see in the other person something they need, and they are so very excited to get it from that other person.  It's somewhat dark humor, because in reality neither has that-needed-thing to give.

Some things about perspective-taking really clicked home for me this morning.  Over the past two years or so, I've been devoting a lot of my contemplation-and-meditation time to what I now recognize as the idea of emotional interdependence.  

What the heck is that?  It's the idea that while I, as a person, interact with others, am affected by them, and affect them too, that there's a certain, and very healthy emotional self-sufficiency I can fall back on, and in fact, must to avoid harming others or myself.

I consider myself to be a kind, compassionate person.  Someone who usually has the best interest of others front and center in my attention.  But sometimes that's not so.  I have chased others to give me something I had been lacking for.  Sometimes that's been comfort, reassurance, a quick hit of pleasure or eroticism, to help me do a technical thing I feared I couldn't do by myself, all sorts of things.

About two years ago, I went through an awkward situation with someone I was very close to where I was chasing them for something I wanted them to do in their life.  But it wasn't up to me, it was up to them to make whatever changes in their life they might.  After a very rough time, I stopped chasing them.  I made this strong resolution, "I don't chase anyone, for anything."

Well, two years of contemplation later, I realized that there's a corollary to this.  Because lately I've been getting chased some.  We haven't been doing the podcast for several months, and I get emails from folks who like it, total strangers, asking what's going on with the show, and with us, and when it will be back.  I've had some very nice friends who flirt with me sometimes, and when I'm in the mood for such, it feels really good.  But when I'm not in the mood, or its uninvited, it feels sort of slimy.

And that's not a statement on how those people are jerks.  They are most distinctly not jerks. They're people.  And me, I'm a people, too.  Because I've done just those same sorts of things to others.  I've chased people for any number of reasons, blindly putting my own desires ahead of any thought of what they had going on.

This idea, this challenge of perspective-taking, it's not new.  I've been thinking about it, and maybe not quite getting it for a looooong time.  One of my favorite songs is about it.  It's called "The Balance" by The Moody Blues.

I get that song in a way I never did before.  Right along with that awesome quote.  It's firmed my resolve about some things.

First, when I catch myself chasing, to do my best to stop.  And to own it, apologize to others when and where I have the chance to do so.

Second, when I get chased, and it's in a place and time where it's not working out for me, to say so to the chaser, directly, but with loving kindness.  Because I've been there, and I am them, and they are me.

Third, I'm not going to waste a single moment trying to get away from this pattern.  Because I think it's part of the human condition.  

The sociologist Brené Brown says that being vulnerable to people you trust is an antidote to shame.  But that trust is earned.  You have people you go to, to get that confirmation that you're worthy of love and belonging with them.  That's a sort of emotional interdependence you grow over time.  I wouldn't want to not do that.  I don't think it's even possible.  I'm so very grateful for those who I have built that trust with, that we can lean on and into one another.

That takes time, and work, and love.

I'm grateful for it.

I was catching up....

with an old friend, M. today. She's an ageplayer too, wears diapers, wants spankings, all that stuff.  You know, just a regular person.

Anyhow, we were talking about the podcast, and my coaching practice, going to kink events,and  the pride symbol. I confided in my friend that I'm sort of "semi-retired" from the whole thing.

Seriously.  

I can count on one hand the number of shows we've recorded in the past six months. I haven't actively had any coaching clients in over a year.  I go to the occasional munch, but not with any sort of regularity.  I'm in the middle of writing a 3rd novel, but it's on an indefinite hold while I work on other things.

So many of the things I do, by which I define myself, have really changed.

On the other hand, some things have remained, even grown.  I'm still kinky, still poly, still an ageplayer.

I've just shifted some priorities around. I have been hard at work at creating a business for about a year now.

My relationships are strong and good, evolving along with me.  In my day job, I'm technically challenged and actively growing each and every day.

The thing that struck me as I was talking with my friend about this was that my identity, my sense-of-self is really rather fluid. I'm on the move, striking out in new directions. 

When I was a kid, my dad once said that success in life was like a vector in physics. You pick a direction, and head towards it, at speed. If it stops working for you, or your circumstances change, you pick a new direction, change course, and keep right on going.

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It also strikes me that that sort of mindfulness is a bit like the matter shift water does. When water's cold, it freezes into the shape of its container. But when things heat it up melts down and begins to flow into the shape that matches where it is.

I find that applying to me more and more these days. I'm actively melting down and finding a new shape for who I am and what I do.

I'm grateful for it.

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesgratitudeNow