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Math Problem

Friends Meeting: the B sides

#3 Something I read, Nov 19, 2007

Good morning friends. I read something in the Bible which troubled me.


Perhaps I should start with the agreeable part: Hannah prayed not just with her lips but in her heart, she ‘poured out her soul to the Lord’, and then her face was no longer downcast, i.e. she felt better.


Here’s a neat little trick to infuriate my antagonistically atheist acquaintences*: I tell them that regardless of any apparent lack of metaphysical efficacy, i.e. my prayers do not affect real world outcomes, it still makes me feel better! (*as opposed to my amicable atheistic friends, including the ones in my head).


Now on to the gasoline and matches: 1 Samuel 1:2 [Elkanah] had two wives…


Yep, polygamy, there it is.


I did like this part: 1:5 ‘to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her’.  That actually gave me an “aw shucks”.


Then later on, after I had slept on it, I recalled a math problem pointed out in some article on Alternet. (I'll add the link when I find it)


The math problem is:

If there are a considerable number of men who get two or more wives,

and if boys and girls are born in a ratio of 1:1,

then there must be a significant number of men who have no wives.


This system is inherently inequitable. 


Of course, inequity is very American.


Bernard Derriman has an adorable cartoon of TISM’s song which gives voice to the losers in this equation. http://www.tgsnt.com/tgsnt_II/pca/tism.html


I fully expect some scientific creationist has already cooked up this novel solution to the Biblical polygamy problem: ‘well you know back then, more girls were born than boys, so God and the Israelites knew what they were doing.’  Fundamentalists have an answer for everything.


1 Sam 1:6  suggests that polygamy is not appreciated by the other half either: “her RIVAL kept provoking her’.


Apparently one man with more than one woman is a common fantasy theme in pornography.  Not that I would know anything about that… “you see I have this friend who has a problem and he asked me to ask you…”


And for the record, I absolutely did not just draw any parallel between the Bible and porn whatsoever.  (Hey, no matter how much a struggling film-maker might need the money, the story of Lot and his daughters is just too weird!)


So I’m trying to look at polygamy, which in the Old Testament seems to be everywhere.


Before I go any further with moral musings, I wish to be very clear about one thing: humility. I have more than enough trouble finding out what I am supposed to do, what brings happiness in my life, so I must be really out of my league trying to figure out what is best for other people! The most I suppose I might attain is some common ground on which to explore feelings, attitudes, choices, consequences and more feelings. The least I can do on this topic is be very clear about how to not share lethal incurable sexually transmitted diseases, and here's how:




Polygamy ain’t exactly dead. Maybe Warren Jeffs’ friends, and Brigham Young’s followers really loved their wives-s-s too.  Who am I to judge? 

B-Y-You? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Young#Listing_of_wives

Warren Jeffs at work today: http://www.rickross.com/groups/polygamy.html#FLDS


If I am going to have some Spiritual view of sex, I will need to answer challenging questions, so I need a robust resource.


Goal: Spiritual view of sex.


Recommended resource on spirituality: the Holy Bible.


Objection: ubiquitous polygamy


Canned Answer #1 to Biblical ethical problems: “well those were different times back then…”


Respondeo Dicens:

if those were different times back then,

Then it’s time for a different book.


I might be able to draw out principles.http://www.kstewart.net/writing/spiritvreligion.html


The principles are more important than the reference in the Bible.

Or any other book for that matter.

In fact by looking for principles, I can start to appreciate them in any other book.

And by seeing principles in more than one book, or more than one life, including the lives of my neighbors, it becomes easier to practice these principles in all of my affairs.

By focusing on principles over creed, the spirit of the law over the letter of the law, I have more common ground to communicate with all my neighbors.


If I recall correctly, Quakerism tries to direct seekers to the Original Underlying Source of the Bible, and to the Underlying Source of spiritual principles.  In fact, if someone had no real Direct Personal Experience with the Original Underlying Source then whatever inference they might draw from the Bible would be suspect at best, and potentially very misleading.


Like trying to orient a map without a compass…


…A compass which was not yet free to spin independently in natural response to Earth’s magnetic field.


Apparently the next nut to crack is the relationship between God, inspired writing (or any communication), principles and me.


What’s the order?


Inspiration – Author – Media – Audience - Principles– Practice


Inspiration – Author – Principles - Media – Audience – Practice


Inspiration – Principles - Author – Media – Audience – Practice


I tend to like this one:

Inspiration – Author - practice – more focused inspiration - Media – Inspired Audience – Practice


(Where did the principles go?

They’re an invisible particle leaping across gaps in space-time… I don’t know, what are you asking me for?!)


Okay, now back to sex.


I’m just waiting for some young adult Friend to ask me about “polyamory”.


Oh wait – let me rephrase that … I meant inquiring about the validity of the concept.


I try to be equally skeptical of all sources of information. 


On the one hand I am resentful and frustrated with the guilty-pleasure complex which, in my experience, comes from some religious moral traditions. They seem to have such a mistrust of physical pleasure.


On the other hand, there is the aphorism: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. (wait a minute - did i just demonstrate how deeply ingrained that guilty-pleasure crap is in me?!)


I wonder if there’s a neat little trick of self-deception which involves coining a phrase or enthusiastically borrowing a newly-coined phrase which sounds official.  Of course, ‘official’ lately means “vaguely scientific”.  In other words, if there’s a scientific sounding term for it, it must be legit; as if ‘they’ really know what they’re talking about.


As for the validity of ‘polyamory’, I’d have to ask the same set of questions I use for any choice:

what was your motivation?

what were your expectations?

what principles was this based on?

and of course: how's that workin' for ya?


What are the results? All of the results?


How do you feel about yourself?


Never mind theory.  Ask someone with experience.  And to be thorough, ask everyone involved.


It might be interesting to interview,

at great length,


repeatedly over time,

in a relationship which becomes a true confidante,

Hugh Heffner and his – what is it now– three? three girlfriends.


And to be thorough in our investigation, to explore all results, we should also locate and interview ex-girlfriends.


Ah yes, how could we forget the ex-es?!


Are all of these people truly content? Are they quite satisfied with how things turned out over the long run?


Did anyone mistake pleasure for happiness?


Are you honest with your RIVALS?


And if you claim that you don’t see them as your rivals, are you honest with yourself?


I feel that I must keep asking questions because so much of what I have seen among adults sure looks like self-delusion of varying degree.


I've met more than enough people who do not have the self-esteem and courage to insist on being treated as an equal.


I strongly suspect that Hugh Heffners' girlfriends are not as happy as the so-called-reality-TV-show implies.


For that matter, I can also imagine plenty of Mormon women who feel they must convince themselves that they are not upset or threatened by polygamy, because after all 1877 is their great-great-great grandmother's time.


And it gets really interesting when organized groups practice self-delusion.  Much more on that later in other pieces.


Returning to a spiritual view of sex, of course the final answer might be something like:


“you can’t always get what you want,

but if you try sometimes,

you just might find,

you get what you need..."


...Awww yeah!







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