Technocrats and wonks have a very interesting way of recreating the English language, turning verbs into nouns, nouns into verbs and giant numbers into search engines.
Take the word swarm: usually a term meaning a large gathering of insects, with bees and locusts being the most swarmy of creatures in our collective memories.
SHAOYANG, CHINA – JULY 16: (CHINA OUT) Bees cover beekeeper Lu Kongjiang as he competes in a ‘bee bearding’ contest on July 16, 2011 in Shaoyang, Hunan Province of China. Wang Dalin won the contest after attracting 26.86kg of bees onto his body, covered only by a pair of shorts and swimming goggles. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)
But, apparently, humans can swarm, thanks to an app, appropriately called Swarm, by Foresquare.
Let me be clear, I am in no way working for Foresquare, nor am I trying to make money for this company, but I do think the idea is somewhat ingenious. In the “good old days,” before we held phones in our hands that have more computing power than the machines that propelled NASA astronauts to the moon, we used to have to make specific dates to see and meet people. Now, this app pairs up subscribers in the same place, at the same time, so meeting up is a breeze without having to waste time on pre-event planning. In true post-industrial form, members can earn badges and coins, while competing against each other for stickers and other cyber shit.
It’s sort of a way to swarm with your own human hive, without being overrun by biblical plagues of locusts. And, the company has an adorable logo. Just saying.
I live a vivid life–a life of culture, travel and experience. Vivid does not have to be simply visual. A vivid life is one where you participate fully and accept the here and now–a mantra that I’m trying on a daily basis to understand and accept.
A vivid life necessitates moving out of one’s comfort zone. It necessitates a tolerance and an understanding of our world’s vast differences.
I was recently in Bhutan, a country of mystery and Gross National Happiness (GNH), and an infrastructure unprepared for the inevitable tourist onslaught. Our group descended one day into the village of Lobesa in the Punakha District of northwestern Bhutan. Pilgrims take a short trek to the Chimi Lhakhang or the Monastery of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529). This monk’s MO was absolutely out of the ordinary, even for his 16th century land-locked, mountain-locked followers. He espoused the greatest Tibetan Buddhist’s traditions, but he also might have been the earliest hippy, talking of free love–most specifically with him. Over the centuries, worship of the Divine Madman has evolved into a fertility cult. People, now from all around the world, come to pray at the Chimi Lhakhang for children–a pilgrimage to pray and meditate for the awarding of children in their lives. Our guide excitedly displayed a typical cheap, plastic notebook in the temple, showing us page after page of couples proudly posing with their newborns after visiting the monastery. This notebook is guarded by a large statue of a generic version of the Madman himself, while behind him sits the requisite giant statue of the Buddha, surrounded by many bodhisattvas–those humans who choose to not enter enlightenment, but decide to help their fellow human to reach the all enlightenment.
I have been in different places all around the world that celebrate fertility. We, as westerners, are used to depictions of female fertility, perhaps driven by the cults of Mother Earth to the Virgin Mary, all the while embracing and yet abhorring the phallus, which can impregnate with force and without our feminine consent. Society can then, socially and religiously, relegate the “promiscuous” woman to the status of adulterers and whores, while Donald Trump, the President of the United States, gets away with “locker room talk.”
This is what makes us comfortable. This is what makes abstinence-only sex education in the United States celebrated, yet ineffectual at curbing sexual relations and pregnancy outside of marriage.
But in Bhutan, sex is celebrated in its masculine form. Instead of seeing the very western-style paintings of beautiful, objectified and stylized nude women with their rounded, fecund stomachs and hairless genitalia, the Bhutanese present to us the fertile penis–the other part of the “it takes two to tango” catchphrase.
This is what I would call a vivid projection of the male anatomy (no pun intended). So many homes had this happy penis painted on the sunbaked adobe. Still, I felt very uncomfortable. As I walked through the village to the monastery, we were greeted with kindness and gentleness. What is keeping me from embracing the happy penis without this feeling of impending doom?
Upon reflection, I can only conclude that my anxiety stems from a deeply rooted cultural belief within me. The source of this feeling might originate from my western, Puritanical background, which has set me up for the great joy as well as the great emotional pain of sex, within and without marriage. But for the Bhutanese people, even the children see that sex is natural, expected and celebrated. These images do not invite rape or unwanted sexual advances. Rather, they embrace the male and female together, the ying and the yang, the dual source of fertility…the vivid life of love and the vivid love of life.
Doubt. Mostly, I doubt myself. I doubt myself because three years ago, my husband (who is 11 years my senior) and I split up because we found that our relationship had run its course. We no longer had anything to say to each other. We no longer wanted to be in each other’s arms. We no longer wanted to share our days and our nights together.
There is no doubt in our decisions. The doubt surfaces when I realize that as a 60-year-old woman who wants to date someone my age and financial situation, I have found that the men in my age group and social level can afford to have girlfriends who are 20-30-40 years younger than they are. I can compete with my brain–I have degrees in journalism and engineering and a Master’s degree–but I can no longer compete with my body and my looks. I gave birth to two bright young men. My stomach is flat, but it is also wrinkled, as is other parts of my body. I had to have a hysterectomy so that I would not bleed to death before I finally moved into menopause naturally. I no longer have the hormones for the body-wide firmness that a younger woman would naturally have, and the body that I USED to have for decades. AND, if men my age and social status want the young, beautiful trophy women, I DON’T want that type of man in my life.
I do not doubt my choice to split with the father of my children. I have doubt that I will be able to find a vital, intelligent, interesting man to share my life who is my age and not 70 to 80 years old. I doubt that I have the fortitude to accept this situation.