Tipping My Hat To Esther
“And I’ve got one, two, three, four, five senses working overtime”
Lyrics by XTC from “Senses Working Overtime”
One of my men’s “graduate” programs is spending the entire year focusing on the topic of love, sex, and intimacy.
Only one year, you say?
Well, for the moment…
But I digress.
As I prepared for a recent group gathering, I took a deep dive into Esther Perel’s writing and wisdom. Anyone familiar with Esther and her work already knows she’s brilliant, has a lot to say, and is masterful at making complex ideas accessible and digestible.
If her name is new to you, Esther Perel is a psychotherapist, author, teacher, and speaker specializing in relationships and sexuality. She is, in my opinion, da bomb.
I’ve been taking my time with the men’s program, introducing new stuff, nudging us forward and letting the conversations unfold as organically as possible. If I said I stepped into this year’s theme with a clear, pre-determined roadmap, I’d be full of…
Well, I’d be lying!
We’ve had remarkably sweet conversations – and we’ve had remarkably difficult conversations. All have been vulnerable and as real as could be. It’s an extraordinarily powerful group of deep, caring, hungry men, willing to look at themselves, face their fears, do their work, and learn with and from one another.
Having covered significant ground on intimacy earlier in the year, we’ve turned the corner and stepped across the threshold into our chapter on sex, which brings us back to Esther.
I’m a big fan of not reinventing the wheel, and Esther’s writings about eroticism just seemed to be humming the tune of where we needed to be heading. She opens doors to wildly broad, varied perspectives of what we can consider erotic, challenging us to expand our horizons, palette, and vocabulary. And, of course, experience and appreciation.
For me, a headline on one of her web pages speaks volumes:
“Eroticism Is Not Sex Per Se, But The Qualities of Vitality, Curiosity, And Spontaneity That Make Us Feel Alive.”
Reading that, every word capitalized, I felt I’d just been handed the keys to a new, infinitely freer kingdom, one where even the slightest turn on, including – and especially – those having nothing to do with sex, find happy homes in the erotic column.
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, of course, but I find that ridiculously fun, playful, and liberating.
And when we brought some of Esther’s insights and questions into our collective space, lights started coming on.
Here’s the thing: Aside from having cultural hang-ups about so much as mentioning the topic outside of locker room or barroom talk, most men don’t fall into easy, honest conversation about sex. Discussion of eroticism (particularly of Esther Perel brand) is a whole different beast. It’s as if, in the presence of other men, owning up to being moved by a masterfully plated dish or beautiful sunset is a threat to one’s manhood.
Hell, in my world that kind of appreciation of beauty, and a willingness to share it, is a key indicator that a man invites and allows a much broader range of his own wholeness. It also tells me he is, at the very least, open to seeing the bigger picture of the web of life (and potential moments of eroticism) he’s a part of.
Why am I going down this particular road?
In my opinion, the more we men engage with the broad array of life-enhancing, sense-awakening stuff available on this small planet, the more we’re going to see – ironically – how big the world of life’s experiences really is.
Don’t get me wrong, sexual experiences can be amazing, even transcendent…
And yet, there is an entire Universe, right here, right now, full of positively erotic possibilities.
And when we let our guard down, we can be in conversation about all of it.
Thanks for the inspiration, Esther. I tip my hat to you in gratitude!