Absolute Misunderstanding

Author: J. Mikael Togneri ©

Used With Author's Permission


The people, within this lifestyle as well as without, who are critical of the whole "absolutism" thing are legion. They present many reasons for that, and most of them possess perfect validity. The trouble, when discussing it with those who don't just dismiss the notion out of hand, is that, far more often than not, the emphasis is skewed.

It seems to me that, no matter where one stands on the issue of absolutism, the problem(s) doesn't (don't) lie with the "absolute" part of the concept, but with the "ism" part. What irks me about people who are perhaps a wee bit quick to embrace my writings about the absolute lifestyle, and maybe also many of those who are equally quick to dismiss them, is that they often miss a crucial point: "absolute" is a *condition*; it is *not* a philosophy with its associated dogma. There is no such thing as "absolutism". "Absolute" is a descriptor. Period. You turn it into a philosophy at your peril.

There exists one -- and only one -- criterion for having an absolute power dynamic in a relationship: that it be absolute. It really is that simple. From that point on, everything else flows naturally. (To those who may have a problem with that word, feel free to replace it with "automatically"). Rules, definitions, labels... none of those really matter. It is a defining characteristic of anything absolute that it either is, 100%, or is not at all. No amount of "extras" is going to make it more or less absolute. Anything absolute stands alone, based on its own merits.

Absolutism is an easy trap to fall into. Ironically, the chap who has largely been accused of having invented the whole concept in the first place, has himself fallen into it on any number of occasions. It is probably all the easier because the notion of absolutes attracts people who tend to think along fairly rigid lines to begin with. Most people who are attracted to the absolute communities of my acquaintance, at any rate, tend also to be those who believe that one is either dom, sub or vanilla, and that switches are either confused or lying.

I know this, because I used to think so myself. Then reality came along and confused me. In a perfectly reasonable defensive posture, my response was of course to dig in my heels, resulting in an almost fanatical defence of a philosophy that my own writings so often emphasise does not exist, and in which I did not really believe, nor for that matter practiced myself. Mayhem ensued, and absolutism became the cage to end all cages.

A popular illustration of enlightenment is the proverbial light bulb coming on above the character's head. Although I am sure that happens every now and again, for the most part I suspect the reality is that the bloody thing is wired to a dimmer and comes on only gradually. The trouble with that, of course, is that one never knows how long this process of brightening light can go on. Once the bulb is lit, however dimly, it becomes impossible to read the print on it, so we really don't know its wattage rating.

So does this mean that I'm not an absolutist anymore? Nope! It means that I never was. I believe that there are absolutes in our universe, and I believe that a master/mistress-slave relationship can be one such. However, it is to me a description of the naturally (automatically) evolved relationship. It could never be a relationship *goal*. We can't say "I want an absolute relationship." All we can say is "I want an M/s relationship with such-and-such characteristics", and that may or may not end up being described as absolute.

What we want today may not be possible. What we want tomorrow may be very different to what we want today. Once one sets a goal that cannot be flexible (by virtue of being absolute), one puts on a straightjacket of one's own making, and the whole relationship becomes a matter of not being able to see the forest for all the trees. A compatriot of mine called Andersen said that, "to travel is to live." To travel. The process. Not the end destination.

The reason for which we cannot decide we want an absolute relationship is that in so doing we define criteria for it, and thereby criteria for what it is to be absolute. But that way lies only trouble, because another defining characteristic of "absolute" is that it be universal and unchanging. That is, what's absolute for you is absolute for everybody else as well. So, if we establish criteria and say any and all relationships that live up to these criteria are absolute, and those that don't, aren't, it all becomes centred on polemic rather than the dynamics themselves, and the important thing in the relationship becomes living up to a set of standards, rather than living in the relationship.

Ultimately, we may well only ever know that an M/s relationship was absolute after its demise, regardless of how that comes about. In the meantime, as far as I can see, the only really relevant question to ask about whether or not our dynamic is absolute, is: who cares?

Labels and titles are fine when used to describe what we observe. They become cages when used to define what we would like to see.

Back to Essay 9: Superficial, Shallow, and Condemnatory

This is the last essay in the series.


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