In this dialogue, Marc and Megwyn take you deep into the world of Digital Intimacy.
What does Digital Intimacy mean? Why is it important? Why is it such an essential topic that actually could affect the future quality of all of our lives in the deepest, most powerful ways?
Listen to the audio (picture by Megwyn) and/or read the transcript below:
Marc: Welcome everyone. I am delighted to be here with my co-conspirator, Megwyn White and we are conspiring, together with the entire digital world, to find new channels, new openings into profound radical awake, alive intimacy. And at this moment is a historic moment–so let’s get a drum roll, get in the house, give us little drum roll–we’re going to introduce a term and the term is digital intimacy.
What does Digital Intimacy mean? Why is it important? Why is it such an essential topic that actually could affect the future quality of all of our lives in the deepest, most powerful ways? So that’s just a frame of what we’re going to talk about. Let me turn over to my beloved and co-conspirator, Megwyn White. So Megwyn, give us your introduction. Sister, goddess woman.
Megwyn: Thank you Marc. Yeah, I am very inspired and excited to begin exploring the realms of Digital Intimacy. I think that the digital age is actually bridging into a new era of consciousness because it actually allows us so many different ways to express ourselves, to engage and dialogue that is not just based or steeped in pure language. We can now explore things like images, we can explore things like animated gifs, we can intermix dialogue and video and we can actually engage with each other in creative ways that actually inspire the essence of the individual, also the landscape of community. So, I’m very inspired to begin exploring and co-conspirating this quest with you, Marc Gafni.
Marc: Yes. Awesome. So let me just spend a few minutes laying down some meta tracks, and what we want to do is begin to just explore what the issues are, what is this about.
So let’s start with the problem, okay. There’s an enormous critique level today at the Internet and at the virtual world which is that in some sense, from the perspective of intimacy, virtual is not virtuous. That actually in some deep sense, there’s a loss of face, loss of face time, that Facebook is actually defacing the core interiority of relationships.
If we would play with the original Hebrew for a second which, why would you not do that, right? So the word face, panim, P-A-N-I-M, panim, face means the inside, right, because you can look at the person’s back. I mean Megwyn have you ever looked at like ten naked people’s back? If you have. Maybe you don’t want to admit it.
So your first response isn’t like, “Wow”, it’s like “Ugh”, right? But ten naked people’s back, I mean and again, with all due respect for the backs of the people listening, I mean backs are okay because… you don’t have like a centerfold in a pornographic world which is someone’s back. It’s just not happening. We’re not doing that, okay?
But faces are actually in some sense more sensual and more erotic than even what are the classical sexual zones. And the person’s face is so individuated, it’s such a gorgeous sculpture, textured terrain of incandescent, infinite and stunning meaning, right, and subtlety and nuance. Lucian Freud, Freud’s son or grand-son, I don’t remember, he did these incredible portraits on face. So the Hebrew word face actually means both face and to be inside.
So in some sense, face time defaces face. I mean, that’s the critique that you–the actual face to face meeting, the energy of being with someone in the room and the intimacy of being with someone the room is lost and we get lost in the social media world which is non-intimate, non-erotic and ultimately, is therefore disrupting connectivity in some deep place that’s connective tissue is somehow disrupting connectivity, that’s the critique.
And somehow, we need to be able to recover face. We’ve lost face through Facebook and when I say Facebook, I’m using Facebook because it’s a generic catch all for the entire world of virtual connection and social media, how do we recover face? How do we recover intimacy? Now, I just want to say this as the first foray.
So in this first point, I really want to grant this critique. This critique is real and it’s true. But like anything you’ve got to be aware of something that’s true but partial. It’s not the whole story. There’s an enormous truth in that and anyone who’s done business or taught on the phone, which has all sorts of wonderful, intimate potential and advantages, digitally that Megwyn and I are going to point to both in terms of Skype and voice, nonetheless when you’re actually with someone in the room, you feel this rush of energy. And there’s something about the person’s actual direct contact with their direct embodied field of energy which is very powerful in terms of building certain forms of intimacy, in terms of building certain forms of trust, in terms of building certain forms of connectivity.
So I think we all recognize that’s important. Having said that, there’s a book out a couple of years called The Shallows, and The Shallows was a critique on the non intimate, non contact, non nature of the digital world. What Megwyn and I want to begin to suggest is although that critique is valid, again this is a meta frame people, although dear friends, brothers and sisters that critique is valid, it’s true, it’s true but partial. And that since we’re not going to actually roll back to digital world, no one’s going to de-digitize the world that’s not going to happen. That’s like suggesting let’s not have automobiles because there are car accidents. Well that may or may not a legitimate argument but it’s just not happening.
How can we make digital intimacy. How can we actually eroticize the web of connections and how can we actually enter into the inside. Enter to the inside of Facebook, and enter to the interiority of the web and actually feel the web as it were coming alive in this very dramatic way.
And so I’m leaving you with one more image and then turn over to Megwyn. Before we finish what I’m calling the meta, the big frame because frameworks are important, the frameworks for the conversation, frameworks for everything actually. Let me just give you one last image.
The image comes from that series of movies that a friend of mine, Lana Wachowski made with her brother Andy which were called The Matrix. And in Matrix 3, you got this big last scene in which the hero, the hero who’s name I can’t remember even though I saw all three Matrixes, so in which Neo, I think it’s the hero’s name, has a crucifixion scene. It’s like this wildly beautiful scene and the machines you realize are actually alive. The entire machine world isn’t dead, it’s actually alive. You actually realize and I had a long conversation with Lana about this, back in 2006, in his apartment in Chicago.
When you realize the whole point of–the whole joke of the Matrix is that actually the machines who are the enemy are actually alive and actually the whole split between the animate world and the inanimate world, meaning the machine world and the human world or the intimate world and non-intimate world, that split is in some sense a false split. I’m not going to talk about why that’s true now. I might talk about that later in today’s dialogue or a few dialogues down the road but I’m going to go deeply to that.
But basically, there’s this image I want to suggest to you all which is what I’m going to call sentience all the way up and sentience all the way down, meaning it’s alive all the way up and it’s alive all the way down. And actually, the entire world of the machines is actually governed by forces of attraction and allurement: elementary particles that are drawn towards each other that are moving towards each other that are following gorgeous laws and principles that are alive.
And why would you not call it alive–they are actually moving, they’re attracted. They’re actually trying to preserve particular purposes and actually have what they call the insentient world or the inanimate world you actually have an idea of purpose and purpose is associated with life.
So actually the whole notion that there’s this inanimate, dead, inert world and we’re the living ones, we might want to challenge that and begin to envision a world when we actually detect and discern profound aliveness and purpose and direction and sentience all the way up and all the way down which begins to open up the possibility and the broadest meta-frame which is wildly erotically exciting for digital intimacy.
So what I tried to do here, friends, is to create a really, really broad vision and now let’s do the flip opposite, let’s take it out of this meta vision and go into an intimate view of a couple of ways like what would that actually mean. Let’s take this out of meta into the gorgeousness of particulars and into which steps, beloved Megwyn White, and Megwyn, take it away.
Megwyn: Thank you so much, Marc. That was an incredible vision and I could feel the aliveness through even your expression, through listening to you through Skype and it really is a turn on for me to actually start thinking in this way in a meta frame, actually experiencing the inanimate objects of the technological realm as being very intimate because it’s pleasurable to touch my Mac Book Air, for instance, I love holding my iPhone and flipping into the next photo. It has even a sensual beautiful pleasure to it.
One thing that you had said was that when we are intimate, we are inside of the inside and one thing that, I think the intimate is actually just an expression of the connective tissue that we already are but magnetized perhaps. Magnetized and illuminated in this whole effervescent way that when we choose, when we actually engage in a choice to invite the unique self into the frame, then we can actually experience intimacy and just the whole new context and aliveness.
So in terms of examples of how I could see, how I use that or I can see just exploring that more because I feel this is just a beautiful ongoing exploration of art truly unfolding before our eyes through the intimate realm of the Internet. I have a group that I’ve started called the embodied art project and essentially what it does is it engages people into intimacy through connecting and sharing through very small, easy forms of art. So that could be from singing a song or dancing or to writing a poem but essentially when we create art, we just have to actually relate with the inner self. We actually have to feel. Art is based on emotional expression and feeling for instance.
So when people share on the intimate level through the Internet, we begin engaging with their body, their senses, the aroma in the room, the context of their emotions through this–through either let’s say a picture. We had done a catalyst recently, a catalyst is basically an expression of something that gets the art stimulated inside of someone and so in this particular frame or catalyst, I asked the people to sing the song This Little Light of Mine I’m going to let it Shine and we had the most beautiful offerings inside of this thread of people actually embodying and being the message instead of just writing the message and posting a static image and disengaging from the intimacy from actually experiencing themselves, they posted something that engaged them in a whole new way that actually expanded their being into a more alive and centered beingness.
And then the fun thing is that you get to experience the sharing, so every time someone post something, I just–my whole system gets titillated and turned on and I’m inspired to connect more. And to me, that’s again what you’re talking about is the intimacy is the allurement. That’s what keeps you inspired to connect.
And so if we start to engage this digital intimacy realm in a way that actually honors our imagination and our unique essence, we can begin being inspired to co-create, to cultivate our minds, to experience the sensuality and the treasure of connecting through actually having some space between one another.
And I think that that’s one of the most interesting things about the digital realm is that there’s this beautiful magnetic space because you can’t actually see the person. It invites you actually into this interiority experience of actually being on the inside of the inside. So I think of it as a really deep meditation, but it’s a meditation on the currency of intimacy.
Marc: Awesome, awesome. So yes, let’s pick up a couple of those things and I want to– or those of you joining us for the first time, which is probably all of you simply because it’s the first time we’ve done it. Let me just unpack a couple of phrases that are core to my lexicon and the way I think about the world but they are not mine in the sense of the egoic ownership. It used to be when we said mine and that we owned it egoically; rather they’re the deepest darma that I’m able to formulate and share. And by darma, because we’re going to do the darma of digital intimacy, that’s what we’re doing here. We’re doing the darma of digital intimacy. And we are evernoting this along as we go. The darma of digital intimacy.
So, the darma means the best vision of the patterns that connect. The best vision of how on the interior of things, things hang together. So if you were doing the darma of a–I don’t know, let’s use a guy for example, the darma of a car engine. As a whole thing fit together and what makes it go. It’s just like under the hood of the car, there’s the engine and that’s what makes it go. So under the hood of the universe is what we like to call right here in Center for Integral Wisdom and in the Embodiment Project, we like to call this the interior face of the cosmos, the interior face of the cosmos. And I call this the inside of the inside and I borrowed the phrase with the great permission from my lineage masters. It’s a description of actually the temple in Jerusalem. Remember Raiders of the Lost Arc and Indiana Jones, 20 years ago, whenever that was in the last century?
So the arc is the arc of the covenant, the arc of the covenant is the arc of the covenant in the Jerusalem temple that Solomon built. So in this temple, there are different spaces and the most interior space is called lifnei b’lifnim which literally means the inside of the inside or the face of the face because remember both of those words play with each other. So for example, I just gave you how beautiful it is so there’s a third word in Hebrew which plays with the same group of root of pnei which remember means inside and means means face. And the third word is Lifnei. Now, Lifnei is usually translated as to be before. So for example you’re before God, you’re Lifnei Adonai or before God in the great temple of Jerusalem.
But if you really get the inside of the word in its magical play and the magical play, the spell of spelling, the spell of language of rhetoric, we get that Lifnei Adonai means not just before God in which God or divinity is there and I’m here but actually if you realized the word Pnei means inside face so you realize before God really means to be on the inside of God’s face. Wow, to be on the inside of God’s face.
So, that just does something completely different to your body. I mean to use a Megwyn word in describing intellectual ideas, that’s a turn on. I mean that’s exciting. I think the other word to use is titillating, so it’s both. Or to use a word from Kaballah, translating it, it’s arousing. It’s arousing from the deepest sense of eros, of Plato’s eros in the symposium. To be in the inside of the inside.
So actually, all these hidden cables, and the fibre optic cables that distributed to the entire world is actually the web of interconnectivity which as Megwyn said I think so correctly so poignantly is actually externalizing what’s actually already true in the interior.
And essentially, let’s just hear this my friends because this is so wild. The great mystiques knew that they were invisible lines of connection which wove everything together. That we live in a world of invisible lines of connection and that sense, knowing that, is really a wild thing to know. We need to know it. We need to feel it.
Those invisible lines of connection are then externalized, they’re externalized in the fibre optic cable network of a enmeshed virtuous and virtual connection which is actually creating this web of enmeshed connectivity every place and everywhere.
But actually the mystics already knew that this is true. The mystics didn’t actually need cable wires, cable optics or fibre optics, the mystics knew this is true. They didn’t know it was true because the dogma, because it was a fake object, they knew it’s true because they opened up a certain capacity of perception and that capacity of perception is called the eye of the spirit.
Just like the eye of the senses will tell you about the exterior of the computer because it’s a sensible, visible object to borrow Plato’s phrase, it’s part of what Plato would call the sensible, visible God. You can touch it, you can feel it. It’s accessible so it’s that’s one dimension, it’s the eye of the senses. There’s the eye of the mind where you do Mathematics and Logic and deduction, those are ways to perceive and access the world.
There’s the eye of the spirit or what the Sufis called the eye of the heart which opens up your perception into the interior face of the cosmos. And so the mystics are accessing the eye of the spirit and eye of the heart which empirically tells you what’s going on in the inside. It reveals it, it opens it to you even though it’s not empirically verifiable to the eye of the senses.
So love, for example, love. Love has an expression in the physical sensate world right through releases of dopamines, serotonine or neurotransmitters. But love is not neurotransmitters, you can’t reduce love to neurotransmitters, love is an interior reality and you know it by opening up the eye of the heart.
So the mystics who opened up the eye of the heart knew that the world is actually interpenetrated. The world is actually completely interconnected. The entire world is always in every second co-intimate with the rest of the world and that actually that’s an expression of source and what source is which is sometimes called God, let’s call it source because God gets us in trouble as the gospel of Thomas says, the word God confuses us because it takes us to a place that’s not true to a place of empty meanings.
But source, source is not just the infinity of power as the great tradition taught us, source is the infinity of intimacy. Then the infinity of intimacy meshes through all of reality and connects it. And then the interlocking virtual cables are not a violation of virtue, they’re actually deep expression of virtue which is the virtue of intimacy which is the essential nature of all that is in every moment. And so if that’s true then clearly the invitation, the demand, the other necessity would be what, would make these virtual connections alive. We got to hear their music, we got to know the sound of music that lives in the virtual. And my friends, remember The Sound of Music, the movie? The hills are alive. What’s that about?
The hills are alive, the cables are alive. The virtual is alive. The virtual awaits us to awaken its intimacy to our intimate contact with the virtual. How do you awaken someone’s intimacy? How do you arouse a person? You make contact, you make direct gorgeous contact that arouses the intimacy of the other person? So what we need to do is we need to make contact with the virtual world, to arouse its virtue if you will or if we’re going to use the sexual therefore we’d say its lack of virtue, right to arouse … image. That’s what we’re looking for here. We’re looking for right now for the way to start this, the way to engage to conversation is specifics.
Megwyn, it’s a Celtic name, Celtic woman, right? Can you maybe take this home to finish this dialogue and give us maybe three examples, let’s say in your relationships for example, three examples, a way that you use digital intimacy to foster intimacy in your life. Is that a fair question?
Megwyn: Totally, yes. Well, I’ll start with one of the simpler ways that I use my cellphone. I love doing animated gifs and I like animated gits because they are —
Marc: Tell us what they are…
Megwyn: Yes, I’m going to explain. So animated gifs are basically almost like a looped… It’s different than a video because it just takes still shots about let’s say 30 images and there’s a space between and then what happens is these images are strung together and to a video, and then they’re looped. So you’ll see, let’s say one gesture, let’s say hand reaching out and touching and you’ll see that image continually looped and expressed over and over again and what I love about the animated gif is that it offers me moment in time, a moment with someone that I’m sharing with as opposed to just writing kiss, I can feel myself doing animated gif and kiss the thing for instance or kiss my hand or engage in a way that is creative and invites the intimacy of the other, the inner turn on, you got to be more spontaneous in that sense and it’s also very similar to what you experience when you watch a silent film–there is a kind of nostalgia experienced in just getting to see the kind of like a voyeuristic image of something that is again not having to utilize sound or dialogue that just rely on the face actually. The inside of the inside, the essence of the person has to shine through just the movement. So I love animated gifs.
Another thing that I love, and I love apps in general on the iPhone but one of my favorite apps is an app called Voxer. And with Voxer, you can basically connect with someone similar to that of like a walkie-talkie and what Voxer basically does is it records the sound so you’re talking to someone, your recording yourself and you’re transmitting that and basically in real time and the person if they have the phone, they can actually listen to than Vox in real time and just hear their friend but they have to wait until the end of the message and then they can respond with a message. So it’s similar to voice recording but you can, inside of this conversation, you can punctuate it with images, with texts and you can start creating this kind of language and context around your connection. You can basically start writing a story.
All of these things are in many ways little mini novels. Just look at your text messages, it’s a mini novel. You have a different novel with each person. So you take that simple text messaging to the next level and start engaging in basically the theme of the story between you and another beloved.
What is that third energy that forms when you come together and you connect, how can you explore that particular novel through a language that engages not just your words but also the colors in your mind and the sounds of your thoughts and can actually engage you into a dialogue that explores the subterranean layers of the subconscious mind and heart and emotions. But basically, those were three main examples, ones I use a lot but there are so many.
Marc: Yeah. I think those examples are wonderful. I think this is a great place to stop, to end our first dialogue in Digital Intimacy and we want to invite you. We want to invite you, beloveds, into intimacy. When we say intimacy, we mean contact. When we say intimacy, we’re not talking about sexual intimacy although we’ll probably do a couple of dialogues on what would sexual intimacy mean in the digital world which is a great question.
So we know that obviously, there’s a pornographic expression of that and pornography is a complex topic. I think ultimately, I’ll just say a quick 10 seconds. Pornography’s ultimately problematic in that, it creates enormous addiction and makes actually genuine intimacy problematic, but is there a non pornographic and genuinely intimate way for beloveds to actually use the web as a great question. And we’ll have at least four, five dialogues on digital sensual intimacy directly we’ll have a subset dialogues about that.
But generally, when we’re talking about digital intimacy, we’re not talking about the sexual, we’re talking about emotional, spiritual, psychological, existential. We’re talking about all the levels of eros and all the levels of fuck, not in the degraded sense of the term but in the fierce, wondrous sense of the term–kind of opening up in a deep and wondrous and profound way when you feel like, you know what intimacy is my friends?
Intimacy is when you don’t have a question about the meaning of existence, you know that this moment was worth it by itself. You’re not trying to get somewhere, you’re no longer networking but it’s no longer a means to an end, you’re there. You’ve arrived. There’s no place to go. That’s the experience of intimacy.
So can we create by digital–that’s the web, now we’re finishing with what’s intimacy? So now we know what intimacy is. Intimacy is you’ve arrived. You made contact. It’s self validating and its value as self evident. The meaning of existence that great question falls away, not because you’ve answered it, but because the question no longer exists in that moment, that’s intimacy.
Now we turn to the world of the machine to the digital world and say okay, what’s the invitation to intimacy in this world? Yeah, so Megwyn I’m delighted to be in this intimate exploration with you. Big huge blessings to everybody listening and this has been week one of digital intimacy with Megwyn White and Marc Gafni.