Earlier today I visited a friend’s home and while I was there he told me about problems he was having with his wife; they have been having painful troubles for several years, apparently. I wanted to be helpful and I offered some personal stories of my own life, basically searching for common ground that might shed any light on his situation, but probably not. My favorite bit was a blurb from my personal musings that I stuck in; I’m going to retell it here.
I said to him, “if I had a son who had turned out to be gay, there would be only one reason why that would be a bad thing. The reason is that society says it’s bad.” Naturally, a religious argument can be brought against that particular position, but I don’t respect that argument: I am unconvinced that God outlaws homosexuality, and if He does, the enforcing can be left to Him as far as I’m concerned. That example was meant to illustrate this point: it would be tragic for me to allow my son or my daughter, or anyone else whom I love, to be injured by a societal norm that I do not respect and cannot verify as objectively valid.
This was offered to my troubled friend, who had told me that once upon a time, he had been overzealous in his pursuit of an ideal. He told me that he had tried very hard to become successful and acquire those things that reflected success, and that he had recently changed his values, relinquishing some of his zeal in a realization that certain of his former practices had been unneeded, and had brought harm to his marriage. I responded that one must draw a line somewhere, between what they are willing to do to demonstrate allegiance to society’s norms and satisfy their own cravings, and what norms and cravings they will ignore to preserve their own tranquility. I went on, clumsily describing my own life and struggles, in an effort to help.
Considering it further, I suppose you might say that the location of that line is your social status. Those heedless of their lawn’s quality, the polish of their automobile and the way they dress would be your trash and eccentrics, and the folks in the manorial estates would be the upholders of taste and dignity, and leaders. We are all well aware, of course, that appearances can be deceiving. Few things are more common, after all, than leaders and celebrities, at all echelons, who have been found deficient, sometimes criminally so. Also not too uncommon are individuals who offer inspiration from humble quarters. Apparent though these things are, we are still judgemental, and wary of judgement.
Of the many things I might say, there is only one in which I have any confidence: life is a struggle with that line, trying to locate it somewhere that allows one to sleep at night. I can tell a friend about where I draw the line, and he may take heart from my example, or he may shun it.
I believe that that line is part of our personal struggle to define ourselves. It may be that sociologists have studied our many cultures and found that they are dissimilar, and that all humans do not strive equally with the folks in my neighborhood to do this. I deeply believe, however, that each and every human being responds to their own individuality by balancing endeavors to gain favor and avoid censure, against efforts made beyond society’s chatter, solely for our own reasons. We sometimes hear the question, “what would you take if you had to go live on a deserted island?” I think this question is undertaken to separate those things we cherish from those things we do in the pursuit of regard. We do some things in that pursuit that we enjoy doing, but would they make the cut if we could get absolutely nothing for them? I agree with those who appraise this matter and decide that only our loved ones really matter, and that in the end, our ability to love, and our faith in love are by far the things most worth living for.
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