Seamus Muldoon, Himself
When I was very young, merely a teenager, I often believed myself to be in love. In reality I was only in need of sexual intimacy. I was delusional about every girl I desired, and my fantasies of this or that grand thought or deed or music that I would perform in honor of my love for her knew no bounds. My utterly undisciplined mind would conjure all manner of pseudo poetic phrases, and hyperbole was about as understated as I could muster. With very rare exceptions, the young male mind can’t distinguish between love and lust. Relationships ebb and flow depending upon whether one is working his way to ejaculation or has just had one. I went to great lengths to impress, but rarely got there. Somehow, no matter how great I thought myself to be, the girls were always smart enough to see through the smoke and to understand that I was just another kid with an erection. Maybe they didn’t always understand their perception of me in exactly those terms, having been raised to a higher standard of delicacy, but that, I believe, was the bottom line.
My daughter constantly complains to me how puerile men are who are in their mid thirties, and I have come to believe that you really don’t understand much of anything until well beyond that, with the customary rare exception. The reason is that you simply haven’t lived long enough to have had sufficient meaningful experiences that stimulate you to insight at that stage in life. At that age you know what you know from books and movies and television. If you are lucky you may have traveled a bit, or have been in combat and learned some ultimate lessons about existence, or you may have learned something from a bad marriage, but probably not, because if you’re normal you blame failures on others and take little or no blame upon yourself. The tendency to fix blame on others is a reliable indicator of where you are on the scale of maturity.
Most situations where matters have come a cropper are assigned to fault on the part of others. We have not by then learnt enough about the stuff of life to be introspective. Some of us never learn that. The luckiest eventually learn to look inside ourselves for all the right and all the wrong results, for that is in all likelihood where the causes may be found. How one proceeds from being a priapic child driven entirely by his urges to being an introspective, sensitive, loving person can be agonizing, and the journey is never completed in some men and completed very late in life for others. My comments are about men because I are one, but women have similar issues.
Part of the dilemma is due to the fact that our youthful curriculum does not usually include instruction upon the subject of sensitivity or upon the subject of the difference between Eros and agape. Part of the problem is also that we learn more absolutes, about something called right or wrong, “the principle of the thing”. Actually there are very few rights and wrongs, and hardly any controversies are about “the principle of the thing”. In each instance there are practically always several principles at work, and the talent to reach a positive result is not to choose one, but rather to assign them weights according to their relative importance in that instance, and then to prioritize them and serve them as they merit. Maturity in that sense indicates the ability to get beyond right or wrong and into competing interest balancing where most issues have some right and some wrong. Humans are simply not like chemical equations in which a formula must be balanced and specific weights of specific molecules yield a result expressible in mathematical certainty. Humans are emotionally amorphous and each is a different person at different times, on different days, in different seasons, and at different stages of their daily, weekly and monthly cycles. On top of that, each has a separate maturity and insight capability, a different temperament, differing conditions of mental and physical health, and is bombarded minute by minute with all the external impulses and influences that exert themselves in our universe. How we establish and manage lasting relationships is so complicated. It is amazing that a methodology can be reduced to some reliable set of engagement terms.
To make matters worse, we are taught to use superficialities, to mask how we feel and to serve institutions, because few of us end up self employed, and most of us need to be able to accommodate/subordinate ourselves to the requirements of the institutions we serve in order to obtain a livelihood. Those requirements are often arbitrary, illogical and fail in their best mode to achieve positive results. They are all too frequently the product of some absurd treatise written by someone who has notions that have not been tested under variable conditions and among people of different levels of intelligence and stability in varying theaters of performance. There is no logic, rhyme or reason to so much of what we are required to do, and compliance with anomalous, damn silly mandates is exhausting. Ego driven managers call meetings to which people have to travel and at which they spend days listening to some agenda that makes no sense, has no value and could as easily have been put into an email message. Frequently, wasteful and boring meetings are called for no reason other than the person who called it wants to go to a certain place for recreation and to be able to charge it to the company. In that way a $ 5,000 trip for recreation becomes a $ 75,000 meeting, but is paid for by the company. And we are taught that we must accommodate the absurd agendas of those counterproductive people lest they put some negative comment in our employment files and we lose a raise, bonus or promotion. We are taught that this compliance with the absurd is an absolute must, and the fact that it is exhausting, frustrating and obstructs our own productivity is not something we are allowed to express. Then, when we get home to the relationships we cherish, there is so much less of our energies and emotional resources for our loved ones. This is a major contributor to dysfunctional personal behavior in the relationships that really count.
And so, we strike out, wanting to have some place, some situation in which we might get to “call the shots”, if even for a moment. And there is no such place. We don’t have minions dependent upon us for their livelihood who we can abuse to aggrandize our own egos. It is harder for us to find emotional resources to enable us to go immediately to insightful reactions rather than automatic reactions to what we experience when we get home – home being wherever it is that the person/people we cherish most will be with us at day’s end. We end up in a pattern of stimulus and reaction that is the product of fatigue, and it is extremely difficult to find another pattern. We can’t seem to understand that the reaction will never change if the stimulus never changes. We play each other more like drummers than violinists. When you are too tired and frustrated to enable automatic attitude shifting when you get home, you have to have – and most folks haven’t – acquired a discipline that does the shifting for you. Where do you find that?
It would be grand were that kind of conditioning of mind and response pattern to have been inculcated into us while young. But our parents didn’t know how to do it. And our teachers were no more attuned to this kind of sensitivity than our parents. Truth to tell, they and we were brought up to think that the Bible rules were the rules of the road, to greater or lesser degree. The problem with that is that we selected the right/wrong approach to cherry picking the Bible, choosing for the most part those precepts that gave males the most options and that most severely circumscribed the options of females. Where’s the sensitivity training in that approach?
Somehow we overlooked what I think is the most important attribute of Christ – the willingness to understand and to forgive, to be sensitive to human needs to the furthest extent possible so long as one does not go beyond standards requisite for the orderly conduct of the affairs of families and societies. Christ never wanted to be and never was the Grand Ayatollah of Christianity. Christ the punisher is not what I understand the savior’s mission to have been. The “Riot Act” admonition directed at brides in Second Corinthians, in which they are enjoined to subordinate themselves to the directorship of men because a man, no matter how limited he may be in capability, is supposed to be the leader of the family as Christ is the leader of the church. Christ never said anything like that. Christ never told women to shut the hell up/be silent in church. That is nothing but male agenda, sexist malarkey of the time and culture being fraudulently passed off as something holy.
Somewhere between not hiding our light under a basket/not abusing ourselves for unworthy emotional purposes and the other extreme, insisting upon our prerogatives on every opportunity, there is a point - - a moving point - - at which we could stop before responding and look deep into what is the essence of what is happening at this moment and prioritize the issues. I am right, but is it an important point, and would the other person appreciate my giving in at this moment to their position, right or wrong, simply because putting them before me at that time would be an act of love and not an act of intellectual cowardice on my part? And if I am capable of that level of emotional generosity, isn’t it rather likely that the quality of my relationship here will be greatly enhanced and I will reap a reward for it far greater than what I gave up? And if I can make the emotional investment of not insisting upon real or imagined rectitude for its own sake, and achieve a high emotional return on that investment, isn’t that what good investments are all about? We can apply the principles that work in other disciplines to the discipline of lovingly managing our most critically vital binding ties. I love you becomes expressed in the recognition of that other person’s need at this precise moment and meeting it with the gift of our own humility. And of course, when you are the person who has just made someone more important than yourself for a moment at least, they really love you a lot. Hello! Are you getting this? This is playing the ones you love like Stradivarius violins. Not everything in life is a percussive performance. Emotional drum beating is rarely the right response/stimulus choice in loving relationships.
Eros and agape are blended optimally when agape precedes. Sacrificial love, flowing, generous, abundant, is a river that nourishes loving like a physical river nourishes the territory it serves. Serving the psychic territory we occupy/enjoy produces a rich crop of Eros when the river of agape is always there, always refreshing in its genuine and loving best mode. The crop of agape is that the person whom you serve in that manner cannot ever imagine a moment in which your presence is not cherished or a moment in which your absence would not leave a sense of emptiness and incompleteness. The flower of that crop is the beauty of Eros at its most ardent. That flower emerges, flourishes and perfumes your life spontaneously, not on demand or request. The spontaneity of that flowering desire is the most exquisite expression of your being wanted that you could ever hope for. It is easily seen as a manifestation of divine love because it is never available on demand or request. It is rather the psychic reward of loving service given, of emotional stewardship well performed, of a harmonious mutuality of self sacrifice at every level of your existence.
This level of commitment cannot be reached except in our most intimate and indispensable relationship. It is not intended for our social or business relationships, or even, for that matter, to filial relationships with our offspring. With all others we must maintain a reserve, the ability to defend against intrusion, the sense that balanced accounts must be maintained, at least over time. Those are, by definition, not capable of being sacrificial. This commitment is for the ultimate abstracted dimension of loving, the ultimate romantic blending of souls.
For the record, this came to me very late. A loving relationship worthy of such devotion came to me very late. Had I been more concerned about looking into someone else than I was looking out for my own instant gratification, I might have found it earlier. The difference it has made in my life is beyond description.
Thus endeth the lesson.
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