Thursday, July 29, 2010

On the Utility of Social Relationships

It is no secret to the reader of this blog that I am a highly passionate person, and that my passions can rule me at times. However, that said, I try to keep my writing here as detached and objective as possible, while still retaining a personal touch. In other words, I write from my experiences, but attempt to be logical and reasonable in doing so.

I explain this because my life has recently become very uncertain, and a lot of personal things I've believed for a very long time have been disproven. Unfortunately, this process makes a lot of sense out of some of the difficulty I have been known to have due to my idealism. It is, at best, devestating to have one's beliefs knocked out from under them like this, but I write about this particular belief in the hope that it will make some sense out of things for both myself and anyone that still reads this.

I have believed in love for a long time, and I've had my own particular way of thinking about it. It has been my guiding ideal, the altruistic drive that proves that people are worth my time. I've always believed that love redeems, and that it's something that will make one's life better. I've thought of love as the force of good in the world, something that treats everyone with equal value and creates a sense of balance, of justice. I've even come to view God this way, as the explanation for how He is. Perhaps the only part of this I still believe is that this is His nature: He loves perfectly, and that love is a perfect redemptive force.

I recently had a man come sit by me in the middle of the mall and tell me about Jesus. He asked me and my friend if we knew for sure what would happen to us when we died, and proceeded to articulate an extremely conservative Christian faith. I asked him where he went to church, and he named a Baptist Church. No surprise there, he articulated the Baptist theology to us perfectly. I mentioned to him that I was a jaded Christian, and he said he got that feeling from me when I didn't give him a straight answer right away about where I'd go when I die (I said I hoped I knew).

Those of you that know me probably think that this whole interaction pissed me off. In all honesty, I was appreciative to this man. Don't get me wrong, I threw away the tract he gave me, but I still appreciated that someone would take time out of their day and demonstrate that they care, however misguided they may or may not be. After all, I am no judge of the things he spoke of, I merely have my opinions, most of which change several times a day.

Personally, I was offended by several of his views. I disliked how much he railed against the academic establishment as being liberal, I thought that his tying of reading the Bible and going to Church as being what keeps you strong to be simplistic and legalistic at worst, and his once saved always saved theology is something I highly disagree with. His theological tone was appalling to me, and if he'd put it in writing I would have flamed him to no end.

But he came up to me, and his tone was entirely disarming. I don't know how much he actually cared and how much he merely wanted to grind an axe or how much he felt obligated to do what he did. But socially, he created an advantageous situation for him to articulate his beliefs to us. And it worked. I was polite to him, I listened to him, and I interacted a little bit. And then, when he felt satisfied by the interaction, he walked away. I recommended him a book, one that with his views, he will probably disregard or never read.

The two levels of this interaction, the social and the conceptual, are such an interesting thing to me. If I am friends with a person, those things are the same to me, or at least as close as I possibly can make them. However, I am an oddity in this world because of that habit.

In normal social interactions, people seldom say what they think. I am included in this. When I can tell it is pointless, I merely play the part. This could be because I avoid confrontation, or it could be because I simply do not care. Maybe both, maybe something else entirely. But the point is, when someone becomes my friend, or when they address me personally, I spare them no hint of the truth about me.

Another interesting fact is that I have lost contact with most of the friends and all of the women I have been intimate with over the years. The relationships simply dissolve into thin air. Someone I hadn't talked to in years contacted me the other day and asked me why we hadn't talked in so long and that it was wrong, and I told her that she had blocked me on Facebook until recently. She immediately stopped talking to me. I suppose that conversation didn't call for honesty. My bad.

But I digress. I am here to talk about love and social relationships. I have a few friends that I have been able to have a lasting connection with, regardless of distance and circumstance and despite, seemingly, myself. They are good people that have known me and accept me regardless of my multitude of flaws. They are not critical of me except in ways that are beneficial, and they support me even when they don't necessarily agree with me 100%.

They are the exception. This refers to less than 10 people I have met in my nearly 25 years of life, including my immediate family. In many other cases, I have had so called friends be nice to me to my face and tell others I know things that frustrated them about me. I've had some spread lies about me, and I've had some stop talking to me for no apparent reason. This is their prerogative, but what strikes me as interesting is how much they all emphasize truth and love. They're all religious people, and they all have idealistic beliefs about how to live rightly, and they all believe zealously in absolute truth.

I am no ivory tower of love and altruism, and I am not honest to every person I come across. If I am less than truthful, I try to make it for a beneficial reason, but in general, the more honest I am, the more I am met with distrust and hostility. This applies especially when it comes to religion and philosophy, and I suppose that makes sense. Hot button issues, especially idealistic ones, are more detached from the every day than most things.

"...sometimes the truth isn't good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded." -Batman: The Dark Knight

Society is profoundly sick with fear. Honesty is a scary and awkward thing, and it's hard to handle most of the time. More people are motivated by fear than anything else. I was evangelized by a well meaning individual who used the fear of death as a way to get into a conversation and convince me of something. I've seen more relationships broken because someone could not handle the truth, more friendships die because people valued their ideals over the people right in front of them. We are not driven by love or truth, we are driven by convenience and fear.

I am often told that the way I approach God and religion is dangerous and scary, and I have to agree. I know very few things for sure, and I merely have hope about everything else. The religion I grew up with has rejected me almost totally, and I'm better off, if not as secure, without it. But what good is false security?

The truth is scary, and we are afraid of it. The truth is, love is the most inconvenient thing you can possibly think of. It means giving up everything that you are for other people. It means challenging yourself constantly to sacrifice more, to give more, and to be invisible. And hopefully, those people will do the same for you. But most of the time, they will not.

Love is not a victory march.

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