Too Many Missing Pieces

Adrift in the liberating, late light
of August, delicate, frivolous,
they make their way to my front porch
and flutter near the glassed-in bulb,
translucent as a thought suddenly
wondered aloud, illumining the air
that’s thick with honeysuckle and dusk.
You and I are doing our best
at conversation, keeping it light, steering clear
of what we’d like to say.
You leave, and the night becomes
cluttered with moths, some tattered,
their dumbly curious filaments
startling against my cheek. How quickly,
instinctively, I brush them away.
Dazed, they cling to the outer darkness
like pale reminders of ourselves.
Others seem to want so desperately
to get inside. Months later, I’ll find
the woolens, snug in their resting places,
full of missing pieces.

~Jennifer O’Grady “Moths” from White.

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
~John Stuart Mill from On Liberty

I recently discovered my favorite wool sweater has several holes thanks to a past moth invasion. The moths were feasting while I was simmering in frustration at the state of the world.

It is just human nature to want others to think and believe as I do and when they don’t, I’m befuddled, flummoxed and can feel downright pissy about it. I’m trying to rehabilitate myself but some days I suffer a set-back.

I read an article in the New York Times today that I found infuriating in its conclusion that maternal instinct is only a myth created by men. The headline was so offensive to me that I initially couldn’t finish the article. I just got angrier the second time through. I was like a moth to a flame shining bright: I found the article so irresistible to read because I disagreed so strongly. There were holes everywhere in the writer’s arguments claiming mothering is a male-self serving myth – like so many other hot button issues today, this was an opportunity for “woke” points to be made and non-woke points (like mine) being gaslit.

Unfortunately, this has become the way of modern discourse.

On further reflection, I realize my own point of view also is chock-full of moth-eaten holes if submitted to the scrutiny of irritable New York Times readers with a different life experience and world view. Instead, I wish there could be an opportunity for a sit-on-the-front-porch-in-waning-August discussion about what really matters in this life, leaving the porch light on for disoriented and misguided moths of public opinion to beat themselves silly. We could commit ourselves to ongoing relationship despite our disagreements, rather than an insistence controversial topics should be avoided between consenting adults.

Yet my energy for argument has ebbed as I age while the general public penchant for cruelty grows.

My holey sweater will never be the same, nor is my peace with seeking truth among the opinions of the world.

In retrospect, the moths who found my sweater had the better meal.


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Open or Closed

Although I favor the open mind, I certainly do not advocate that the mind should be so open that the brains fall out.
~Arthur Hays Sulzberger (among others) — New York Times publisher from 1935-1961 from “Freedom of Information” 

Sculpture “Melancholy” in Geneva, Switzerland by Albert György

I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.
— Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Volume Two

Few things are as condemning in this day and age than being accused of being closed-minded.  In religion and politics, the most zealous liberals and hard-core conservatives are the least likely to see another point of view, much less tolerate it. They are more than willing to “cancel” anyone who might be bold enough to express another perspective.

On the one hand, when unwilling to consider a differing opinion or world view, it becomes impossible to admit one could be a little bit misinformed or just plain wrong. Some hard-heads are locked so tight because they have intentionally lost the key to ever risk being open.

On the other hand, I know those who are so open-minded, there is nothing left but blank space because common sense has spilled out — whatever feels right, anything goes, no judgment, no boundaries, no barriers, all doors and windows flung ajar with “liberating” breezes coming and going.

It is a terribly empty void to behold when one’s brains have fallen out.

As for me, moderate middle-of-the-road person that I am, I tend to keep a protective helmet on but listen for the knock on the door of my convictions and opinions to see who or what may be there, remaining receptive to some possibility other than what I think I know.

All in all, we should prefer open-hearted over open- or closed-minded.  Although far costlier, Love spilled from a broken Incarnate Heart and flooded the world with undeserved Grace. It will never be closed again.

Sculpture by Albert György Geneva, Switzerland

Shedding Some Light

I’m a bit confused here.

While more states, including my own, grant the legal right to marry to same sex couples, more and more heterosexual couples are rejecting official marriage that includes a signed “piece of paper”, preferring to bear their children out of wedlock. What one minority segment of U.S. society has fought hard for over several decades, now granted through society’s expanding acceptance and tolerance of diverse lifestyles, the heterosexual majority increasingly deems marriage worthless and to be avoided.

Can someone shed some light on what is going on here?

I’m all for celebrating legal sanctioning of personal commitment. I have seen what happens when there is no commitment to commitment. Without steadfast loyalty, dependability, predictability, and honoring of promises made, relationships flounder and fizzle, descending into selfish silos of an “every person for themselves” approach to life. I watched it happen late in my parents’ marriage as their focus became less on the inherent value of the union of two people who made vows before God to stay together through thick and thin, and more on what’s best for the individual when needs go unmet. Any divorce is heartbreaking and painful, but the implosion of a 35 year marriage is truly tragic and unnecessary. Ironically, their original commitment reignited ten years later as they married again for the last few years of my father’s life.

There are now too many scarred and scared young people unwilling to take the step of marriage, having grown up inside the back and forth visitation homes of divorce or in a home offering no significant modeling of long term emotional commitment. Even monogamous devotion to a new sexual partner is seen as unnecessarily restrictive, while an unplanned new life conceived within that relationship becomes too easily postponed until it is “convenient” for the unprepared parents. We have forgotten what promises mean, what stability represents to a relationship and children, how trusting obedience to the longevity of the union should trump short term individual desires.

My clinic day increasingly is filled with the detritus of failed and failing relationships. Too many of my young adult patients who describe symptoms of depression and anxiety struggle with whether they want to continue to live at all, sometimes expressing their misery in escalating self harming behaviors or anesthetizing with alcohol or recreational drugs. They describe the chaos of parents living sequentially with multiple partners, of no certain “home” outside their school dorm or apartment, unsolvable complications with half- and step- sibling relationships, and all too frequently financial uncertainty. Many grew up supervised by TV and computer games rather than being held accountable to (mostly absent) parental expectations. They are more comfortable with on-line communication than risk being truthful about who they really are with flesh and blood people they see every day. They fear failure as they have seldom been allowed to make mistakes and subsequently experience forgiveness and grace from those who love them. They are emotional orphans.

In short, they know little about how love manifests through self-sacrifice and faithfulness.

Keeping commitment becomes the light that illuminates our lives, as reliable as the fact the sun rises every morning.

At least on that we can depend.