And the answer is (as the hedgehogs knew all along):
You mean the answer is that simple?
No. But it *seems* simple: Stop thinking. Watch what you’re doing. Show some respect. Live and let live.
Had I not already been sitting down, Thomas Moore’s words might have knocked me for a loop. In Care of the Soul he writes about how and where one begins the undertaking he references in the book’s title. The set-up to the passage that so struck me is this:
“Care of the soul begins with observance of how the soul manifests itself and how it operates. We can’t care for the soul unless we are familiar with its ways. Observance is a word from ritual and religion. It means to watch out for but also to keep and honor, as in the observance of a holiday.”
Do you hear what he’s saying? Catch the implications for action? We’re not called to sit in judgment; we’re not called to fix things. That said, this the passage that bowled me over:
“If I see my responsibility to myself, to a friend . . . as observing and respecting what the soul presents, I won’t try to take things away in the name of health. It’s remarkable how often people think they will be better off without the things that bother them.”
Egads. My evangelical upbringing taught me just the opposite. I was instructed to be ever on guard, ever watchful, for my adversary the devil who roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. I was taught to mistrust myself, to put my faith in forces outside myself.
How hard and how long I struggled against what I labeled my sinful desires, my from-the-gates-of-hell attraction to members of my same sex.
I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would take this all away from me, these attractions my church and society taught me were evil, these desires I was convinced were sinful, were interfering with me being the good Christian I knew God wanted me to be, heck, the good Christian I was trying so hard to be. If only I could get rid of this thing that so bothered me.
And all the time, as Moore suggests, I would have been better off to watch what I was wanting? Observe the yearnings of my deep self? And what’s more, respect what my desires were saying to me? You might as well have asked me to kill a classroom of kindergartners, go to school naked, or take the Lord’s name in vain. These things were unthinkable to me.
Now, looking back, I wonder how I could have been so stupid. I’d been attracted to members of my own sex for as long as I can remember, yet it took me years to figure out that I was gay, that these attractions actually held a message for me, had something to say, might be important enough for me to look at closely, listen to, observe, respect and honor. Moore’s advice sounds now so revolutionarily simple, easy, obvious.
(About the photo: In Great Britain, animated hedgehogs help teach children simple rules for road safety.)