Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Course correction

"So, let's just discuss things like ordinary adults."

"My god, has it come to that?"

"What? I can't be vulnerable at a time like this?"

"Oh, please, let's. Let's. You start this time."

"What the hell? There's no need for hostility, now."

"So, what? You're the only one who can be vulnerable? You're the only one with the right to say what's on his mind?"

"No, yes. Shit. Just, hear me out, okay?"

"Only if I get the same treatment."

"By all means, yes.

"Okay, so let me start by saying I see what you mean. I've had to do a lot of introspection, a lot of self-reflection, just to get to the point where I can step outside myself and start seeing myself weirdly. I get it now."

"And what do you get?"

"That none of it makes sense. None of it. I thought I knew."

"But you really don't."

"No, I really don't. You're right to be upset, but now that I'm on your side, putting me in my place isn't going to do either of us any good."

"My side is your side. There aren't any sides to any of this. It's about doing the right thing. You have these high expectations for what counts, but then you're willing to let slide whoever. They will smell it on you."

"It? What is it?"

"The bad vulnerable. The gullible vulnerable. There is nothing more attractive than a lover whose confidence flows from the vulnerability of hard choices. Passion is never being distracted. Gullible people, on the other hand, are always giving away their heart to any cause, fluffier the better, the hotter the worse."

"And you think I'm gullible?"

"I think you're confused. You want people to match your own expectations, really high expectations, but then you lower the bar the minute you see it in their eyes. They know you're not serious then. They know you can be bought."

"Jesus, is it that bad?"

"No, it's much better, but it's the logic of it. You have to hold yourself to that higher standard. And you have to punish your own failures."

"So what is good vulnerable?"

"Make the hard choices and close off your heart. You can't love everyone, and you especially cannot love the people who just want to use you. I know better than anyone the temptation to love you then use you. I know better than anyone how easily you make it possible to love you, and how much easier you make it to use you, and how much easier it hurts you when you open up your eyes and see it."

"Okay, okay, enough with the knife. How does good vulnerable work? Hard choices I get. Every day is hard choices masquerading as idle time. But how do I close my heart off to someone?"

"Is this a serious question? I know you want to love everyone, all kinds of people you meet. But you don't and can't show everyone the same sides of you, not all of them."

"True. I don't say or do much else besides smile really big and speak pleasantly to the ladies who make my biscuits."

"Or the little boys and girls running down the grocery aisles or through parking lots. Maturity counts for a lot when deciding how to relate to someone."

"Then maybe closing off isn't the right way of talking about it. Maybe it's about how you rotate what side you show."

"Oh no. You rotate your little side, and we'll never be rid of problems."

"Yes, but maybe I see what you mean. A word I've been using a lot lately, 'indulgent'. Often used this way as an adjective, describing something as a kind of immersive experience for someone. But the root is a verb relating one person with another moral agent. We indulge someone; we let the person have access to something, and the access is likely harmful if the excess continues, but the harm is more often assumed to be in the one given the access. So when the moral agent given no rein is one's self, the disaster is tragic if a hero and comedic if a villain. It's an unspoken moral judgment about unwillingness to be corrected.

"But what if you really think about allowing someone else license for licentiousness, freedom from restraints, as more dangerous? We have a greater responsibility for others than we do ourselves if the paradigm is other people. We have the same responsibiity for others as we do ourselves if the paradigm is either one big whole or universal analogues. Putting aside for a moment the purely selfish options not on the table, then any way I think about it, it's more dangerous to give someone freedom to be excessive than to give one's self such freedom. It's a denial of the responsibility to care about another person."

"Care at least as much that they grow up healthy as you care you grow up healthy. When it comes to you, it's okay for someone to love you or admire you or fantasize about you. They can't help it. Those aren't the kinds of things we get to have choices about. It's what they do after the rush and the charm where we all are responsible."

"So, egging someone on when I know damn well it's not healthy for either of us—"

"Is a really serious breach of your responsibility to them. People need to learn how to rein in themselves. Silence is better than nothing."

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