I was working on a post this morning, having to do with the tons of fun in the sun trying to sell a house in today’s market (yeah, right), when as often happens, a short sidestep away from the center line resulted in being led down another dirt road. But that’s life, especially my life, as I live for the treks down the less traveled dirt.
This particular step off the line was a conversation with a friend that began with small talk about the Gawd awful heat wave and remedies for sun burns, meandered to the pros and cons of having your home and all its contents spread all over the air waves for any ol’ burglar to scope out, tip-toed into current affairs generally and recent events in the Florida courts specifically, then naturally (!?!) morphed into what it must be like for a child to be raised in a Muslim household that forbids TV, radio, music, internet, and playing with children not of their own religion.
Don’t you just LOVE these conversations that sprout tentacles like a giant squid? I do…I love the random nature of them almost as much as the feeling of comfort I get knowing we can talk about anything…all at once! Very stimulating to say the least.
Anyway, post Muslim life discussion, from which we both came away thinking we’d like to try our hand at reading the Koran, the conversation jumped the broom to religion in general. While one of use believes and the other does not, one thing is certainly true: Where we find intolerance, bigotry, segregationist thinking, there is usually a religious aspect fueling it. If we are ever to see the day when our planet’s caretakers can live in true peace and brotherhood…religious fanaticism or extremists, of any kind, must see the end of days.
This of course ‘evolved’ into, well, evolution. Which as a non-believer in religion of any kind, is in fact, the religion of choice. Past the talk of apes and chimps, we discussed how humans are shown to have an innate ability to share. Yup. Share. Which of course led to whether being kind and empathetic is genetics or learned, and whether lesser traits, like competing in all respects, is too, learned or innate. Survival of the fittest after all, with no moral force guiding it? For the non-believer, the take is that we are just naturally a ‘nice’ animal. For me, the believer, I tended to agree, but still harbor some doubt. I do think, that while certain characteristics of humans are innate, most are learned behaviors. Basically, nature vs. nurture. An old and forever on-going topic of discussion that has its own, very long, dirt path. We discussed why certain behaviors occur in some animals and not in others.
For instance, the beaten dog. How can a dog who knows mostly pain from the hand of its human, still find it within itself to lick that very hand the few times it might be extended in what one could only marginally be described as love? It’s insane. Yet, it happens all the time. However, for a child to be reared in the same way, the risk is far, far greater, that the result could just as easily be a non-empathetic psychopath as it could be a loving, thriving, kind, and generous, human being. Is that a choice? Nature vs. nurture again? I used myself as an example, and even so, I still have doubts about it…or maybe doubt is too strong a word.
I have questions.
Being a victim of childhood sexual abuse (The year that broke the dam) from the ages of 5 to 14 and a victim of rape at the age of 19, one could imagine that I could have become a bitter, angry, mean-spirited, non-trusting, love-hating person. But I didn’t (Back on the Road). I’m like the beaten dog…and I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic here…it’s more a visual aide. I live a life filled with as much love as there is hate; as much beauty as there is ugliness; as much need for love, both to give and to receive, as distrust of it. So, it begs the question…was this my choice? Or was I bound by genetics to grow into a woman with a heart and huge capacity for empathy? I don’t know.
But here’s the rub, and ultimately, the reason for our long stroll down these particular paths…in speaking with this friend, it was pointed out ardently, that I do, in fact, have a wonderful heart, a good and strong personality, a huge capacity for love, and that (this is the key) I’m beautiful on the inside.
Ah yes…the beauty within vs. the beauty without (is that the term? doesn’t sound right, but you know what I mean). I, for one, actually HATE that phrase. I love that I am, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a double-edged sword for me. I fell into the trap long, long ago, that it’s more important, at least initially, to be more beautiful on the outside. It has been my experience, and I just may have to take the responsibility for it (Delusional Illusions), that people who could not see beyond the surface passed me by without a second glance and without having the pleasure of getting to know me. I’m not alone. I’m certainly not unique in my thinking this is the way of things. I say honestly, if it was a choice to be the way I am, it was not an easy one, but for me, the only one. Why? Genetics? Nurture? (shrugging shoulders still)
So while I do still struggle with this question, the conversation, for all its meandering, did help me see that hard or not, choice or not, I am on the right path. My path. And if Joe Blow from Kokomo chooses to walk by me because I don’t look like a Playboy centerfold…I say one thing (well, I say it behind his back ’cause I’m nice)…
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