“Homosexuality,” Plato wrote, “is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love–all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce.”
Recently, an old and dear friend came to visit us while he was traveling from another state. We had a great weekend talking about just about everything, as old friends will, and somehow we got started on a topic that is an old one with us. I am afraid it is my fault, because my endless desire to learn about people brings it up again and again. The topic was monogamy.
My friend happens to be a homosexual (I personally regret the loss of the word “gay” to one particular sub-culture, even though I too use it that way). Over the years, we have taught each other a lot, and I am encouraged to see our various arguments coalescing into a few central theme from which I can learn a lot, monogamy being one of them. He happens to have lived with one partner for many years, and it appears to me that they are very close indeed, and I love them both very much. But he pointed out that monogamy for homosexuals does not mean the same thing it means for “breeders,” as we “straight” people are now called. For him, if I understood him correctly, monogamy means committing to one person and never saying “forever,” yet still being completely committed to working through whatever comes up for either within the parameters of that relationship. What it doesn’t mean, according to my friend, is that either partner feels obligated to have sex with only the other partner as it does, he claims, in the accepted “straight” definition of monogamy. This man has described himself as a “sexual outlaw” in his life, and while I regret the need for such distinctions—for anyone—I think I can see how he feels that way. I was actually quite intrigued by his definition for monogamy, and I am still thinking about it. It seems to me that it is a rather wonderful concept, and is very possibly true of “straight” relationships also, in the end, at least as they are practiced in this day and age, and possibly for eternity. Or not. I’m still thinking about it. In any event, in practical terms, none of us can ever say “forever,” if we look at the prevailing divorce rates. It may be that my friend’s definition contains more of what “forever” really is, in terms of its possibilities.
Jung pointed out that the best marriages have infidelity built into them. He himself effectively had at least two “wives,” and he believed that this worked well for him. My research indicates that his “legal” wife was made most unhappy by this, but the argument could be made that this was because of her religion-oriented, static views of things. This seems a rather easy argument to me! However, I’d like to return to the central theme.
First of all, I can’t honestly say I have a firm opinion, because as my views have evolved, it has increasingly seemed to me that our views on gender and sexual preference are largely a function of religious and secular institutions both, in the interest of control in general and the protection of property and inheritance. As far as I can tell, if we were able to live in a way that allowed us to be completely who we are, we would probably all be bisexual, and I am not at all sure most of us would be monogamous in the accepted sense of the word. I suppose in this way, if my friend’s definition of monogamy is the accepted one for his sub-culture, it is the right one. It is my observation that humans are forced into roles based upon the various and more apparent legal and social definitions before they are able to make a free choice, and after that, it never occurs to most people that they do indeed have choices. I imagine it must be both hard and painful for any human being to become an outlaw in this sense, making choices that cause her or him not to look like what the rest of us blithely call “normal.” I applaud anyone who can develop the strength to do it. I think it makes for greatness any time one goes against the accepted mores of “the crowd” in order to be oneself. I suspect this is what Plato himself was referring to, and I feel great tenderness and great respect for such beings.
Yet I myself am a monogamist in the traditional and currently accepted sense of the word. I can think of a number of reasons for this: I would find it difficult to have a full relationship with more than one person; I find it fulfilling and wonder-producing to fully explore the unfoldment of being within the containment of a relationship with just one person; I have no desire to sleep around, if that it is what it comes down to, because sex is sex is sex, and frankly, it’s all pretty much the same under the proverbial covers anyway! I’m not sure I could handle the energy needs produced by having more than one love relationship at a time. And in all honesty, I don’t have time to, even if I did have the desire, which I don’t.
I think upon reading this, my friend might feel moved to point out all the mistaken ideas in this view, but that’s what makes friendship interesting: it’s our differences, not our similarities, that teach us. I am relatively certain that he has no intention of becoming monogamous in the current sense of the word, and I have no intention of making a mess of my life for something that I’m doing just fine without. On a more humorous note, I could say that, as a woman moving into her late fifties, I need to save my few remaining hormones for my beloved!
Another reason for monogamy comes to me, based on my own relationship. My partner is what they call a “one-woman man.” Inayat Khan speaks of this as the most beautiful of ideals to be sought, for to be completely and sincerely dedicated to one person is the greatest lesson in love, according to him. I am not at all sure I can match my partner’s level where this kind of love is concerned, but he is the person I want to be with for as long as I can, and I would never do anything to destroy his ideal.
But that brings me to my overall feeling about all of this, and this is it: it seems to me that we all come here with a purpose to be fulfilled, and ultimately, how we comport ourselves has to revolve around that, if we are completely dedicated to that purpose. But the purpose is different for all of us, and we are all at different stages of awakening to that purpose. To say that the fulfillment of one’s purpose has a subset of conditions under which that purpose can be fulfilled is ridiculous. Either that, or it’s the Church and those various social systems that tell us how to behave…or else.
This friend of mine laughs at me when I speak of “the world I want to live in.” It doesn’t exist, he says, and of course he is right, at least as far as practical and temporal matters go. But that world exists in my imagination, and if, as someone I’ve forgotten said, “imagination is our memory of the future,” my world is one where we can love beyond our individual choices, even if we might occasionally poke gentle fun at each other for them.
A flame of pure and sincere love is as a torch upon the path of the lover. It reveals to him the mysteries of life, as it awakens the answering gleam of light, the soul, in each created thing. –Inayat Khan