Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What Is This Thing Called, Love?

October 11

A friend of this blog, who characterizes himself as Officious Oaf, recently presented me with a list of questions he thought appropriate for me to deal with here. I answered one or two of them about the nature of God and the soul, but when the question about homosexuality came up, my mind boggled and I found myself unable to deal with it.

Weeks have gone by,and now I'm ready. The mind isn't boggled any more.

Oaf: Is homosexuality a mental illness, a learned behavior or something normal within a broader scheme of things?

None of the above.

Not to cop out, but same-sex love is not defined as mental illness even by the mental health professionals any more. It has been a fact of life throughout recorded time and was accepted in all cultures, including Christian ones, at certain periods in history. The homophobes of today are being manipulated by an overbearing, hypocritical church and heterosexual indoctrination that may come, according to psychologists, from a certain amount of self-loathing.

Dr. Alfred Kinsey said that there is a sliding scale of sexual orientation, from the 100 per cent hetero, who just can’t imagine a physical attraction to his/her own sex and may actually find the thought repugnant, to 100 per cent non-hetero, who would feel the same revulsion about physical love with anyone of the opposite sex. How to explain these polar ends of the scale to each other is a problem -- especially since neither side really wants to know.

However, among the flexible majority, it would seem that more and more heterosexuals are asking the question, What is this thing called homosexuality? To me, it is simply a form of love between human beings. Am I saying, asks the oaf, that it is “normal”? I said “no” earlier, but I’d have to backtrack now. Love itself is hardly usual, but it is normal. Normal madness, perhaps, that eventually evolves into comfort, support and well-being in the presence of a particular other person. I wouldn’t agree with Spinoza here, that it could be defined as “joy attached to an object,” since there is so much conflict within love that “joy” is only one facet of it. How about “madness attached to an object”? Clever, but hardly sufficient. Such a definition would have to incorporate the reality that, with time, the madness of true love abates to a dull roar and then spirals into acceptance.

Homosexual love, then, is normal, as normal as heterosexual love is. There are statistics and there is a history that bears this out. It is not a love between adults in order to procreate, and this concept disturbs the fundamentalists, but it cannot be denied that it is a love which can lead to a lifelong commitment that often resembles marriage.

The ability to discuss homosexuality openly has led people to believe that, in not being discouraged or penalized, it is actually being encouraged, which means it is on the rise and soon will replace heterosexual alliances and thereby eliminate the human race altogether. The likelihood of this is so remote as to be humorous. Same-sex love is not so much on the rise as it is out of the closet. The pressure is off to pretend, which led to much of the anguish of the homosexual life of the past.

There are many rabbit trails I can take in this discussion. Why do heterosexual men find the visualization of same-sex love between women erotically stimulating? I don't know. Why do so many homosexual men talk funny? I can't imagine. Why has the word "gay" become the only word to use for homosexual, and it no longer means "happily excited"? And the big one, "Are people born homosexual, or is it 'learned'?" There seems to be a great deal of evidence that it is usually the former, and as a closeted homosexual friend of mine once said to me, "Do you think I or anyone else would choose to be this way, to get this treatment from society?"

It is a mystery, which is, I suppose, why the oaf asked the question in the first place. But it is an earthly mystery, and to me the biggest mystery is why anyone really needs the answer to any of these questions. And it's a mystery whether I have answered them.


John Sweden said...

I think Gays, Lesbians and Transsexuals are the results and evidence of Intelligent Design.

Anonymous said...

When one of our boys was in Junior High my wife and I got to go along as chaperones on a trip to a Sea World-type venue. At one point we were all in a hall that had one wall that was the side of a big tank of sea water. Cavorting in that tank of water were a group of dolphins. The Sea World employee who was in charge of this particular display told the assembled Middle School students that these were all male dolphins. As dolphin facts were being discussed, the subjects in question were actively swimming around. Suddenly two of them began swimming very close together. And then one of them squirted out a very large dose of creamy white stuff.

Without missing a beat, the Sea World employee explained to the kids that homosexuality existed in all the vertebrate species.

The thing that keeps this event vivid is the discussion we had with our boy on the way home about how the children of fundamentalist parents were taking that brief exposure to the real world.

Laztheist heterosexual males just smile and say, "No thank you," when hit on by gay men.

John Sweden said...

Scientific American
October 12, 2006

Birds and bees may be gay: museum exhibition

Geir Soeli, the project leader of the exhibition entitled "Against Nature," told Reuters: "Homosexuality has been observed for more than 1,500 animal species, and is well documented for 500 of them."

"We may have opinions on a lot of things, but one thing is clear -- homosexuality is found throughout the animal kingdom, it is not against nature," an exhibit statement said.

Finding Fair Hope said...

And my sister once had a pair of homosexual cats. She named them Leopold and Loeb.

Those of you who don't get the reference, try googling those guys.

Anonymous said...

how about this for an answer to your question...Lesbians have more male hormoans and gays have more female hormones,,,,think about it.

Anonymous said...

i didn't preview my comment..the word is hormone

Benedict S. said...

My fictitous cousin Harold once said that he hopes that if he's ever reincarnated he comes back as a lesbian.

On a less serious note, what's this business with love being madness? I've heard poets say that, but just put it down to licence. Love always seemed a joy to me. Still does. But there are sometimes confusions that attach themselves to particular loves. I know a guy who has had three wives -- not at the same time -- and still loves them all. Same guy has had several other loves that he still loves. And I can tell you for a fact, all his loves still give him joy. Madness? Maybe. But in his private madhouse, they feed well.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Love is passion, conflict, chaos, pathos, cosmos (and you, benedict, remember the three musketeers, including one I'll omit here), peace, hope, sanity, madness, sorrow, and joy too. It engages and confronts every emotion possible, including desperation and pain. Not all love, of course, is any one of these things, and seldom is it all -- and probably never all at the same time unless it is really madness. Shall we say it is a complex emotion and leave it at that?