Sunday, February 4, 2007

Lust and Love

I have been doing a lot of thinking about gay "relationships".. how they work, how they don't work.. or perhaps how they don't even really exist. A lot of this thought process is coming from my own personal experiences and observations, as well as conversing with others, in addition to the fascinating works of research I am reading.

At Mass today, I noticed a woman whom I had frequently seen at my other parish where I was a server. She used to attend weekly with her husband. Though I rarely spoke with them, our few conversations were always pleasant, and they were both very kind people. I approached this woman after Mass and re-introduced myself to her. I asked how her husband was doing, and was saddened to hear that he passed away in December (she lost her sister and her husband within two weeks of each other). I offered her my condolences, as was saddened to hear of his death, though it was not a shock.. he was quite frail the last time I saw them about three years ago.

I was always touched by the love those two expressed for each other, and it again brought up the concept of gay relationships. I think so often (more so than not), gay men get overly obsessed with physical attraction and physical responses. There is a huge emphasis placed on youthfulness, body shape, muscle tone.. etc. My friend Dave reminds me constantly of the gay man's unending quest for the "perfect" gay boi toy... so often confusing lust for love.. two words which are NOT interchangeable, but in some men's minds become just that. So focused on carnal feelings, his mind and heart experience a never ending roller coaster of ups and downs... for when a man seeks out a companion purely based on physical attraction, he will never find himself satisfied.

I watched this couple together in their old age, and how they treated one another. Both in their late 70's, and he in very poor health, they were both very attentive to the other's needs.. though I could tell she was the primary care taker because she was more mobile and stronger than he. Their youthful looks had long faded, though a sense of beauty which is the human spirit, always remained on their faces. One would assume that the carnal passions between them had burned out, or perhaps was a mere flicker compared to decades ago. While carnal sexual desires may have been calmed, their overwhelming love for each other seemed to always grow. I have seen this to be true in many older couples. While people can (and I'm sure many do) have enjoyable sexual relations well into old age, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that it is not the focal point of their lives, and certainly not what brings joy to their hearts and "souls".

I think this is what worries me most about being gay.. the thought that gay men "can't" love like that. I have heard countless opinions of gay men from across the age and social spectrum that men are inherently programed to "spread their seed as much as possible", and that man is the only species that chooses a monogamous life mate (and that, it is argued, is because of social and religious pressures and ideals). I have given this a lot of thought as well. Humans are also the only species to laugh and truly feel humor or laughter. This is not imposed on us by any social or institutional thinking. Could we not look at our understanding of love and commitment in the same way? That we have a higher level of comprehension that animals lack? Perhaps we are set apart from other animals in our understanding of what can be. Animals seem to know love as a strongly carnal instinct, or at its highest point for them, a platonic relationship. Humans are capable of so much more.. yet we find ourselves downgrading such thoughts and feelings. It is notable to mention that the same men who have conversed with me about how absurd the concept of monogamy is, have often shown themselves to be very lonely individuals much of the time.

I am not advocating chastity until "marriage", or until one finds a life partner. I would surely be a hypocrite if I were. I see nothing wrong with occasional sexual experiences between two consenting adults.. after all, there is a carnal need in us, and it fills that carnal bodily desire (should be choose to). To keep things in perspective however, humans feel the bodily need for food, as expressed in hunger. While it is ok to indulge in McDonald's and Burger King, and enjoy the immediate satisfaction and taste of "fast food"... how much more satisfied are we when we have a REAL meal with our loved ones? A nutritious, well cooked meal prepared by or for someone we love?

I find myself growing tired of the "tv dinners" and "fast food" sexual fixes (to use the analogy above), and find myself more and more starving for the real meat and potatoes of life, and sharing that life with someone. Lust can surely be part of the equation, but it is not the solution.

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