“To allow the powers that be to govern one’s sexuality is to remove something from the private sphere and make it public” (Me, 2015).
Revisiting an old research project this morning has me thinking really intensely about our current social climate and the ways we perceive the world and people around us. I am also thinking about the interesting (though often maddening) ways that History seems to be in a perpetual state of reincarnation. Yes. I just personified History. It is a bold endeavor I embark upon.
I once argued that Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century translations of Ovid’s pre-Christian era Amores directly influences his undermining of epic poetry in favor of erotic verse, particularly in his version of Hero and Leander. I argued that Marlowe challenges Elizabethan traditions of the period, regarding Petrarchan style courtship; The strict Christian moral climate, and social constructs thereof, contradicted and exposed the base human instincts of men and women. Marlowe’s rendering of the poem, Hero and Leander, suggests that allowing the “powers that be” to govern one’s sexuality removes the intensely personal component of love and sexuality from the private sphere, and makes it public.
I still stand beside the claims that I made. I still believe that Renaissance humanists were always attempting to better understand the constucts of human nature. And looking to the past offered a vehicle for doing so.
Sometimes, I think we live in a society that is quick to render judgment. In our world, the private and public have become so intertwined, and often mutually exclusive, that we have convinced ourselves we have the right to render judgment because we are invited to do so when others make public their private lives. I cannot argue against this claim. We are an intelligent species. If we don’t want people’s criticism then perhaps we should refrain from sharing so much of ourselves. Of course, someday there will be textual critics like me that deconstruct and rip apart each and every syllable of the words we write now, in order to “better understand” who we are/were as a society…but at least we will be dead when that happens and won’t have to face our critics.
Still, I often wonder less about what people have the “right” to do or feel and more about how we can be the best human beings possible. Just because we have certain rights does not mean we have to exercise them. Why aren’t people more inclined to look for the good in others? Why do we focus on the flaws when making our judgments of a person, their character, goodness? Are we not an inherently good species? Flawed, yes. Shouldn’t we try harder to see good in those around us? To believe that a person’s mistakes are a result of a particular context and moment, and not necessarily definitive? Must I determine a person’s worth based upon their clothing choices, career choices, love interests, hobbies? And a long list of other qualities that people are judged for that are too nonsensical to even warrant debate. Does a moment make the man?
The deconstruction of human desire. The social construction of good v. bad and moral v. immoral. That is what Ovid seemed to enjoy writing about more than two-thousand years ago. Marlowe seemingly enjoyed the conversation as well more than four-hundred years ago. There are many others, of course. And today, we continue this trend. Some people use their interpretation of their religion to make such judgment calls regarding their fellow man (and/or woman). Some stand behind their “right” to say and think and believe what they want regarding another person’s life choices. Others tell themselves they are entitled to their “opinion.” I cannot call these people wrong, in most situations. Though there are times I am certain WRONG should be shouted from the rooftops. Regardless, I do believe there is much to learn from our friend History. And I do believe that we are better people when we try to find the good in others, first. I believe that we don’t need religion to be good people, though I also believe that for some it is a comfort that cannot be measured. And therefore, I will not undermine the value therein, when wielded with care and precision and good intention. Ultimately, I feel that the more I seek to understand others, refrain from judgment, and seek goodness, the better I feel about my place in this world. This way of thinking does not come without disappointment, sometimes heartache, sometimes anger. But I think it is worth it.
The universe is a big place. Sometimes lonely. And very few of us that inhabit this space are perfect. We don’t have to be perfect. I just hope to see a time come when I am more surrounded by people that are trying to empathize and find good…than criticize and condemn.