Sunday, February 14, 2016

Gentle passages

Gratitude, a last little set of articles from the renowned doctor and essayist, is well worth the 45 minutes it takes to read. Oliver Sacks was a delighted connoisseur of human variety; his gentle observations will be missed. In Gratitude he observes his own decline and approaching death from the same humane vantage point he adopted in his many books.

Yet I was struck that -- just perhaps -- we may be moving toward a world in which no one has to pass through this:

I chanted my bar mitzpah portion in 1946 to a relatively full synagogue, including several dozen of my relatives, but this for me was the end of formal Jewish practice. I did not embrace the ritual duties of a Jewish adult -- praying every day, putting on tefillin before prayer each weekday morning -- and I gradually became indifferent to the beliefs and habits of my parents, though there was no particular point of rupture until I was eighteen. It was then that my father, enquiring into my sexual feelings, compelled me to admit that I liked boys.

"I haven't done anything," I said, "it's just a feeling -- but don't tell Ma, she won't be able to take it."

He did tell her, and the next morning, she came down with a look of horror on her face, and shrieked at me: "You are an abomination. I wish you had never been born."

Not every gay person has lived this sort of rejection, but every gay person until very recently had to fear this, and far worse. Many (most?) are none the worse for this stressful passage. Some stresses make us stronger. When, (if?) this recoil from our beings ever comes to be viewed as an historical curiosity, we can't know yet what gay and straight lives will be like. But they'll be different.
I found the ad at the end bearable; h/t Time Goes By.

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