Friday, December 12, 2014

The Evolution of Perspective: Homosexuality as an Example

I have thought a lot over the years about how perspectives evolve over time.  If I were to try to simplify the process as much as possible, I might frame it as follows: 

1) We see things one way because it's the only way that makes sense for us - the only way we can see things "naturally". Thus, we begin with "the natural (wo)man". 

2) We are exposed to something that makes us realize how "personal" that natural perspective is - that it's not as obvious and natural for someone else.

3) If we are fortunate, we know and love people who see things differently than we do - which forces us to see that "normal", "good" people see things differently than we do. It's harder to marginalize and dismiss people if we know them and realize they are good people doing the best they can according to the dictates of their own consciences.

4) In the end, we still hold to what makes sense to us, personally, but we begin to understand the difference between personal perspectives and societal rules - those things that we choose to let govern us, those things we choose to let govern those who choose to be part of our various-sized circles and those things we choose to let govern the largest, non-voluntary associations of which we are a part. Hopefully, we realize and accept the idea that the rules get looser and looser as the circles get larger and larger and less "self-selected".

To use a practical example from my own life's experiences that is controversial enough to illustrate a definite change in perspective:

1) I used to oppose all forms of official gay unions.  I believed that giving official status and rights would confer a sense of legitimacy and encourage homosexual activity.

2) I went to college at Harvard and was exposed, for the first time, to people who didn't see the issue the same way I did and, importantly, who could articulate sound, logical reasons for their different views.

3) Throughout those years in college (and as I grew older), I became friends with gay people and realized that my view was built on a faulty foundation - that it was based on ignorance of homosexuality.  I had formed my view without ever talking with gay people directly - without any input from people I loved, respected and admired who were gay.

4) Currently, I do not have the same view that I did in my adolescence and earliest adulthood - but I also don't have the same view as many of my gay friends.  I have developed my own view of homosexuality and how I view various options for gay unions - and it truly is my own now and not something borrowed from anyone else.

This is not the proper post in which to discuss all the details of my current views, but, as a rule, if I'm going to err on either side of anything, I'd rather err on the side of understanding and love. I'd rather be a little too "liberal and upbraid not" than a little too uncharitable.

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