Monday, April 20, 2009

"The pursuit of what is true..."

Recently I embarked on a vendetta against the word “pursue” in the context of romance. I really hate it. It’s such an inappropriate word to describe true (i.e. real) love. Webster says, “pursue: 1) to follow with enmity 2) to follow usu. determinedly in order to overtake, capture, kill, or defeat… 4) to seek to follow, obtain, attain to or accomplish.” It’s very similar to “persuade” which is “1) to induce by argument, entreaty; to win over by an appeal to one’s reason and feelings; bring to belief, certainty or conviction; argue into an opinion or procedure...” etc etc.

“Pursuit” or “persuasion” should not be necessary because it presumes two things. First, I’m no animal and you’re no hunter. I won’t be a trophy; I won’t be conquered; not something passively surrendered. I, for one, will not be prevailed upon. (You could read gender roles into this whole vendetta, but I don't think that's necessary.) I will not be “convinced” of someone’s goodness or of the rightness of a certain relationship. It should be obvious. If I give myself up, I guarantee that my surrender will be active. I will initiate my own self-sacrifice. I will go willingly because it will be something that I deem worthy of my very LIFE.

I think what bugs me about part 1 of the problem comes out of a stereotype that culture perpetuates through chick flicks and all that nonsense that bugs me so much. The stereotype is that “women don’t know what they want.” In all the stories, men try to figure out what women want but are unsuccessful because not even women supposedly know what they want. So then the man just ends up sweeping this girl off her feet because she has no idea of what she’s really searching for.

This denies the first rule of philosophy: know thyself. Not only should we know our weaknesses, our strengths, our purpose, our passions, our origins, our values and our worth, but we should know what we want. It should come out of our whole “practical ontology,” as Jason Dorsey said in church yesterday. And though this may sound arrogant or presumptuous, I do believe that I know what I want. I want goodness.

That leads into the second presumption, which is that I need to be convinced of someone’s virtue. No, goodness does not hide itself. Like a city on a hill, goodness cannot be disguised or obscured and therefore does not need to be drawn out or revealed. I’ve consciously decided that I don’t seek friends or romance or some sort of secondary fulfillment. I seek goodness and goodness is apparent, clear, and straightforward.

Not to say that I’m lacking any of the former, however. Maybe my standard sounds too high, but I do know some who meet it. No, those people come more naturally and more wholly when it is part of the greater pursuit. The men and women whom I call my friends are people I’ve met along the way, even stumbled across inadvertently. Yet the common purpose that we share, the passion for something beyond ourselves is the ultimate objective, not one another. Pursue goodness.

I’ve struggled to find a good replacement word though. Whatever it is, it must be something that expresses mutuality as well as the context of the action as part of another bigger pursuit. I think the only word that is appropriate is “sacrifice.” There’s a sense of meeting in the middle, of each giving something—giving of oneself, giving of your own desires or self-interest in order to serve others. That is what love is, not a chase or a hunt or an unveiling. It’s consistency, willingness, action, and daily dying to the self.

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