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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Compromise and Cruelty

I don’t know when it started. I can’t remember the first time I compromised myself. I’m sure it was over something inconsequential, perhaps something downright trivial. No damage done. Not then, not yet, anyway. Life being what it is, though, compromise followed compromise. As I grew older, as my familial and corporate duties and responsibilities increased, as pressures mounted, as I curried favor and tried to fit my life’s contours within those of others, the number of compromises I acceded to increased, then multiplied and multiplied again.

"In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit" - Ayn Rand

I stayed true to my dearest dreams and most deeply held convictions for as long as I could. I stood up to supervisors, clients, attorneys, company presidents, congressmen, amoral acquaintances and my own (not insubstantial) ego. Despite that, life inevitably takes its toll. So many opportunities lost for the sake of either others or honor; tongue bit so often and so hard that I’m surprised I can still speak; bits of me (some of them vital) eroded, or broken or discarded. As the years raced by, dreams slowly disintegrated, strength faded and resolve crumbled.

I lost my patina (and my halo...and my wings) somewhere along the way.

Still, I think we all have our limits. One can only go so far and no farther, for past that ill-defined boundary is the abyss. It came to this, for me. I could go no farther.

When I entered my sixth decade, I realized...I felt it...I was moribund. I found myself married to a stranger (“two ghosts passing silently in the hall”). Where had all the intimacy gone? The life that she wanted and needed eventually came to be so very different from my own desperate hungers. The chasm widened. Someone had to agree to the ultimate compromise – to forsake his or her soul for the sake of the other, for the sake of security, for the sake of promises, for a measure of comfort in old age. Someone had to be willing to give up the last, bedraggled remnants of dreams…and unreservedly give all that up…for a stranger.

I teetered on the brink of that abyss for a good many years. Feeling only turmoil…and an overwhelming grief.

* * *

Numbed by years of pain, I honestly don’t know how long I would have teetered. It’s not easy to turn away from a partnership that has lasted more than twenty years...and the majority of them were good. Some were downright great. It’s not easy to turn away from a former best friend, passionate and sensuous lover, confidant and playmate. And then, of course, there is the substantial matter of vows. It’s not easy to turn away in shame, in abject failure. It’s not easy. None of it is easy. I think some people/couples spend their entire lives on the brink of that abyss. Maybe that would have been my fate, too, had I not recoiled and stepped away.

It was cruelty that made me turn away. Cruelty.

It’s an ugly human emotion that I’ve been subjected to rarely (personally)…and I am glad of that. Still, we humans are capable of unimaginable cruelty. Who knows where the wellsprings of cruelty reside? As I've said, I’ve been fortunate in that I have not suffered much from outright cruelty in my life...until recently.

The last year has been filled with countless cruelties. Pain inflicted purely for the sake of inflicting pain.

Cruelty was not something I expected; it was never part of the bargain. No living thing should be subjected to cruelty. Never. Ever. It's simply not part of the deal. The emotions that had tortured me for so long are made much darker now, having been tainted with something new: fear.

If I were asked to state the reason for the collapse of my marriage in one word - just one word - the word would be cruelty.

* * *

2 Comments:

Blogger antimarx said...

my first visit to your blog, and i enjoy your writing.

Thu Jun 15, 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you...and thanks for stopping by.

Thu Jun 15, 11:11:00 PM  

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