The Golden Rule, Inverted

Dearest Rachel –

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s one of the core tenets of most every major religion, at least in terms of dealing with other people (obviously, not necessarily a basis of salvation, since nobody reaches perfection in this life – and even if they were to reach perfection, there would still be the past imperfect that would disqualify them. But this is beside the point for the moment). Along with loving God with everything, Jesus spoke of this rule as upon which hang all the Laws and the Prophets. In its negative form (Do not do as you would not have done…), it is referenced as what constitutes ‘dharma’ within the Mahabharata; it is paraphrased various ways by ancient Greek philosophers and the Zoroastrian texts; and various sages and religious leaders from Lao-Tzu to Confucius to Mohammed are quoted as speaking it.

In a way, nothing makes more sense in terms of dealing with other people in a truly appropriate manner (although Jesus seems to have been the first, chronologically, to use it in a positive manner rather than negative, making it just that much more challenging. It becomes an active thing to do, rather than a passive thing to avoid doing). It is the one behavior that it would seem all of society can agree upon.

Except, no.

Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.

George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

I taught that line to you back in my collegiate, ‘obnoxious know-it-all’ phase, but it stuck with us our whole lives thereafter. Erin tells me you quoted it to her a number of times, and no wonder – she’s quite the example at times.

One tends to think that one’s friends – the people you like, and who like you – would also like all the things you like, and it’s practically a duty to introduce them to all the joys and pleasures that you take joy and pleasure in (within reason, of course). And without question, when this works out, there is no greater joy on earth than making a kindred soul that much more kin.

The problem is that this doesn’t always happen. What I enjoy won’t necessarily be enjoyed by those I enjoy being around, and vice versa. One can only be dragged along (from their perspective) into this undesirable endeavor or that for so long before it wears on them, causing actual damage to the relationship. And as, over time, friends discover how much they don’t have in common, there is this tendency to seek out other friends that do, and abandon those from before. Either way, while this may be the way of things, this still seems a sad state of affairs.

And yet, this seems to be where I am at the moment. Much as I dream of traveling as soon as I am given leave to do so by the powers that be, I have little enthusiasm for doing so on my own. However, it turns out that the places I might prefer to go to do not line up with those of some of our friends that I’ve spoken with – and, again, vice versa – leaving us at an impasse even without bearing the current situation in mind. One dreams of lengthy exhilarating walks through vast swaths of nature, another of relaxation on a coastal paradise, while another prefers visiting the sites of the great cities of the world.

At some point, it does occur to me that none of this ought to come as any great surprise. After all – and you remember this – we aren’t even able to agree on where to eat dinner when we would get together. So how much less could we come to a consensus regarding a vacation destination, after all?

[There is also the question of overall scheduling conflicts, too – the stuff of which has already postponed your final send-off. That’s a whole several topics unto themselves, to be honest – including everything involved in the trip to take you where you want to be set adrift, as well as the philosophy behind what each of us lacks in order to do these sorts of things whenever we want, and why we can’t.]

Although, in fairness, the current situation may pose a mixed blessing in that the delays imposed by it would allow for some time for us to come to a meeting of the minds, especially as I continue to process the footage of the places we’ve been already, many of which I’d like to return to with others.

All of which simply remains to be seen. For the moment, I’m left with little to do but continue to dream, not just of where, but of whom – if those I know cannot or will not come with, what do I do in the meantime? What of these dreams?

As they say on postcards from such places: “Wish you were here.”

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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