This week, I attended a reading by Christopher Phillips. He is author of Socrates' Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy, and has been described as "Johnny Appleseed of philosophy" because of his penchant for starting meaningful dialogues with groups around world.
He was in town to promote his newest book, Six Questions for Socrates: A Modern-Day Journey of Discovery Through World Philosophy. Because I happen to live in Portland, Oregon, a city with a reputation for contemplative people and voracious readers (must be rain), room at Powell's Books was packed. After reading a few pages from his book describing a typical Socratic dialogue, Phillips asked us to consider question, "What is virtue?" and to think about how it might relate to our world today.
Well, "today" happened to be day that President Bush announced his intention to push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. It was clearly a hot topic in room, and first speaker jumped right in by asking if perhaps we could become a more virtuous society by respecting and supporting a "multiplicity of choices" regarding any loving relationship between two consenting adults.
The hour passed swiftly as many individuals contributed to discussion of tolerance, support, acceptance, common good, well being, and development of our culture.
No matter what you believe about gay marriage, considering its implications is a fascinating process in evaluating and defining our own sense of virtue.
When I was four, my father announced to my mother that he was homosexual. My mother had been raised in Mormon church, only child of two very conservative parents. She told me years later that she'd had to look up word in dictionary to know what he was talking about. It was 1964.
She chose to pack up my two brothers and me and head to Oregon to live with her parents. I grew up hearing from my grandmother that my father was "evil" and that someday I'd learn about horrible things he'd done.
I envisioned him as an axe murderer. I didn't see him for years.
I now have a very friendly relationship with him, and I am pleased to report that he has never killed anyone. In fact, he leads a quiet, happy life of gardening, paying bills, helping others in his community, and being completely dedicated to his partner.
They've been together for over 40 years--about 28 years longer than he was married to my mother. I don't know any couple that has been able to withstand more challenges while remaining absolutely devoted to supporting each other than my father and his partner. With lasting love being so hard to find, I think we ought to support and celebrate it whenever possible.