Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Monday, October 20, 2014

In defense of something I said at dinner last night

Dear Hannah,

You were too young to remember, but there was one time when my parents took us out to dinner, and everything was going fine until I opened my mouth.  I have a tendency to do this; sometimes I've been thinking about something for a long time, and when I end up speaking about it, I forget to explain it, and then I look like a monster.  I suppose next time, I should make sure to explain it.  Better yet, I should keep my mouth shut.

We were speaking about marriage in general, and how wonderful a good wife is -- which is when I decided to give your mother a very unusual compliment.  Grabbing her hand and taking it up to kiss it, I told her (and I am not joking) that had she been any less of a woman, I would have cheated on her a hundred times.

What I said is a hundred percent true, and thus a hundred times more unnecessary to say.  I've told her at least half a dozen times that if I was married to such-and-such a friend of hers, I would have been cheating on the woman all along.  I have brought my own fidelity to women I haven't married into question; I've made myself a cheat in an alternate universe.  I warned your mother when I married her that I wouldn't be married to a fat screamer.  I have kept my promise -- in my imagination.  Had I been married to any less than your mother, I suppose I would have been a real scoundrel.  Her angelic nature keeps me from being a devil.  I'm just as much led on by a carrot like a horse, as I am by a principle like a man.

My fidelity to fidelity has long been in question -- but only by me.  From what I can tell of myself, I haven't been a fan of duty and obligation and all that sort of thing for my entire life.  I even have a difficult time smiling at some people I have every reason to smile at, just because I have a reason to smile at them.  I've always been a spoiled character, and excepting all the messes I've gotten myself into, I've had it relatively easy.

You have been adorable, which means it's difficult for me to get angry.  Your mother has been extremely kind and charitable, which means I'm too comfortable with her to consider leaving.  Despite my being in the most persecuted religion (at least, globally), I haven't had anyone threaten my life, which means I've never found out whether I'm sincere -- although I've had someone threaten my job.  I've never been to war, which means I've never found out whether I'm brave or a coward.  In short, my dedication to moral principles has been tested in a few things, but none of the things that are really difficult.  I wonder whether I would have been much worse, had I been presented with much less -- or what I would have done if I'd been a king, and been presented with far more.  Most of us can pretend about how well we'd do if we were in difficult circumstances; those of us with any sense know that we can go either way.  I have become much less judgmental about cheaters when the cheating is very easy, and their marriage is very difficult.  I never changed my mind about the principle.  The circumstances changed on me.

It's interesting to note that in the book of Matthew, Jesus makes mention that He knows where we would have gone had we been in difference circumstances.  He said that if He'd sent prophets to Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have repented a long time ago.  The first thing I wonder is why He didn't send anyone there in the first place.  The second thing I wonder is how much of a tally He's keeping on an imaginary me.  For His own part, His imaginary me might be just as real as the me who's writing to you now.  He knows where I'll go if I'm pressed too hard.  Maybe He knew where Sodom and Gomorrah would have gone had they been led in any number of different directions.  This is why I'm still a Christian -- because I'm not always so concerned about what I've done as who I am and what I might do, and I'm always apologizing to God because of it.

Your father,

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