September 1997

I'm sorry for those of you who read my column and were disappointed that I didn't have columns this summer. I apologize greatly for your disappointment.

On the same apologetic note: I apologize for the lack of content for this month. I'm just passing along a fable that a friend wrote for me, and I think you'll be able to relate to, directly. Please send me any praise for this fable to me, so I can pass it along to my friend. A note to my friend : I'm glad you wrote this for me, but I see greater implications in the gay community, and had to pass it on. Forgive me? I knew you would.

A FABLE (by a friend who will remain anonymous for now.)

There once was a man who had a great deal of money. Aha! you say. I know where this story is going. This man had no friends. It was because of his money that he had no friends.

But I'm afraid, dear reader, that you would be wrong. That was not his problem.

He did not lack for friends and acquaintances. Not in the least.

Of course, like people everywhere, these friends were not all the same. And some of them were not as well off either. They were polite to him, but they said among themselves that it was a sin to have so much money and that God would punish him severely if he did not give it all away. And he knew that they said this about him. So he was polite to them also. But he did not trust them very far.

He had other friends who also did not have very much money. But they did not disapprove of his wealth. They accepted the fact that he was rich and they thought that the chances of ever being rich themselves were pretty slim. And they thought that that was just the way things are in this world. He was glad that they did not disapprove, and it made him feel much more comfortable with them.

But still things were not quite as they should be. He could not talk to them easily about his wealth, either because they did not understand what it was to be rich, or because he did not want to embarrass them. Like it or not, they lead different lives. And so he could not be as free with them as he would have liked. That too is the way things are in the world.

And yet that was not the whole story. He had still other friends who were just as wealthy as he was. And of course with them he could discuss money matters without any difficulty. He could even joke about them. When it comes to money there is no end of possibilities. They talked about what people did with it. They talked about who put it in a sock under the bed. About who kept it in a safe and who didn't. About the fact that some people were even willing to pay service charges!

After his other friends, he found all this very relaxing. But he had to be on his guard. These people knew too much. He knew that when people have money they are never content with what they have. You would think this would not be so. After all they are rich already. But that's just the way it seems to be in the world.

And so he could not quite relax with them either. He could never be sure that this common bond did not have a darker side. They were friendly with him certainly. Very friendly. But was it because they liked him? Or did they only want his wealth? He could never be quite sure. Even when he found someone in this group whom he especially liked, this uneasiness would not go away. If anything it became worse. For now it was truly important to him that their interest should be genuine--and what then if it was not? So he found himself treading carefully. A cautious step here. A careful retreat there. Not wanting to be hurt. And not wanting to stay away from the danger of hurt. And never getting very close. Or very far away. And never getting close enough.

And so, dear reader, you see that friends were not this man's problem. Not at all. It was just that having friends turned out not to be much help. The closer they were to him, the farther away they seemed. The freer he should have been, the less free he really felt. And that is the way things are in the world.

The man had one more friend whom I have neglected to mention. Perhaps that was because it did not seem very important to mention it. After all, she had nothing in common with his other friends, and scarcely anything in common with the man himself. She was not wealthy and did not want his money, for she had everything she needed already. In spite of this she did not disapprove of his wealth, or think it shameful that he had it. But unlike the others who accepted him and then went about their own business, she was interested in what it meant to be wealthy. Interested not for her own sake, but for what it meant to the man who owned the wealth. What problems did it cause him? Why was he born into such responsibility? What could she do to help him cope?

And the wealthy man for his part felt an equal detachment about his friend. He did not want anything she had for himself, for he was wealthy already. And he understood that she did not threaten his wealth and that her interest in it was on his account alone. And he was grateful and happy. And because he felt freed from the fear of disapproval and from the fear of being taken advantage of, he was able to act without being on the defensive, without the need to guard himself constantly. And so he was at last able to give himself freely to whatever formed the common focus of their friendship at that moment.

But wait! Did I not say they had nothing in common? It was at best a half-truth. What they had in common was each other. Not themSELVES, which might have been the case. Which always is the case when there is reason to fear. For fear is always for oneself. But when there is nothing to fear the focus shifts. It shifts outward to the world in which we act. When the world includes a friend who has no fear of us, then is our interaction truly free.

To have something in common is to have a common focus. That is something any two people can choose to have. But their focus is least clouded when each has no need to cast a backward glance at common interests which may threaten peace of mind. Their separate lives makes their sense of a common freedom possible.

And that, dear reader, is a paradox.

But perhaps it is the way things ought to be in the world.

There you go. I again apologize. But dwell on this allegory/parable, and think of how it applies to you. It does, I promise. If you need help deciphering the parable, my email is hemingway16@hotmail.com. I welcome all replies, and all replies relating to the fable, I will forward to my friend. Until next column...

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