Throwback Thursday: Knowledge of Good and Evil

When I made the goal of posting once per month this year, part of the intention was to blow through some of the backlog of abandoned post ideas. Accordingly, a few months ago I read through the over 50 pieces sitting in the Blog folder. A majority were fragmentary, things I didn’t have any really developed thoughts about at the time and which, on review, I still don’t have much to say about; those were discarded. A handful were worthy of further development. And one or two were more or less completed but, for whatever reason, never quite satisfactory and never posted.

This is one of them.

It’s a bit odd to reread something I had no memory of and which is completely, absolutely out of date. Nearly 6 years after writing it, neither of the relationships written about in it still exist, or exist in the form written about. The questions asked are not ones I would ask now. Or rather – it is not the way I would ask them. And I think that is progress, which is about the only reason I’m mustering the courage to toss this out into the world at last.

Once upon a time I had a friend from whom I gained much. In many ways this friend opened my eyes to new ways of seeing, and on more than one occasion I benefited by having someone to talk to who could see all the angles to a problem, go off down an avenue I thought irrelevant and end with a question that blew apart a whole swath of confusion. I was exposed to a wider world, without having to make mistakes myself. I was shown my own self-absorption and limited powers – and what great powers look like. For me, the friendship revolved entirely around learning, and I loved it.

But there were costs, too. The vistas opened up were so often dark ones; and the problem with hearing about a vast world you can’t even imagine is that it creates a driving hunger to experience it yourself. I did or considered things I never would have otherwise. It was hard not to listen to the part of me that wanted all of that, and be distracted and dissuaded from things that might actually be good for me.

The ironic thing is that it was one of those out-of-the-blue insightful questions that lifted me out to another friendship, one that is only good.

I see the difference immediately, like going from smog into pure mountain air. I am amazed. To see someone holding fast to standards I didn’t know anyone still shared and also see, suddenly, how far I had loosened my grip and slid away. To go from being too abashed to remark on common littering, to feeling bold enough to pick up every piece of litter on a walk, though still apologizing for being a goody-two-shoes, and be told, “I think it’s cool you’re a goody-two-shoes.” To never feel ashamed or embarrassed about being an idealist, but only for compromising.

There was so much that I gained from the first friendship, and much more than I realized that I lost. Was it worth it?

Is there any price that’s too high to pay for understanding?

Are decisions based only on what is expedient ever right and worthwhile?

Can one ever be too careful about what influences to allow?

And what kind of influence am I? Do I contribute to the dropping of standards by making those who hold them up feel they hold them alone? Or do I live in such a way that my mere existence encourages others?

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