CREATIVITY, MARRIAGE, RELATIONSHIPS … AND POLITICS

What makes man different from all other animals? Men and women (whether adult) want to matter to other people, and they can use their intellectual faculties - both induction and deduction - to progress towards this end. A child or a pet wants to be the center of attention, but an adult human being can sense when that recognition stems from real achievement and when it represents what is uniquely his to give.

To many people, the word "creativity" suggests something artsy-craftsy. We think of creativity as painting landscapes or portraits, composing symphonies or operas, writing novels or screenplays - or even manifestos. On the surface, this suggests the fluff on top of real living, a chiffon dessert or sometimes a rich cheesecake. Indeed, in various areas of art there are debates as to whether art (or music) should be serious about invoking life and its emotions and about somehow ordering them. The music of Beethoven, Liszt, Mahler, and Rachmaninoff does depict the potentiality of life for me, as does Mozart, often enough; gospel songs, country-and-western and what we call "popular music" generally do not. People will retreat to the familiar (sometimes this is Baroque, or sometimes it's rock) to be soothed when they don't wish to remain over-stimulated. When they want excitement, they may turn to the simplicity of old-time religion, and get "saved." The principles for good living, they feel, should be simple to recite and make people comfortable; there's no reason to build a life predicated on these mind quests.

Grownups generally view family life as life's highest priority (besides, for some, religious faith). Falling in love - even infatuation - seems like "real living." For men, especially, leads to the "tender trap" of fatherhood. Men and women find themselves in home lives that seem to have "always been" and they cannot even appreciate what they were like before marriage. "Who can explain it?" goes a line from a song in South Pacific. Marriage (with the outward appearance of pre-marital chastity followed by wedding-night consummation and honeymoon) gets plenty of celebrative support from society, most visibly of all at the wedding ceremony itself.

Of course, it's pretty straightforward to catalogue what stable, established marriage means. For most people, it gives one a dependable partner to matter to; one can stop "looking," and that epiphany can be very freeing. It promises support if, despite one's own best efforts, one falters in an imperfect world. (Indeed, when being discharged from rehabilitation after an acetabular hip fracture, I constantly had to fend off physical therapists who couldn't understand a middle-aged man with no one at home to bathe him or get him out of bed once accidentally incapacitated.) And, especially for many men of more ordinary talents, it offers a technique of self-identification, after an adolescence of group or team (sometimes military) pursuits emphasizing aggression and competition within an authoritarian power structure that discourages individuality (and even discourages the personal choice of particular same-sex friends). This seems particularly understandable in view of the fact that only a few decades ago we expected most young men to offer their lives in war to defend "their country" and to engage in hazardous occupations to support wives and children.

The biggest challenge is, of course, staying in love with just one person for a lifetime. This is supposed to mean getting to know thoroughly just one average person who, just right for you, can help you find the best in yourself. Most couples need something to do together to stay in love, and this is where having and raising children - even the family bed - come in. We say marriage and the family exist primarily to provide a stable way to raise children, and that is true; what may be more important is that children force stability on many adults. The blurring of the family putatively may be harmful not just to children of divorced couples (so well acted in Hope Floats), but in creating some collective milieu in which children in relatively stable families feel the outside world has no real values.

At its best, marriage looks so affirming and necessary that gays and lesbians now demand the equal right to partake of it.

So where's the connection to creativity?

For many people, including me, the marriage paradigm just hasn't worked. I've had to invent myself (very much as author Clive Barker writes in his sensational novel Sacrament) rather than let society channel and mold me through its most important social institution. So I've had to become "creative." And part of this creativity means taking a microscopic look at my own relationships, and of all those around me.

Ah! Some people find this preachiness of mine most unwelcome. It's a sign of failure, they say. In fact, it gives me a chance, perhaps with a dash of sadism, to remind others that they can fail, be rejected, or that they may be missing something. Others might accuse me of "recruiting" (in lieu of "reproducing") before they realize I'm the last person to urge some one to "join" a movement to become someone else's foot-soldier. Marriage can be like swimming or tying a necktie: once you cogitate, you stop; it's got to be all spontaneous and organic.

The single fact about marriage that strikes me hardest, is that it seems to require this: you swear to your spouse that you love her (or him) more than any other non-related adult in existence. All other persons who appear in your life, no matter how interesting, must ride in the back at seat and, in general, keep a safe distance. If someone else appears on the scene, you're not human if you aren't just, well, so jealous. Your sense of self depends on keeping that relationship. (Remember Scarlet's friends in Gone With the Wind: they cried at their consignment to remaining old maids.) At it's best, this mindset demands the loyalty and cultivated emotional body that we call "family first."

Well, I don't like living in anyone's shadow.

I say these things while fully recognizing that for many, marriage works well. Some men, indeed, only find they incentive and support to accomplish things of their own, most often through the conventional workplace with its opportunities for advancement, once they have the responsibility for and support of wife and children. Other men seem, to outward appearances, to find in marriage an excuse for mediocrity. In the 1970's, before the proliferation of health spas, the joke was "wait until he gets married and doesn't have to keep himself up to get it…. then he'll grow a Babe Ruth pot belly himself."

But this just makes the choice of partner (again, something nobody wants to "explain") rather controversial after all. Conservative writers like George Gilder (Men and Marriage) cart out the example of the "sexual princess" who breaks up an established marriage to marry a "successful" older man for his money. A more common issue, especially in the gay community, is "narcissism," a person wanting a partner that he perceives as "better" (that often reads, "more sexually attractive") than he is, to complete himself by possession or vicarious affiliation. (I was once taken to dinner by a falling millstone, to be told that I would never find a lover without a wig; if, however, I'd go straight, I'd find that women would regard alopecia as a sign of stability and survival. Today, I have to face the fact that I was 25 once myself. I'm supposed to feel ashamed of playing with people not my own age!) "Narcissism" sums up the unwritten social verdict on male homosexuality; society seems to forget that heterosexuality can fall into the same trap. And the gay marriage debate has reminded us that some same-sex stable relationships, where both partners stay in love as they grow old and "ugly," clearly exist.

Many people believe that one has a moral obligation to find and keep a partner that is within one's "reach." Tacked onto this is the stake of marriage: whether one can maintain active (and exclusive) sexual interest in a passion for a partner for decades while the partner (as the self) ages. Morality, it seems, amounts to allowing your sexuality to be redirected on a socially useful and appropriate way, regardless of what you think you want. One literally sheds some of the childish self with its fantasies and pipedreams to become permanently and deeply sexual-this notion indeed composes the heart of "family values." Other moralistic notions come to mind. Perhaps everyone should demonstrate the ability to provide for some dependent besides oneself. Perhaps, to grow up, one needs to stop "looking" so one can reliably meet the needs of others through a reliable social instrument (the family). Employers often assume their associates are "settled" into family life and expect to find them at home for on-call responsibilities. (Maybe this is indeed "heterosexism.") Pornography - even without nudity but with the constant portrayal of youthful sexual attractiveness by fashion models - becomes a serious distraction from aesthetic realism. Indeed, our laws and social strictures against "indecency" are really intended to protect the potential for sexual interest when it really counts, as in marriage. Putatively, they're supposed to let young men grow up malleably aggressive and "sexually normal" (that is, straight).

Then there is my experience of friendship. Call it "Platonic" if you like. Sometimes I will meet a person who becomes very important to me because of a combination of circumstances. These may include "sexual attractiveness," but that is hardly enough for more than one look. When I and the other person can give something uniquely of ourselves and of our interests, the social interaction can become quite exciting; it can create Maslow's "peak experience." The other person remains more interesting as long as there is a bit of "mystery"; sex (so often expected on the first night in the days before AIDS) would actually release all the tension bring the person into the ordinary world of clay feet. If this means going years without penetrative sex, so be it. But this kind of person is what I call a significant other. One can "love" a significant other and enjoy intermittent encounters without a traditional continuous and exclusive or non-duplicative "relationship." (If love is what you "do" as well as "feel" and intend, it still implies a personal priority over other interests: to love something, you have to give up other things.) One can have a multiplicity of significant others. But one may very picky about who is eligible for such a pedestal in one's life. I won't take seriously someone who smokes cigarettes, is fat, etc. - frankly (for my own inner purposes) I perceive such a person as "defective." I just won't care when that phone rings unless the person is someone I can look up to; that's my "Venus-in-Virgo" attitude. The other person may perceive the attention and find it based on fantasy and therefore unwelcome, or he may really dig my sincerity. I view my sexuality (even on an imaginary level) as a way to project values. Classical liberalism affirms my right to do this (non-aggressively) as part of my self-ownership. However, this sounds like a hidden call for a "master race" (if "everybody" chose their partners and corners this way, maybe our society really would cleave into the Haves and the Have-nots - without love, that is.). So the Moralist communicates to me by remote viewing: if you want to have a super-person like this in your life, get married and raise him as a kid ("My Boy Bill" from Carousel) and take your chances with the genetic and coincidence lottery like all normal people do.

Now my model for personal attraction sounds like it follows the "polarities" of Rosenfels (Homosexuality, The Psychology of the Creative Process) as discussed in Chapter 3 of my own DADT book. The workings of gentle exploitation and strong-willed yielding make an agitated interaction, even while verbal, a bit earthy and give a personal focus to creativity - giving and receiving love. For what I try to do is to find and nurture the best person I can find, an example of "as good as it gets." I then try to make the whole experience a creative expression of my own values that eventually has an impact on the values of the whole world around me. I feel that implementing my choices of male significant others counterbalances the old-fashioned notion of male fungibility, that male beauty gets in the way of constructive but artificially submissive male functionability. Of course, where do you go from this relative, still unstripped mountain top?

Again, I have maintained this hunt, because I can’t find and keep "one person" who has it all. You're not playing fair, say the moralists. And I say I'm a pioneer. (And I'll throw this in: if you don't look good, most of the time you aren't good. Oh, when is beauty just skin-deep?) There is no reason why love and power interactions cannot enrich most marriages once the partners will learn to recognize the false but socially reinforced patterns of submissiveness and assertiveness. There is no reason why marriage partners cannot enjoy enriching friendships that are more the acquaintanceships that wait in line for "family." But one of Paul Rosenfels's most amazing statements may be correct. In today's world, to understand the creative potential of human relationships, one may have to be open to a certain degree of, at least, homosociality (and even the military knows this, as do bottlenose dolphins). One finding remains unshakeable: homosexuality certainly is much more than an inborn trait; rather it has much to do with what one has chosen to value in other people, even if that "choice" can be influenced by various kinds of sensory and genetic imprinting.

Creativity in human relationships makes up the substance of what composers and artists try to capture in their legacy works and projects - the documentation of the pursuit of truth and right. Truth involves a complete understanding of how our whole world and universe works. The epistemology of truth throws everyone for a loop. Take (in subjunctive mood) any conjecture: there is intelligent life outside the earth. Ultimately that's either true or false, with nothing in between. But the process of finding out can be a joyous adventure for the astronaut, a journey that started with the diligence required by term papers in school. Why spoil all the fun by claiming that all truth is "simple" and that it is dictated from on-high in a religious manifesto (whether the Bible, Koran, or Torah)? That's for simpletons. (Although, some people can use religion - say speaking in tongues - as a way to get "high" as much as a source for simple reassurances.) Truth-seeking is a bit like an open-book test. The agility required to get more information carries one much further than memorized, pre-digested "truths."

With morality (the "right"), we have a similar paradox. The simplest moral principle seems to be the Golden Rule (yes, it's in the Bible). But it's easy to complicate things when you worry about providing moral leadership for society as a whole. Then you ask yourself: is it wrong for someone to do something which, if most people similarly inclined did, would harm society collectively in the sense that society could not afford it? Well, that used to be the reason (or excuse) for old-fashioned ideas about gender roles - even to justify male-only military conscription. Does morality consider collective influences or should it evaluate only visible consequences aggressing upon the choices of others? Can morality really be based on simple notions of personal responsibility?

Of course, it's this moral question that infects politics. What do you do when you know that not everyone understands (let alone cares about) the full significance of his or her choices? What do you do when you know not everyone can grasp the difference between license and creativity, when all they know is the self-deception of conventional marriage with perhaps a bit of reassurance from religion? (Again, that's not to say that marriage and religion cannot fit into creativity!)

The best example of this question is the cultural war over "family values." Public policy and culture must face up to the fact that they are called upon to support conventional families (particularly legally recognized heterosexual adult relationships and not just families with children) with an involuntary subsidy from those who don't engage in them. It's a matter of Ayn Rand logic: if A > B, then B < A. This always seemed OK when people with different emotional constitutions with regard to personal independence and creativity could tolerate each other in an uneasy social truce (that's better than it was a few decades ago - we've at least learn to respect "privacy"). But the end result of creativity must be my slogan: "Do Ask, Do Tell."

There is a darker detour that creativity can take, once it perceives the differences in people and insists on the stability of the apparent "well-ordering" of men or women that could become significant others. If one has a precarious self-image, one may transcend oneself by identifying with someone "superior" and eroticize the experience of surrendering to that person. Sexuality remains locked within this narcissistic experience (which can be heterosexual, too) and makes the person feel trapped by the possibility that the other person will reject him (tell him to go away or to shut up) or fall off the imaginary pedestal. A therapist or Catholic priest comes along and gives a Dear Abby recommendation of "volunteer" work to get in touch with other people at their own levels. But unless the person puts himself into this altruism in a way that his sexuality (and sensitivity to hidden beauty) can grow, his creative potential and the basic deservedness of his deviation from convention becomes rightfully suspect. This can lead to your typical sour-grapes and sweet-lemons-indeed to waffling "feminine" timidity and necessary prolonged social withdrawal. And ponder this: if you really value your psychological intersection (yes, database style) with another person, you must give him the right and the opportunity to reject it.

Creativity, in fact, implies that one can ultimately "change" his attitude about what he finds attractive and valuable in others. Effectively, this means learning to care more. This isn't expected of an attractive twenty-five year old when first getting married ("same-sex" or not), but in practice a fifty-five year old might have to face it. (If the government really wanted to get into the moralizing business, imagine a law that denies recognition to marriages where the partners' ages differ by more than ten years! So much for the "sexual princess!") Marriage does help most people do that, but other people may be called up to find more "creative" methods. People join groups over this - ranging from the Ninth Street Center to "family groups" at Metropolitan Community Churches - and then people may feel an obligation to "care" about everyone in the group, or an entitlement from everyone in the group to be cared about!

The penultimate question for creative persons is this: When is one really ready for the responsibility that creativity - the essence of personal sovereignty - requires? When can one rightfully follow one's own priorities rather than carry signs for others? When does one become a real original and not just a Stepford copy? One faces uncertainty and chaos; one fends off the discomforting impression that one is living off the half-chosen adaptive sacrifices of others. For creativity demands not just absolute responsibility for oneself but the ability to meet the needs of others first, and to really care about doing so. To some people this seems to mean, at some level in the personality, an altruistic sexuality is a prerequisite for meaning anything to others at all. But then, I just wonder when the defiant triumph of a Schumann Second Symphony (as interpreted by Leonard Bernstein) crashes down, "it" has to be not all working before you'll need to create anything, most of all yourself. Robert Schumann, a most creative objective masculine, died, after all, as a manic-depressive.

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