Monday, November 29, 2010

Sexual Ethics: An Assessment of Happiness and Well-Being

Tonight, I went to the “Sexual Ethics” talk featuring our president, Father Linnane. While my decision to go was based primarily on my interest in learning about the various issues that are attached to sexual ethics, I was also quite excited to hear Father Linnane speak. I had only heard Father Linnane speak two times before this occasion – once at an Accepted Students Day, in which we greeted us with a humorous speech, and during our class convocation. I have always found Father Linnane to be an engaging and scholarly speaker, but I have never been exposed to his perspectives on any controversial topics such as sexual ethics. Furthermore, although this event’s setting emulated a regular college class – a traditional lecture hall packed with dozens of students – Father Linnane’s prepared arguments on sexual ethics made the lecture enjoyable, captivating, and illuminating.

As I walked into Knoll Hall B03, I did not expect to see the hundred or so students seated. I quickly found a seat, sat down, and waited intently for the event to begin. Eventually, Father Linnane began his lecture – he started off by sharing an anecdote that revealed an enlightening experience he had in Florida while visiting his parents. Years ago, Father Linnane went to Florida to visit his parents during the college breaks, and during this time, he attended mass (in this specific story, Father Linnane attended an Easter vigil). In this mass, the priest advocated that Easter is ‘a time of repenting of sins,’ but he cited homosexuality as a clear moral evil and sin. This angered Father Linnane, who (after mass) challenged the priest’s views. To this end, Father Linnane expressed to us that homosexuality is not a moral issue, nor is it a moral evil. Moreover, he made note of the suicides of several homosexual students earlier this year, stating that their sexual orientation did not justify the treatment that they suffered from their peers. Personally, I thought that homosexuality was a big topic to tackle in just a few minutes, but Father Linnane seemed to break down his explanations simply, giving us all a new perspective on the issue.

Next, Father Linnane posed the question of “what constitutes a sexual relationship?” One by one, students began to conjure up ideas that seemed to form the foundation of an ideal sexual relationship – respect, commitment, trust, mutual understanding, consent, and good will, maturity, and love. While Father Linnane agreed with all of these concepts as sufficient underpinnings to a sexual relationship, he warned us that sexual relationships could be manipulative and unjust. One sentiment that particularly stuck with me was that in a sexual and loving relationship, your partner must be (from a first-person perspective) “the most important person in my life, and for whom I will be the most important person.” Without a doubt, I wholeheartedly agree with this view. Personally, I think that one’s lover should be someone who is not just an object of one’s sexual attraction, but rather the recipient of a genuinely affectionate and loving bond. In my mind, the enchantment of love itself should supersede any sexual urges. As expressed by Shakespeare, one cannot falsify true love – to do so would undermine the innocence that shapes love as such a powerful emotion.

On a separate note, to my surprise I’ve found that I have really enjoyed reading short stories this semester. In my opinion, a short story is the perfect medium of expression – while it may not possess the precision of a poem or contain the descriptive inner-workings of a novel, short stories tend to capture a satisfying balance that its two counterparts cannot achieve. Moreover, Edgar Allan Poe – one of my favorite authors – effectively sums up the appeal of a short story. He writes,

And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction…this is an end unattainable by the novel. Undue brevity is just as exceptionable here as in the poem; but undue length is yet more to be avoided” (excerpt from Poe’s Hawthorne Review).

Here, I completely agree with Poe. Short stories are a wonderful amalgam of a novel and a poem – for example, Poe’s Cask of Amontillado contains long, descriptive passages, but depicts strongly emphasized tones of insanity, guilt, and darkness, which cause it to be as widely interpreted as any poem. Therefore, while I have appreciated the many novels and selections of poetry we have analyzed this semester, I still contend that short stories are the ultimate form of literary art.

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