As I have commented on before , I have a great love of the television show Cops. One of the more curious matters that one finds on the show often is that people run a lot, and it seldom does them any good. Whatever the original concerns and fears that one has in dealing with a cop, running only adds to the offense and adds to the problem. After all, under such crimes as reckless endangerment, eluding arrest, or resisting arrest, in some circumstances the penalty for running away from a police officer may even be worse than the original offense that one is being stopped for. It is, however, often the case that those who run do so with reason, either by virtue of having outstanding warrants for their arrest or the possession of something that they should not be possessing, or some other related problem. People run, in short, because they have a guilty conscience and are unable to show moral courage in the face of their personal responsibility.
In life, we all have the desire to run and escape from problems that we cannot deal with. That certainly is the case for me, as well as the case for most people that I know personally. While we all may face courage in some areas of life, we likewise will tend to seek escape in other areas of life where we feel we have fewer resources or where we have less confidence. In writing, therefore, about this aspect of moral courage in terms of dealing honestly and openly with what is going on, I do not pretend to be a master at this virtue, but only someone who tries very hard to practice it well and succeeds somewhat unevenly, and therefore has a great deal of compassion on others who struggle with this problem in their own ways.
I find this particular problem of running particularly common, and particularly lamentable, in relation to my romantic life. For a variety of personal reasons, mostly because the subject is painful and unpleasant, I tend not to discuss the specifics of my romantic interactions directly. That said, those who are aware of the people and situations I am dealing with can often draw a great deal of knowledge from my indirect statements as well as the implications that can often be correctly drawn from my writing. To an extent even greater than most creative people, I can say of myself the same thing that Katniss Everdeen said of herself in “Catching Fire:” I’m an open book. Most people are aware of my secrets before I am myself. This creates a great deal of trouble for me, as can easily be imagined, and the problem of running away is symptomatic of this problem as a repeating pattern that brings a great deal of trouble to my life.
Some time ago I reviewed a book that reminded me greatly of my own painfully open honesty . Seeing in Scott Peck’s oversharing, I was struck by the patience of his wife in putting up with someone who was embarrassingly open with his struggles and his personality and his flaws as well as his longings and the way that he thought and pondered about life and the people and situations within it in a very candid sort of way. In some essential way, for all of his failings, he was a fellow who laid his life openly on the line and had a childlike sense of openness to the world and to the numinous experiences that can be found in it. Whether those longings or his search was appropriate or not is one matter, but his profoundly honest innocence was something praiseworthy and difficult in this world. In his case, his longings made him famous and well-respected and somewhat influential. For me, it has not yet had that sort of positive outcome.
I find, though, that unlike Dr. Peck, I have not had as easy a time finding a partner who was as longsuffering when it came to my painfully honest oversharing. By and large, I have found that many of my romantic interactions undergo a similar pattern. There is an initial period of flirtatious friendship with a young woman with whom there is some sort of common interest in such areas as music, sports, British comedy or literature, as well as general biblical studies or some other interest of a serious nature. Such a young woman enjoys serious and long conversations, is gentle and affectionate and tenderhearted, and the friendship develops a sense of emotional intimacy that is a source of pleasure and enjoyment for both of us amidst life’s pressures and stresses. However, inevitably, there are difficulties with family or friends, a desire on the part of the young woman to be private and not known as being too close to me, and the lack of openness combined with my own observation of discomfort and attempts to find out and deal with what is going on lead to a desire on her part for a great deal of distance, and often a rupture of any friendly relations whatsoever.
This pattern is not a one-time occurrence but is a fairly consistent one that plays out over and over and over again, and it is one that brings me a great deal of grief and unhappiness. I know, personally, that I wish very strongly for a relationship that would combine honesty with a huge amount of tenderness and gentle affection. Despite my chronological age, in terms of matters of emotion and affection and intimacy I am very much the sensitive and deeply scarred child who is open to the world but deeply in need of gentle affection and care, and it is deeply frustrating to hear and to feel that such longings are inappropriate in themselves, for far more is at stake than mere flirtation in my search for love and affection. Over and over again, when it comes to young women as well as those escaping the police, I ask myself the same question: “Why do they always run?” And no good answer can be found.