When I was twelve, I had…

When I was twelve, I had all the answers. I knew the difference between right and wrong and I could tell you exactly which was which, for practically anything you'd care to name. The philosophy class I took a few years later ought to have helped, and maybe it did instill some deep questions, but at least on the surface it merely gave me a rationale for being sure of what was right and wrong.

My parents were wrong. I was right. Sri Lankan culture was wrong. Indian too. American was right. Marriage was wrong. Sex was theoretically right (many years before that one would be put into practice, but I knew where I stood). Multi-person relationships were right; I might grudgingly concede that couples were okay, as long as I wasn't expected to participate. Murder and lying to your friends and only eating bland food was wrong. Abortion and the death penalty and gun control were right. Tolerance was right and intolerance was wrong, and if you didn't know how to be tolerant, I'd have been happy to teach you.

I must have been an insufferable child. Mostly I kept all this to myself; I grew up feeling as if I were living in an enemy camp much of the time -- the rules were so clearly designed to keep me from ever breaking free -- and so I kept my mouth shut. Mostly. There were at least a few of my parents' friends' parties where I made the mistake of answering a question honestly...and boy, did I get in trouble (which of course, only confirmed me in my views...).

This sounds like it could devolve into a rant against my parents or my background. It's not. It's a rant against me. Against the child who saw everything in terms of black and white, and made choices based on that. The one who really believed that if she wasn't going to be in, she had to be out...and so cut herself out as completely as she could manage.

I didn't believe in grey; I didn't believe grey was possible. If I ever thought about grey at all, it was probably to think scornfully that those who chose to live in the grey were compromisers and fools who didn't realize that they were really in the black world. (After all the race theory I've studied, it's impossible for me to use black to mean 'bad' without feeling uncomfortable. But it's awfully convenient stylistically. So I insert this silly parenthetical, which solves nothing...) It's really only fairly recently that I've started really believing in grey, mostly because I've slammed my head against some problems enough times that I can't find a black or white answer anymore.

The point of all this nonsense is that I'm hoping Shmuel can somehow find some grey for himself. I don't know if he can -- the boundaries between his worlds seem to be so firmly drawn, much more so than mine really were. Mine were mostly pencil, subject to erasure and redrawing, though I thought they were inked out in heavy marker. His line is darker. So he crosses between the worlds, not going too far, always able to scurry back across the line when he needs to. But I hope he finds that the bounds aren't quite as firm as he thinks -- that the marker is really only a pencil, and that there are gaps in the dividing line. Or even better -- that the boundary is not merely a line (or a high wall), but rather a broad and beautiful land, a border land combining the best of both of his worlds. A land of grey twilights and golden dawns, filled with a people who love both of the countries on either side, but choose to live between them.

I don't know, but I can hope.

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