Nowadays, perhaps very little attention is given, except in certain literature classes, to an American philosopher named Ralph Waldo Emerson. And please understand that I am in no way truly familiar with Emerson, except for one thing he wrote, that I read many years ago and have never forgotten: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men -- that is genius”.
Because when I read that, and thought about it, and truly accepted it, I realized how radical and how transformative the statement is. And ever since, through decades of self-analysis and attempts at understanding myself and the world I inhabit, I have tried to apply that statement to the choices and beliefs and understandings I have acquired. And even now, decades later, here I am, finding new applications for what I perceive as a great truth.
For instance, as a traditionalist, I have a hard time sometimes accepting the concept of gay marriage. I have no problem of acceptance of gays, male or female, nor the concept of civil unions, for gays or anyone else. It’s just the concept of the actual marriage ceremony that I struggle with, until I remind myself of what Emerson said. Because if I wish to have the relationship I am blessed with, how can I then deny that to anyone else.
Now I am finding still another application of this truism. There are those who are now becoming public figures, who have declared their opposition to contraception. But they are declaring not only that they do not believe in the principle of contraception for themselves, they are declaring that no one, absolutely no one should practice contraception. This is simply a mirror version of Emerson’s statement. For to deny one’s self anything is a personal choice; to deny personal choice to everyone else is dictatorship. It is the worst possible path to denying freedom of choice to others. And in our country, denial of freedom to others is truly a terrible thing. In our Declaration of Independence are these glorious words written: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty ….”