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Marsha Taylor

Put Up





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Star Shadows



Man of Earth

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River Plunge

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Keep It Moving



Trigger Sapping

Get Her Done!

Optimist Wager

Not for Sale

Elder Anarchy



Chicken and Egg


by Jerry Murley

As one who enjoys personal order in my personal space, I could easily be characterized – and often am – as a man in a rut. However, a few simple, uncostly routines help frame my day-to-day exertions and give wide berth to my imagination and sense of humor. Ideas and activities are permitted freer range with relative safety. Some family and friends have not explicitly voiced, but occasionally acted as if, any personal preference for a little greater degree of organization, however slightly neat, somehow borders on a cloaked condemnation of their preference for a Dickensian-style, cluttered-cottage habitat. (Believe me, my order would seem modest should one wander into my garage, ascend my attic steps, or open a desk drawer or closet door.) In truth, it is easy to appreciate an excursion into the wilds when my personal, cozy rooms await my return.

Given a framework, such as a task with a limited budget, I can pull off a miracle every time. But given boundless resources and time, I hardly know what to do and where to begin. (I am sure that the Biblical story of the fishes and loaves wouldn't be nearly as impressive if Jesus had access to unlimited catering services.) A framework gives me a starting point and helps me know when I am going too far.

Tradition is innovation that worked very well over time and was adopted or absorbed by many. Innovation is a tweak or fix of tradition, often using tradition both as a framework and a tool. Distinct traditions and innovations are hard to discern and difficult to employ yet essential to meaningful human activity, society in particular.

We are blessed with and impeded by traditions from history and around the globe that have accumulated and mixed layer upon layer. However, it is highly advisable for someone from one tradition to acknowledge, learn and adopt that local tradition while contemplating the virtues of others as well as the faults of one's own. Civility and respect are fundamental to negotiating life amid the layers of tradition, especially when many others hold that their particular tradition emanates from their marrow (or the heavens), was not in the least adopted by them or their kin, and is utterly inalterable.

Innovation springs from tradition in ways that make them brethren. We innovate by making reasonable or emotional connections between traditions. We concoct something that seems new by cannibalizing parts of different traditions through layers of history and geography. And we innovate to repair the damage of other innovations gone awry. The best innovation issues from necessity. The worst arises superficially from the mere whim of novelty or fabrication for commercial advantage.

Our (the) Constitution is an innovation, a crystallization of the principles and wisdom from many traditions. (And take note, adherence to the principle without the wisdom is a surefire killer in any document, institution, creed or course of social action.) It would be just as absurd to amend our Constitution to prohibit flag burning as it would be to assert that burning a cheap copy of the Constitution obliterated its usefulness, authority, and goodness. We pledge to the ideas of a particular constitution and our union – our commitment to try to use certain rules to work things out – not to a symbol. It would be far more outrageous to our sensibilities and social requirements to seek amendments to forbid certain adults from breeding or to limit the number of children American adults can have or to require that American Christians marry only monotheistic Muslims or Jews and not fellow Christians, Buddhists or atheists.

Marriage is a commitment between two human beings – two being the accepted number when considering such relationships (but that, too, can be debated) – to devotion, love, sharing and sacrifice over a projected future. We do not now restrict participation in this fundamental social institution with regard to opinion or fact about the unsavory habits of one or the other participant – or their customs – as long as they are a traditional one male and one female pairing.

Marriage is a tradition shaped in different ways in different cultures. Principles and wisdom play a role in the innovation of marriage, as do varying experiences, circumstances and levels of need. Marriage is an innovation reinvented by every couple so joined in the commitment of devotion, love, sharing and sacrifice. Which comes first, love or marriage? That is a chicken and egg sort of question. What matters is the love. Without it and the public proclamation of commitment, adult humans lack the base required to explore and expand the human community in ways that only partially relate to breeding children. One can only with great difficulty become a fully human adult without such commitment and growth. And government has no business whatsoever in impeding it's consenting adult citizens or guests from being civil humans to the fullest extent. Quite the opposite, it has every reason to promote adult commitment and not just a single, traditional definition of it.

Disallowance of equal participation by all consenting adults in the fundamental institution of marriage implies that high standards of responsibility in interpersonal and civic relationships do not apply to all in our society. The historical political correctness of the status quo must give way to rational and ethical correctness. American history will have it no other way. Religious doctrine has no place in the discussion or in the solution, except in so far as principles of respect and obligation towards one's neighbor and the promise of universal divine love are shared by the Constitution. The Constitution contains the traditions and innovations that trump all others in our debate about civil policy. And regarding human rights, individual state constitutions and law must submit. If judges don't see it thus, then legislatures must make it so. If legislatures don't make it thus, then legislators must be returned to pasture with their bovine predecessors by the majority of Americans, who, I sincerely trust, hold these principles to be self-evident.

By the way, as a brief culinary digression, add cornbread and gravy to that chicken and egg and you have a low-cost feast for a cold winter's night. Throw in some convivial beverage and you'll find it very easy to stray afield and discuss tossed traditions and silly innovations – and ignore, if not abhor, the stale variations of bigotry that still stink the air of our civil community.

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