My mother and I went to see The King's Speech, a film about the debilitating speech impediment of England's King George VI (a personage better known to Mom as the successor to the monarch who abdicated in 1936 for love of the twice-unhitched Maryland divorcée Wallace Simpson).
A sub-theme of the movie was the rules of conduct governing commoners and royalty. That got me thinking about relationships and their unspoken boundaries. I remember a time when I bristled against any kind of laws in this regard. A child of the 1960s, I was in favor of the dismantling of every human convention, and stripping life down to its primitive essentials.
Then I became a Christian and took the biggest ontological nosedive of my life-from captain of my fate to rib of a male. I recall my brother gently needling me soon after my conversion: "You realize, don't you, that this means you have to submit to the headship of a man?" My response was: "Look, I just went from creator to creature in one jump. What is it to me to descend one millimeter more?" For some reason, I have always been OK with God's authoritative hierarchy.
The world around us, of course, continues, at breakneck speed, the dismantling project I bailed out of decades ago. First homosexuality, which was just a rumor at a beach house I heard in the summer before junior high, is now a viable option in sex ed classes in state schools. LGBT groups flourish on campus, and a young woman dear to me is changing her surname to something she made up in order to start a matronymic tradition of ancestry.
Christians warned that there was no end to the domino fall once the walls were breached, but unbelievers scoffed at the specter of incest and bestiality. Now we hear that a professor at Columbia University, David Epstein, has been engaged in a sexual relationship with his 24-year-old daughter since 2006. His supporters argue that since it is consensual, it should be no more frowned upon than homosexuality-and they are right, of course. Or consistent, at least.
The whole thing makes me reflect upon the most basic obstacle hindering people from coming to Christ. It is the attitude summed up in the shaken fist railing, "Nobody tells me what to do!"
I have been feeling a lot friendlier to the concept of noblesse oblige, on the one hand, and curtsying to the queen, on the other, since I understood that this is not anomalous: Every relationship on earth-father to mother, father to daughter, child to parent, student to teacher, elder to younger-has boundaries that are understood.
Or at least they used to.
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.