Greg Leake emails: Hi Luke,
By this time, Luke, I think you pretty well understand that I basically like you, have been following your exploits for quite a while, I don’t hold your background against you, and you know I’ve got your back.
You’re starting to worry me. You’re starting to sound more and more like Rabbs. You’ve had a number of thoughtful and reflective posts about yourself over the last week, and I’ve had a few thoughts about some of them but not sufficiently profound to say anything about them.
One thing I would like both you and Rabbs to understand is that marriage is not a panacea that sweeps you out of your personal difficulties and unfolds into a cornucopia of blessings. People get divorced all the time, including Orthodox Jews (I know some of them).
If you are fortunate enough to be in a good marriage, as I am, you still have moments when you understand why your grandfather took you into the backyard after 40 years of happy marriage and told you, “Look, you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.” By the standards you guys talk about I am a resounding success. I am happily married and we have created modest financial success for ourselves. And yet I come back to you from this pinnacle of happy Valhalla to tell you that marriage also brings strains and stresses and difficulties in addition to happy times and levels of fulfillment.
And you know, my view is that for all those people in Orthodox Judaism who are married and financially successful and Judaism is working for them, then that is terrific. However, for the bachelor apparently Orthodox Judaism works less and less as the years go by, and moves one further and further from fulfillment rather than helping one come closer. Apparently for the bachelors, Judaism does not work very well. I can understand Rabbs’s situation. After all, he was born into this milieu. He had this way of life engrained in his psychology from his earliest memories. He is, in fact, a rabbi. And so he has a lifetime of considerations and conflicts relative to his relationship to Judaism.
However, when I reflect about these matters, one of my fantasies about you could be described as, “What if Luke were normal?” After all, you spend your earlier life in your father’s milieu, admirable perhaps, but less than normal. The difficulties encountered by preachers’ kids are too well-documented to mention. You spent a long time laid up with chronic fatigue syndrome. Tragic, but alas, less than normal. You spent a long time reporting on the porn industry, hanging around that segment of society. I don’t hold it against you, but still, that’s pretty far away from normal. You spent quite a while living in a car while having a long series of erotic misadventures that involved the kind of hijinks that one usually associates with Victorian rakes or Cassanova. Interesting, but not normal. And now for a number of years the hovel and Orthodox Judaism.
So what would normal look like in my fantasy for Luke Ford?
Luke is a guy in his mid-forties living in Modesto or Bakersfield. He has a job in some capacity that allows him to live a middle or perhaps slightly upper middleclass existence. He is working on funding his 401(k) and his IRAs. He has a comfortable, but unconspicuous house in a decent neighborhood. He gets along with his neighbors and cuts his own grass every Saturday. With no ties to celibacy and a little discretionary income, there are several girls that he dates. One of them he is serious about and has made a down payment on an engagement ring. He’s just waiting for the right time to propose. he and this girl have a circle of friedns, and they get togther with his or her buddies fairly often. they may or may not go to a church or a temple, but it is not the centerpiece of their existence. Luke is a good citizen, and basically well-liked at work and at home, and he and the girl both realize that retirement is looming more quickly than seems possible. There have already been a few offhand conversations about the virtues of retiring to Arizona, Florida, or somewhere in the Midwest. They both realize that the California tax structure is punitive… maybe Nevada.
This would roughly be one of several normal scenarios that so far are conscpicuous by their absence from Luke’s lifestyle resume. It seems to me that out of all of your adventures, normal is the one that has not been tried. Normal has some things to recommend it. One shouldn’t dismiss normal out of hand. You remember the law of diminishing utility when you were studying economics, and it seems to me that it’s wise to have your commitments arranged so that one sees a life of increasing utility rather than being bound to something that simply becomes less and less workable as the years go by.
All right, this has been my little fantasy about Luke having an experimental try with normalcy. Perhaps I am prejudiced, as it is more or less the life I find myself in despite my own rather esoteric group of interests and activities. By the way, I was very impressed by Adolfo Santamaria, and it increases my intrigue with the Alexander Technique. Maybe Luke could be teaching the technique in Bakersfield, where there may well be a clear field with no competition.