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Life

A man with his little sister
Discoveries

November 12, 2003
The Iranian

A man with a little sister is a different thing.  He hears about a side of life that many men do not.  It is a side that he might know about without the benefit of a little sister, but which is difficult to feel.  He'll be going along, doing his own thing, reasonably sure of what the world is about, and then one day his little sister will call him up.

She'll tell him something about men and how they can be, and he will have to stop and remember that he is only one man. But there is something inescapable about men's behavior, and a young woman, his little sister, is going through life making these discoveries on her own, as part of her own learning about life.

In our case, my sister called me up from college.  She was a member of various political organizations.  In one of them, she had met a fellow whom she liked.  They had struck up a relationship.  She had liked the way he was politically, thinking of justice for countries that had gone without it and thinking of the best way to achieve it. 

She had liked the way he was older and had some experience in an area she was beginning to learn and felt strongly about.  She had had a good time with him.  And then one day she had learned that the whole time that he was with her, he was with another girl in the organization as well, who was also younger and new to the organization

She didn't understand it.  It wasn't so much about how he treated her, but the fact that he could be romantic and still believe in something good politically. It didn't fit; they were contradictory, she thought.  She said she believed that the personal was political, that they were the same principles a person ought to carry around all the time.

I listened and thought about the issue.  It was a hard one, as far as what she was asking of life.  I was all in favor of her raising the issue.  I was in favor of anybody asking anything hard of life, because no matter how hard it was, it still seemed easier than not asking it.  I just hoped she would find the right way to ask it.  I didn't know what exactly that was.  But I thought there should be some kind of balance between the presence and the absence of what she was asking.

It was the kind of thing that someone might call naive.  But I didn't think there was much thrill in that.  I didn't think that would get me anywhere worth getting to.  I listened and said I agreed that it didn't fit that those two should go together, but that it did seem like it happened sometimes.  We didn't know what was going to happen in life, but it was nice to agree that it didn't fit; that it did happen sometimes.

I was glad she had called me up to tell me about it.  We hadn't found any answers, but we had brought a little of our own discoveries about the world together for a while, and that was a significant thing, the same as it had always been.  We had done that from the beginning, and from the beginning it had been good to have somebody whose discoveries seemed to have an equal worth, even if they were not the same ones and they did not come about in the same circumstances.  There was always something to tie them together, however different they might be.

And I was glad to remember that no matter how much it might seem like a man was the one discovering the world, because that was what I happened to be, a young woman was doing it just as much.  And for her, much of that discovery was of men.  It is good for a man with a little sister to hear about these discoveries, because he can remember how much his own are connected to everyone else's, how they will play a part in the discoveries that others will make.

It's something he could've remembered without the benefit of a little sister, but there was always one part of his life that was meant to be easy, that was meant to be both essential and extra at the same time.  He had been going along fine before she was born.  He had felt like he had the world pretty much figured out.  And then he had seen that what the world was to somebody else was as important as what it was to him. 

And it was too wonderful of a thing to hate the world together, when they might have done so on their own.  It was too wonderful even when they were older and she was telling him about a man who had treated her unjustly.  And as for loving the world together, that was when it seemed too easy, when it seemed that there was nothing that could match it, and there was nothing to do but to let that carry them where it would.
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