Before I begin, you should know that the explain-o-tron 2000, wherein I revealed the entire history of Phoenix Earth from the beginning of existence to the end of history and the rise of the Phoenix Earth, went well. Most of my players were delighted to find out what had been going on all the while, and most were satisfied that their characters had ended well (Twilight was disappointed that Natasha Mage Lady Major Chastity Tomalov did not turn out to be the Antichrist, but I couldn't justify that after working out with Archimedes just how Scripture describes the end of the world. And I was personally glad to see that she made it to the end). There was one notable exception, of course, but that was to be expected as the individual in question does not, so far as I can determine, believe in evil in the sense that most fantasy requires you to believe in evil. Phoenix Earth is no exception to the rule in that it decrees that there is, absolutely, such as thing as Evil, and it is absolutely opposed by such a thing as Good. In my opinion, anybody who believes that sentient beings do not deliberately do things they know are wicked and they know they will regret - even in the immediate future - is deluding himself. Morality is only loosely subject to cost-benefit analyses. Despite this I had a wonderful time, and it was delightful to see Maelana graduate. I love going home.
I love going home for a variety of reasons. I love seeing the crew, of course, and spending time with my trusty geeks and fellow storytellers. I love spending time with the family, safe and secure in the cove. I love driving Betsy and having a safe place where I can sing however I please without bugging other people. I love going back to The Church on the Way - not so much because it is my home church (I do not feel that I have a home church at present, inasmuch as the term requires a single entity) but because Pastor Scott is my pastor. For most of the year I may be under the spiritual care of another, but Scott Bauer remains my pastor.
Not the least reason why I love going home is because at home spiritual and life issues are clarified and crystallized in a way that they almost never are here at Stanford, where the intellectual and spiritual muck of a community that believes itself to be the leaders of the world and searches for truth that it secretly believes it already possesses pollutes the atmosphere with oxymoronic (and parallel) quests for ultimate ethical reason and the death of absolutism.
I speak in generalities by way of introduction. What I am referring to specifically is the idea of physical affection. Hitherto I have generally bought into the romantic notion - inspired by BattleTech, and specifically that most wonderful storyteller Michael Stackpole - that physical affection between nonfamilial individuals need be nothing more than a sign of emotional affection - fondness, if you will. There is much to be said for this view, I believe - consider the fact that a hundred years ago (or even less than that) me hugging Princess would have been considered scandalous, whereas nowadays it truly would signify nothing more than affection. And it may be that one hundred years hence (as Heinlein seems to have believed) greeting a member of either sex with the most passionate kiss you can muster will truly be nothing more than a fond greeting.
I truly wish it were so, and I am sure you can imagine [with me] several members of either sex who inspire you to wish it were so very fervently indeed! And that will serve to point us to the chink in the armor of this conceit. For I perceive that I desire things to be so primarily so that I can go around kissing people whom I want to kiss - and I want to kiss those people because, well, I want to. And what is that but desiring them? And if that does not fall under Matthew 5:28 (literally, whoever looks at a woman to desire her ...), I don't know what does.
Of course the French kissing examle is almost painfully obvious - though, in a way, that is the point, for the hugging example would have been painfully obvious to our forebears. The larger point, I think, is that absent paired rings on your fingers physical affection must never be conceived of as loving in itself. I am tempted to go so far as to say that it is never loving at all - for I am the king of those who need physical affection, and I do not myself truly believe that it is something I need, even when my heart is broken. Or, to put it another way, if we are to define physical affection as loving, we must show how such actions seek the other's good (by the Natalian/Lewisian definition of love given in an earlier post). And that, I think, will be a hard task. At best, I suspect, such things as being held are morally inert.
There is a part of me of course that protests that there should be room for exceptions if I really want it bad - which I hope strikes you as ludicrous as it strikes me. Such sentiments are very pretty when expressed, as the Dixie Chicks have, as "this time I'm willing to dance on the wire," but they boil down to "I want it really bad!" and even the Chicks, in that same song, recognize that such trysts are doomed. Instead, I think it is much better to remember such statements as "remember your training, and you will make it back alive!" (Starship Troopers and any number of other war movies, I'm sure) and, with Chely Wright: "shut up and drive; you don't know what you're talking about."