Stephen Asma at the Heterodox Academy:
The song “I Walk the Line” is about the sacrifices and the devotions of love –the profound lengths to which we will go for our favorites. The bonds of favoritism create moral gravity and contour the way we treat people inside and outside the gravitational field. I don’t walk the line for just anybody. Johnny Cash wrote that famous song about his first wife in 1956, when he was touring on the road and struggling to stay faithful. Cash refers to the “tie that binds” and celebrates his own willingness to be constrained by the heart. This is not the realm of fairness, or equality, or impartiality. But it is a moral realm of value and action, all the same.
The fact that Cash couldn’t make this noble fidelity last is slightly amusing, but tolerable, I suppose, when viewed from a mature perspective on romance. He famously took a new favorite, June Carter, and the rest is history as they say. But, it also reveals the obvious human flexibility of the “tie that binds.” Some of our privileged favorites are automatically given (e.g., mothers, fathers, children, siblings, ethnic tribes), and some of them are more freely chosen (e.g., spouses, friends, aesthetic and political tribes).
The relationship between freedom and favoritism is complicated.