Saturday, October 15, 2022

Why Is Marriage Important? Part II

I am less interested in the topic already, but I do have a few things to put out there.  I had never intended to be exhaustive, creating a full book chapter or adult study on The Advantages of Marriage, but once started, I did keep trying to find additional persuaders. ("And another thing, young lady...") But the thing is hopeless, at least as far as I am concerned. After 30 years people are quite well-defended about any choices they have made, and have encountered the main objections - or learned to avoid them or deny them.  If you have belonged to a political party for 30 years that will tend to be true for the next decade as well, and will have at least heard some objections to your position. You might deceive yourself about the truth or weight of those objections, but they are at least not news to you. Plus, I have little success as a personal persuader.

Also, some of the gaps in my knowledge about the specific issue have been filled in.  It's mostly the same, but differently shaded, so I'm glad I went for the very generic.

I am glad this all came about though, because I followed some thoughts in new directions. It became more mystical, but in a more pagan than Christian way.  The Inklings would say the one is a foreshadowing or echo of the other anyway, so it's all the same in the end. Maybe.  But I haven't fully made that connection here yet, only sensed it.

Monogamy is a very large part of Western Civilisation. There are other places in the world that have monogamy, and polygamy occasionally erupts in the West as well.  Yet there is a real sense in which having a marital-lite relationship but refraining from marriage is to A) embrace something not just outside our traditions, but outside our Tradition, and B) cut yourself off from at least part of the understanding of life as experienced by just about all of those who have gone before.  At least your "before," all your ancestors, the people who lived where you live now and where you lived before. The people who wrote your literature and art, those who danced your dances and developed your music, crafted your recipes, your homes, your style of clothing. You might still understand them well, even brilliantly in other ways.  But you have sacrificed a real piece of understanding them.  If you go over your grandmother's letters and ponder what her life must have been like, there is a piece where you don't even know what it is you don't know. You can contemplate poverty, dangerous weather, and many other things, but they all occurred within a context for her which you don't quite get. Doubly so with having children, and the tragic loss of a child, but that is a story for another day.  I suppose you can mentally just transfer this discussion to that one and get a start. 

Adding in the sexual piece is both a gain and a loss in this matter. It does give you an understanding of what being a Husband or Wife experienced, and that does help the mythic imagination, but it will be in a context they worked very hard to avoid, of not being married. But frankly, it means you can't even fully understand your mother and father, who you knew quite well.  You might even understand them in general better than your married siblings because you have better theory of mind and think about such things more. Yet still...

I guess I am just tired of bright educated people who are cocksure that they understand something that is not just slightly different from their experience, but radically so. Smart people can win arguments like this on other grounds because they do understand the history of laws or education or whatever, and they can bully the others into surrender.  But listening to them when they think the microphone is off reveals much more than they wished.

There is a set of excuses that derive from regarding traditions, even Tradition as a mere following of rules, like sticking to a recipe as written rather than creatively trying something new, but this is to evade by trivialising. It also usually involves a Murphy Brown arrogance, that the rules are fine or even necessary for the common folk, but we special ones can get along without them just fine. Money and various physical securities like health, familiarity of place, and stable profession or employment can insulate one from many difficulties, this is true. 

More deeply, as a man you cut yourself off from the experience of All Men. As a woman, you take one step away from understanding All Women. To take it to an even more pagan level, Jorge Luis Borges wrote (It must have been in Ficciones, and I think in a footnote, but I'm not finding it) that in having sex we become part of the very forces of nature ourselves.  We become all men, though contained in one man, making love to all women, though contained in one partner.  I recoiled at this the first time I read it.  I'd like to limit the number of people in the bed, thanks, not expand them impossibly. Yet I have come to see it as true.  When you have sex you're representing us all, dude.  Try to get it right, will ya? Those pagan sexual ceremonies to bring fertility, when it was imagined that some of us taking on the roles of nature spirits or goddesses worked to the benefit of all of us if it were done right. At some distant level that we moderns can barely see, you really are making love to a goddess. (Yes, I know, sometimes she's buried pretty deep in there.  But the same could be said about you, Zeusy.)

(Later Addition) In the spirit of saying out loud what seems obvious to me but surprises everyone else when you do that, I have the sexual and rather primitively symbolic wedding reception.  there is reaching up the leg of the bride in symbolic deflowerment to grab a garter, which you throw to some other guy who is going to reach up another leg to put it on a (symbolically "all the single women! Come over for catching the bouquet!) virginal woman. We were at a friend's wedding where the bride had attached a long string of other items to the garter, which she hid underneath and behind her, so that the groom pulled out a toaster...a pair of egg beater...

And I thought "The message is clear: You're going to get it and you're going to get plenty. But there will be a lot of other crap attached. As far as I can tell, that is exactly what happened.  The feeding of the bride and groom was remarkably tame in comparison. Usually it's he rams it down her throat, or he hints that he might do that then feeds her politely - or maybe something between those two.  She for her part, either rams back, or teases, putting the cake out then taking it away, making him work a little.  And I think, laughing, "Why do we allow the children to be present for this? This is quite blatant."  Except no one ever seems to get the idea. I think the whole things is quite healthy, even though it's creepy. Marriage and sex are mythic, not polite.

As above, you get some of that if you keep the sexual piece, but you also have taken the goddess out of her temple, you have left an inadequate offering to the god of the waterfall. It's not going to quite work.  The lightning will come down on an altar across the valley instead.

At a much less mystic level, you do separate yourself from all of mankind in a way you barely apprehended. As with separating from Western Civ, you pull away from all the other Civs as well. Even if you don't believe in these things, they did, and you secede from them without marriage. 

And they just might be true, you know? Niels Bohr, the great physicist had a horseshoe hung over his door.  When visitors would protest that this was asuperstition and he couldn't really believe it he would twinkle "Yes, of course.  But I understand it works even if you don't believe in it." Or also the Jewish philosopher who had encountered a string of unfortunate events "Do you think God is angry at me for not believing in him?" Living in a pluralistic society is excellent for everyone getting along.  But it allows the idea that "these are all just opinions" to creep in.  Those who deal in opinions are especially susceptible to the idea. But something out there is really true. You and I may only approximate it and thus need to rely on it.  Even our opponents may have noticed things we need to take into account.  But there is an actual reality.  It is not all constructed.

Yes, I know that there is a set of philosophies that argues that it is all constructed and truth is always negotiable, but as Lewis argued in many places, no one actually believes it and acts that way.  They go back to believing that the menu is really a list of what is available, that their house will be in the same place tomorrow and all the rest.  It's a game.

There are counters, such as that we are under no obligation to have any unity with our Tradition or our Sex.  If we aren't "in touch with," in some vague sense, all these other people, do we find any real loss?  Screw 'em. Even if we can see that this is true and a real loss, it's one we personally don't mind paying. It's a free country and we can make that choice. Let me first simply note the rather amusing clutter that it tends to be men's advocates and women's advocates from areas closer to the edges that say this.  The old Men's Movement of Bly and Iron John was rather feminised, to my mind. Their masculinity seemed to come from reclaiming it from women, even if they framed it in the language of a male birthright. The guys who not only work out but identify with gym culture, defined broadly, are also pretty narrow about which men they think count.  It is as if they don't want to be identified with regular guys, but with their elite masculine guys.  The tech wizard and literary males almost aggressively do the same, of not identifying with men in general, but only with the narros slice they interact with.  they are better than those other men.  they don't want to participate in their lives in any way.  (The redpill guys have aspects of both but are not reliably either.) So too with the women, the feminists who think they are standing up for women, but actually dislike most women's choices and are only standing up for their subclan.  They aren't on Facebook - academics don't do that.  There's something just a bit substandard about that, you know? They are very big on women's rights, but it seems to come down to the rights of high-status women to compete in high-status sectors against men. How dare anyone take that away from them? (Don't get me started again on the amazing bias toward females in schools, now even at the graduate and postdoc levels.) On another edge of feminine identity...

No, this grows tiresome. I have covered this and am just trying to nail down the corners.  Even I don't care.  You can fill in those gaps as well as I, or better.  I have a particular post I keep trying to get to (On Polygamy) that keeps getting farther and farther away because of the stack of half-completed posts, plus events in real life that have me thinking.  I will be putting something up about Who We Allow To Speak Into Our Lives and the subtle rules underneath that.  Someday. 

For this, the cutting oneself off from Western Civ and either the lives of your sisters or the lives of your brothers and a thousand generations of people with your parts is not just just missing out on an extra dessert. It may be that getting it wrong has real consequences, even eternal consequences. It's just timid. We think of that as just a personality variation, but God actually does seem to regard it as a sin, though not the worst of sins.  Only one of the three in the Parable of the Talents is condemned, and he harshly. That whoever puts his hard to the plow should not turn back is truly frightening.  It's not just more fun to try and enter in to such depths - though even that would be an answer to those who say "what's the difference" between marriage and a less-formal relationship - it may be reality and you have been wasting not only your time but that of those you love - and someone in those many circles may not be able to afford that time. 

There is also the uncomfortable reality that if not marrying is really a bad idea and bad reasoning, we don't know what the consequences are.  Since childhood I have been quite willing to offend in order for true things to be said out loud and false things to be discouraged. I paid the price a few times in childhood of bad ideas that looked only private and personal actually having bad effects, and I saw this at work as well. Even if 90% of the time unimportant things are unimportant, 10% they turn out to be dangerous.  Bad reasoning should be answered for it's own sake, even when the downsides are not obvious.

None of this allows us to compel others. Shaming others should be avoided.  But something stronger than advising them looks very likely to be necessary. 

WRT The Rules and western civilisation

How'd that work out?


Ganzir said...

"Yes, I know that there is a set of philosophies that argues that it is all constructed and truth is always negotiable,"

The best response to such philosophies is to punch the proponent in the face and ask them how subjective that was.

Donna B. said...

"None of this allows us to compel others. Shaming others should be avoided. But something stronger than advising them looks very likely to be necessary."

Incentives, then? Cultural, religious, or economic? All of the above? While I understand that you were explicitly avoiding discussion of children, I can't quite wrap my head around the discussion of marriage that excludes that possibility. Am I being obtuse?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The discussion was prompted by Part I, a woman about to turn 68 who has been in a relationship for 30 years but is not married. It actually provides a good opportunity to separate the subjects temporarily, though they would ordinarily be intertwined.

james said...

Is it a fear of making promises or a thought-out philosophy that one should not make promises? I can imagine a case for the latter--if you're convinced that you can't keep a promise, you shouldn't make it.