Friday, 23 July 2010

As Strong as Death

Yesterday I went for a walk, bought a coffee and sat on a bench by the sea. I thought about the tide and love and gravity and the little dogs running about on the beach. I thought about reality and the illusion of reality. This is not a total cliche when you are 39 years old and squashy.

What I determined, in all these thoughts, was that there are real, solid, permanent loves that affect you invisibly, like the pull of the moon upon the tides, and there are the little crushes, little infatuations that make us run hither and thither like the little dogs on the beach. The solid loves look dull but are as terrible as the grave, and the little crushes look exciting but are basically trivial in themselves.

Crushes are like matches. If you're playing with matches, you light one, it looks pretty, and then it goes out. Sometimes a match lights a warming fire, which is marriage, but unfortunately sometimes it burns down the house, which is your crush ruining your life and perhaps the lives of other people, too. However, both things take fuel. Again, a match on its own is pretty trivial.

Family love is like the moon in that it certainly has an invisible pull and it can seem terrible (terrible as an army with banners) at times. We spend our lives arguing internally with our parents and perhaps also with our brothers, sisters, and children. Families speak languages that no-one else can understand and have dynamics that outsiders cannot see. People panic as they hear themselves sound increasingly like their parents: despite all their attempts to escape mom and dad they find out that, to a certain extent, they are mom and dad.

Family love is the cradle for married love, which also has an invisible pull and can also seem terrible (terrible as an army with banners) at times. It is not the same thing as romantic love; romantic love is its rebellious servant. Married love is as wonderful and terrible as love of one's mother. Incidentally, about 70% of all divorce actions in Scotland are at the instance of wives. Elderly widows, as we know, usually survive widowhood for decades. Elderly widowers usually keel over within a year. Men, often so reluctant to marry, are equally reluctant to allow marriage to stop.

I doubt I'm ever going to blog much on marriage. B.A. is the most patient, tolerant chap alive, and I don't want to take advantage. But I will say that there are terrible moments in which I have to choose between "Non Serviam" and "Serviam" and grace alone gets me to choke out the latter. And no doubt B.A. experiences the same.

Friend love can also exert its pull and be terrible (terrible as an army with banners). However, such friendships are rare--except, and I am guessing, inwar zones, where soldiers put themselves in serious danger ultimately because of their buddies. Women are used to seeing our good friends suffer, and we bring them soup, perhaps, and sometimes we talk about them behind their backs and say "Isn't it a shame?" and "If only she wouldn't bring it on herself!", but sometimes we suffer agonies because our best friend is suffering agonies. We can't even talk about it. At such times, friendship isn't fun, and we're back to the choice between "Serviam" and "Non Serviam."

Then there is romance and flirting and crushes and wit, and these are all very nice, when you don't allow them to muck up your life, but they are really secondary. I wonder, though, if love of romance isn't the biggest marriage killer out there. Men don't read romance novels. Women read romance novels and, in Scotland, 70% of divorce actions are... you know.

But I like romance, just as I like the little dogs that run around on the beach, and I like flirting and crushes and wit. Like novels and paintings they add not a little colour to the strong outlines of life. But in the grander scheme of things, they are just human inventions. They don't really matter. What really matters is family love, married love, friend love and, of course, the love of God, which is truly, truly terrible (terrible as an army with banners) indeed.

9 comments:

MargoB said...

I give up, Seraphic: *what* are banners? (and why be they terrible?)

Seraphic Spouse said...

Oh dear, I thought that was a well-known phrase from the Song of Songs. Maybe it is "terrible as an army with banners?"

Anyway, terrible. Like a thunderstorm, or the tide, or any of those other things that can strike a holy terror into your heart.

some guy on the street said...

You're clearly not using the Douay-Rheims translation!

Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array.

Somehow my ear is used to including "battle" as the penultimate word... ah, well.

But as a bit of speculation, I'd say there's a palpable difference between a large mob of burly fighters with pick-up melée implements versus the uniformed coordinated ranks of the (say) Roman legions with all their standards all topped "SPQR" and banners waving purple red blazoned with their respective emblems... or, when Constantine sought the Lord's help, Chi-Rho, in quo signo vicit.

theobromophile said...

I wonder, though, if love of romance isn't the biggest marriage killer out there. Men don't read romance novels. Women read romance novels and, in Scotland, 70% of divorce actions are... you know.

Perhaps, but anything that affects tens of millions of people (the numbers in America are the same) likely have more than one basic cause.

No, men do not read romance novels, but they do not read self-help books, either, nor books on how to be a better or more patient husband, or how to meet the uniquely feminine needs of their wives. Women will read about how to make sex better for their husbands (well, they usually read about how to be better for their boyfriends, one-night-stands, and hook-ups, but I can be optimistic, right?), but the covers of men's magazines aren't plastered with ways to please their wives - even though, once things get started, it's men who have the reliable response, not women. Can we blame women for their marital frustrations and unhappiness?

Perhaps some of it is the love of romance - not the romance that one has in front of her (Seraphic, your tale of meeting and falling in love with BA is terribly romantic, as are the stories of many of the happily married people whom I know!), but some other romance.

Seraphic said...

Um. I'm married to a very good man, so I don't know why approx 8, 491 women in Scotland file for divorce every year. (There were 12,130 Scottish divorces in 1998, and the population of Scotland in 2001 was just over 5,064,000.) I imagine they were "fed up"--but I wonder with what. Men are who they are, and not who we want them to be.

theobromophile said...

Here's an interesting summary of a few of the factors that affect divorce in America: http://www.divorcerate.org/

About 3/4ths of 1% of Americans will divorce every year, so that's a solid 2.5 million Americans every year. Give it a decade, and you've gotten tens of millions. (Sad, yes.)

Yes, men are men, and not what we want them to be, but that does not absolve them of responsibility for trying. I'm not trying to be sarcastic, but I can guarantee you that most decent men whose wives divorced them would want to do it all over again, swallow their pride, and figure out how to make their wives happy.

Now, I'm betting that a lot of women just don't speak up enough - perhaps the "in love with mythical romance" part is wanting their husbands to read their minds. Men might be men and not overly inclined to work hard at marriage, but they do understand that actions (or inaction) have consequences.

Hey, I've dated, a lot. Most of my friends are men. I've friends with a fair number of the men I've dated. I know how their minds work (at least in some areas), and really don't buy the idea that men's actions can't be changed. That is, of course, a different thing from changing male nature, but human relationships are all about doing things you don't always want to do, and men certainly grasp that.

some guy on the street said...

I'm similarly ignorant of why so many people divorce. Of course, a portion of these are the terminus of marriages-in-form, which then ought to be certified Null by the appropriate authority --- btw, i.i.r.c., that's the default supposition on marriage-in-form where one party believes arbitrary divorce-and-remarriage is possible, so it might be more prevalent than I want to believe.

More fundamentally I have (thank God) never witnessed divorce in person (whether resolving a Null Form or otherwise). Our dear hostess, as I understand things, has only suffered the Null Form and its resolution; her parents remain happily wedded. We do hear that one's parents' divorce is a strong risk indicator for one's own divorciveness --- so if enough people have suffered it, most marriages will be at risk in time, alas!

I don't want to think too much about it, really... I know St. Benedict advised to contemplate Hell for an hour every day, to make sure you want enough not to end there; five minutes contemplating divorce is enough for me for a month! (and I'm still Searching, never mind if I ever get married... )

"then O Lord, who can be saved?" ... but with God, all things are possible.

Anonymous said...

To go back to banners (on which I have better knowledge than divorce): At least in medieval warfare the banner was seen to have power in its own right on the battlefield. C.f. the Oriflame, stored at the Abbey of St Denis, and credited with helping the French kings to get themselves out of unfortunate messes. Armies with banners: be afraid, be very afraid....

Do carry on :-)

Markyate Priory

Anonymous said...

To go back to banners (on which I have better knowledge than divorce): At least in medieval warfare the banner was seen to have power in its own right on the battlefield. C.f. the Oriflame, stored at the Abbey of St Denis, and credited with helping the French kings to get themselves out of unfortunate messes. Armies with banners: be afraid, be very afraid....

Do carry on :-)

Markyate Priory