Monday, November 13, 2006
A new post, and not about politics (yet). Let's talk instead about sex. (the two of the three things my grandma always said should never be discussed at the dinner table, the third being religion).
"Heartache occurs" ought to be the new bumper sticker. Relationships run afoul of all sorts of things, from sex, to money problems, to differences in opinion. But such ought not to be the way. Indeed, heartache between people is a sign of fallen nature, not of intrinsic evil of the opposite sex and all of us, prone to heartache throughout our lives, must not fall into the trap of thinking of the opposite sex as the source of the problem. To even engage in language that talks of men as stupid, or women as whores, men as worthless, or women as evil, is to encourage a generalization that is neither helpful nor realistic. Some men are stupid and worthless. Some women are evil and act like whores. Perhaps even many men and women are such, but the fact that they exist ought to prompt us to govern more closely our own hearts and involvements.
Eros, the Greeks said, was the most driving form of love. Not the sordid, physical attractions we all experience, either, but this intense longing for the beautiful; a longing which could not find easy solution. We are human, therefore we have heartache, for our very individuality creates a separation from others, from the beautiful, from God himself. Sexuality is a physical expression of this intense longing, but eros is far stronger than just the physical. This is why when we give ourselves physically to another we always are dealing with a religious act; the physical expression is a surrender of self to the other with the trust that they will remain faithful and desirous of our friendship; fellow sojourners on a road towards the good. Thus heartache is intensified by any physical contact with another person should that relationship go sour.
But how we are told we ought to view relationships is that man and woman are one flesh. Marriage is a vow to honor that oneness and seek unity even at the cost of self-sacrifice and endurance of pain. Love finds its greatest expression in the oneness between man and woman working together to seek the good, and until we can give ourselves in a sworn relationship we ought to very carefully avoid the natural bond that develops through physical relationships however much those relationships are based on real love. Above all else, married life must be a friendship; relying on each other, and entrusting to each other mutual respect and admiration.
When seeking a partner for life one must ask "How worthy am I of love? Have I made myself noble and honest, honorable and knowledgeable, beautiful and interesting?" Then in the other we look to see if this person is a friend; trustworthy; honest; strong in their ideas yet able to forgive; seeking the good yet able to laugh; and finally, attractive. But above all else, honor. How a man talks about women to other women, to other men, to himself is vital to how he will treat women. A man without honor, discourteous, crude, betrays in himself an ability for cruelty which the man of honor could never allow himself to engage in. A man who speaks kindly to women, treats them like human beings, avoids wrecking himself through substance abuse and porn, is a man who can be trusted with greater responsibilities that require self-discipline. Find a man who treats you well and you will have a friend for life. Similarly, the myth of the "dirty woman" has to be abandoned. Men are naturally drawn to the dark and dangerous women who flatter them and play with their emotions. But such women are not women of honor and they can betray and wound a man or drive him to the brink of despair. Find a woman who is beautiful but whose beauty is in holding herself to a code of honor with men, other women, and herself. Such honor in people is rare, but very valuable if we hope to avoid the thousand natural shocks which flesh is heir to.
Heartache is a reality of life, and never fully goes away while in this world (and I can't speak for the next, though I hope...), but the heartache that occurs between man and woman is a sadness that is best minimalized by our own courtesy and pursuit of honor.