Too many people seek lasting happiness and fulfillment in romantic love, where it is not to be found.
What romantic love offers is agitation, desire, a fevered preoccupation with the object of love, the blithe contemplation of an other. There is beauty and there is truth to be found in romantic love, but no lasting happiness or fulfillment. That “happily ever after” is to be found in romantic love is the first of its delusions.
Yet there is something undeniably beautiful about two souls waltzing in a private heaven, loving and being loved. But one falls when one waltzes in heaven. Romance either lands on the earth of daily life or it combusts in tragedy. By the “earth of daily life” I mean mainly marriage or the modern forms of pseudo-marriage. The only realistic alternative to these is some form of tragedy–breaking up or dying or in some other way being separated. These melancholy obstacles to consummation are the only way to prevent romance from descending into the soil. And that is why romantic novels and movies inevitably end shortly after consummation (traditionally, marriage). The last scene may be the wedding; or the story may play out just long enough to witness the tragic pre- or post-consummation death of one or both lovers (as, e.g., Tristan and Isolde or Romeo and Juliet).Continue reading →
I watched Trump’s inauguration address along with, according to him, trillions of other people. I was pained by the vitriolic rhetoric and us-versus-them mentality, and then I wasted an hour sinking deeper into misery scrolling through other people’s responses to the event. (See our very liberal, very smart friend’s response to Trump here.) Some were funny. Some were depressing. One, however, really scared me.
I can’t be sure that the post was real, but the woman’s confusion and fear seemed to be viscerally genuine. She wrote that she had been trying to have a baby and had just been to the doctor and been told she was pregnant. She was overjoyed—until she realized that it was Trump’s inauguration day. “Now I’m torn,” (and I paraphrase), “I don’t want my baby associated with that horrible man, so I’m considering getting an abortion.”
I was floored. I am not pro-Trump; I remember telling my husband through tears late on Election Night, “you PROMISED me he wouldn’t win!” as if it were his fault. With David, I understand the fear and pain and worry about the future of the country when someone counter to your views gains political preeminence. But even if we’d elected Big Brother or Hitler or even Dracula to be president, I would never consider having an abortion just because the announcements coincided. Maybe it’s my stubborn Irish heritage, but I could never concede the fight like that: he may have won the presidency…
But I will win the war.
I’m not talking about a partisan war, or even a political one. I’m talking about the fight for goodness, morality and human rights. Women, especially, have a superpower in the war we are all fighting—but it’s not one we generally think about. Continue reading →
There is a facile enthusiasm about “believing” that is manifest every Christmas season and often enough in-between. Sentimental movies like “The Polar Express” and “The Miracle on 34th Street” chime in with their paeans to believing, and even works like “The Life of Pi” suggest that it is proper and even admirable to accept as true “the better story” even when it is the unlikeliest story imaginable.
At the front end, let me admit that there is a kernel of truth in these expressions. But there is also great danger is assuming that optimism can or should trump reason, and that belief in the truth of whatever appears good or lovely is itself necessarily good.
At least in questions where the relevant evidence is capable of being comprehensively considered, the proper formula is very simple: belief should be according to the evidence. Continue reading →
We recently received a message from “asaasa1983” in response to an article we had written. The article was about helping children nourish healthy sexuality while avoiding destructive and deceptive outlets like pornography. To me it is a relatively secure platform.
Both statistically and within my own anecdotal experience, pornography can have a negative influence on relationships. It’s bad for the viewer and often bad for the people on the other side of the screen—the ones taking the pictures. However, I am not entirely ignorant of arguments against conservative sexual mores. We can come across as uptight, prudish, genophobs. And before I go forward I want to acknowledge that conservative sexual paradigms have at times been restrictive, narrow, and damaging. So there’s certainly some constructive liberal critiques worth listening to.
Still I was surprised by asaasa1983’s response—so surprised in fact that I reproduce it here in its entirety:Continue reading →
You have probably never heard of François-André Danican Philidor. If you were to see a picture of him, he would look like one of a hundred English aristocrats of the eighteenth century: Large nose, powdery wig, silk cravat, waist coat, the works. He was a musician by trade but is remembered today because he wrote a book about Chess. In it he explored nine different ways to begin a game. What he realized, and is remembered for saying, is that “good play of the pawns [is] the soul of chess.”
And why are they the soul of chess? Because they are practically stationary. If chess represented war, the queen, knights, and rooks would be the armies and the pawns the terrain. So the way you orient your pawns at the beginning, dictates so much of how the rest of the game is played. And once they are established, they will remain for the rest of the game relatively immobile. The play happens around them.
It had been a month now. An entire month of 60- to 70-hour work weeks, coming in on weekends, and I knew that until this project was finished, it would continue like this. Being fairly new in my career I felt I had to put in the hours to do my part, and so, after another long work day, my feet aching, I drove up to our apartment in the dusk, the following phrase ringing in my mind:
“By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread, all the days of thy life.”
According to Genesis, these are the words God says to Adam and Eve, and to us as their collective children as He drives them out of the blissful Garden of Eden.
Even in a digital age, when automated machinery does a lion’s share of the ‘sweating,’ here we still are working long work hours at jobs that we don’t necessarily see as our lives (why else would we call it ‘work/life’ balance?). But how do we truly find a balance between the necessity of work and the necessity of giving to our family and friends? How do we remain diligent at work when our nine-to-five job is an odd formula that doesn’t always fit the needs of home? Continue reading →