So, why has this blog been so slow to repost, lately? Nuptials.
That’s right – I’ll be wed by Saturday night, to the PlotzLady. I’ve kept this news off the site, in general, because I don’t see this as a place for me to talk about me as much as a place to begin conversations of much more universal interest.
But marriage is an interesting institution, so I thought I’d share a brief thought about it – especially for those who have already written to me, confused about how and why I’d choose to do something as “conventional” “bourgeois” or even “delusional” as legally and religiously sanctioned bonding. So I’ll tell you.
Yes, I understand that marriage is a social construction. I don’t think it’s a God-ordained institution or even a pre-existing human drive. I don’t think we are born to be wed, or paired, or anything.
And yes, I do understand that marriage may have begun as a means of social control by the church. I also agree completely that the ideal of romantic love was invented by the Troubadors and their contemporaries. If anything, it’s all this that allows me to, even encourages me to tie this virtual but real knot, now.
I believe we make our own reality, to a great extent. It’s at the core of the ‘autonomous thinking’ that I’ve been arguing for all this time. So the institution of marriage is very much what we want it to be. If what we want it to be is anything close to what society says it wants marriage to be, then we have a built in support system. People see marriage as a ‘true’ union, and something allows two people to reach unprecedented levels of intimacy. So far, in my engagement of six months, I’d have to say that the commitment does act as a doorway to something else.
What does an ‘official’ ceremony of commitment do that a simple agreement over dinner can’t? Nothing, necessarily. But it’s a highly developed and culturally precise way of creating a “set and setting” – that is, the mindset and focus that helps keep any spiritual or adventurous journey on its intended track; and the environment or situation most conducive to the work and play ahead.
Aboriginal cultures familar with ‘vision plants’ usually engage in the use of these substances in the context of a well-practiced ritual – sacred rites. Much of America’s bad experiences with psychedelics have been blamed on our lack of a sacred or ritualistic context for their appropriate use. A kid in the back of a van with his drunk friends is less likely to have a positive or enriching acid experience than a kid taking peyote in a five-centuy-old intitiation ritual with his father and grandfather.
I’m looking at the uncharted turf of my future relationship in much the same way. The ‘permanent’ commitment of a marriage says, to me, that we’re going to go through this thing, together, and that this new ‘top level command’ in our shared program will allow us to make a kind of progress we couldn’t otherwise make. There is now a given, and this given permits us a great deal more latitude, not less. We can say and be who we are, a bit more every day, without fear of scaring the other off. That’s really the object of the game – like we promise in the ketubah/vows we wrote each other: “I will help you to be more you.”
And if getting married means joining a few million other people who have engaged in this social construction, so much the better. Just because so many people do it, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And the massive popularity of the institution empowers it with an energy that can be exploited in any number of unexpected ways.
So, no. I don’t really believe in marriage or true love. But I believe in recognition – in recognizing something universal and real through a particular and chosen other person. I had that sense of recognition when I met Barbara – like looking through a window to a range of possibilities I hadn’t imagined before. It’s not unreal and fabulous – it’s real and fabulous. But to continue on this journey, a time-tested ritual and revered institution might provide a very useful set and setting.
I believe we can create marriage and we can choose to make someone our true love. And the more we stay aware of our complicity in these creations, the more creative we can be about them.
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