Category Archives: marriage

Submission is a Risky Business!!!

Being submissive is part of being a human being.  Something as simple as subscribing to the social contract requires a submission to restraint, the failure to do so resulting in the problems our President demonstrates for us daily.  And submission is a fundamental tenet of most religions.  A friend reminded me this morning that Islam means “submission” and Muslim extremists have certainly taken that seriously!  And in the Christian faith we also see obvious examples of “submission” to God that has nothing to do with any “God” that I know of.

The problem with submission in these two religious traditions is that the word is not looked at closely, paralleling an equally grievous problem that the one looking at the word is not looked at closely.  By this I mean, when we approach religious tradition, we approach it with baggage and have the predisposition to interpret this tradition only in accordance with this baggage.  That means we will interpret it in terms of unconscious needs, many of which can be ambivalent at best and many just abysmally ugly.  Therefore, submission is often a “surrender” to an idea of God that is simple and self-serving and therefore subject to the abysmal darkness.

This notion itself puts on the table the essential dimension of spirituality that I’ve spent most of my life oblivious to.  It is complicated.  It is so complicated because it is a matter of the heart, a matter that addresses the inner most depths of our being which are totally beyond the grasp of simple reason, making it even beyond the grasp of this futile effort!!!  Approaching spirituality from this perspective is humbling because it requires realizing at some point…and this is tough to put into words…we aren’t even doing the approaching but it (i.e., It, or He, or She) is approaching us.  We are in the grip of a mystery, the mystery of life, and “submission” to this mystery will involve some daily surrender in which we understand that we don’t have any complete knowledge of what is going on but a firm conviction that there is “some method to the madness” of the life we are living and are witnessing others live, even in the cosmos itself.

Nikos Kazantzakis in his book, “Report to El Greco,” wrote, “We must surrender to a rhythm not our own.”  This mistake that many religious people is that they “surrender” or submit to ideas that are very much just the rhythm they already are and, calling it “God” allows their ego to take this delusion and practice their arrogance. This does not necessarily make them “bad” people.  It just makes them human.

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

Three Poems About Marriage

The following poem beautifully and, kind of darkly, describes the duress that marriage presents to two people who have opted to engage in the process of becoming, “one flesh.”  I like to think, facetiously, that marriage was invented by the gods just to torment mankind, forcing two diametrically opposed forces to live together under the same roof.  Traditional life has controlled the tension of this union of opposites by implementing overt power, defining the term “marriage” as a relationship in which the female would be subservient to the male.  Technically this subservience went to the extent that it deprived women of a subjective experience, that their desire should only be to please their husband. But women usually managed to get their pound of flesh in the relationship which Alfred Hitchcock beautifully and darkly portrayed in his movie “Frenzy.”  In this movie a psychopathic killer was on a rampage of grisly murder of young women and the stiff and proper police inspector was obsessed with stopping the rampage.  After a hard day at the office and on the streets looking for the killer, the poor police inspector would retire to the comfort of his home where his would wife would have dinner waiting.  However, as she dutifully and daintily presented an ornate and formal dinner, he would grimace as she had prepared food that he didn’t like or was given to him in minuscule portions.  In one scene, when she stepped back into the kitchen he hurriedly poured his soup out.  But all the while as he was tortured through these scenes, she would be so delightful, loving, and gracious and he would respond in kind.

Here is a narrative poem by poet Anne Carson in the most recent edition of The New Yorker Magazine.  It is quite witty and pointed:

We really want them to like us. We want it to go well. We overdress. They are narrow people, art people, offhand, linens. It is early summer, first hot weekend. We meet on the street, jumble about with kisses and are we late? They had been late, we’d half-decided to leave, now oh well. That place across the street, ever tried it? Think we went there once, looks closed, says open, well. People coming out. O.K. Inside is dark, cool, oaken. Turns out they know the owner. He beams, ushers, we sit. And realize at once two things, first, the noise is unbearable, two, neither of us knows the other well enough to say bag it. Our hearts crumble. We order food by pointing and break into two yell factions, one each side of the table. He and she both look exhausted, from (I suppose) doing art all day and then the new baby. We eat intently, as if eating were conversation. We keep passing the bread. My fish comes unboned, I weep pretending allergies. Finally someone pays the bill and we escape to the street. For some reason I was expecting snow outside. There is none. We decide not to go for ice cream and part, a little more broken. Saturday night as an adult, so this is it. We thought we’d be Nick and Nora, not their blurred friends in greatcoats. We cover our ears inside our souls. But you can’t stop it that way.  

And here Wendell Berry offers my favorite poem on marriage, vividly stresses and strains of two different forces of energy living in the constraint of committed relationship:

How hard it is for me, who live
in the excitement of women
and have the desire for them
in my mouth like salt. Yet
you have taken me and quieted me.
You have been such light to me
that other women have been
your shadows. You come near me
with the nearness of sleep.
And yet I am not quiet.
It is to be broken. It is to be
torn open. It is not to be
reached and come to rest in
ever. I turn against you,
I break from you, I turn to you.
We hurt, and are hurt,
and have each other for healing.
It is healing. It is never whole.

And here is W. H. Auden with a witty, facetious and playfully grim description of marriage.

If all a top physicist knows
About the Truth be true,
Then, for all the so-and-so’s,
Futility and grime,
Our common world contains,
We have a better time
Than the Greater Nebulae do,
Or the atoms in our brains.

Marriage is rarely bliss
But, surely it would be worse
As particles to pelt
At thousands of miles per sec
About a universe
Wherein a lover’s kiss
Would either not be felt
Or break the loved one’s neck.

Though the face at which I stare
While shaving it be cruel
For, year after year, it repels
An ageing suitor, it has,
Thank God, sufficient mass
To be altogether there,
Not an indeterminate gruel
Which is partly somewhere else.

Our eyes prefer to suppose
That a habitable place
Has a geocentric view,
That architects enclose
A quiet Euclidian space:
Exploded myths – but who
Could feel at home astraddle
An ever expanding saddle?

This passion of our kind
For the process of finding out
Is a fact one can hardly doubt,
But I would rejoice in it more
If I knew more clearly what
We wanted the knowledge for,
Felt certain still that the mind
Is free to know or not.

It has chosen once, it seems,
And whether our concern
For magnitude’s extremes
Really become a creature
Who comes in a median size,
Or politicizing Nature
Be altogether wise,
Is something we shall learn.

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

My “Skewed View of the World” and Marriage

Marriage has been so important to me, a gift from the heavens designed to penetrate my isolation and introduce me to reality.  When we married 27 years ago, I quickly realized just how skewed her view of the world was and at times wondered, “Now what in the hell have I gotten myself into?”  But almost immediately the first of many life lessons was on the table for me, “Lewis, look how skewed your view of the world is.”  That was disconcerting for I had been comfortably ensconced in my uncomfortable life of isolation and suddenly it dawned on me that my very view of the world was skewed, including my view of myself and of my wife.  This process of disillusionment is now a 27-year journey into the world of “reality” which my life experience had taught me to avoid, a “reality” made up of billions of people all with their own “skewed” view of the world.

Another way of approaching this phenomenon is as the discovery of “difference”, that the difference I had always known, superficially having achieved “object separateness” (more or less), extended much further than I had thought.  For “difference” included the realization that someone who I dearly loved and was devoted to, and thought I knew, was always beyond the pale of that ego-ridden cognitive apparatus through which I viewed the world, my ego.  Conrad Aiken described it this way, “We see only the small bright circle of our consciousness beyond which lies the darkness.”  Aiken realized that to engage meaningfully in any relationship is to venture into darkness, to recognize that one is approaching a “darkness” and that the approaching one is in turn a “darkness” in reference to the other.    Marriage, and any close relationship, might be described as two “darknesses” bumping into each other and beginning the process of venturing into another world, penetrating the barriers that each had set up to protect his/her splendid isolation.

“Difference” is a difficult phenomenon to comprehend.  For, if we begin to realize just how “different” another person is, it will entail the understanding and experiencing of just how profoundly alone we are in this overwhelming and incomprehensible void that we live in.  It will be venturing into and exploring the existential solitude that each of us is plagued with, a solitude which the owning and experiencing of can provide the only meaningful human connection.

So, how does “a hand reach across the abyss” and make contact?  Well, it requires body and soul, but the body is often the easy part as it provides physical intimacy and the various contrivances of culture–gender rules, sexual mores and sexual politics.  And these physical “contrivances,” though essential, can be an obstacle to true connection. For the soul part of the equation is more challenging as it will include language; for it is with words that we can reach across that abyss and learn that, “Hey, there is somebody out there.”  This involves “wrestling with words and meanings”  (T. S. Eliot) including…to put this in personal terms…who exactly is “Lewis” and who exactly is “Claire.” This entails understanding that to some degree I have no idea, for “I am not who I ‘think’ I am” and she is not who she “thinks” she is.  For, personal identity is not a rigidly defined quality; it is quite amorphous, and can never be captured with a mesh of words and conceptual formulations.  The individual, and the other person is always a mystery if there is to be a dynamic quality to the relationship.  Auden had this in mind when he posed the question, “Suppose we love not friends or wives, but certain patterns in our lives…?”

Marriage by Wendell Berry

How hard it is for me, who live
in the excitement of women
and have the desire for them

in my mouth like salt. Yet
you have taken me and quieted me.
You have been such light to me
that other women have been
your shadows. You come near me
with the nearness of sleep.
And yet I am not quiet.
It is to be broken. It is to be
torn open. It is not to be
reached and come to rest in
ever. I turn against you,
I break from you, I turn to you.
We hurt, and are hurt,
and have each other for healing.
It is healing. It is never whole.

A friend has proof read this posting prior to publishing and I’m going to include a poem that he shared with me in response to the Berry poem.

A love poem by Bertrand Russell to Edith Finch Russell (his fourth and last wife: )

To Edith

Through the long years
I sought peace,
I found ecstasy, I found anguish,
I found madness,
I found loneliness,
I found the solitary pain
that gnaws the heart,
But peace I did not find.
Now, old & near my end,
I have known you,
And, knowing you,
I have found both ecstasy & peace,
I know rest,

   
After so many lonely years.
I know what life & love may be.
Now, if I sleep,
I shall sleep fulfilled.

 

 

Being Tyrannized into Sexual Abstinence

Here is a powerful report of a young woman who as a ten-year old girl was subjected to a fundamentalist Christian ceremony in which she vowed to maintain her sexual maturity until her wedding night.  This report demonstrates how her parents, and the culture of her faith, tyrannized her regarding her sexuality at at time where, per her report, she didn’t even know what sex was, thought boys were “icky”, and loved having tea parties with imaginary friends.  Her parents, because of their own fears about sexuality, intruded into her innocence and the violation really crippled her when she did get married.

H. L. Mencken once cryptically noted, “The problem with abstinence is its over emphasis of sex.” Mencken acerbically noted that often an innocent dimension of life is over laden with fears of culture and problems that are certainly present to begin with in this important dimension of life are compounded by the “over emphasis.”

THE FOLLOWING IS THE REPORT OF THE YOUNG WOMAN:  http://www.alternet.org/i-took-christian-virginity-pledge-child-and-it-nearly-destroyed-my-life

Afterthoughts re Human Connection

Connection with other human beings, and even with the human race, is at first an unconscious phenomena.  With significant others we spend the rest of our lives finding out what these unconscious needs were and then we never find them out completely.  And any effort to find them out completely would be highly problematic and would jeopardize any relationship.  And I make this point because this “god complex” is often a problem with any mental health therapist!

“Suppose we love, not friends or wives, but certain patterns in our lives,” asked W. H. Auden. Human relationships are incredibly complicated and it is a marvel that any of us ever reach across the abyss that separates us and “hook up.”  Here is an Auden poem that address this issue, almost comically:

After Reading A Child’s Guide To Modern Physics – Poem by WH Auden

If all a top physicist knows
About the Truth be true,
Then, for all the so-and-so’s,
Futility and grime,
Our common world contains,
We have a better time
Than the Greater Nebulae do,
Or the atoms in our brains.

Marriage is rarely bliss
But, surely it would be worse
As particles to pelt
At thousands of miles per sec
About a universe
Wherein a lover’s kiss
Would either not be felt
Or break the loved one’s neck.

For entire poem, see the following link:  http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/after-reading-a-child-s-guide-to-modern-physics-2/

 

 

Ermines and Marriages

DOG AND MASTER
by Henri Cole

Consider the ermine—
territorial, noxious, thieving—
its dense fur whitening
when light is reduced.
Mesmerizing its victims

with a snake dance,
killing with a bite to
the back of the neck.
Born blind, deaf, and toothless,
the male is called a “dog,”

a roamer, a strayer,
a transcient. But huddled
in my arms for warmth,
with my fingernails
stroking his underbelly,

he forgets his untamable
nature. His rounded
hips shiver like mine.
In folklore, he holds the soul
of a dead infant; and in life

he prefers to give himself
up when hunted, rather
than soil himself. Thus is
civilization, I think, roughly
stroking his small ears.

But then suddenly
I’m chasing him around
the dining room screaming,
No, I told you, no! like two stupidly
loving, stupidly hating

creatures in a violent
marriage, or some weird
division of myself,
split off and abandoned
in order to live.

(Need I say more? Well, of course not. But that would never stop me so I’ll add one note: makes me think of the oft-quoted Auden wisdom, “We wage the war we are.”)

My Marriage and “Einfall”

Several times I have referenced my participation in a local reading group of Karl Jung. One of his notions is that sometimes the depths of the unconscious will spontaneously break forth into one’s consciousness, almost like an invasion. He used the term “einfall” for this experience. (I will include a link to some very witty, and insightful, cartoons about this experience.)

My “einfall” is still underway and has mercifully been piece-meal, my Source knowing that I could not take it all in one fell swoop like the Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road or Eckhart Tolle on a park bench. One pivotal event in this process was getting married which I blogged about yesterday, marriage definitely being an “invasion” into my pristine, narcissistic world of Paul Tillich’s “empty self-relatedness.” A very interesting anecdote illustrates the impact this marriage was having on me just about the time of our first anniversary in the spring of 1990. One beautiful, cool, dewy spring morning I discovered the first tulip bloom in our yard and I knelt down to pick it and take it to Claire. Immediately afterward a wisp of thought fluttered through my mind, “I don’t know if I was plucking or being plucked.”

A light bulb turned on in my heart. I didn’t know as much as I do now about object-relations theory and the subject-object distinction but I realized that this “wisp of thought” illustrated that my boundaries were in transition and that this was very much related to having finally gotten married, and to the “work” of marriage described so vividly in the Wendell Berry poem provided yesterday.

Now, let me share a related thought that later came to mind. Some clinicians hearing this report of “not knowing if I was being plucked or being plucked” would be alarmed and think, “Uh oh. Psychotic break approaching! Danger, danger, Will Robinson!” And, spiritual growth is a coming apart as with a psychotic break but for some mysterious reason…which I can only describe as the grace of God…I knew there was nothing to be alarmed about, that something beautiful was underway. “Coming apart” is necessary at some point in our life so that we can be reintegrated as a more authentic person than we thought we were. This is very much related to the pithy wisdom of Fritz Perls who advised, “Let go of your mind and come to your senses” for he knew that senses or “feeling” will provide the redemptive healing that all hearts need.

 

(NOTE: I could not capture the link for “einfall.” But if you will simply google “einfall” you will see a selection entitled “images of einfall” which you can open. It is very funny…and illustrative of the idea.  Also, the reference to “Will Robinson” was from a stupid 1960s sci-fi tv show, “Lost in Space.”)