Tag Archives: Love

Thoughts on Sex: On traditional patriarchy and Christianity

I’m calling it “traditional patriarchy” for lack of a better term. What I mean by it is a certain sexual code that conservative traditional societies generally hold by. From ancient Greece to modern Afghanistan to tribal Africa to nineteenth-century Korea, it is basically the same:

(1) Women carry the burden of sexual honor. Sexual abstinence before marriage, and sexual fidelity in marriage are honorable, but they are required of the woman only. You insult a woman by questioning her sexual honor — you insult a man by questioning his mom & sister & wife & daughter’s sexual honor. Women carry the sexual honor for the family.

(2) Men, on the other hand, are expected to sow their wild oats in their youth, and to have an occasional affair during marriage. As long as he doesn’t do it too much, his wife has no right to complain.

(3) Adultery only “counts” if the woman is married. In other words, a woman can cheat on her husband, but a husband’s extra-marital affairs don’t count as cheating against his wife. Because fidelity is one-way, men can often be polygamous. The women must be faithful to one man, the man does not need to be faithful to anyone.

(4) Because women carry the burden of sexual honor, female rape victims are often required/expected by society to commit suicide. Not that they are necessarily blamed for what happened, but their “honor” is “broken” and the way to restore your “honor” to your family is by your death. It’s not required all the time, but it is certainly admired (e.g. Lucretia’s suicide lauded/celebrated in Roman tradition).

The fact that this traditional patriarchy is across all cultures makes me suspect that it is inherent to human beings. It’s a bad thing and I hate it, but I think any society, given a few hundred years, has a high likelihood of evolving into traditional patriarchy. I don’t know why, but I suspect it will be around until the end of the world. The “progressive approach” (for lack of a better term) tries to bring back some gender-fairness by extending to women as well traditional patriarchy’s permissive sexual code for men. Women, along with men, should not have to bear the burden of sexual honor– nobody should. We can scoff at Traditional Patriarchy as “unprogressive”, but that won’t stop it (as darwinian-style, unprogressive societies outproduce progressive ones throughout history. Progressive cultures have a tendency to fade away, a dead end reproductively-speaking, hence they die out after a few centuries).

Anyways, Christianity has made various compromises/treaties with patriarchy, creating its own modified form of it. The first modification is to (1) transmute sexual honor/dishonor into sexual sin, because unlike dishonor, sins can be washed away by Christ’s blood. The second modification is (2) to hold men to the same standard. What Christianity attempts to do is also approach gender-fairness as the progressives have, but through the exact opposite of the progressive approach. Rather than extend traditional patriarchy’s permissive code for men to women as well, they try to extend patriarchy’s strict code for women to men as well.

Here is a sermon from a bishop in sixth-century France, when it was still a hodge-podge of the remains of the Roman Empire and Germanic tribes. His name is Caesarius of Arles.

Since [these men] want their wives to be chaste, with what kind of a conscience do they commit wicked adultery, thereby asserting that what is not lawful for their wives is perfectly licit for themselves? As though God gave two commandments, one for men and another for women! If anyone does this, let him tell us with what sanction he acts, for all adultery is punished by both divine and human law. This vice is not forbidden because many people commit it. In fact, the less it is restricted by men, the more severely it is punished by the divine Judge.

How is it that some men are so insolent that they say cruel vice is lawful for men but not for women? They do not reflect that men and women have been redeemed equally by Christ’s Blood, have been cleansed by the very same baptism, approach the Lord’s altar to receive His Body and Blood together, and that with God there is no distinction of male or female. ‘God is not a respecter of persons.’

Therefore, what is unlawful for women similarly never was and never can be lawful for men. However, the unfortunate practice has been introduced whereby a wife who is found with her man-servant is punished, but if a man wallows in the sewer of lust with many maids, not only is he not punished, but he is even praised by his associates. Moreover, telling each other who has done most of this sort of thing, they admit it with laughter and most foolish jeering. On judgment day their laughter will be turned into wailing, and their jests will be changed into wounds. But men who do this do not fear or believe at all in the future judgment.

— from Sermon 42, titled “A Reproof of Married Men Who Do Not Blush or Fear to Commit Adultery.” by Bishop Caesarius of Arles, 500s A.D.

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Diary Entry from a long, long time ago

This was a diary entry from a long, long time ago. It was too personal to post then, but enough time has passed that I think it is worth posting now, in the possible event that it might help someone in a similar situation. As you can see it was written in the middle of a complicated situation, and there was some hyperbole and over-the-top self-hatred in it, but also some truth in it too.

I’m trying to find my way out of this swamp. The air is thick with gases, and the light is growing dim. The bats are flying into my face, I’m damp and sticky from the sweat, and my stomach and my heart are sick.

What I have learned:

(1) I do not love people. I love my ideals of people. That is not love.

(2) I hurt people with my admiration and my disillusioned contempt/anger. That is not good for them.

(3) Sometimes, there is no ‘honorable way’ in a situation. Sometimes, you must realize that yes, whatever you do will be cruel, and part of you wants to be cruel, and you don’t want to be that way, but there is still no option open to your action that will not be tainted to some degree by dishonorable motives. (e.g. desire to change another human being and ‘have’ them, desire to possess, desire to be flattered, desire to let them feel the way they made you feel–which is pain). In such messy situations, forget about your own honor. That too must die. Just do what will cause others (and yourself) the least damage, the least harm. Sometimes the least-harm option is also the more-pain option. So be it. Better they suffer now in heartbreak, then end up a miserable adulterer or divorcee later.

Anyway, in the long run, that option will probably be more pain too. You know….calculating eternity into the mix.

God help me. I’m so tired. I don’t understand why I am in so much pain. I am ashamed I am a leach who lives off the kindness of others, the friend who is the charity case. So be it. Give me strength, my dear God.

Lessons from my father

I think I was six or seven years old. My father did a one-man skit, of a compassionate girl giving her bubblegum to a boy who told her how sad he was, and how she should give him her bubblegum to make him happy, so she did.

Then my dad informed us that the boy was bad, bad, bad. That boys who try to make girls feel sorry for them so that the girl will give them something are bad, bad, bad.

Variations of the skit were played over the years. I also dimly remember one where the boy tried to get the girl to load the dishwasher for him. I think this time he wept dramatically with his face in his hands. The message was the same.

That if a boy ever tries to make you feel sorry for him, run, run away. Never let yourself feel bad for a boy who is trying to make you feel bad for him, because he is just trying to make you do things for him! He is bad. Only evil boys try to make girls feel bad for them. Never trust those kinds of boys.

I had that duly burned into my young brain long before I hit puberty. It wasn’t till much later that I realized what my father was really driving at. It was years later, while I was trying to talk someone out of dating a guy who had convinced her how pathetically sad he was. “But he’s trying to make you feel sorry for him!” I protested, convinced it made my point. It didn’t. She had a tender heart. Of course, the guy took it and broke it.

Pity is a sacred thing. It is so easily twisted into abuse, especially abuse of the innocent and the young. Guard what is sacred, carefully.

On “Christian” Love and Staying in Abusive Relationships….

When it comes the the tumultuous and tricky realm of the heart, people often mask as Christian heroic love what is actually fundamentally selfish.

 

You know, the “spiritual” and “devout” guy who emotionally flirts with all the adoring girls in his biblestudy because he is “showing Christian love” (or worse “being Christ”) to them. Or the girl who stays in an abusive relationship (enabling the guy’s violence/abuse of her) and claims she is being “forgiving” and showing her boyfriend “Christian love.”

 

In both cases, it isn’t really love, because love does what is good for the other person. The flirting biblestudy leader isn’t helping the girls’ faith, he is taking advantage of their emotional religious feelings and breaking their hearts. And the battered woman is actually helping to destroy  and damn the man she claims to love, by remaining in the relationship, and hence enabling him to be an (emotional and physical) abuser, rapist, and (quite possibly) eventual murderer. If she really loved him, she wouldn’t want him to be a rapist and a murderer, so she would get out and walk away. For his sake.  They claim to have “Christian” love…. but what kind of love just makes yourself into a hero and destroys your alleged beloved?

 

That is not Christianity. It is actually just an excuse, for one’s own ego, one’s own sense of security, one’s own dysfunctional needs and psychological bonds.

 

Also, no one, absolutely no one, has the “right” to “atone” for their own “sins”. You are not a spotless lamb. Only the suffering of a spotless lamb can atone for sins, and that spotless lamb is Christ. NEVER NEVER NEVER even think that you should make yourself suffer for anything you did.

 

No one “deserves” abuse from a partner, no matter what they have done. Ever. You never “have to” marry someone, no matter what you’ve done. Do not make yourself suffer, do not let yourself be abused.

 

Do not try to “atone” for yourself.

Christ atoned.

We just have to follow Him.

Journal entry from 2 years ago

Last Saturday during the family reunion, I skimmed/read my way through “Manning Up” by one of those neo-feminists who attack modern ‘manhood’ and the hooking up culture. It was quite convincing, but the chapter about love and darwinism gave me a lot of undefinite emotions/thought-feelings that I couldn’t explain when asked.

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Anyway, that Saturday night after going to bed, I found myself sobbing for a few minutes. I realized I was crying about all that, all the miscarriages of what could have been love, all the cynical hookup and jockeying for elite partners kind of stuff that has to do with status/degrees/money/jobs/etc in a modern urban jungle of swinging singles in big cities….it hurt so much. Stripped of all its sanctity, history, everything…..it was so empty for them you just had to cry for them.

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Miscarried children is a different pain than other people who die on you. It is supposedly quantitatively less because you didn’t “know” them…yeah right….it is true time-wise it is shorter (you don’t have a million anniversary/object/place reminders of a memory with them)….but the pain is of a qualitatively different anguish….much worse, a kind of pain BECAUSE the very thing you lost was so very immaterial, such a big potential that never was….hah, if the pain of an extinguished beloved light is bad, what about the light that didn’t even get lit, but was almost, and you dreamed of its light, and it was half-there and then not? Far far worse. The in between zone causes an intense kind of anguish precisely because it is in the ill-defined middle area. It was not just an immaterial dream to be forgotten, neither was it a concrete reality to be remembered. The child that was and wasn’t, and the mother cries and nobody understands.

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That is how it is with these people with 100 hookups and a half-dozen failed semi-serious (e.g. shacking up, open relationship, friends with benefits, starter marriages) ‘relationships’. None of it was ever really love, all hormones and status/life/career calculations and varying levels of false dreams and projections and the hypnotism of romantic infatuation (the stuff genuine relationships start with, but then moves past to reality and the real thing). But for these people, there isn’t really even a true relationship to grieve. They have done Lucretius very very well, and “Venus’ troublesome sore is well-lacerated with promiscuous attachments”. But somebody has to grieve, grieve for all these griefs, grieve for the guys who were never men, cornered into their couch and videos and porn and lifestyle, girls who are never wives, but strained partners all calculation and career with the botox or the pancake to cover the wrinkles and are so liberated they submit bikini shots on internet dating sites for inspection; because we are all so modern we are all meat and worship/treasure nothing, not even ourselves.

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So I cried. The tears kept coming. Someone has to grieve for these ‘miscarriages’, for these failures of potential that could have been and never were. I found myself talking out loud in the darkness, “they do not ‘just want sex or status, money, etc’….any more than an alcoholic ‘just wants liquor’”. I repeated that to myself three times crying, “they do want love, they just don’t know”.

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The alcoholic doesn’t just want liquor…no, the alcoholic wants to forget, forget that he might’ve abused his daughter, that his ex-wife’s life is a mess, that his father died in the cancer ward without reconciling with the family…..that there is no certitude, no peace, no beauty, no help from pain, and we are on a darkling plain...

Freedom from shame, seeing Beauty/Ultimate Good in reality, eternal love, the Holy Ghost….that is what he really wants, though he may not even know it himself, because as a child sitting on the chipped porch steps alone no one ever taught him half the words, and the other half was forgotten/deaf/bleary by all the injuries to his being that Others and himself have done to him over the years.
Freedom. Dignity. Peace. Goodness. Love. The simplicity and sanity of it all. Our deepest cravings never change, all of us, all of us children.

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But we have all violated ourselves and eachother, and nothing is clear, all higgledy-piggledy and scar tissue and upside down. So the girls run after Romance, and the boys after Carnality, and all is thrill…and all is consumption and disgust and compromise.

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It was all so simple in my head last Saturday night, and of course here it looks all melodramatic and me soapboxing. But it wasn’t like that that night. I didn’t really argue or reason, I just wept, and felt…I know this is going to sound weird….felt another breath within mine. God’s breath. It was there in my lungs too. Whether he was breathing into me, or sobbing with me, or both, I don’t really know. But this thought went through my head “Where human grief is, there is God’s breath also.”

It made sense at the time, though it’s a bit less coherent now.

Postscript on “Marriage”

Two thoughts:

To explain the unconditional love and unconditional respect thing in another way:

A husband must love his wife, and steadfastly value her preciousness, her inestimable worth even when she does not, and despises herself. Even when she has such a low self image that she lets other people use her, or when she won’t ‘get over’ her depression and keeps eating and won’t groom herself and keeps making negative comments and is a mess.

Likewise, a wife must steadfastly believe in her husband’s integrity, even when he does not believe in himself anymore. Even when he considers himself a failure, or doesn’t have it in him to do what is right and just and good. When he is despairing, and is tempted to cave or cow or compromise to evil. Even when he has, to believe in the man he once was and may be again.

Indissoluble Marriage and all that

Girls are far, far too easy on a guy when dating. They put up with so much. And then they are too hard on him when they are married, so that is over, and everyone goes looking for another one, and….. girls just end up having to take a lot of disrespect/abuse/junk.

Dissoluble marriage is the problem.

Indissoluble marriage. It sounds too rough–doesn’t it? Indissoluble. Yeah, if he hits you or cheats on you, then you might have to separate, maybe even permanently, if he’s dangerous. But you still have to…be true to him, be true to the love that you once had together, and not just pretend to forget and start over with another. Because…because…well, keep reading, I’ll try to explain.

Oh, and another thing. A man owes his wife love–unconditional love. Yes. It doesn’t matter if she gains 100 pounds or develops into an insufferable nagger or keeps the house an absolute mess or becomes intellectually boring or goes crazy from post-partum or turns out to be less than completely sexually pure or faithful. She deserves your unconditional love regardless. You owe it to her. No one else owes her that, but you do. It’s you and Christ, the two of you are in this together, to love her unconditionally. You gave your oath to, no one forced you. That is what all those lines mean in the oath, “for richer or poorer,” “in sickness and in health,” “for better or for worse.” Unconditional love is love that demands no conditions–love that chooses to remain steadfast, no matter what happens, to the death.

You chose this terrible burden, to love another human being as only God can.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her…

(and for those unfamiliar with the biblical background: the allegory of Christ married to his church-bride is from the book of Hosea where she is a CHEATING wife, with hundreds of lovers, and he still takes her back and loves her anyway.)

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And a wife owes her husband unconditional respect. Yes, unconditional. It doesn’t matter if his IQ is lower than you, or he keeps making embarrassing social faux-pas, or he made the most retarded investment decision with the family savings, or he fails and his career goes up in smoke, or runs afoul of social norms and is despised by everyone else, and the two of you have to live in a trailer home in a backwater.

Unconditional respect. You choose to respect his judgement, even if it means poverty or embarrassment.

Life has plenty of hardship, and it has moments of crisis, that are like the landing beaches on D-Day. The confusion and the smoke, and risky decisions must be made, at moments of uncertainty and crisis. The two of you are in this together: you are a platoon. You talk, you strategize, you make plans, and then you run through crossfire following the plan.  But like a platoon, there will be times of disagreement, and in the end, like a platoon trapped in a battlezone, someone has to ‘make the call’, and decide the plan of action. A vote isn’t going to do it–it’s a 50%/50%–so you must respect his judgement, not because it’s better than yours (it probably isn’t…), but just because he is your husband. Unconditional respect. And you must accept that in times where you cannot agree and he just won’t listen, you must ‘submit’ to him by deferring to his judgement. (Of course, as his first adviser, you are there to give your urgent or fierce council when he is tempted or swayed by evil. And you are also there to tackle him if he is doing something evil, you must not let yourself be morally degraded, and you must protect the innocent, even if that means turning him over to the law.) But short of those emergency measures, you must respect his judgement. This isn’t about being his chattel. It is about the two of you–and only the two of you–a small platoon against all dangers and hardships, taking on the world together.

You must give him your unconditional respect. You must choose to believe in his integrity, through hell and high water, and financial/social/career failure.

I passionately hate the current, ‘christian’, conservative standard of marriage, which runs as thus: the woman has to pretend to be dumb and pretty, and the man has to…bring home the bacon.

It is just dressed-up prostitution. She’s snagged her man, her social status, the ring on the fourth finger. And for the man….he must achieve, he must provide, and if his career banks or he is out of a job, somehow…his wife is justified to…leave him. Because (as some Christian elders explained) it is “financial abandonment.”

That is not marriage. That is concubinage–when the woman can take her services elsewhere because her longtime client isn’t paying up anymore.

Look at the ancient oaths.

Your oath didn’t say, “To financially provide, to give status and respectability, till this contract is violated”

It said “to love and to CHERISH.”

Cherish. To treasure, when everything, everything, else is lost.

That is why you shouldn’t put up with a guy who doesn’t treat you right.

Don’t coax him into swearing an oath he can’t keep.

If he isn’t steadfastly cherishing you now…do you really think he is capable of keeping an oath to you of cherishing you his whole life? If you love him–don’t do that to him. Do not burden him with an oath he is incapable of keeping. It is like giving an eager child a heavy glass jar of sauce to carry during the grocery shopping. It will end in a tearful child and annoyed store janitor sweeping up the glass: failure and self-recrimination. For his sake, just don’t.

If he is glancing longingly after other women now–do you really think he will be capable of sticking to his oath “forsaking all others, cleave only to thee as long as we both shall live”? Through the passion of his love for you, he can stay faithful, for…five years, ten years, fifteen? Like youth, passion-love dies through the course of time. Does he have the character to plod through the hard times, to choose to steadfastly cherish? If he doesn’t…then for his sake, just don’t.

Don’t promise something you can’t keep.

If you don’t trust his judgement now, do not swear an oath that promises to respect it.

If he makes you feel bad for speaking your mind now, or if he doesn’t take your counsel seriously…do you really want to sign up as his Chief Council? It is your job to advise, but if he doesn’t listen, to obey.

I know, impulsive love will promise all things, will jump off the Niagara for someone. Of course–but even the love that is willing to leap in front of the bullet for the beloved–even the passion that would give up everything–is not enough. That is not as hard as sticking by, through dullness, humiliation, and bitterness in those long-drawn out years when things go wrong–when his aged mother is going through debilitating strokes and all the unresolved issues of his childhood are putting him through so much pain that he starts acting like a jerk, or when he is in a mid-life crisis, or when when your adolescent acts up and you wish your husband had been a better father to your wild son, or when you are tired of being confronted with your own shabbiness with how you’ve acted over the years and you just want to run away from it all and forget your own failures and shames, and you are tempted to run off and start over fresh with an adoring lover, where you can be the hero again.

Amid the joys, there will be times when life is just hard. Grinding, waterless, aching muscles kind of hard. Are you willing?

It is possible. Monks have obeyed their cantankerous superiors, and Marines and military platoons have proved that it is, indeed, possible to give unconditional respect, to the end. But it is going to be hard. Are you willing?

It isn’t a question of, ‘do you love him enough?’. With marriage, it is a question of, do you respect him enough? Respect him enough to be his counsel through the decades ahead, to be his counsel, but defer to his judgement? Do you respect him enough to trust his judgement–for decades? Do you respect his integrity enough to give up your freedom to him, and trust he will not abuse it?

Do you? Because a marriage oath is a terribly dreadful thing to swear, and you’ve got only one chance at it. If it goes wrong, you’ve promised to endure the suffering for decades–be it emotional strain in an unfulfilling relationship, or years of separated celibacy.

So if he doesn’t cherish you enough now, or if you don’t respect him enough now…get out. Leave.

If you really love him, don’t try to be his saviour. You don’t have it in you. Leave him to God. God will save.

So stand up for yourself, woman, and walk out. Don’t take sh*t from a guy. Just don’t.

Because you have only one chance to give yourself with a lifelong oath. And then you have to love and respect no matter the personal cost.

That is the problem right now. Girls get abused so much by guys, because they let him. With a 50% divorce rate and even the old Roman Catholic Church dispensing annulments rather freely, the enlightened twentieth century has destroyed the indissolubility of marriage.

It was supposed to save women from being trapped in indissoluble marriages, having to endure mistreatment from their husbands. Every few years another historical movie/novel comes out and all the divorcees at the local book club duly express their gratitude at being born female in the twentieth century.

But instead, it means girls are just that much more likely to take disrespect/junk/abuse from a guy. Now, we will move in, we will undergo the trial period (living together), as we hope desperately for the ring, cut capers and pass tests in order to earn the guy’s much anticipated ‘commitment.’ In order to ‘earn’ his conditional love.

There was a time when the general idea was that the girl was on a glass mountain, and the guy had to ride around doing exploits, answer the ancient riddle, and risk his life to get her hand in marriage. She did nothing. Why? Because we well knew all she would do and suffer afterwards.

There was a time when courtship was about the man proving he was good enough. Courtship was the man’s ‘trial period’–when the girl gave him nothing, and he had to prove to her and her kin that he was capable of steadfast devotion, that he was worthy of her oath of unconditional respect. Then, and only then, did she deign to accept his oath and give hers, to keep through all suffering, come hell and high water. These old and quaint structures were there for a reason: it works better. They let you know what you were getting into, to discourage all those who were incapable of it (note the pile of dead suitors at the bottom of the glass mountain).

We threw unconditional respect and indissolubility out the window a long time ago (conservative Christians too). It was supposed to make things better for girls, they claimed.

But it just shifted us into the “concubinage” mode, where love is nothing but a contract with conditions, that can be terminated if the boxes aren’t checked. Where all love–even the most intimate, bonding, personal love–is still conditional.

And so now in our modern era, girls are just having to put up with a lot more junk.

My all time favorite poem

Hopkins is comparing our lives to a journey, as we wander through a dark marsh, each carrying our own lantern. As we walk, we meet others along the way, and there is friendship. But then they walk ahead of us, and we lose them:

SOMETIMES a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?

Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.

Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.

Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.

The point of all love is the good of the other person. For them to be fully and beautifully their true self, in all their quirks and dearness, a kind of consummation of their true being, in the heart of God. It is not about us and them, it is about them and God. So it is OK that we lose people on this earth. They are not meant for us. They are meant for God. He will keep all the promises we broke, and He will fulfill all that is lost. They shall be happy in God, truly and fully themself, with joy and holiness. That is all that matters.

Falling in Love

You know that first falling-in-love-ness….not the romantic attractions of desire and flattered ego….I’m talking about the other part.

The absolute, dizzying wonder at their very existence. Their very personality with all its quirks, their character with all its decency/kindness/goodness, the workings of their mind, their personhood, their being itself…

The glory of their very being.

And you are lost in wonder at it, at the bigness of the whole beautiful universe that their existence has opened up to you.

And you feel like you are falling off a cliff–

—-that weightlessness of free fall, the wind rushing up!

This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with our sexual nature. It is an adoration of the soul, one can feel for anyone. Friendship has alot of it. Perhaps more so than sexual love, because with friendship, it has the potential to be unconstrained and free, a forgetting of self and undemanding in a way that sexual love just cannot be.

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Now to reveal my sappy corniness….I think one of the best moments in film that captured it was a montage in How to Train Your Dragon, of Hiccup and Toothless getting to know eachother. It is wordless, and you see them getting to know eachother as the sun rises. Go watch the film for that. This is the soundtrack to that scene (the scene starts at the 2 minute mark)