We are windswept in 2022. Doors are slamming shut all about us.
We stand on an open, windswept plain, questions of the most intimate and critical nature swirl in a vortex — celibacy, friendship, marriage….
The storm has been raging for decades….
So it was, forty years ago, that I read what someone wrote, rather heavy stuff — and I pondered it too lightly, and not nearly long enough. I never forgot it.
In the tradition of Catholic Christianity, there is a tension between celibacy freely chosen as an image of God’s sacrificial life and marriage freely chosen as a different sort of image of that same love. Celibacy looks to the eschatological* meaning of that love, matrimony to its incarnational** meaning.
I never said it was light reading.
Secondly, friendship… is not alone a strong enough word to carry the meaning of marriage. The married have experienced other friendships. The friendship of marriage is of a different order indeed: searing, intimate beyond description, full of mystery and terror, excruciatingly painful, profoundly suited to our nature. ***
Now, that’s peculiar. Pain, suited to our nature. Hmmmm.
By the way, the above is from…
Michael Novak (1933-2017), Catholic philosopher journalist, diplomat, writing in the fall, 1981 issue of the journal Communio, which had been gifted to me and was devoted to the subject of the relations between the sexes. Novak’s contribution was entitled, “Man and Woman He Made Them.”
I’ve always enjoyed Novak’s writing. I think I mentioned elsewhere in this blog that I was once reading a slim volume of his, called. The Experience of Nothingness as I lay recovering from my first kidney stone episode in Doctor’s Hospital in Lanham, Maryland. I think the male nurse attending me was wondering, based on that title, about my overall mental state. Hope that a didn’t scare him. That was 1983, several kidney stones ago. I want no more stones. But I do want to understand the nature of our modern….nothingness.
And I read the treatise on men and women so long ago, forty -one years. Tom Brady was a toddler, probably barely able to throw a football. A Hail Mary was still just a prayer to his apparently Catholic parents. There was no super model spouse as yet to affirm to him that — Man and Woman He Made US.
But I digress, sort of. I like and admire Tom B. He’s my goal standard for what the average, decent and accomplished family man will accept and believe.
And, no matter how simply or complexly we put them, we no longer believe these things now. Or, many of us don’t. A Majority. Care to take a poll?
I don’t know what Tom Brady believes, for instance.
Footnotes on the above:
*Eschatology: From the Greek, eschatos (“last things”, i.e., death, resurrection, immortality), logos (“knowledge of”)
**Incarnation: The religious doctrine or belief that God will or has embodied Himself in human form.
***I first read this Novak treatise when I was 34. A son was born to me that fall.
I was not, nor have I ever been, married. Friendship is not marriage. Cohabitation is not marriage. Man and woman — woman and man, if you will — He made us. Parents are a man and a woman, and they are married, though they may be divorced. They have made a convenant. They have entered into a state implying obligations, toward one another, toward the children, to society.
They are a family. Modern philosophy is obsessed with the problem of the individual and the state. Novak feels we have, for the most part, “systematically” neglected the family and asserts that “human experience is primordially familial.” Mother, father, offspring.
I chose, back in 1981, as, ultimately, did multitudes, to try to stand apart from all this — to believe it in abstract, but not believe in necessarily was real or applied to me, or, God knows, everybody.
Thus He made us. Man and woman.
No, many longer believe this., if they ever did. We think we’ve moved on. This assumes God has moved on, too.
Celibacy. Friendship. Marriage.
You can chose God, or the Zeitgeist. Novak, Lord rest his soul, wrote, in that same piece….
The Zeitgeist (spirit of the world) is nearlay always both wrong and arrogant. The pendulum of history customarily swings too far. To find the just measure, it is wise to lean against prevailing winds.
But for now, we are windswept.
Hold onto your hats.
Or, if hatless, your souls.