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PaceI've burned my firePace by squibblyquill
Though I still recall the flames;
Heart is merely an ember now,
Quiet, concentrated heat,
To light and warm the world around
Its humble aim.
I have lived my youth
And loved its follies
In my day.
But now the fruits of those follies
Are here to stay.
I am no longer a great star
Who burns wildly of her own substance
Despite the vast, cold vacuum of space.
I am but a light
That without oil and without air
Would surely lose the fight
To darkness' all-consuming face.
Even though dated, Denis de Rougemont’s Love in the Western World still has a lot to say about love, passion, life-long commitment, humanity, and marriage. In particular, his stance on Marriage as a Decision rings very true to me.
His argument already rests on the assumption that passion and the myth of true love boil down to a self-defeating misunderstanding antithetical to desirable and sustainable wedded existence. In short, “passionate love tends to grow like the exaltation of a kind of narcissism” (152). Why? Because deifying the finite is a kind of never-ending escapism from finite reality itself—chasing after the next perfect idol with no end to dissatisfaction, seeking perfection in the world of imperfection, and thereby turning an imperfect world into an empty vessel for one’s own egotistical striving toward transcendence. But of course, passion cannot and should not be denied its place in the scope of human experience. It is only necessary to understand that neither passion nor reason are the mortar that joins two loving, living finite beings into a shared journey of matrimony.
For Denis, what does it boil down to? Well, choice and loving commitment. Though he does not stress the word, ‘integrity’ would be a very apt description of his view of a flourishing relationship. Passion thrives on suffering and lack of attainment. A marriage is one of close proximity, intimacy, shared existence. To try and artificially produce a tortured passion within a marriage blindly casts aside and even stymies the valuable emotional bonds that sprout up through constant contact and a shared daily lot in life. And to expect reason to tell us which marriages are doomed to failure and which will be blessed with success from the outset also misses the point.
Passion and reason exist. But they do not seal a marriage, nor do they see it through. Only reciprocal conscious choice to love one’s spouse will do – not as an object of passion, merely, but as a whole human being in all his or her finitude. In this way, one’s spouse becomes one’s neighbor. The goal is about sharing a life, rather than finding utter transcendence in his or her effigy. And the stuff of it is integrity, not a calculation which demonstrates that two people are perfectly suited to one another. We humans are too dynamic, too complex, to whole, too…human for simple calculation to seal the felicity of matrimony. Nor does matrimony revolve around felicity. Rather the integrity is what provides the condition for happiness, as well as bolstering in times of unhappiness—the goal being a joint life where you honor your spouse by truly seeking his or her good, for better or for worse.
In today’s society we see both a reliance on rationalization and on passion as guides in the realm of partner and spousal relations. And while some passion and some reason are definite ingredients, especially in the outset and establishing of such an earnest bond; they are not what teach two people to love one another, and to recognize one another’s full humanity with each passing day. That…is simply a reciprocally honored choice, one requiring gusto, heart, and mutual integrity. I have seen this choice in many of my friends – especially in those who seem most happy in their relationships.
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