Noisy Water Review

I Do…Or Do I?

Carmen Green

The pure aroma of honeysuckle and pale yellow rose petals mingles with the warm California air, and the love inspired ambiance becomes infused with a sweet perfume. While the canvas canopy oscillates gently in the breeze, distant stars blur lazily with the string of twinkling white lights encompassing the grounds, and it appears that they have become one with the heavens; expanding indefinitely, forever. I sway to the music with a tingling champagne buzz that only a 13 year old can acquire with the tiniest taste during a wedding toast, and hand in hand with my aunt, I twirl about the dance floor. All inhibitions are cast aside as I am caught in these precious moments of bondage between two people. There is no negativity. Vibes of joy and togetherness envelope the vineyard setting entirely, and all I can think of is how I wish the night would never end.

The bride, my cousin, is radiant; an absolute vision in white. While she laughs animatedly and blushes with a happy glow, a photographer scrambles to capture each priceless moment, but I can’t imagine how this is possible. Everything is flawless. This new beginning is perfect. It is an exact vision of what most all of us are taught to believe from a very young age, for in almost all cases, the idea of marriage is one that is strongly supported throughout families. The idea of longevity and ‘forever’ is imprinted in our minds. It is one of life’s milestones that is so commonly practiced in our modern world, that for most of us, it is what we expect to achieve in our futures. I’ve been a flower girl six times, and a bridesmaid three times, and when I was young, had all the materials necessary to fuel my imaginative mind into generating the images of my big day.

As usual, the dreams and aspirations of a child fade. As I have aged, witnessing broken marriages and distanced couples, I begin to question the validity of a practice that can bring about such heartache and loss. I wonder about the sanity of those who enter into such an agreement; yet they must know that marriage fails nearly as often as it succeeds. Although I am still far too young to consider the idea of marriage personally, I find myself maturing into a skeptic. The clean, easy, romanticized, perception of marriage is one that I have always emulated, and there are religious groups that would argue that there is nothing more honorable. However, I cannot bring myself to fully come to terms with the concept of ‘always and forever’. What is it about the human nature that drives us to seek a life partner? Is it in fact natural at all to commit one’s life to another? Is it realistic to believe that love is designed to last until death do us part, or does that ideology conflict with our biological make up as human beings?

The desire to enter a state of complete commitment to a significant other gives me hope in humanity, in the way that there is something valuable and worthwhile about the concept of two people sharing their lives together. I do not dispute the views of many who would argue that marriage is a covetable act of love; especially the numerous religious groups. On CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network, J. S. Lang writes, “The Bible has a high view of marriage. It is to be a lifetime plan, not a convenience that can be disposed of in a lawyer's office. The love of husband and wife is...a hint of the deeper love between a human being and God.” Based on the extensive teachings of the bible, I cannot disagree with these statements. Christians believe that it is divine to love within marriage, and a sin to love outside of its bounds. They frown upon divorce, and enforce the idea that most any problem within a hurting marriage can be mended through dedication and hard work. They cherish strong family values, and I cannot by any means undermine the importance of being surrounded by loved ones. For people who go through life hoping to abide by religious standards, it makes perfect sense to find a mate with which to be faithful until the end of their lives.

While I do hold the views of the Christian thinker in high esteem, I still find myself questioning the realistic value of their expectations. What happens when the picturesque vision of marriage is shattered by infidelity, financial instability, or plain lack of passion?

Furthermore, what if the interpretation of the bible today is skewed from its original teachings? From a webpage dedicated to clearing up misconceptions about religious beliefs, author Brian Kelson states, “The Bible contains many accounts of Christian polygamy marriages...God does not condemn polygamy, never calls polygamy adultery, wickedness or a fleshly perversion.” He is referring to the numerous biblical characters who are known to have many wives. To name a few, there was Abraham, Jacob, and King Solomon, all prominent characters within the bible, all with multiple wives and concubines as well. As time progresses, the majority of people in America especially, have taken a strong distaste to such lifestyles. But a modern Christian with even the most firm of morals, would be in denial if they were of the understanding that monogamy is more in favor of God than polygamy; this is simply not consistent with the bible. Kelson later writes, “Forced monogamy is a failure for many and has brought about divorce deceit and hypocrisy in the Christian community.” On these grounds, I can say that the institution of monogamous marriage is one that is not directly extracted from the bible.

As has been the case for marriages in all eras, large percentages encounter tension and then failure. In the united states, 45% of first time marriages end in divorce. Second time marriages increase in failure to 60%, and by the third time, the percentage of divorce rises to a startling 73%. (3) These statistics are evidence of the ruin in which many marriages end in our modern day society. It is preferable to view marriage as the correct thing to do, a normality of life, or the calling of a higher being, but when facts point to its tendency to fail, I think it is important to question why. There are undeniably a plethora of factors that could determine the fate of a longstanding relationship, but there is one that may give explanation to them all. A heavily overlooked contributing factor to separation may be the biological make up of human beings.

Three years ago, at my cousin’s wedding, a pair of swans had been inhabiting the pond on the edge of the scenic vineyard. They preened majestically, floating across the pond’s glassy surface one beside the other; arching their feathered necks to form a heart-like shape between them. Because the property was often rented out as a wedding facility, the swans were brought there on purpose, I was told. Swans mate for life, and are the perfect romantic symbol to accompany the marriage of a man and a woman. In reality, the comparison of water fowl and human beings makes no logical correlation in the least.

In 2005, The National Geographic was one of many organizations to spur an investigation concerning the similarities between apes and human beings; a much closer match than humans and swans. What was reported by Stefan Lovgren is that through extensive research of both creatures’ genetical makeup, it was found that humans are 96% similar to the great ape species. (1) He went on to write, "We are apes in every way, from our long arms and tailless bodies to our habits and temperament." (2) Not mentioned in the same article, but a valid fact all the same, is that great apes, chimpanzees, and all manners of monkey-like creatures do not mate for life. Rather, they are said to mate purely for reproductive purposes, and have no emotional or long lasting attachments to their partners. A pair of great apes will surely never have the pleasure of attending a wedding, despite the fact that they may be biologically more fitting to represent human nature than a couple of swans.

This is not to be taken as an excuse for adultery, or a way of glamorizing divorce. What it does cause me to think, is that perhaps marriage should have never been so strongly established in the first place. If such a form of dedication had never been put in place, I believe that people would form more natural connections with one another that ended peacefully in due time rather than in shambles. In a popular online relationship journal, author Patrick Kole wrote, “the divorce rate alone in our society indicates people regularly fail at love.” I was captivated by this statement. To define love is absurd to me, because I believe each case of love is unique from the next. Further more, how can one ‘fail’ at love? If an individual’s feelings change toward their partner, why should that person attend counseling or adjust their own free will to accommodate the other? We have been conditioned to believe that it is as equally essential to live for our partner as it is to live for ourselves, but this concept may be bending the rules of nature.

In analyzing the inner workings of marriage, it is vital to look at how they were structured in our past; how our most raw and natural human forms took on relationships. Taking a look at a primitive form of society, the hunter-gatherers dynamic, author Christopher Ryan explores how they function in relationships in comparison to how people commonly do today. In fact, these types of societies do still exist in plenty, just not prominently in our country. He writes, “Hunter gatherers shared everything --food, child rearing, sexual partners.” Living in the most basic way possible, people in these groups do not practice fidelity, or closed relationships. They are practicing what is most natural at the root of human psyche. It may be the popular design of monogamous marriage that is in fact the strange; the unrealistic.

In even the most seemingly successful marriages, couples often reach a point where they must make decisions that could determine the outcome of their relationships. A couple with whom I am acquainted came to this dilemma recently. The man ran into the love of his past; a girl who he had planned to marry in his college years but geographical and financial issues had come between them. He ended up breaking faith with his current wife, but went through the process of couple’s counseling to return to the marriage and continue on its path. Today, he is still married, has a comfortable home, and a growing family. He is also distant and unhappy. It is blatantly wrong to lie to someone close to you, and having numerous partners is not exactly ideal. However, is it not also wrong to formulate all of one’s decisions based on how they might affect someone else? The amount of time and tradition that backs up marriage may give my view a negative or even ludicrous ring to it, but if you imagine society without marriage to begin with, you may see a world where people’s choices are made purely for their happiness rather than to satisfy regulations of the law. Marriage is an institution that places control over the feelings and choices of people, in way that I find unnatural.

In the world of today, marriage offers many benefits. Incomes combine to create comfortable living, joint bank accounts give security, and insurance policies and lease agreements are gracious. Not to mention, two people who care deeply about one another are able to share everything, including family.

Marriage also is a vehicle for arguments, estranged family members, abuse, and broken hearts. What if everything positive about a marriage could be achieved without the drawbacks? What if human relationships were simplified into a more natural basis, where individuals stayed when the feelings were right, and continued on with their lives when those emotions faded?

Christopher McCandless, a free spirited man known for his travels and wild adventures, once wrote, “Happiness is only real when shared.” He came to this realization moments before his death, after living a life greatly of solitude. I believe in this revelation completely. I believe that there are few instances in this life where company would not enhance an experience; create a whole new level of appreciation and joy. I think that to learn about somebody and to learn from them, is a gift that each of us should take advantage of, and that loneliness can cause unhealthy discontent. It would be a mistake to not involve loved ones in the journey of one’s life. But perhaps, it is vital to understand that this ‘happiness’ should be achieved moment by moment, and not be expected of each other from the beginning of a relationship. Perhaps human beings should accomplish contentment as individuals; not as one half of a marriage depending on one another for happiness.

Citations

Kelson, Brian. "Bible Polygamy." Polygamy of the Bible. 29 Nov. 2011. Web. 06 Dec. 2011. <http://www.biblepolygamy.com/>.

Kole, Patrick. "Divorce Rate In America." Divorce Rate : Divorce Rate In America. 12 Feb. 2011. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <http://www.divorcerate.org/>.

Lang, J. S. "The Biblical View of Marriage." CBN.com - The Christian Broadcasting Network. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/CBNTeachingSheets/ promises_marriage.aspx>.

Lovgren, Stefan. "Chimps, Humans 96 Percent the Same, Gene Study Finds." Daily Nature and Science News and Headlines | National Geographic News. 31 Aug. 2005. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/ 2005/08/0831_050831_chimp_genes.html>.

Palmer, Tamara. “Christopher Ryan Debunks Theory That Humans Are ‘Hard-Wired’ for Monogamy - San Francisco Art - The Exhibitionist.” The SF Weekly Blogs. 8 Nov. 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <http://blogs.sfweekly.com/exhibitionists/2011/11 christopher_ryan_sex_at_dawn_monogamy.php>.

Webb, Montgomeryy P. "What Is Love? - A Biblical View." What Is Love? - A Biblical View. The Church of the Love of Christ, 2001. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <http://www.loveofchrist.info/ church/love.html>.

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