Thursday, May 24, 2007


We in the West (and it seems as well part of the East too) have arrived at a strange view of marriage. It is this: the love that binds husband to wife is of a weaker and less valuable sort than the love that binds parent to child. We see evidence of this continually. Husband and wife divorce and no longer longer care about the good of the other (or perhaps care no more than they do about a mere acquaintance), and yet they still care about the children. Though they no longer feel responsibility for the other, they still feel responsibility for the children. (I know that there are exceptions to this. I mean to speak only in generalities, but they strike me as true generalities.)

Thus it seems as if divorce betrays a certain ugly truth about marriage in the West: the love of children is unconditional, but the love of a spouse is quite conditional (or at least the former is much closer to unconditional than is the latter).

Wherever this view is taken, it is a perversion. Within a family, there must be no distinction made as regards the strength of the bonds of love. Wife and husband should love another as much as they loves their children. Even when children are not present, the bond between husband and wife should be no less strong that the bond of parent to child.

Though parents do sometimes take this view, children do not. They love all in their family equally, and would be just as devastated by the loss of one as the loss of another. This I believe explains why divorce exacts such a heavy toll on children. For themselves, they would never choose to have their family split up. But it is chosen for them, and at the hands of another they suffer a loss of that which they value most. Moreover, since to a child the natural view is that family love - whether between parent and parent or parent and child - knows no condition, once that love has shown itself conditional in divorce, the child will inevitably wonder whether it will show itself conditional in the love the parents have for her. A bond that breaks once can be broken again, and a parent's reassurance to the contrary will ring hollow.

I do realize, of course, the divorce is in come cases a necessity. But we ought to recognize it for the great evil it is. It implies a profound lack of love by at least one spouse.

Since I've talked almost exclusively about the evil of divorce, perhaps I should end with a word or two about the good of marriage. As I've said many times at The Philosophical Midwife, I believe that we are for one another. This is our purpose. We are to seek our good, and the good of others, in the company of others, and we are to delight in their presence. We are to bind ourselves to others absolutely and unconditionally, and in this way and this way alone is our true felicity found. Marriage is thus a vehicle - indeed I would say the primary vehicle - through which the human good (at least on this Earth) is realized. So then let husband and wife make between them a bond unshakable, and let them thereby show that they are capable of the highest of goods.

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