Tag Archives: Marriage

Zarathustra Speaks to the Stream

I’ve been away from this blog for a while but recently a few people have encouraged me to return to it. I thought I’d start with the big event that occurred during the haitus, which was to get remarried!

Long-time readers may remember a little piece of existential philosohy I wrote called Zarathustra Speaks to the Trees. Borrowing the main character of Nietzche’s famous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, it explicated my outlook on life at the time. For my wedding, I borrowed the wise man again to talk about love, marriage, and my relationship with my bride-to-be.

* * * * *

As Zarathustra was descending the mountain that borders the Lake of Blue and Silver, he heard a stream tumbling and playing down a rocky bed. It was such a joyous sound that he decided to visit the stream. 

Approaching, he called out, “Hail, friends!”  

“You call us friends,” replied the stream. “but most who come this way see only me, and not my companion. Perhaps you are the sage, Zarathustra, who is rumored to travel this land from time to time.” 

“I am,” said he, “but as for there being two of you–stream and stream-bed–it could not be more obvious. Stream, I could hear your laughter at a hundred paces, and there are few who laugh alone. I might even say that I hear the unique notes of love in your laughter.”  

“You are right about that, too” said the stream-bed. “In fact, we are to be married next week.” And then, after a pause, “Perhaps you would favor us with some advice for our life together, and pronounce your blessing?” 

“Tell me about yourselves first,” said the wise man. “Why do you love each other? And what does love mean to you?” 

The stream-bed spoke first. “She is my reason for being. Without her, I would only be a dry home for lizards and the insects they hunt.” 

“Without him, I would be a swamp,” she laughed. 

“Not so, my dear. You would find your way down the mountainside without me. But it is my joy to carry you to the Lake of Blue and Silver, where the sun dances by day and the stars are doubled at night.” 

“And carry me he does. He holds me so close that there is no space between us, yet I am always free to leap and play as I please.” 

“She fits me so perfectly and covers me so completely that I want for nothing, yet she is so clear that I can always see the sky.” 

“I am not always clear,” she said to Zarathustra. “Sometimes I carry sediment that falls into him like slow tears. He receives it in a quiet, peaceful place and I am able to leave it behind.” 

“When I am down,” he said, “when I plunge most steeply, she becomes more beautiful, sometimes even becoming a misty rainbow. Invariably, I recover soon after.” 

“But most of the time,” said the stream, “we just enjoy life together, as we were doing when you arrived.”   

“You seem well-matched,” said Zarathustra. “What do you see in your distant future?” 

“I am going to the Lake of Blue and Silver,” said the stream. “There is a star that we have chosen together, and when I have come to the place of my resting, I will hold the reflection of our star in my heart forever.” 

“I do not know how my journey ends,” said the stream-bed. “It is not my nature to move as easily as my love, nor is my destination as well-determined. Whatever happens, it is enough for me that she holds our star. 

“And now, Zarathustra, perhaps you would give us your counsel and your blessing?” 

“I shall address you first, my rocky friend. You have great strength, but a stream-bed without a stream is just an obstacle. You have well said that the stream is your reason for being. As long as you act from that principle, you will bless not only her, but everyone who travels this way–yourself, too, for her lovelines and clarity will become the lens through which you see the world. 

“Stream, your task is easier. Your nature is to refresh everyone you touch, and at this you will succeed without any effort at all. However, if your husband is wise, he will offer spaces in which you may multiply your loveliness: cool, shady pools in which you can become deeper; rocky, winding courses where you can frolic; and tranquil expanses where you can spread out and reflect the sun. Enjoy them all without fear, for he loves you.  

“My blessing for your marriage is this: May rock guide water so gently, and may water carve rock so tenderly, that your growing harmony will seem at once miraculous and inevitable.” 

Thus spoke Zarathustra. 

* * * * *

For our first anniversary, in August of 2019, I commissioned this painting. Zarathustra was from Persia, which was centered in what is now Iran, so I was thrilled to find the Iranian artist Sahar Ghavimi living in a town near me. She painted it in the style of a traditional Iranian miniature.

The caption is a translation into Farsi of a line from the story: her loveliness will become the lens through which you see the world.

Same-Sex Marriage vs Tradition

In the last post, we heard from from John Trandem, interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition. If we were to legitimize same-sex marriage, he said, “how would we .. be able to exclude [marriage between] two men and two women or three men or three women…?”

Marriage between one man and one woman, he pointed out, has two things going for it that these other variations do not: biology and tradition.

The last post was about biology. Now let’s talk about tradition.

We can presume that when conservatives in America cite “tradition” they mean Judeo-Christian, or biblical, tradition. This is the tradition on which conservatives like to say our counry was founded. Okay, then.

Like the argument from biology, the argument from biblical tradition has a nasty way of curling back to bite those who trot it out.

For starters, biblical tradition is firmly rooted in polygamy. The Bible mentions two wives of Moses. Abraham had an unkown number of concubines (second-class wives) in addition to his wife, Sarah. I won’t mention Solomon, who had 700 wives, because the Bible does say that kings should not get carried away like that. His father, king David, was a monk by comparison, having only 7 wives, plus maybe a couple of others that are in dispute.

But what could be greater evidence of the polygamous root of Judeo-Christian tradition than the fact that the very 12 tribes of Israel descend from Jacob’s four wives?

The predominantly Mormon state of Utah was not allowed to join the United States until it agreed to outlaw polygamy. Where were God’s culture warriors when this abridgement of biblical norms was being foisted on patriotic Americans?

In addition to wives and concubines, Hebrew men were free to have sex with their slaves. In the chapter of the Bible that immediately follows the Ten Commandments, we find God’s regulations for sex slavery. A man could sell his daughter to a fellow Hebrew, who was then under obligation to continue to have sex with her (presumably so she could have the honor of bearing children) even as he married additional women. Alternatively, he could sell her back if she did not “satisfy him” or he could give her to one of his sons if he chose.

Now there’s a nice family value: Have sex with your servant-girl and then give her to your son for more of the same.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wife gave him a hard time for fathering a child by his housekeeper, where was the outcry from conservatives? (The outcry against his wife, I mean.) Why didn’t traditionalists support Arnold as he upheld the proud biblical tradition of impregnating one’s servants? He was even a Republican, for cryin’ out loud! It’s shameful how people won’t stand up for the Bible.

No study of the wondrous variety of marriage arrangements in the Good Book would be complete without mention of the final, glorious act of Moses, the great Law-Giver of Judeo-Christian tradition. This was to direct the distribution of 32,000 virgin war-captives to his soldiers and sundry others. As recorded in Numbers 31, these girls were parceled out exactly like the cattle that were also taken as “plunder and spoils” of war. It is stated at least 4 times in this chapter that Moses did all this in accordance with God’s direct command (verses 25, 31, 41, and 47).

Numbers 31 does not tell us whether any of the virgins got to update their Facebook status from “plunder” to “wife.” We can only hope. If they did, Deuteronomy 21:10-14 gave God’s instructions for how the Hebrew men were to arrange the marriage — and terminate it at will if the girl whose parents and brothers had been slaughtered by her new husband’s army does not manage to “please him” sufficiently.

We have all been horrified by ISIS’ enslavement and plunder of women in recent months, or Boko Haram’s practice of capturing girls and marrying them off to their soldiers. Why won’t advocates of “traditional marriage” speak up and tell the rest of us that ISIS and Boko Haram are acting exactly as God commanded in the Bible?

Never mind; I know the answer to that one. It’s because it’s bad when Muslims do it, but God’s righteous judgment when those in our spiritual tradition do the same thing.

By the time of the New Testament, the Jews were subject to Rome and were in no position to wage war and get wives by capturing them. However, polygamy was still practiced among both Jews and early Christians. In fact, it was pagan Rome that finally outlawed the practice.

So maybe it is Roman tradition that opponents of same-sex marriage really want? Probably not.

Maybe tradition is not all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe we’re better off thinking for ourselves.

Valuing Love Itself

I started this post all wrong. I was looking for a certain quotation about love, but opened my Kindle to the wrong book — one about computer programming. I searched for the word love, and up came the dedication page:

For Ann Marie: The ever enduring love of my life.

Not the quote I was looking for, but what do you know!? Even software engineers have love at the center of their lives.

Next, I opened the book I had intended to open. It has a high-sounding title, Ethical Empowerment: Virtue Beyond the Paradigms, but it, too, has love at the center:

One of the key arguments of this book is that the basis of morality and its ethical conceptualizations concern nothing less than universal love. (Kindle location 282.)

Although love is at the center of everything from a software developer’s heart to a philosopher’s ethical system, we sometimes value everything about love except love itself.

As the father of six children who range from 18 years old to 29, I have had the pleasure of seeing romantic love, in particular, bloom in many forms. It has not always unfolded according to the prescribed sequence of boy meets girl; they become friends; they go on dates; they get engaged; they somehow survive the planning of a big wedding; they get married; they wait a few years to have kids; they have children of their own; and the cycle repeats.

In fact, it has never unfolded like that. At least not yet, but with 6 kids anything can still happen.

So what’s a parent to do when his or her children don’t follow the traditional path? (A path that is more fiction than tradition, but that’s another story.)

I’ll tell you what I do. I enjoy each flower of love for what it is. If it’s toxic, I might say so, but I need to be sure that the toxin is really in the flower, and not in my own ideas about the flower. That is very rare.

Far more often, each flower is beautiful in its own way. If my children are experiencing love, I can be happy for them — especially if they are doing so on their own heart-felt terms and not on someone else’s agenda. As I said, let’s value and enjoy love itself, rather than everything else about it.

Just the fact that love occurs at all is amazing and beautiful, isn’t it? Who would have thought that particles of matter could float through the universe for billions of years, be cycled through exploding stars, coalesce into a planet, be coaxed out of the slime by Sun and Moon, come to life, and finally evolve to the point where they love each other?

The fact that we get to witness this is pretty sweet, too. I plan to enjoy it!