Saturday, February 17, 2007

Questions of fidelity

It’s hot today, something like 95 degrees. I’m hoping Geoff and Isaac don’t speak to me because it’s too much effort to answer. I found myself sitting in front of the television watching an ABC documentary on sea lions and the hunting habits of killer whales; I was entirely too cranky to read. But with the little reading I did, from the Saturday’s Age, I was astounded.

In one part of the paper, the weekend magazine, I read an extract from a new book by a marriage therapist who suggests infidelity can be the best thing for a married life…hmmm. The book is titled “Mating in Captivity.” The article begins with the statement “The moment two people become a couple, they begin to deal with Boundaries – what is in and what is out…and the mother of all boundaries, the reigning queen, is fidelity.” My first thought was why can’t a lifelong covenant be the mother of all liberty – the liberty to grow and become more human in the face of the other’s resolute commitment of love. It seems to me her argument boils down to a defense of radical individualism. She argues that “my patients who adhere closely to this ethos of intimacy (building closeness) wind up feeling that their individual aspirations, or those of their partner, are no longer legitimate. The invincible we supersedes the puny I.” In addressing the “fantasy of infinite variety” as a given part of human nature, this therapist offers inviting alternatives into the marriage (like a third person or an affair), instead of overcoming inevitable temptation.

After that (and three glasses of water), I turned to another section of the Age, and read a very interesting article about product design and sustainability. This article is titled “To have and to hold on to”…hmmm.  In this piece, the author laments our fickle consumer habits and how quickly we discard an object for a new and improved model. With moral indignation, he frames our “adulterous consumption” with devastating statistics like “only one percent of all materials flowing through the US economy ends up in products still being used six months after manufacture.” The goal of these newly emerging “sustainable designers” is to come up with “emotionally durable design” in an attempt to encourage consumers to adopt a more monogamous relationship to things.

How about that? What are things coming to when, in the very same newspaper, two articles addressing entirely different areas of life – marriage therapy and product design – both speak directly about questions of fidelity and offer conflicting solutions to what ails us. So, for the integrity and sake of the environment, it is prescribed that we should have more lasting relationships with our things and practice contentment whenever possible. But when it comes to a suffering marriage, shopping outside the bounds of covenant might be the very thing to rejuvenate commitment.

I am no biblical scholar or expert of issues of faith and marriage, nor am I an authority on trends of consumerism and materialism, but something deep in me revolts as I read this. And then, I think of the covenant God, who throughout human history acts as a faithful spouse to a faithless people. It seems to me that the ways of Jesus turn our resolutions upside down and call us to a love that prefers the needs of others above our own.  It is a potently counter-cultural answer to our woes about fidelity, but I think it is the only one.


Maria Kenney said...

Absoltely fantastic post. It underscores the way in which traits like fidelity are either nurtured or negated across the whole of our lives, not just in one particular area. If we ascribe to "planned obsolescence" in our materialism, than it will surely creep into our relationships as well. Thanks for sharing this; I'm going to link to it.

We miss y'all so much!!!

geoff and sherry said...

hi maria - thanks for your comment. we are missing you too. it's a strange thing to be so fully present here and loving it and yet long for home and the familiarity it brings. i wish you could all be here with us, if only for a day at the beach...i'll miss you all so during the women's retreat. have fun.

Maria Kenney said...

One other thing -- I know y'all are busy and don't have time for lots of blog surfing, but I did one last Thursday that Geoff might enjoy. Check it out if you have time!

billy said...


I really think that you've put your finger on something here; the fact that in many ways material "objects/trends" have replaced human relationships as the centering point for our determinations about what is valuable and worth possessing ( and suffering to preserve). How many people work way harder than they need to work in order to possess things that they really do not need? Jesus said where your treasure is there will be your heart also...maybe an extension of this would be whatever really matters to you you'll be willing to suffer to possess, defend, or preserve? Anyhow, great post, we miss you, and we're always appreciative for the model of fidelity that you and Geoff are to the rest of us......keep going