Tuesday, May 3, 2011

the paradox of marriage

This is how Michael Novak, speaking specifically of the covenant of marriage, describes that paradox of freedom found through binding oneself in meaningful promises:

     Marriage is an assault upon the lonely, atomic ego. Marriage is a threat to the solitary individual. Marriage does impose grueling, humbling, baffling, and frustrating responsibilities. Yet if one supposes that precisely such things are the preconditions for all true liberation, marriage is not the enemy of moral
development in adults. Quite the opposite....
     Being married and having children has impressed on my mind certain lessons, for whose learning I cannot help being grateful. Most are lessons of difficulty and duress. Most of what I am forced to learn about myself is not pleasant....
     Seeing myself through the unblinking eyes of an intimate, intelligent other, an honest spouse, is
humiliating beyond anticipation. Maintaining a familial steadiness whatever the state of my own emotions is a standard by which I stand daily condemned. A rational man, acting as I act?...
     My dignity as a human being depends perhaps more on what sort of husband and parent I am, than on any professional work I am called upon to do. My bonds to them hold me back (and my wife even more) from many sorts of opportunities. And yet these do not feel like bonds. They are, I know, my liberation. They force me to be a different sort of human being, in a way in which I want and need to be forced. (Originally from "The Family Out of Favor" by Michael Novak - but first found in an article by Eugene England)

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