Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Blood of Eden - Part II, Union

In the blood of Eden
Lie the woman and the man
We wanted the union,
Oh the union of the woman,
The woman and the man.

- Peter Gabriel, Blood of Eden
Continuing on the topic of my last post, another thought that I had while listening to this song was the idea of marital unity. Numerous Biblical phrases have a call to the union of man and woman. Elder Holland eloquently casts this union in the physical and sexual light in his book Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments.

In the case of the Peter Gabriel song, the lyrics describe a failed marriage. Thus, the phrase "We wanted the union of the woman and the man" implies a sense of unfulfilled sadness, such as at a high and lofty goal that one yearns for but cannot reach. In the video are illustrations of a man and his bride, dressed in a red veil, lying down in their home but in separate rooms. The union, then, is some sort of idealistic marital "oneness," impossible to reach with the different spheres filled by man and wife.

I suppose for each person, the definition of this oneness or unity is going to vary drastically, from oneness in purpose, to oneness in feeling, to oneness in opinion. The beauty of the oneness I believe comes from a merging of heart and mind, where you know an individual so well that you can guess his or her motives and intentions, where the very wavelengths of your heart strings and mind resonate at the same frequency.

But how often do we experience that glorious oneness with someone in our lifetime? And if we do experience it, how often are we able to hold on to that perfect vibration for more than a moment or two? Life is not lived forever in alt, and it seems we are ever changing. Loneliness, misunderstandings seem more likely than not when you expect to be one at all times with another individual, from age 20-something to 80-something.

Furthermore, is this sort of oneness really the purpose of marriage? Or is its primary purpose for the "societal rearing of children"? Most Christian religions would teach the latter. Entering into marriage not with the intention of focusing on your partner, but of focusing on bringing more souls into the world, perhaps works in favor of a "Oneness in Purpose" but not so much a "Metaphysical Oneness".

Can it be possible to glory in the resonance of mind and spirit when you and your spouse are spending your days with entirely different societies and undertaking entirely different purposes with your life? Wife is home with children and household cares, husband abroad with work in the world, both meet for only a few stolen minutes in the evening before husband runs off to Church Ball and wife to her Crafting club. There seems little time in there where there is oneness in location, let alone in any metaphysical sense.

Moreover, many Christian religions support a "submissive wife" meme. This relationship evokes a master-servant marital arrangement that by its very nature precludes true intimacy between the marriage partners. As expostulated by John Stuart Mill in The Subjection of Women:
Even with true affection, authority on one side and subordination on the other prevent perfect confidence. (...) How much more true, then, this must all be, when the one is not only under the authority of the other, but has it inculcated on her as a duty to reckon everything else subordinate to his comfort and pleasure, and to let him neither feel nor see anything coming from her, except what is agreeable to him.
Indeed, how can a submissive wife express anything like real opinion or feeling when her primary concern is not offending her master?

I think most people yearn desperately to be understood completely, wherein someone looks at you completely and transparently, with no opaqueness at all - and yet still accepts and respects you. However, I am not convinced that marriage as constituted by religious institutions is the place where we are most likely to find that in our daily lives.

3 comments:

Dave♥Nicole said...

I admit that the mormon/christian idea of matrimony is majorly lacking. But I hope there are those rare couples who can move past the gender-role-baggage and achieve a true resonance even into their 80s. And even if that resonance waxes and wanes over the course of the marriage, perhaps it is enough that a constant state of respect and friendship can be maintained. I'd like to believe so. Because the alternative is a series of "failed romances" and ultimately giving into one's lonely fate. And while I like the poem "how to be alone," the entire poem makes it very clear that loneliness has its own challenges.

Andy said...

So, to take one of your sentences off on a little tangent, can I ask what your opinion is of Elder Holland's book, more extensively? I know it's a big hit in LDS circles, but it always struck me as a little strange, and now I find it quite objectionable. The whole idea of sexuality as a 'sacrament' creates a weird over-signification and separation from the realities and human dynamics of sexual life.

prairienymph said...

One flesh doesn't mean unity... it means the lord of the home is the only one with a soul and he can use whatever flesh he wants to combine with.
Since there is a debate on when the idea of an afterlife started in Judaism, souls weren't really an important part of the discussion.
The Christians messed this up when they allowed women to be saved, meaning that they had a soul.
But, they had to suck up to the gentile rulers and I think it no coincidence that the NT rules for conduct (the headship/submission and slave passages) mirror that of Roman documents.
Marital bliss? Intellectual and emotional companionship?
Not important.