28.9.12

Chesterton on Marriage

"I could never mix in the common murmur of that rising generation against monogamy, because no restriction on sex seemed as odd and unexpected as sex itself. To be allowed, like Endymion, to make love to the moon and then to complain that Jupiter kept his own moons in a harem seemed to me (bred on fairy tales like Endymion's) a vulgar anti-climax. Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman. To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once. It was incommensurate with the terrible excitement of which one was talking. It showed, not an exaggerated sensibility to sex, but a curious insensibility to it. A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once. Polygamy is a lack of the realization of sex; it is like a man plucking five pears in mere absence of mind. The aesthetes touched the last insane limits of language in their eulogy on lovely things. The thistledown made them weep; a burnished beetle brought them to their knees. Yet their emotion never impressed me for an instant, for this reason, that it never occurred to them to pay for their pleasure in any sort of symbolic sacrifice. Men (I felt) might fast forty days for the sake of hearing a blackbird sing. Men might go through fire to find a cowslip. Yet these lovers of beauty could not even keep sober for the blackbird. They would not go through common Christian marriage by way of recompense to the cowslip. Surely one might pay for extraordinary joy in ordinary morals."
- G.K. Chetserton, Orthodoxy

Chesterton is not here focused on marriage. It is, instead, one ethical instance offered as an illustration of his ethics of elfland. The larger point he makes is that we take much for granted, pretend to understand more than we do, and in so doing we lose much that is essential: joy, surprise, wonder, and the ability to submit to the wild in-sensibilities of life. Marriage, it seems to me, is the perfect example. I pray that I will never lose this sense of wonder over the gift of one amazing woman in my life. 

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

A very good short read this certainly is. Packs so much in.