I Was Wrong About the Trees

When I was young and married, people felt very free to express to me their horror at young marriage. “You were so young!”, they’d say. “I think people settle down too fast. You’ve got to take time to become your own person. People change, and you don’t want to match up with someone now because they won’t match who you will become.”

By my very early twenties, I had a pat retort.

“Have you ever,” I’d ask, “seen two trees that are growing right next to each other? You can see in the whorls of the bark where one tree has overlapped the other, and then pushed back again. Their trunks are like two halves at the bottom, but as it goes up they are twisted into a seamless one. That’s how I think marriage should be. Marrying young gives us time to grow around each other.”

It is true that it silenced my attackers and put them on the defensive; to explain to me how they would one day find that tree specially fit for them.  But to be honest, I didn’t feel very clever back then. My speech was born out of desperation. I hoped that’s how marriage was to be because otherwise I was a fool. I often feared I was wasting my time while my “perfect fit” ran around somewhere out there.

Friday night I worked and in the gaps I thought about where I wanted to go with my next post, and about the comments to my last post. My thoughts went something like this:

  • What is marriage?
  • What is marriage like?
  • Well, it’s like Christ’s relationship to the Church. He is its head. What does that mean?
  • Why do feminists Christians think that head-as-source means less obedience from what flows than to a head-as-authority?
  • They shouldn’t. Headwaters literally in-form bodies of water. Any body of water that ceases to be informed by its head is not that head’s body of water.
  • What other analogies is this like?
  • “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
  • Shazam!

My canned response came back to me. I had thought I was looking at two trees planted together, but what if what I had seen–looking at marriage–was a branch being grafted into a vine? Did that make sense?

Immediately, before I had an answer, another thought crowded into my mind: Don’t be so arrogant, Caldo, as to think you are like Christ. But I searched around my thoughts and after a few seconds decided that what I felt about being like Christ was irrelevant to the facts. The facts are that I relate to my wife like Christ relates to the Church, and that I am to relate to her in the same fashion. Which is to say that, in some way, to my wife I am the vine and she has been grafted into me.

“Cleave unto her” suddenly came into sharper focus, too.

I thought again about how her sense of humor had changed over the years. Once she only laughed. Now she contributes jokes–good jokes–nearly as often as I. Had I changed to be like her, as she has towards me? I have certainly changed, but I couldn’t think of a way that I have become more like her. Perhaps I had missed something? So I texted Mrs. Caldo; who had no idea.

CC: Do you think that over the years I’ve changed to become more like you? Take your time to answer.

MC: What? No

CC: Have you become more like me?

MC: I believe that’s the more likely scenario. What is your opinion on the subject?

CC: I agree on both. Coffee?[1]

MC: Yes.

I will think more about the idea of marriage as a process really like grafting. The “better half” comments are worse than I thought because the portrait is more wrong than I knew. If we are ever to understand and teach the lost art of marriage we must, I think, accept that marriage is not the coming together of two equals who will share their independence together. Nor is it the coming together of two equals of whom one pretends to relinquish control. It must be as the one is weaker than the other as the branch is weaker than the vine, and it is why and how the vine must nourish it as its own flesh.

These are all verses and ideas we’ve heard and discussed many times before, but the perspective of grafting showed me the matter of marriage in a whole new light. I doubt St. Paul and Peter would be surprised by any of this except that I have been so dense. There is a lot of deep knowledge lost for those of us who don’t toil in the dirt. (Though sometimes I have an inkling.)

For example: In that video the grafter cuts into the side of the stalk and it’s in that cut where the branch is grafted and becomes one with the plant. If you squint a little it looks like women appears on the scene when Adam’s side is cut, and God shapes Eve from the rib taken from it. The Church lives on the blood of Christ; which was spilled for her most effusively when His side was pierced and He died.

There are probably some earthy, common sense lessons, too. One video I watched mentioned that it’s important to graft when the branches are young. The grafts don’t take when they are too old.

The cut must be made in one attempt. Multiple cuts will prevent a successful graft.

The cambium layers, just below the bark, need to be aligned for the graft to take; which means that relative size matters, and that in a mismatch success is more likely when the stalk’s diameter is more than the branch.

Draw your own conclusions.

[1] Text-speak for “Can you get some coffee ready for me?”

Happy Thanksgiving

This is, I think, my favorite holiday. I’m thankful for you all: commenters, readers, and contrarians alike. And I remember those who find it difficult to be thankful because of what I have done, and because of what I have left undone.

God bless you all.

People Die

In the comments of a recent post I wrote:

I understand divorce to be something like killing. It is sometimes necessary and moral, but those times are strictly limited within a few circumstances. And saying someone isn’t divorced is like saying someone wasn’t killed, or isn’t a killer.

which struck sympathizers and members of the Roman Catholic Church as not only wrong, but wrong-headed. Also, Scott has posted on the topic of sacramental marriage and, as I wrote this, he asked me to expound on a comment I left there.

Some discussion followed which, at the time, I thought was distracting from my point, and our collective points of agreement. Now it seems to me like I may have been wrong on both those secondary points; that the teachings of the RCC, the confusion and ignorance of the laity across all denominations, and what is manifest–what is real–may a rather large component of the engine which grinds modern marriages..but particularly the once-married-always-married teachings of RCC.

Possibly, I said.

I intend to handle this subject with care, and it is my hope that I won’t bruise anyone too bad. For now, I’m just going to state my beliefs, and upon what they are based.

The crucial statement is from Jesus in Matthew 19

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Earlier, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

So divorce should not happen, but can. Divorce was allowed previously according to a writ, but no marriage was intended to end in divorce. Divorce is only allowed as an exception if there is sexual immorality.

There are still a lot of specific questions one could ask What is meant by sexual immorality? Whose sexually immoral offense creates an exception? How should this adultery be treated? Is it an instance of adultery, or a perpetual state? What do we mean by adultery: desecration, or betrayal?[1]

My next source is a long passage in 1 Corinthians 7 on marriage, marital relations, its ends, and its endings. The key point is here:

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Generally, I fully trust the translators of the Bibles I use because I have done some research on them before I choose the translation. And I don’t like the practice of sifting and isolating words in the Bible as if I were a necromancer and the words entrails. In this case, I looked up the word translated as unmarried and I learned that this particular word is only used in 1 Corinthians 7, and it is used three times; v. 8, 11, 32. In v. 8 it is referring to never-married people, in v. 11 to those divorced, and in v. 32 to who–by not being married–“is anxious for the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.”

The point being: It seems there is no distinction here. That is: Divorced people really are divorced. They are unmarried. They are not metaphysically married, but only visibly separated; nor metaphysically married but living in an adulterous remarriage.

This seems like a good time to remind everyone that the beginning of this was my statement that I viewed divorce as something like killing. It is sometimes necessary and moral, but those times are strictly limited within a few circumstances. And saying someone isn’t divorced is like saying someone wasn’t killed, or isn’t a killer. I believe this is a fair judgment and in keeping with the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.

[1]The difference of desecration and betrayal is an interesting point; related to our modern confusion, and a great contributor to the practice of divorce.

The Full and Fair Measuring of Adultery-by-Porn

You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God.

In response to my post on men’s refusal to divorce women over their porn habits, George Henty wrote:

“That’s a great point, Cane. It reminds me a bit of the old saying that women can forgive an affair that’s “just physical”, while men can forgive an emotional affair as long as “nothing happened”.”

Donal Graeme echoed that point (I believe) with his comment:

Yes, and that says a lot about men and how they think. Just as how women seeing it as adultery says a lot about women and how they think.

I think that it says something about almost everyone…or rather: About no one. Men’s tolerance of women’s porn use is strong evidence that no one actually believes porn use is adultery; as does the dearth of porn-use intervention programs directed specifically at women. Yet on these grounds men are punished with divorce by their wives, pastors, churches, and courts.

Committing adultery in one’s heart is a serious thing, but it’s not grounds for real divorce performed and recognized by human authority any more than thinking someone’s a fool is worthy of a real murder sentence from a court. The consequence of not making the distinction is to become an abomination.

The Dog Who Didn’t Divorce

Why hasn’t there been–in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey books and movie, the Magic Mike movies, etc.–an explosion of husbands filing for divorce? If porn is adultery, why aren’t men incensed? Does anyone know a man who has divorced his wife for reading romance novels? Has anyone ever heard of such a thing?

[CC: Answers to last post’s comments and questions soon.]

Music as Moral Solvent: Hypocriticisms in the Cacophonic Phenomenon

One of the things I impress upon my family is how cynical the entertainment industry is towards women. They pump out nonsensical media for women at such speed and volume that one experiences it as a single Cacophonic Phenomenon. As a man, you want to just ignore it and get about your business, or your play, or whathaveyou… I advise against that.

One assault that is common in women’s pop music is the “stream of contradictions”. It’s those songs where the earnest woman sings a bunch of antonyms, seemingly-opposing ideas, or hypocriticisms–boom, boom, boom–one right after the other. Here’s a famous example. (I apologize for what I’m about to do to you.)

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover
I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I’m your hell, I’m your dream
I’m nothing in between
You know you wouldn’t want it any other way

You can read all the lyrics here.

The first thing I want to point out is that last line; which I bolded. Meredith Brooks isn’t just speaking to the man in her life. She’s setting an expectation for all men towards all women, and discouraging all women from seeking sanity. This is accepted because men do often find women confusing, and because women are easily confused. Men underestimate how bewildered and blundering women are as the go through the world. Part of the way they fake understanding is by this pretense of mystery-in-contradictions; such as Brooks describes. The truth is just confusion and lack of boundaries.

The second thing I want to point out is that the song was super popular. In its heyday it seemed like it was on everywhere, all the time. From Wikipedia:

The song steadily rose on the Billboard charts, eventually peaking at number two for four weeks, only behind “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans featuring 112. It debuted and peaked at number six on the UK Singles Chart on 27 July 1997 and stayed in the top ten for four weeks. The song was also a big hit in Oceania, where it reached number two in Australia and four in New Zealand. It ranked at number 79 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s.

And, just to underline my point about the widespread acceptance of confusion masked as mystery-in-contradiction, here’s the next paragraph from Wikipedia:

“Bitch” was also used in the 2000 Nancy Myers film What Woman Want, starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The scene is arguably the most memorable part of the film, as Mel Gibson is seen dressing in womans’ tights and wearing make-up singing to the chorus of the song. From this point in the film the character is able to “hear” what woman want.

There you have it: Only when a man deliberately confuses himself as much as possible can he “hear” what women want, i.e., be pleasing to women. Right. Did any woman suspend that disbelief? Mel Gibson…the guy for whom People magazine invented the “Sexiest Man Alive” award.

This came up today when I was cleaning the music library on my laptop. Over the summer I had backed up all the phones in the house to my iTunes account; including importing everyone’s songs into my library. My wife and daughters, like everyone, get music here and there; free downloads from Starbucks, or copying a coworker’s CD, etc. And they’re girls, so they like girly music and they get music from other girls. While during a long lull of waiting at work, I listened to the songs to see if I wanted to keep any of them. That’s when I came upon this song.

If you save yourself for marriage
You’re a bore
If you don’t save yourself for marriage
You’re a whore-able person
If you won’t have a drink
Then you’re a prude
But they’ll call you a drunk
As soon as you down the first one

If you can’t lose the weight
Then you’re just fat
But if you lose too much
Then you’re on crack
You’re damned if you do
And you’re damned if you don’t
So you might as well just do
Whatever you want

For her oeuvre to foolish peers[1] Kacey Musgraves was awarded performances at both the CMAs and the Grammys in 2013, and CMAs’ Song of the Year in 2014.

“Now, Caldo,” you say, “these songs are nearly two decades apart. This does not a trend make.” My friends, the mystery-in-contradiction is everywhere in the top playlists of every English station, and have been; particularly since the 1990s. There are many previous instances, but it really took off with the rise of Tori Amos, Meredith Brooks, Liz Fair, Something Apple-whatsherface, and all the rest of the Lilith Faire crowd. And it goes on through The Dixie Chicks, KT Tunstall, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves…

What does the music industry get from women’s confusion? Money. It turns out that confused, vain, and nigh-amoral consumption ‘bots are addicts repeat customers.

Be forewarned: There’s a common bit of advice “Once you see it, you’ll see it everywhere.” It’s the same with the Cacophonic Phenomenon and the mystery-in-contradiction, but it’s more like “Once you make out the words, you can’t ignore them.” Listening to the radio stops being background noise and becomes reports of a horrifying, nearby, war. This knowledge can feel like a curse, but the alternative is more tragic because the Cacophonic Phenomenon is a kind of hypnotism, or snake-charming.

The Trouble with Chicks Teaching Submission

There is, you know, a difference between an indicative and an imperative. Then recall that most people don’t. If you tell people that a Christian is self-controlled, then they try to be self-controlled instead of trying to be Christian. But self-controlled is an indicative of a Christian. Take up the commandments of Christ, and you begin to get the self-control. Take up self-control itself and you get tired and irritated.

Women don’t need to learn how to be the good wife; the “Proverbs 31 wife”. The Proverbs 31 Wife is an indicative–what a good wife looks like–, it is not an imperative. The imperative–what a wife must do–is obey her husband, raise her children, and run her household well and with honor. That’s it. If she does those things she will become more and more like Proverbs 31 Wife even if she is totally ignorant of that model.

Submission is the absence of rebellion. Wives don’t have to learn “how to be submissive”; they just have to decide not to rebel. You literally cannot learn nothing, and anyone who tries to teach submission (the absence of rebellions, e.g. nothing) with caveats is therefore only teaching the caveats; the ways of rebellion that sound legitimate. That’s why, I am sure, there are no caveats to wifely submission in the Bible.

Which is to say: Most of the women who write on submission should shut up about that, and write about how to run a household, and how to care for children. Of course, women aren’t confined to chores and chirrun. They could write about other things, as well. Singing, for example, is a wonderful endeavor of a woman. Painting is good, too, as is dancing…and there are not half a dozen who would satisfy my notion of an accomplished woman.

Let them teach each other those, and let them leave exceptions of submission alone.

[CC: Expanded from a comment here.]

Wiser Than I’d Like to Be

Tacomaster‘s and Jeff’s comments reminded me of something that I’d forgotten which I had previously remembered.

Over a decade after the comment she would bring it up. I remembered saying it. I remembered how I felt at the time. I remember thinking she would forget; she would blow it off and it would have no impact. I was wrong about that. She tried to blow it off, but when she recalled it to me there was no denying that she had remembered. We were young; twenty-one, maybe twenty-two. That would have been our fourth or fifth year of marriage.

“Do you remember,” she said, “when you said this day would come?”

“What day?” I have said a lot of days would come. Some less sagaciously than others.

“We were in the apartment at Green Glen, and one night, after we’d–you know–argued about stuff. You said that right now you were in your prime and I was wasting it, and that there would come a time when you were not in your prime, but I would be in my thirties and dying for it. Then I’d see how you felt.”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“You were right.” She got quieter. “I’m sorry.”

“I know.” 

[Updated to fuller conversation just after initial posting]