Part four of four posts, based on a conversation with Mark Miloscia, Catholic Lobbyist for WA state legislature. Part one, part two and part three.
I asked him what he thought we should do about it. He looked at me as if I had
asked a question to which the answer was obvious and said, "Get married." I
appreciate the simplicity and directness of that answer, but I pressed him
further. Given the fact that we live in a society that, for whatever reason,
young men are not motivated to seek out marriage, I asked if he reccomended that
we just get married out of a sense of duty. He answered unequivocally, "Yes."
I can agree with Mark in two points: I agree that marriage is a great good. For some people it may even be the greatest good this life has to offer, but for all it is a noble and worthy vocation. I can also agree that we are experiencing a shortage of Catholic marriages and that more Catholic young people should probably be pursuing marriage.
The streets having led on as they do, I am now come to the "overwhelming question."
What do we do about it. Mark's answer was one of childlike simplicity. "Just get married!" He even raised his eyebrows, like a ten-year old asking "Why aren't you married? I thought all grownup people got married."
From Shakespeare's dictum that the "path of true love never did run smooth," (at least I think that was the Bard, but I could be wrong) to the present day, it seems that that simple proposition "Just get married," has become fraught with complications. I notice that the ones who regard it with that childlike simplicity are either children for whom it is nothing more than a fuzzy imagination, or older people who have long since chosen their vocation, committed to it, lived with it, endured it, fallen out of love with it, all but given up on it, perhaps, but in the end stayed true to that commitment. From that perspective of a certain amount of security in their choices, even if it is only the security of having so much invested, no doubt it does seem like a simple choice.
One of my pet projects has always been trying to imagine everything from everyone else's point of view. I can see how, with a lifetime invested in living the marriage, all the decisions leading up to it might seem like not worthy of so much fuss. It's almost as if they say, "Mercy, child! You think this is stressful? You ain't seen nothing yet!"
An analogy would be the way I view basic trainees. I went through basic more than ten years ago. Since then I have been through multiple deployments, Sapper School, years of regular army training, Special Forces training, schools and places where a good day was worse than anything Basic Training had to offer. It is easy for me to look at the basic trainees and laugh with a certain superior attitude and say, "Awww! Did the big scary Drill Sergeant yell at you? Just wait until you get into the real army!" But I can't do it. I still remember what it was like. I was terrified. I was alone and isolated, I didn't like or trust my fellow soldiers and they didn't like me. We learned to get along but I had no real friends. To this day I do not like yelling, I don't like calling people names or hearing people called names. There is a certain irony in the fact that I practice killing people on a regular basis, but sarcasm shivers me to my very soul.
To the people in the midst of discernment it is a very real cross. It has to be. I didn't wake up one morning in the middle of Camp McCall North Carolina and find myself training to be a Green Beret. I had to go through everything that led up to it, and struggle and feel small and pitiful, and want to quit a million times. Of course to a Green Beret my little struggles would look small. But then again, I was small, and those struggles were making me bigger.
Mark's idea "Just get married," kind of appeals to me. That is, he appeals to duty, and I like duty. Duty is solid. Duty is not complicated. Just figure out what it is and the rest is simple. Everything is always simpler when you no longer have to worry about what or whether, but only how.
On the other hand, most people don't have that attitude, and I am not sure it is a correct one in regards to marriage. There is something to be said for doing the right thing, regardless of how you feel about it, but, as a reader reminded me in a post a few months ago, no woman wants to feel like she is a chore. The problem is at its root a problem of desire. Perhaps getting married out of a sense of duty is better than not getting married at all, and perhaps it is not. The problem runs deeper. The very fact that we are discussing what should be the most natural and desirable thing in the world as a duty, that in itself is evidence of a problem.
There are two answers to that. The first and simplest is that all we need is to be wakened. Most guys will probably find that it is pretty natural and even fun, being in love. Like when we were little and my older brother didn't want to do anything with the family on the weekends because he was a teenager. He would whine and moan about it, but once we got going he would get into it, and by the end he would be having more fun than anyone. I suspect that all those Catholic guys out there who, for whatever reason, just don't feel like dating, would probably find themselves enjoying it if they once got into it.
(Incidentally I also expect they would find themselves hating it often enough. Being in a relationship is hard work. It requires you to get up off the couch, stop playing WOW and pick up the phone and call someone, schedule activities and actually honor those commitments. Since this is a relationship with a view to marriage, it reuires you to get to know the person, pray with her, and ultimately to make a choice concerning her. It requires inventiveness, attention, commitment, sacrifice, and whole host of other bloody uncomfortable things. On the whole, video games are a lot easier. So is porn. So is hanging out with the bros (they don't give you hell if you don't call everyday.) Almost anything is easier. But that is not the way to holiness. For something that is handed out as free gift, holiness sure does take a lot of work.)
The second answer to the problem of desire (two paragraphs up, if my parenthetical paragraph distracted you. [I am noticing I have a thing for parenthetical phrases]) is much more complex. In speaking of rekindling a desire and passion for marriage as a vocation on a serious cultural level we are getting into a problem too broad for the tail end of an already overly long blog post, and too in depth for my powers of analysis at 9:40 PM, even after two beers. (They weren't really great beers. Not bad, but not spectacular. For spectacular blogging I reccomend spectacular beer.)
Individual choices. That's what interests me right now, and so that is what I will stick to for now. Goodnight, Y'all.