Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Musings on marriage: Mars, Venus, dogs and balloon flights!

Charles Darwin was considering marriage to his cousin Emma Wedgewood, and wrote some brilliant thoughts on the subject. Writing out of his scientific personality, Darwin drafted this rather cold sounding logic as an argument for marriage. Ladies, don't expect to swoon over the next few lines with romance heaving in your bosom!

Against the idea of marriage Darwin noted, "the expense and anxiety of children" and the fact that a married man could never "go up in a balloon". An odd one perhaps, but maybe just his way of expressing that marriage will tie him down and limit his risk taking (in his view!)

More positively, in favour of marriage, he spoke of acquiring a "constant companion and friend in old age". The clincher that settled the argument was that a wife would be "better than a dog, anyhow."

Remarkably, (and leaving aside the thought of marrying your cousin!) Mr and Mrs Darwin continued on to have a strong and happy marriage. On his deathbed in 1882, Darwin the logical, obsessive scientist cried out, "My love, my precious love."

Ten children in seventeen years shows that this love was genuine and that it wasn't all theory for our Charles and Emma, even with their extreme differences in personality which personify the 'Mars/Venus' analogy!

Mars and Venus is just a way of highlighting the subtle differences in gender, role, and expectations which we bring crashing with us into a new marriage relationship. Left alone, these differences can lead to tension and conflict, but if celebrated and understood, they can strengthen a marriage and make it shine. The key as ever is how we communicate with eachother. The aim is not to iron out differences or reduce contrasts to some awful shared level of shallow acceptance - the goal is to love one another selflessly and provide the foundation for a fruitful, lasting marriage.

It helps if you find a partner who 'gets' you and speaks your language, even if it isn't their primary way of functioning in the world. For all of us guys who live unthinkingly with our odd personality types, we find a good woman breaks her way into our closed in world and refuses to conform to our funny little ways.

Emma Darwin used emotion and humour with her man who was renowned for trusting clinical science and observation. She wrote to Charles early on in their relationship to say"After our marriage you will be forming theories about me, and if I am cross or out of temper you will only consider: 'What does that prove?' which will be a very philosophical way of considering it."

Emma Darwin was such a polar opposite that her Christian faith enabled her to stand by her man through all the flack and battles that Charles faced for proposing theories which purported to undermine that very same faith!

Ultimately, and in spite of their divergent personalities, the marriage worked because both were committed to serving one another out of deep love. Even if you don't agree with your husband's theories of evolution, when the journalists come knocking at the door you do the only thing a loving and loyal wife can do - pretend that your husband isn't at home!

Now, husband, you may not go up in a balloon so frequently, but that kind of love is even greater than a dog!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Pancake day and the cultural trail to Easter.



Happy Jif Lemon Day - the official start of the Creme Egg Season! That climactic weekend of gorging ourselves stupid on our own body weight in chocolate, is now only 40 days away - Let the the countdown begin!

Nobody really understands Pancake Day anymore, apart from a few of our more religious friends who also happen to go to church the following day to have ash crosses painted on their foreheads. There is a huge disconnect today between our ancient festivals which used to mark the pattern of the year and our modern mindset.

Most of them we have happily buried in the past, (I include the idea of having an ash cross daubed on my head) but some we have kept. Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday to the real aficionados, incredibly made the cut. When you consider that we have quietly disposed of maypoles, harvest and most of the real meaning of Advent in our urban culture, it is amazing, downright extraordinary that millions will batter pancakes into submission around Britain tonight!

The recent signing of a second player named 'Jesus' at Manchester City has left some millenials with more awareness of the footballers than their now less famous namesake. We are a post christian generation where even the christians don't understand the meaning behind their rituals. When a third of Anglican priests have doubts about the resurrection, is it any wonder that we've ended up with dead religious festivals and no idea of what they point towards? Who is going to tell the doubters and the unconvinced that this is an opportunity to prepare their hearts whilst they also prepare their batter mix? Who is going to let them know that our forefathers celebrated the life, death and resurrection of a mysterious God-man over the Easter weekend, way before we began importing the addictive cocoa bean?

For my money, we should embrace the festivals, make a song and dance of them again, rather than push them to the sidelines. Wouldn't it be ironic if we could use a bit of old fashioned religion to bridge the gap between the truth and the least religious generation in history? If the boys and girls who believe Jesus to be a Premier League footballer are representative of their lost culture, then they are already so far adrift from the biblical worldview that we used to take for granted - That we might more readily engage such distant thinking through old religious festivals which help them join the dots may be just what they need. Like all emerging generations, they don't want us to tell them, they just need a trail to follow. It's our role to creatively communicate and connect this wonderful story to their lives, to lay an enticing path all the way to Easter.