Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Marriage - a rumination..

Before you read this, I would want to make my point very clear that I hold the institution of marriage in highest regard. Not only has it been one of our spectacular evolutionary successes to adopt monogamy (as far as possible), and nurture strong ties as a family; but the very tapestry of man cultural history is woven with this fabric of genders collaborating and fostering a long standing relationship between themselves. Man’s transition from a Hunting battlefield to a settled agrarian community needed this paste of marital union to hold together the insatiable energies that could potentially be let loose in a growing economic, political and cultural climate that a stable life entails. Except for a few stray stunted communities around the globe, almost every known human habitation has a custom that resembles the ties of marriage. And that by itself, is a testimony to its universal archetype.
However, a young lady in England married herself a few weeks back. Yes, you read me right! She invited a group of fifty close friends and relatives to a hall, went through the paraphernalia of a normal wedding, erected a full length mirror to see herself as the lovable other-half, and when it was time to kiss the bride-groom; she kissed her reflection on the mirror. And thus, her marriage was consummated. As a part of the ceremony ,she hosted a "Shakti tantra" programme to understand the implications of sex with herself and with others. I cannot think of a happier union than this. And to me, this raised some deep philosophical and historical questions.
Historically and anthropologically, marriage has always been a male thing to do. When the male wanted to satisfy his sexual proclivities, he took a woman as his wife; when he wanted to have children and somebody to take care of them -he needed a wife; and in established and settled communities, where there was a distinct necessity for stability of property, periodicity of living and territorial integrity, a female as wife was able to provide that support to a family. In fact, the notion of a marriage as a means to meaningful intellectual companionship and reciprocal respect is relatively new in history. Probably, two to three years hundred years old. And the notions of equality of sexes is even newer idea, and is still a developing thought in many societies. If we cut through the debris of history, one almost inevitably finds that a deep relationship - physical and emotional, can be achieved between any two members of Human species, and not necessarily a male and female. The Greeks, the Romans, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians and almost the entire Middle East practiced homosexuality with great aplomb. It is not unusual to find an Alexander spending copious personal time with his bodyguard Hephaistos, or the verses of Sappho glorifying the pleasures of homosexuality, or even the works of Plato turning a blind eye to it. In fact, it was never considered a taboo for a majority of recorded history for such relationships to flourish. The rigid boundaries of monogamy; the hellish sins of adultery; the need to curb rising vapors of physical passion found its stringent sanctions in organized religions world over; and the union between a Male and Female began to assume roles and characteristics that were not biologically ordained. When marriage became a matter of one’s psyche, its compatibility, acceptance, independence, moral possessiveness and all the rest of it – it gets complicated.
In modern times, the entire institution of marriage is becoming quite redundant in many ways. We don’t really require a physical union to make babies anymore. We could choose sperms of a mathematical genius and have it fertilize an ovary of a beauty queen. It is also not necessary for economic sustenance, as both partners are largely becoming financially independent. Children are now getting used to a Single parent, or multiple parents, and again, that is no more an emotional bargain or a talking point in deciding the fate of a married couple. Sex has always been available outside of one’s home, and add to it the various forms of self-gratification available today – the need for two bodies to touch each other is systematically being wiped away. And lastly, education and globalization has given every one a complex inner persona which is ripe with intellectual, emotional and moral expectations of the partner that it become difficult to live in close proximity to each other for a long period, unless one is lucky or reconciled to a compromising existence.
So, in a way, the young lady’s decision to marry her own image does seem a sane thing to do. After all, no can love anyone more than themselves. The beautiful Greek myth of Narcissus finds a modern consummation in her act of forging a legal relationship with her persona. If one cannot find love, stability and passion in any other relationship, it would seem reasonable to be satisfied with one’s own self. But the question is: Why go through the motions of an organized wedding to prove this point? It is pushing the “idea”, the concept of “marriage” to its utmost limit. The yearning social need for companionship, solidarity and most of all acceptance - physically, intellectually and emotionally becomes so overpowering that we need to prove a point by getting into a publicized relationship. It is a symbol of achievement - a reaching somewhere, so to speak.
When I was writing this short piece, I came to my notice that thirty one states in the US have made single-sex marriages legal. The latest to pass this legislation is Arizona. From here, to marrying oneself (in principle) is but a small psychological step away.
God bless…

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