What Is Civilization?
Put any number and variety of equally ignorant-and-selfish persons together indefinitely with no rules and you quickly end up with a caste system. They begin with the virtue of freedom, but are unwise in the use of it.
The more ignorance allowed by a people’s material wealth and infrastructure, the less culture they require to maintain a semblance of civility.
But, civilization is not material technology; it is wise culture. And, ethnic cuisine and color-of-attire are not elements of culture (though beliefs about the cultural value of such things are).
So, to ask ‘What is civilization?’ is to ask what keeps the rhythm of society despite the disharmonies between individuals and groups. It is a silent rhythm, made with two sets of hands and two hearts. Nothing else on Earth is so glorious—and so misunderstood. This thought is continued on the page of this website titled We are the aliens, we are the natives.
In seeking to understand what civilization most basically is, a very good first of many prerequisite questions is this one:
What causes people to trust in probationary coupling? (By probationary coupling I mean everything from ‘casual’ dating/hookups to cohabitation.)
Put another way, is human society formed by a probationary stage of human society—able to be revoked at the slightest disharmony or disappointment? One may as well ask whether even general friendship is a matter of such easy revocation. The new secular ’casual’ law of friendship would be the following take on the ‘that’s what friends are for’ phrase.
“I don’t like you that much anymore, so good riddance: that’s what friends are for.”
So, the question is, does a more powerful form of friendship, such as one that involves exchange of positive sexual feelings, confer an even easier right of revocation???!!
Suppose friendship is like aviation: if you fly a 747, should it be easier to obtain the legal right to let it drop out of the sky than to let a dime-store kite drop out of the sky? Captain Sullenberger’s landing that plane into the Hudson River was so celebrated not because he let the airplane drop out of the sky, but because he managed to get it down safely despite the airplane’s catastrophic malfunctions.
So let me tell you another true story involving an airplane. There once was a very pretty and decent Christian girl who was ‘dated’ and ‘dumped’ by seven decent Christian young men successively. By no mere coincidence, that girl’s name was Andrea. Andrea’s father sold corporate jets, but I’ll get to that part of the story after I explain Andrea’s part.
Because of this seven-fold heartbreak, Andrea had become so discouraged about men that she avoided all possible interaction with every man except her uncle and one other male relative. She didn’t trust men, and she avoided even acknowledging their presence.
Then, one day, a certain very uncommon young man saw Andrea. I’ll call him ‘Adam’, for sake of nomological congrience. Adam could not help but feel an odd something about her mannerisms: he felt he was looking at something both very precious and somehow very broken.
But, ‘Adam’ was so taken by this feeling for Andrea that he wasn’t even aware that he was feeling it, nor aware that he was looking at her: he was staring at her whenever she came into view, but he didn’t realize he was doing so. It was like he was obliterated from all sense of himself almost every time he saw her.
Only years later, when ‘Adam’ began thinking about what he had seen and heard of her, he began to connect his memories of her with his having heard that she had been heart-broken by seven young men in a row.
Those seven young men were so naive as to naturally capture Andrea’s heart, and then so naively selfish as to just-as-naturally reject her when they realized they hadn’t found the female-who-belongs-in-the-garden-of-ageless-Edenic-bliss.
At some point in ‘Adam”s association with Andrea, her good Christian parents hoped he would accept the tacit privilege of dating her. Of course, they also hoped he would not break her heart; but, that’s essentially what happened, because both she and her parents were ignorant of what sort of man Adam was. You see, Adam had long since acquired an ‘unnatural’ distaste for putting either his or a girl’s heart in a state the expression of which could be restricted or revoked by her father. ‘Adam’ could not tolerate the idea of such restriction, much less the idea that a girl’s father might be struck by a whim similar to that of those seven young men and selfishly revoke the privilege. What if, at some point after accepting the privilege, Adam somehow failed to ‘measure up’ to either her father’s personal or moral convenience? What if her father found a ’better’ young man for her? In fact, in Adam’s experience, any external restriction on an active romantic relationship was nearly equivalent to its being selfishly revoked.
In fact, what Andrea’s father expected of ‘Adam’ was too much like what Laban expected of Jacob:
Jacob and Rachel had thought that Laban had invoked an engagement between Jacob and Rachel. Jacob found out the hard way that Laban had no such intention. In fact, Jacob found out the hard way twice. The first time was when, after the dark night of lovemaking, Jacob woke to find that it was Leah he had made love to, not Rachel.
So, Jacob had to be sure to get for Rachel what both he and her father had promised was hers: marriage to Jacob. Even if, at the beginning of the seven years, Laban had told Rachel she was going to be secretly replaced with her older sister, both Rachel and Jacob had the perfect right to expect what Laban had promised Jacob; so, Rachel was already Jacob’s in principle at the beginning of the seven years, and even more so at the end of those seven years.
So, Jacob was honorable, even duty-bound, to marry Rachel, even though he now was married to Leah by Laban’s trick.
But, since Laban required Jacob to promise to work another seven years to actually get for himself and Rachel what was already due them, Jacob ended up not only working to get Rachel twice, but to have Laban try to take back everything which Jacob had rightfully acquired, including Rachel and Leah.
Now, about the aviation part of that story. Andrea’s father’s name was Norm, and, unknown to Norm, ’Adam’ unwittingly found himself the flight instructee: he hadn’t been crazy about watching planes for a wish to fly, but simply for being stupified-and-amazed that they did fly. Adam was stupified at seeing them fly, like some caveman who had never seen so much as a pterodactyl. But, Norm assumed, quite mistakenly, that Adam wanted to fly. So, Adam found himself being directed to fly an airplane. At the end of that instruction was Adam’s entirely naive attempt to simply get the plane back onto the ground. The approach was too steep, and Norm had to pull up so much that the plane began to shake, the wings risking being ripped off. Anad Adam had no idea even then. Adam had no sense that there was any danger.
Flying is a fun activity if you are not captive to a fear of crashing. But, even a naïve person can end up in a crash—such as if the airframe is poorly designed or in need of much repair. Or, if the joker-of-a-flight-instructor himself doesn’t know that there is a fatal flaw in the wing’s frame, so that when he is forced, by the instructee’s effective sheer naivety about airframes and about how to get the plane back on the ground, to pull up so fast that he rips the wings off.
Similar to flying, the nature of the natural man-woman socio-sexual unit has no natural probationary phase or probationary version. In other words, there is no way to build such a unit such that it is only partly functioning during the process of building it. To continue the aviation analogy, if you’re not on the ground, then you’re either flying or falling.
If marriage has a natural probationary version, then we can as well think that friendship, as such, has a probationary version. It’s like what they say about being pregnant: “You’re either pregnant or you’re not.” You’re either a sustainable society, or you’re not.
But, as with flying an airplane, then so with marriage: the most risk-prone part of flying an airplane is taking off and landing. The landing might be compared to conceiving-and-bearing-and-raising children, and the takeoff compared to the instant at which a natural couple is formed. The problem in the imperfect world is to get the initial takeoff right, because if too much goes wrong in taking off, then the airplane will be damaged and thereby unable to land as gracefully as it otherwise might. And, as any pilot worth his wings knows, the prerequisite to a successful takeoff is a sound airframe, without which the entire endeavor of flight is in danger.
So, flying is a fun activity if you are not captive to a sense of the risks. But, even then, you really should be sure that the airframe is sound, because being naïve about the state of the airplane may or may not end in disaster. We live in a world in which airframes are subject to damage and progressive wear. So, we must have effective ways of checking for, and preventing, damage, and for maintaining the airframe. It doesn’t get done on its own, and wishing away any existing troubles can only get us into worse troubles.
The hippy montra of ‘All you need is love’ is just a naive sense about the natures and origins of disharmony in the world. Free ‘love’ in terms of sex, and free happiness in terms of drugs. It all felt like it promised a genuine reacquistion of Eden, if only we held onto our naivety. The Organization Man came to hate himself, without knowing much about the replacement for himself which he hoped to attain. So he slammed into the other wall of the pendelum chamber before he realized at all what was really going on. The enemy is us, and we have barely met him.
Again, what causes people to trust in probationary coupling?
Rand’s atheism saw only one way toward a global salvation, namely by the opposite of the natural virtues of women. Marx saw the converse of Rand, by the opposite of the natural virtues of men. This is the true ‘Odd Couple’.
But, Jesus never preached liberation of women from men, nor men from women, but most perfectly empathized with the plights of both in the face of the other. Adam was created without a penny to his name, but he owned the entire Earth. And, Adam never shrugged anything in order to possess it, which means it cannot be owned by a kind of individualism which denies a common culpability for a common plight of the suffering which results from the fact that differentiated individuals and genders cope differently to a given non-ideal situation
Jennifer Roback Morse made a great point in her recent talk at Skyline Church. She said that there is an imbalance between romantic bonding and respectful love in the practice of cohabitation, in so far as cohabitation is a means of finding the ‘right’ lifelong partner. But, her point goes much deeper than simply to address the false wisdom of cohabitation. Within the fallen state of the world, that imbalance between romantic bonding and respectful love exists in any romantic attachment which is not a maturely formed marriage, even in romantic relationships that do not involve any physical contact.
So, it’s all politics. What this means, firstly, is that, unless ‘politics’ as a national subject has an irreducible core, then such ’politics’ is a haphazard subject about which nothing can truly be known other than the fact that it involves negotiation and compromise between various ontologically isolated interests. Unless the complexities which accrue to national or tribal ’politics’ are evolved from a single original core of society—and, by implication in this fallen world, from an occasional or systematic denial of that core—, then no species of ‘politics’ has anything in common with any other species of ‘politics’. In short, general ’political’ history must have a single common ancestor, such that all species of ‘politics’ are descended from one true political progenitor.
But, secondly, to say that It’s all politics means that an effective denial or cheapening of that core of society is a mutation, and not a proper political species. Nevertheless, all mutated forms of politics involve some of the form-and-substance of the original political common ancestor. This is part of how ‘politics’ becomes increasingly complex, and increasingly difficult to sort out, despite what some people think who live in a civilization that allows dissent against that ancestor far more than it enjoins the faithful reproduction of that ancestor. In short, all the wisdom which alone justifies not only the marriage vow, but every sense of sexual modesty and respect of which even otherwise secularly ignorant people are somewhat aware.
Adam and Eve saw the necessity of the accountable marriage vow more clearly than have any other humans. But, they saw also something which the modern statist and secularist typically fails to see despite any commitment to being ‘Biblical’ and ‘good’ respectively: that marriage is not principally for the welfare of children as such, but for the welfare of what children, by rights, aspire to attain to: marriage (i.e., to their own most personal, most broadly meaningful, society). Bill Bennett wrote:
‘Based as it is on the principle of complementarity, marriage is about a great deal more than love. That “great deal” encompasses, above all, procreation. The timeless function of marriage is childbearing and child-rearing, and the best arrangement ever developed to that end is the marital union between one man and one woman …’ The Broken Hearth, Page 197
Children themselves hope one day to attain to that very kind of natural relation with another human being. So, Bennett almost seems not to have completed his own equation. What Bennett’s words ultimately imply is that, in terms of the value of the natural man-woman socio-sexual unit to anything which stands outside of that unit, that unit is most principally for the production of additional such units.
In other words, in terms of producing things which exist outside of itself, marriage is not principally for the reproduction of individuals, but for the reproduction of marriages.
It is uncontroversial that the socio-sexually natural man-woman unit is the most humanistically necessary, and thus the most glorious, kind of relation between human individuals.
In other words, that relation alone is what most essentially defines a human society. The good of the wider society is defined as the integration of all other naturally enduring mutual benefits between all free individuals. But, all those benefits are created-and-sustained by the existence of the natural man-woman unit, or couple. In short, all other natural human relations are products of this one relation, by way of reproduction of human persons.
But, in the fallen world, the publically binding form of instantiating the man-woman socio-sexual unit is the root form, and first act, of civilization. Wisdom is like a good woman. But woe to those who seek to take sole possession of her, for she shall destroy them for their greed, and shall mark them with a sign for their greed. Wisdom belongs to the people, to be possessed by all who seek her with a pure and contrite heart. All other wisdom is merely opportunity made possible by the riches she alone affords.
Adam and Eve, after they fell and became naturally imperfectly harmonious with each other, were that human socio-sexual unit which had no alternative prospects to each other. So, they had no reasonable option but to remain subject to each other’s natural needs. Thus, their marriage bond was reinforced not by the mere public policy of a wider society, but by the virtual unavailability of alternates to each other.
Once Adam and Eve had many children, they saw that, in a world of imperfect natural harmony, and thus a world of natural/automatic disharmony, it was necessary to have a ‘public’ policy enforcement of an unambiguous express means of establishing additional man-woman socio-sexual units, in order to preserve general human society as dependent on the health of the core social unit.
The natural man-woman couple is the most glorious kind of relation between human individuals. Every humanist, secular and otherwise, knows this. This is because such a couple alone is that relation which most essentially defines a human society (and any society that does not include such a relation is either dysfunctional or incomplete). The good of the wider society is defined as the integration of all other naturally enduring mutual benefits between all free individuals. But, all those benefits are created-and-sustained by the existence of the natural man-woman couple. This is why that couple is that one relation for the preservation of which, in an imperfect world, is invoked the most special legal recognition/enforcement.
Where does the common youthful ideal of marriage come from? This is the ideal of knowing ‘The Right One’ on sight and, then, by a means which feels, in some deep sense, entirely ‘natural’, entering a romantic relationship with that person and, then, despite any troubles or disagreements, sharing the rest of your lives together in perfect bliss.
Some Christians talk as if they believe that that ideal has no bearing in how God made the world to be in the beginning. Some Christians even assert that that ideal is an ‘invention of the devil’, or of Hollywood. Those Christians are wrongly motivated into thinking that way, because, in fact, that ideal once existed, in the marriage of Adam and Eve.
So, did God make the mistake in making Adam and Eve? Did God make the mistake by making human heart to wish for that ideal? Did God make the mistake by creating youth, with all the feelings of romance that a youthful heart can feel? The fact that the world is not as it was in the beginning is merely a complication which is added to what God made in the beginning; it is not a condition which abolishes that beginning. In fact, the vows of engagement and consummation were required by Adam of his children in order to preserve as much of that ideal as that fallen wider societycould be pursuaded to value.
At http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/famdate.htm, Chapter 5: Dating Versus Biblical Courtship, it says
“Modern recreational dating is unbiblical because it trains young people to take male-female covenant relationships lightly.”
Modern dating (recreational or not) is unwise, and not mainly because it trains young people to take male-female covenant relationships lightly, but because, in many cases, it conditions them to re-conceive the male-female covenant relationship as something else which they know to be absurdly ‘dry’ and ‘lifeless’: an internalized sense of artificial ‘duty’ to the conventionalized roles imposed by a ‘prudish’ culture of Deflected Embarrassment.
Many women enter such marriages with a sense of guilt for having any needs of their own, such as for ‘failing’ to be in perfect harmony with what their husbands seem pleased to get from them.
The primary natural fact is that God designed the human being in such a way that there is no natural caution in the absence of any cautionary acculturation. Any such acculturation is a necessity-of-godliness only in the fallen world, which means that “God’s way” of courting within the fallen world is not the way that God had designed the human to be in an unfallen world.
In other words, the natural way between a young man and young woman (which drives every practice of dating) is precisely how God made youth to be (but for a world which no longer exists).
But, wisdom in face of a mutual conflict of needs is to do whatever is necessary to preserve the human socio-sexual unit. In fact, as pointed out near the beginning of this page, the civilly binding form of instantiating the man-woman socio-sexual unit is the root form, and first act of, civilization as such.
Adam and Eve, unlike ‘field-players’ of today, were simply that socio-sexual unit which had no alternative prospects to each other, since there were no others in existence. Later, when fallen humans began to multiply, it was Adam, not God, who invoked the civil covenant regarding marriage: the direct spoken intention by the each of a blessed would-be couple to remain a couple, that else such blessing would be suspended until such time as they would assent to be bound by their word. It was only later still in the world that some people thought actually to lie by such word, or to try escaping the public enforcement of their word after they had sincerely given it before ‘public’ witnesses (to those who had an interest in enforcing it, especially the father of the bride).
Now, many Christian fathers assume that dating (recreational or otherwise) is natural to the nature of marriage, since it is most natural for the human being to simply act on attraction. This most natural way is even why many a nice girl assumes that certain uncommon young men are trying to be cruel for lack of initiating a relationship with her in response to her clear non-vocal invitations toward them, since it is clear to her that they find her attractive, and even she had been told (correctly) that they are single. Recall that Laban had given his own solemn word to Jacob and Rachel: that Jacob could consummate his joining to Rachel after he had paid in full the price which Laban commanded. Laban held the market, and then trashed the market, which then made Laban unworthy of the title of ‘father’.
The article at
suggests that the cultural concepts and processes which resulted in the modern paradigm of ‘dating’ are quite complex and non-intuitive to the typical modern Western mind. Even if those concepts and processes are non-intuitive to the typical modern mind, the most basic and simple of human forces is to account for those processes: the natural drive of the ‘naïve’ human individual to hope to attain some ideal of a mate within some ideal of a general life’s work-and-leisure.
Some thinkers who consider themselves to be ‘old fashioned’ only seem to propose the idea that a legally committed-and-enforced marriage is the natural prerequisite to romantic love. This is because the approval of ‘dating’ by ‘Mr. and Mrs. C’, the parents of Richie Cunningham, in the iconic TV sitcom, Happy Days, motivates the inferrence that ‘impropriety’ in a ‘dating’ relationship is essentially aberrant to the ‘nature’ of ‘courtship’ as a probationary romance.
But, to ask it the third time, whence this probationary paradigm? Answer: Romance exists of and for itself.
In fact, when, in considering the mere idea of disagreements and deeply-felt disharmonies, romance is viewed naively as capable of sustaining itself in face of actual disagreements and disharmonies, the sense of an impending crash or other deep disappointment can only poison the naive natural reactions to the naïve sense of disillusionment. Adan and Eve experienced such disillusionment. But, unlike secular people, who take the present world at face value on its own terms, Adam and Eve understood the nature and source of their disillusionment.
The ignorant secular means of preserving a worthwhile sense of self in face of such disillusionment is to conclude that, since romantic bliss cannot maintain itself on its own power in face of disharmony, it is a kind of happy illusion with no true basis in any reality, and therefore may rightly be played with as one plays with a temporary toy.
But, unlike what secularists and other ignorant-but-decent people think, romantic bliss never could maintain itself in face of disharmony: it was not made for a world of disharmony. In other words, the most personal, and most broadly meaningful, form of human society was not made for a fallen word. In short, Adam and Eve were not made fallen, but became fallen.
But, Adam and Eve’s original potential to produce a wider human family, a ‘wider society’, also was not designed in mind of a world of disharmony between rightful needs. So, that ‘wider society’ does not automatically cope well with any of the injustices which persons and peoples commit against each other wittingly and unwittingly. Even Richard Dawkins spoke to this problem in his book, The Selfish Gene.
So, unless the current world is harmonious in very terms of its disharmonies, then there must have been an original world which is not like the current, disharmonious one: a world which was perfectly amenable to the naive youthful romantic ideal which certain Disney movies strive to perfect.
An ignorant sense that civilly formed-and-enforced couples is not for the preservation of couples per se, but for ulterior ‘political’ motives, is reinforced by the ideal naive perception about romantic love. And, that naive ideal, in turn, gives motive to selfish parents to make selfish demands of their children regarding whom to marry and how to conduct that marriage. I hope you see the vicious circle here.
The ideal naïve perception is that only if a romance is so naturally enduring as to preclude any severely-felt disagreements, or, at least, to preclude the evaporation of romantic feelings on account of those disagreements, is it ‘the real thing’ between true ‘soul mates’. Hence, the modern concept of ‘puppy love’, and of that other, far more grievous sense which unrequited ‘true love’ can produce in a tender-but-all-too-misguided heart (even to the point at which, by power of romantic feelings, an otherwise healthy human being commits one or both of murder and suicide).
Those last two items function in their most slow-motion forms in a society which is so mixed up as to normalize the probationary version of romance. Such a society is so mixed up because it accepts as remotely rational the idea that ‘true love’, or the wish to find it, can actually be probationary: “I feel that I truly love you, but how will I know it really is true love unless it remains strong despite days/weeks/months/years of disappointments?” Any wider society made up of such mixed up persons is like the novice airplane pilot who, in having no sight of the ground, keeps over-correcting a perceived bank, and so is driven ever further toward what the more truly informed pilots know as the ‘graveyard spiral’.
But, only some pilots of life know how such graveyard spirals actually happen, much less how to prevent them or how to get out of them alive.
There is a right way in every realm of human life, and thus many wrong ways possible in each realm. Within the general biological realm of human life is the socio-sexual sub-realm. This sub-realm of human life is the most central to how human life was designed to be lived, and thus the most powerful for either good or evil, for either insight or delusion, for either sustaining life’s central functions or warping them. Socio-sexuality is to human life a lot like the atom is to human technology: very powerful and very dangerous.
A youth minister in a small church I once attended often talked to me as we worked together. He occasionally asked my opinion on subjects or ideas he broug
ht up. He believed as I do about the sacredness of exclusivity of romantic partner: that, ideally and normally, a man could not rightly court one woman while having promised another woman marriage.
One day, it somehow came up that I thought to ask him whether he believed Adam and Eve had exchanged marriage vows. He answered ‘No’, and I asked him why. He replied that they didn’t exchange marriage vows because God Himself had created and validated that marriage. I agreed.
But, then, I said to him, ‘If humanity had remained unfallen, would marriages henceforth have been formed by way of exchanging marriage vows?’ He replied, ‘Of course they would.’ I asked him why he thought that. He replied, ‘In the context of options of whom with to be a couple, unless there is some very formal explicit means of establishing marriages, then a person easily is confused as to who is married to whom.’ I answered, ‘You mean you believe that God created a very good world which nevertheless would naturally have tended to confusion?’ He had no reply. I mentioned to him that there is no direct account of the origin of the marriage vow, and that the Mosaic Law merely assumes that the practice of the marriage vow was already in existence when the Law was given.
There are four parts to what I’m getting at here. The first part is that the world God made was not like that which is wisely necessary for life in a fallen world. The second part is that implied in the first: that the fallen-ness of the world makes necessary various things which God did not make to be part of the original world but nevertheless expects us to have the godliness and good sense to establish before we see too much error arise by our reticence. The third part is that the human ‘heart’ of romance is still essentially the same as it was made to be for the original world (that otherwise the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis would seem to every last person to be so much arbitrary nonsense). The fourth part is that there is a conflict between the first and second parts, especially by way of the third part.
So, marriage, in itself, is not a ‘commitment in face of contrary pressures’. It is, rather, simply this: a mutually biologically compatible male and female. But, it is this conception of marriage, combined with an effective ignorance about what sort of world we live in, which drives all the confusion in the world concerning what to think of as right and wrong for the formation (and dissolution) of romantic couples.
The youthful ideal of marriage underlines two things which I take to be uncontroversial:
1) The primary, or ideal, natural state of humans is the man-woman socio-sexual-reproductive unit (‘Adam and Eve’, marriage, co-habitation, extended dating, one-night-stands, what-have-you);
2) The ideal of such a state is perfect natural harmony and thus natural endurance of that state (the universal human desire is for a relationship with someone which, by such natural mutual ‘compatibility’, cannot help but be a ‘Very Happily Ever After’ from the moment of first meeting.)
But, the world into which we all are born is a fallen one: we each have many troubles in ‘living until we die’; and we must accord others’ needs and preferences which may conflict with our own. A most simple modern example of this conflict is, “I need the thermostat turned down while you need it turned up.” Without such accord, society cannot exist. But, with such accord, society is called ‘civil’.
Adam and Eve were the first human society — the first two human beings. That one-man-one-woman unit is the core from which come all other persons and all other kinds of social relationships: the extended family known as the human race.
But, Adam and Eve fell, and were cast out of their blissful home, and were then cursed to toil for sake of their humility until they died. They were, thus, in a predicament which no one else in history has had to face: they were each other’s only prospect for the complete kind of human companionship which Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan T. Anderson wrote about in the 2010 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. So, Adam and Eve had to be at least civil toward each other to preserve that relationship. Adam and Eve thus became the first civilization.
Abraham Lincoln said that if you really want to test a man‘s character, you can’t do so simply by making him suffer, but by giving him power. Externally, power is another word for opportunity. But, it’s what we make of ourselves in our hearts that determines how we use the opportunities presented us despite cautionary results of our actions.
A most deep kind of fallacy is to insist, in all practical terms, that what is, in fact, insufficient for life is sufficient for life. Those things which, while being mutually complimentary are more-or-less ‘independent’ in the short-term ought not to be generally maintained in adversarial relation to one another. For, in reflection of what Christ said, nothing which is in any way contrary to itself can indefinitely be maintained. Physical death is the end of us all, but it need not be the un-remediable end either of our persons or of our society. Nevertheless, we have a certain problem with power. A useful way to begin to detail this problem is to explain the nature and dynamics of that thing we call ‘civilization’.
Society is a coherent collection of individuals. But, in a world of disharmony and toil, society is defined as a certain tension between the forces of dissolution and the natural-and-best reasons for why individuals associate. In other words, while the driving motive for the existence of society is the natural harmonies, and mutual benefits, of association, the presence of disharmonies between the rightful needs of individuals requires a certain tolerance of, and accommodation for, each other’s disparately conflicting needs. Otherwise, there is no society: there is only violent anarchy or solitary lifestyles.
Now, toil is the work of drawing basic material needs from an environment that tends to be less-than-perfectly hospitable. So, civilization is any set of individuals that cohere around a center of toil. This means that civil society is defined as any society that coheres despite rightfully natural disharmonies between individuals. A tyranny-centered relationship will produce either an effective tyranny of one person over the other, or more-or-less of a mad-dog anarchy. A self-moderation- and empathy-centered relation will produce some kind of mutual compromise between their rightful-but-conflicting needs, in genuine respect for their differing physiologies and neurologies, and in humble acknowledgement of the fact that the natural and economic environments in which they mutually find themselves already do not allow them an Edenically harmonious association.
Given the definition of civil society provided above, I think most anyone will admit that civilization does not consist in its material goods, however advanced, nor in the infrastructures for producing and distributing those goods, nor even in the science that makes that production possible; Rather, that civilization consists, principally, in the historical, moral, and metaphysical wisdoms that allow a kind of society which, despite its internal disharmonies, is able to produce plenty of material goods for all, and able to acquire the science that helps make that production possible. In short, civilization is, ideally, such a balance between toil, leisure, moral-social duty, and freedom as to enrich every part of the life of each of its members, without regard for their constant or occasional relative disabilities.
This balance, or the wisdom to know and practice it, is the backbone of any civilization. So, it takes no genius to recognize that technological, scientific, financial, or even social prowess, when acquired without regard to, or even greedily against, one’s competitors and adversaries, and over one’s fellows and fellow creatures, can, despite creating certain short-term advantages over competitors, only work to destroy the backbone of civilization, if not of the entire physical planet Earth (see the final phrase of Revelation 11:18, and then ponder as to the reason why the Mosaic Law, which was the Law over God’s own original nation, commanded that anyone who willfully toiled for a worldly self-interest on the Sabbath should be put to death.)
My dad grew up in what I call the ‘Happy Days era’. I call it that because it was the ‘glory days’ of the secular dating paradigm as reflected in the TV show by that name, starring Henry Winkler as ‘The Fonz‘. That TV show pictured a naive ideal balance between stability-and-wisdom and naivety-and-desire. Richie Cunningham’s parents were the picture of stability-and-wisdom, and ‘The Fonz‘ was the picture of naivety-and-desire. The balance between the two was portrayed in special favor to the latter, by paying no real negative attention to the ‘The Fonz’’s ways with girls, but mainly and directly glorifying those ways. The show also glorified those ways by a far more profound means than a simple direct means, namely by portraying those ways as a justified option (to Richie’s own emotionally more ‘conservative’ ways) in the context of Richie’s parents’ stabilizing influence.
So, the implicit message of the Happy Days TV show was that a naïve youth could have the best both worlds: the world of a stable-and-faithful-and-loving home, and the world of the more-less randomly open-ended naivety of a secularly ignorant youth. That TV show taught that young men could rightfully seek a marriage partner by ‘trying many girls on for size’. In short, that show portrayed the comfortableness of a traditional Conservative American Christian household without portraying the sorts of wisdom of that household which the more-or-less secularized America found objectionable.
Unlike me, my dad took for granted that a probationary version of romantic engagement was the normal, natural, and reasonable way that two single people determined whether they should consider getting married. He thought that this probationary romance was simply the natural prerequisite to a final blessing from the couple’s parents. So, he thought of the probationary romance which is ‘dating’ to be the natural first step, and the parental blessing to be the second step, so that these two ‘steps’ were like a whole person walking, each leg in proper turn.
The natural youthful outlook toward love-and-sex is God-given way that the world was made to be in the beginning. But, in a fallen world, when that youthful outlook toward marriage is effectively the only thing on the table, then youth are left more-or-less to their own devices for how to attain a state of belonging to-and-with a particular person of the opposite sex. It is not for a mere vow or a contract of fidelity that a man or woman, when his or her espoused other half is taken away, to be grieved by the loss to themselves. It is, rather, for the actual loss of the missing spouse’s fulfilling presence-and-ways that he or she is grieved, a presence-and-ways the keeping of which is the reason for giving a vow to that person to be his or her own espoused.
The normalized two-step process toward marriage which the Happy Days TV show glorified seemed entirely rational in those days: Western youth could interact and form couples based on mutual attraction and general compatibility, and parents could have the final say in whether a particular couple could get married. No hard feelings toward the parents if the parents said ‘No’: the couple would, at most, be dissolved, and otherwise be maintained as a ‘merely dating’ couple. No hard feelings except by the ‘immature’, just like it had by then been assumed to be the truth for dating couples that broke up of their own. The common culture assumed that this process was ideal for everyone involved.
But, that common culture in the West already had a foundation in a secular ‘rationalism’. This was a ‘rationalism’ that rejected anything that could not readily be proved by the average person while ‘staring at a blank wall’. In other words, a happily naive ignorance was the general standard of thought and practice in those days. The three most commonly recognized consequences of that ignorantly ‘ideal’ process toward marriage is the rise of STD’s, the normalization of divorce, and the legalization of abortion.
In light of the original, unfallen human society, and given that the current world is fallen, the naturalness of entering the pre-commitment romance which is ‘dating’ is at once unnatural and too natural:
It is unnatural by being free to be naïve of the fallen nature of the human being;
It is too natural by being naïve of its own naivety toward the fallen human being.
In other words, the practice of ‘dating’ not only allows a fallen single person to feel what God put in the human heart to feel (“I love him [or her], and I want to spend the rest of my life with him [or her].”), it allows a fallen single person to remain naive about the fact that the current, fallen world is not the way the world was designed to be.
Ever since Adam and Eve had the burden of many children, there has been at least some disagreement as to what, if anything, is wisely required for the attainment and maintenance of a new couple. (Children are ever a burden to parents only because those parents are fallen human beings toiling in a fallen world; children are not a burden by being children, as many girls and women will attest.)
In the fallen world, letting mutually-attracted young people more-or-less have their way with each other is natural in the sense that that mutual attraction is allowed to do what God designed it to do: provoke action. But, unless that attraction is completely rightly free to act as it will, then any reciprocating romance between the two people will be a romance the natural motive of which is in conflict with the two person’s fear of being disapproved of for ‘going too far’.
You see, in the fallen world there are two kinds of sexual tension: one good-and-natural, and the other unjustified-and-frustrating. And, it’s possible to feel some of both kinds at the same time. When that happens, you easily can be confused as to which kind is which, or even that you are feeling both kinds.
This confusion between good and bad sexual tension tends to reduce the practice of ‘dating’ to its ‘lowest moral common denominator’. And, this debasing tendency is only reinforced by the God-given differences between men and women—that men and women are different in their feelings and expectations, and, that, when these differences function within imperfect circumstances, men and women naturally try to solve any of their own frustrations by way of their own gender’s God-given specialties (ex: women try to enhance their physical appearance with form-flattering attire and makeup).
So, for example, women are both advantaged and disadvantaged for feeling and acting holistically in a ‘dating’ relationship, because men more easily tend to make distinctions both where distinctions should and should not be made.
If there is one thing which I believe must be understood about any disagreement over the means by which a single man and woman in this fallen world attain the right to actually be a couple, it is this: a genuine, free couple is not a product of any of the things which, rightly or wrongly, ever may be thought to be wisely required to becoming that free couple. In other words, I believe that marriage does not imply any probationary romantic phase. It sure wasn’t that way for Adam and Eve.
The most natural fact is that the natural way a mutually attracted single man and woman would interact has no measure of probationary-ness or ‘maybe-ness’ about it. Only by experience of the non-idealness of such relations do they ever enter them either with caution or with a ‘studied’ lack of humane concern for the other. What this implies for how a pre-fallen youth would have attained the primary natural state may be a deep and, for many people, counterintuitive matter. But, I stress that only in the context of a world of disharmony does that natural way become rightly amended or restricted, if not by the wider society, then by the individual him- or her-self. The trouble is when, in this fallen world, youth are left more-or-less to their own naive devices. Because, then, they are left more-or-less to develop their own ‘wisdom’ of what to expect from others and of what to allow to themselves. Such ‘wisdom’ is contrary to the nature of the primary state.
But, since a fallen world compels some genuine wisdom even from those who would adopt a lazy neutrality, the practice of avoiding any express restrictions on the behavior between single youth tends to breed its own set of ever-devolving restrictions and cautions. In other words, the absence of any means and restrictions imposed externally can be as cruelly felt by the ‘beneficiaries’ of that ‘freedom’ as may any host of restrictive formalities be felt. In fact, the unwillingness of effective elders to do anything but hold a ‘beneficent’ sword of final denial over the heads of their youth can only breed frustration and anger in those rare ‘beneficiaries’ who, by nature or accident, the most deeply feel the difference between a restricted probationary version of the primary state and the genuine primary state. That probation ought never to be confused with a justified gauntlet for bravery, and it drives even many prospective single women to frustration and bounds-pushing.
There is nothing natural about a restricted, probationary version of the primary natural state. The only things natural about a probationary version are those things which belong, by natural definition, to the primary natural state itself. So, it is only by the natural force of those things that anyone can feel that a probationary version is natural. This, in spite of the more-or-less unpleasant kinds of tensions inherent in having the expression of one’s sexual feelings restricted by authority, and, or, by one’s own sense of the risks of ending up in one or more kinds of bad relationship.
Commitment is a function of wisdom-and-friendship in face of real and potential mutual disharmony. A wider social and, thereby, codified/legal accountability for that commitment is another matter. And, that accountability is based on the nature of the primary natural state, not on the comparatively trivial fact that an express commitment within the purview of that accounting has been made. In short, the vow of commitment is in service to the primary natural state, not an ontologically superior cause of that state.
But, a probationary and, or, otherwise restricted version of the primary natural state virtually precludes any sense of commitment other than that which may arise out of a functionally short-sighted and singular self-interest: ‘please don’t leave me without an effective object of my accustomed range of experiences of erotic love’.
In short, while the marriage vow was invented by fathers of daughters (but not by a father like Laban: Laban was an arrogant newcomer), marriage itself was invented by God simply by having made male and female.
With no experience of the other sex, with no other persons in effective existence, and with no contrary commands or expectations, a mutually very attracted man and woman sense simply that they belong together, forever. And, they do belong together. This is marriage. They are rightly free to act on that belonging. They are original to each other.
Only in the presence of conflicts that work to dissolve that original belonging is there a need for mechanisms that work to keep the two persons thinking and acting as belonging together, or else to prevent them acting on that sense of belonging together until they are assured capable of maintaining their hoped-for mutual belonging in a world of conflicts (both conflicts between genuine needs and conflicts which arise as unloving kinds of reactions to the fact of those first conflicts).
Marriage—of the during kind―consists in the right of two to act on their mutual compatibility; in which their right to so act does not consist in their compatibility, but in their competence in face of factors, if any, weighing against the endurance of their action.
If they hope for an enduring marriage, and if such factors exist or may exist, then the two must have, and otherwise be provided, the requisite competencies.
Short of such competencies within a reality of conflicts, and short of a carefree indifference to having their hearts and even their bodies broken, they do not have the right to act as a romantically or otherwise sexually interacting pair.
This is why naïve persons tend to have their hearts broken, even if they have never seen or read anything involving romantic attachment. Marriage is not a product of culture, culture is a product of marriage, or the lack of marriage.
So, if either of two mutually attracted single persons do not define marriage as the willingness of a couple to grant that the wider society has some say on whether they may reject each other over a given conflict or sudden lack of interest in the other, then they should not act toward each other as a couple, that is, as a joined mutually compatible male and female: no hand holding, no kissing, no kind of freedom to exchange expressions of romantic/sexual attraction to one another, and no general freedom to be with each other outside of the plain sight of elders who know them to not be married to each other.
(Or, if I’ve bungled my expression of these ideas somewhat, I hope you at least begin to get the ideas themselves.)
Is not a lifelong, exclusive, deeply loving socio-sexual relatioship the most glorious state of human life?
The sole complete inter-human unit is the man-woman unit. Of course, this unit alone is that from which, by way of special biological union, human individuals come. It thereby also alone is that from which come, and thus may come, all other kinds of human social relations (parent-child, aunt-niece, etc.). But, the man-woman unit alone is the complete inter-human unit because it, and it alone, is that from which its own kind of unit is reproduced. Children do not grow up to become stranded alone on a desert island, nor do they simply happen to have the mere external form of sexual beings like their parents.
Some say that marriage is for the production and raising of children. They are right only to a point, because they are wrong beyond that point. Marriage is for the reproduction of marriages, not for the reproduction of individuals. Can you spell ‘recursion’? Can you spell ‘Madelbrot’?
While marriage can be reproduced, even its reproduced instance is not a product of its two parts, but rather of their interaction. A fun tennis match is both for its own end and for the end of another such tennis match; it is not ultimately for the production of tennis rackets, nor even for the production of lone would-be tennis players.
While a viable human is one which can live outside the vessel within which the human is (re)produced, a merely viable human is not a completed human: it cannot interact fully-and-equitably with its environment until it has developed fully by way of its interactions with its parents, and then become married to a complimentary human. So, marriage is not a merely viable social unit, but is that unit only which may have natural power to reproduce other-humans-and-thereby-other-marriages.
One cannot play hide-and-seek with oneself. The greatest joy of finding another person is not in finding that you have only one relatively trivial thing in common. Only those who worship human technological prowess would find the idea of reproduction-by-cloning to be superior to the idea of marriage. Robinson Crusoe did not worship the human individual, else he would never have had any desire to be with any human but himself.