Don Rogers: True love’s ace card
Our culture today prizes monogamy, but it wasn’t always so and it isn’t so everywhere now, either. Science suggests we’re not geese, and scripture is problematic, especially for the Abrahamic religions.
The Jesus in the Good Book took no partners, but other prophets were prolific this way. Solomon of the Old Testament had 700 wives and as if that weren’t enough, 300 concubines. The relevant passages basically say he became too busy as a result for the Lord.
The Quran permits a man up to four wives so long as he can provide equally well for each. The Prophet Muhammad himself went from one until she died to 11, most widows, along with a concubine or two.
One spouse is enough for nearly all Muslims today, though multiple wives are more common in the hinterlands. Incidentally, women may have more than one husband in parts of northern India, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet, also Nigeria and some tribes in South America.
And Mormons are not the only Christians in America with sects where polygamy endures, though of course the mainstream faithful have long embraced a strict monogamy.
Sure, the religions are losing their hold, it’s true. Church and mosque and temple attendance is shrinking almost everywhere as the developed world grows more secular.
We’re less inclined to wed, though we still couple up. And we still favor monogamous relationships or at least declare we do. Our gossip shows this, too.
Ashley Madison’s data hack in 2015 would not have been a scandal otherwise. But what is it about us that the app for married people looking for side action not only still exists today, but claims 60 million members?
I remember meeting a congressman about to take over as House speaker for another congressmen caught cheating on his wife even as he helped lead impeachment proceedings against a president caught cheating on his wife. Well, the congressman I met wound up stepping aside because he was cheating on his wife.
We exalt monogamy and we romanticize its virtues, but how much do we respect its boundaries, really?
I’ve seen this up close, with friends and family. One relative answered a phone call from her pastor to learn her husband had been having a long affair with the wife of her ex.
ONE IS ENOUGH
I’ve kept to my vows, though I’m not religious and see nothing in human biology, psychology, history or the faiths to suggest we’re naturally monogamous creatures.
Still, I’ve shared this procreative, sacred, passionate, playful, insistent, intimate sharing of self with only one of the 8 billion humans besides me on the planet ever since we caught eyes beside a river just before sunset 38 years ago.
Our relationship, as you might imagine, has run the gamut of ups, downs and all arounds, and we’ve each made the conscious choice — for this is always a choice — to stay together and to stay true in this way.
I don’t pride myself in this, and I understand in the wide world of romance that some make different choices than I have. People pose otherwise, but I’ve seen enough below the surface of everyday life, not to mention in the arts, the political kabuki, the celebrity “news,” and all the many habits of humans everywhere. I don’t hold any of it against anyone. It’s just not for me.
And yes, this is accounting for physical attraction, the primal tugs, this most powerful drive testing human promises, boundaries, covenants, commandments, all that.
I believe our commitment to each other will last the length of our relationship. If it ended before life, I think I would stay single, in all respects, for a very long time afterward, maybe forever.
In any case, one love has been worth whatever sacrifice I made in lieu of the pursuit of sensation.
LIFE’S REAL GLUE
Romantic love is the joker in the deck of modern life. Everything shuffled, hands played or not played, lives sometimes flipped, but a familiar game, too. There are rules. Certainly the highest of consequences. Our very souls are at stake. Children come into the world. Things sometimes get … complicated. Nothing stirs us like love.
But I believe true friendship is our highest value. This goes for individuals living their best lives as well as what’s best for the planet as a whole.
We’re less likely to go to war with our friends. Less likely to cheat or steal from our friends. Or betray them. We team up, share our joys and puzzlements and pains with our friends. Take them in rather than cast them out. Forgive them more readily, and ourselves.
Our love lives are private, intimate, at our very cores. But friendship is the elixir that makes the world turn, communities survive and thrive — maybe what distinguishes humans most from the other creatures.
Friendship permeates our relationships, especially our loves, and overrides desire. Turns out real love is about friendship most of all.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299
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