The meaning of marriage
In view of perplexing developments in the marriage institution in the world, in which women known for their restraint borne out of their extra-ordinary absorptive capacity, no longer shrink, but today fly into a rage, drawing daggers to cut down their husbands, it is expected that questions would arise in our minds seeking to know what is going on and where our world is headed. A great many are bound to ask, if not publicly, but in whispers and in closets: What is the meaning of marriage?
In recent years, not only has the spate of domestic violence worsened, marriages have been collapsing like a pack of cards. Studies have shown that in the United States divorce rate is as high as 40 per cent, varying from one socio-cultural group and educational background to the other. Data from the Office of the National Statistics reveals that between 2013 and 2015 four times more women were killed by their partners or former partners. Crown Prosecution Service Data in Britain shows that 93 per cent of defendants in domestic abuse court cases are men. In Britain and Wales two women are murdered every week by a current or former husband.
These are frightening developments, and they have rightly elicited the emergence of high-minded women groups to campaign against domestic violence against women. The novel aspect in this clime is women in blind rage killing their husbands. Yet, where a union is contracted on the solid foundation of true love, watered from the spring of relative level of compatibility, manifesting in shared strengths and aspirations of a lofty goal, marriage is a great institution. What then is the meaning of marriage?
As I did state 26 years ago, (on May 2, 1991), when I first wrote on the subject, marriage in a majority of cases for several decades has become a social contract. It is a question of what you have. It is a question of making it. To use the familiar language: “He’s made it, man! He is cruising about in CVU.” And one among his hearers may add as if raising a point of correction: “He is into oil and gas and has a bullet proof CVU car that cost N41million. And I have just heard he has something out there in Banana Island. The mansion at Lekki is there.” That is the resume of the eligible bachelor that is being brandished and with which many have been familiar. Added to this profile is the practice not so new any longer, called “packaging.”
Gone are the days when a young man and a girl meet, get pulled to each other, fall in love, with the man feeling driven out of his mind at her sight and by her side. There they were down the slope, behind the large tree, holding hands and hiding away from the wrinkled and askance gaze of the girl’s father or his dog.
With packaging, the lingering craze, it is the father, with wads of assorted currency notes—from dollar to Pound Sterling and from Pound Sterling to Euro and Euro to Naira in his wallet, and company directorships, political party chieftain, shops for the daughter’s suitor. It is what suits the wishes of the prospective suitor himself who has done his home work well. He has combed the pages of Who is Who and keeps his ears to the ground so that he can cross the path of the right girl at the right time. The right girl is the one whose father is chairman of a chain of companies, whose father is a political juggernaut and who is ready to set up the son-in-law in life.
Now in the land, we have in vogue a situation in which young men are looking for opportunities to be relieved of cares and responsibilities, and a situation materially successful parents are searching for suitors for their daughters, not so much for her joy, happiness and fulfillment, but their own social aggrandizement, public acknowledgement and fame. Where it is done out of concern for the daughter or the son it is borne out of ignorance of what love is, what the purpose of life is and what the mechanisms that govern life are. And indeed what marriage is all about.
What is love? It may be asked. Love is what seeks the best for the loved one. Pure love is severe, concerned only with that which gives benefit, but not comfort to the loved one. A good mother is she who allows her child to touch fire, to fall and then rise, who watches painfully the child experience life and make mistakes. She cares for him and respects him. It is in the experiences of life that the child grows and matures if the right lessons are learnt along the way.
Struggle is inherent in nature and it gives vigour. It promotes vigilance and enterprise. In struggle and competition with others, a person is subjected to outside influences and impetus which help to awaken him from lethargy or jolt him from slumber. He is thus compelled to call forth his own abilities and talents to solve a particular problem and to discover himself thereby along the line. When a person encounters an obstacle and there is no one insight to help him, he exerts himself. There is thinking, there is reflecting. There is contemplation to free himself from the pressure the obstacle mounts on him. With the right inner, prayerful attitude there is loosening from the hold of the obstacle, and he is spiritually linked with help. He comes to self-recognition.
For as long as man is not fully matured, there will always be struggle, even if it is to remove the little specks of dust that may overlay his life. With struggle there is movement. With movement there is heat. Where there is no movement, there is slackness and retrogression, death and decay. When the battery of a car is not warmed, it runs down and when the engine is not put into activity, the car is not driven, its parts begin to rust. A man who sits all day without exercising his limbs soon loses the use of them and his agility. It is what we use that develops; what is neglected atrophies. Look at the legs of footballers. Look at the chest of wrestlers and consider the arms of tennis players. They explain to us the Law of Movement. In fact, there is no end to struggle because there is no end to life and everything, even including a fruitful thought, under pressure and motion.
A couple that is relieved of struggle is relieved of initiative to find its own way through life to come to self-consciousness, and it soon weakens and becomes dependent, on the neighbours, friends, legions of relations or parents who were the benefactors in the first place. Should the father decline to help, the young man in modern times pulls the gun! A couple not allowed to acquire their own property and gradually build their own home cannot have self-confidence and genuine self-respect.
The question that will then be asked is: Struggle towards what end? A grain of maize put in the soil, buffeted by influences assailing it, influences such as heat, soil particles, air, rain, and forces of gravity, struggles out of the ground to light and life—grows and matures and bears fruit. As man can be likened to a seed with all the potentials to flourish, (indeed he is spirit seed) and the same uniform laws pervade the world, he is subject to influences that compel him to struggle. As he struggles, he is polished and he glows gradually as he breaks through from within and his abilities unfold and are tapped and brought to the fore—for his own benefit and that of the larger community. In other words, through struggle and friction with his environment, man, the spirit seed, is to resurrect to light and life from matter. Every human activity therefore must serve the ultimate goal, whether it be work or leisure or marriage or business.
In true marriage, two persons enter into a union, as companions of equal worth, complimenting each other. What one lacks, the other has and brings into the union, and they form a whole. Standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, they jointly face life, each joyfully serving the other, to raise their inner and outer beings. Life on earth gets real meaning and value only through upward striving, longing and working towards values that endure and eternal life. Any effort out of false love to impede such struggle by anyone or couple is tantamount to adultery, and putting an end to life. It needs no crystal ball gazing, therefore, to tell which marriages were contracted, as they say, in Heaven and will endure and bear fruit. It needs no gazing at the crystal ball to know which marriages are made out of cunning, scheming and calculating, which must collapse and bring pain and agony. Meetings upon meetings by the in-laws will be of no avail as the marriage was not founded on natural dictates which alone permit swinging on the crest of the waves of Nature. Marriages that young couples are not allowed to build or marriages that are packaged are thus the sure and inexorable road to tribulations for the couple and bitter consequences for the in-laws. Nature does not go wrong.
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