[NOTE: This is a translation into English, made with the help of Google Translator, of an article I published here in Portuguese on June 26 of this year (2019). You can check the original in https://chaves.space/2019/06/26/o-casamento/. Most of the translation was automatically made by the Google app, which is a fabulous piece of software. But being an official, legal, sworn, court translator, I could not resist, however, making a few corrections and “improvements”… The original discussioon on Facebook, in Portuguese, is found in https://www.facebook.com/eduardo.chaves/posts/10157209804037141. EC]
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I will transcribe here a post that I published today (26/06/2019) on Facebook, adding the comments that I made throughout the discussion.
The first excerpt is taken from Walter Lippmann’s book A Preface to Morals, published originally in 1929. The rest is commentary that I added in the discussion that followed on Facebook.
– I –
[This is the translation back into English suggested by Google, on the basis of my translation of the quote into Portuguese]
“Lovers who love nothing more than each other should not really be objects of envy. When two people just love each other, and nothing more, then they just have nothing left to love. The emotion of love, despite the romanticism that surrounds it, does not sustain itself: it lasts only when lovers love many other things in common, not just each other. ”
[This is the original quote by Lippmann]
“Lovers who have nothing to do but love each other are not really to be envied; love and nothing else very soon is nothing else. The emotion of love, in spite of the romantics, is not self-sustaining; it endures only when the lovers love many things in common, and not merely each other”.
Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Morals (1929), pp.308-309; my translation from the 1960 paperback edition.
– II –
Some biographical (about Lippmann) and autobiographical details
I bought this book on April 17, 1972, in Pittsburgh, at the Westminster Bookstore, which was inside the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. I bought the used book for 69 cents. I only read this passage yesterday, June 24, 2019, forty-seven years after I bought the book. This proves to me that we should not donate some of our books, even as we get old, under the false impression that we will never (ever) read them after so long. One hour we take one of them out of the bookshelf and find such a pearl. Rubem Alves, despite his instinctive and built-in wisdom, did this silly thing. He donated much of his library — all the books that he thought he would never use again: theology books, for example… Walter Lippmann was a great American journalist. He was born in 1889 – September 23rd – and died in 1974, on December 14th, shortly after I returned from the USA to Brazil. It was virginian [born under the Virgo sign in the Zodiac], as I am. He was married for the first time in 1917. Twelve years later, when he wrote the book from which I took this quote, he had already realized that he had made the mistake he condemns here. Eight years after the book, he corrected the mistake by divorcing and remarrying, in 1937. This time he married someone who also had to divorce someone (Lippmann’s best friend up to that moment) to marry him. But this time they both got it right: the marriage lasted until their death, because they loved many things in common besides each other. They died the same year, 1974, she first, though a little younger, he a few months later. Their story is beautifully told by Ronald Steel in his 1980 biography of Lippmann, Walter Lippmann and the American Century, where I initially saw the quoted passage and went after the original, which fortunately I had on my shelves.
– III –
I had never seen them this thesis defended so clearly in writing (in fact, not even orally). I found out that Lippmann gradually came to this conclusion as a result of his (first) marriage, remembering something his Harvard professor George Santayana had said, and in opposition to what Bertrand Russell had been preaching in the 1920s, namely free love, impulsive sex, divorce on demand. Bertrand Russell was quite cynical about love, sex, and marriage, even in his personal life. Walter Lippmann, by contrast, took everything very seriously, including, and in particular, the questions about which Russell was a cynic. For him, marriage undoubtedly requires love between the two, but to last it depends on more things, especially affinity, which involves loving several other things together. This is more than the initial passion that ignites love, which keeps the flame alight. This, according to Lippmann, he learned from Santayana and from life – and at the expense of much frustration and, in due course, suffering. But the learning paid off.
– IV –
Religion is an important affinity. (I would say Politics is another – I find it impossible for a couple to survive these days if one is a radical supporter of Lula [a previous Brazilian President] and the other a radical supporter of Bolsonaro [the present Brazilian President]. Even Football has its importance as an affinity dimension – I don’t know if I could handle being married to a fanatical Corinthianist…).
But Religion sometimes radicalizes and goes beyond the bounds of common sense, as, in my view, and in a way, the Catholic Church has done, ignoring the fact that the human being is fallible (i.e., often wrong in his choices), is not omniscient (i.e., sometimes thinks that the intended spouse is one thing and s/he ends up being another), and in many ways changes his ideas and values over time. Therefore, the Catholic thesis of the indissolubility of marriage, and the theses of some more conservative Protestant churches, such as “Married Forever,” “Armored Marriage,” etc., need to be.
I think Lippmann, who was divorced after all, was right to criticize Bertrand Russell who, more than a libertarian, was (as I said) a cynic in this area, believing that love and sex should be free even for married people, even for people legally or morally committed to each other, exemplifying this in his life, in which he not only married several times (I do not think this in itself wrong), but had lovers and affairs, openly and simultaneously, even during the marriage, and liberally admitted that his wives did the same, one of them having even had children with two other men while married to Russell. I am convinced that Lippmann, who was a very serious and honest person, was right in thinking that marriage is a business that should be taken and conducted very seriously – and therefore must be looked upon with the utmost responsibility. No one should get married lightly, thinking that, if it doesn’t work, divorce is there and we break up. But this recognition does not imply, either for him or for me, the defense of the indissolubility of marriage, of its permanence (“foreverness”), etc. As we are fallible, non-omniscient, changeable, etc., there must be a respected escape valve without which there will be much unnecessary suffering and frustration. But this valve should not be used in the first quarrel. It is necessary, in marriage, to look for affinities, to build relationships, to be aware of possible weaknesses. For this, a book like Gary Chapman’s The Five Languages of Love is a very useful tool.
– V –
Another thesis of the Catholic Church that, in my opinion, deserves to be criticized is that the sole or primary purpose of marriage is procreation. The rejection of this thesis (and the admission of other, equally or more important purposes, such as partnership, companionship, support and mutual care, common life projects, etc.) opens the door to the acceptance of marriage between people of the same sex. Otherwise even marriage between people who are past the age of being able to procreate (without technical help), or who simply do not want to have children, would be impossible or turned too complicated. But it does not, in my view, open the door to polygamy, polyamory, etc., as some claim.
– VI –
I’ll just quote a little bit more, and freely, from Lippmann:
- Marriage at present (he wrote in 1930, almost a century ago) will not last and resist because the GOVERNMENT has passed laws that prohibit or at least make it difficult to dissolve (as it did until 1977 in Brazil);
- Marriage, at present, will not last and resist because SOCIETY stigmatizes the split, separated, divorced people, punishing them with rejection and ostracism;
- Marriage, at present, will not last and endure because CHURCHES, believed to be the strongholds of morality, have created moral principles that turn divorce, adultery, sex outside marriage (so-called fornication), and so on, sins (moral faults), which bring severe penalties, if not in this, in future life;
- Marriage, at present, will not last and endure because SCIENCE claims that a promiscuous and unruly sex life contributes to mental and emotional disturbances;
- Marriage, at present, will only last and endure if the TWO PARTNERS are committed to making the marriage work and have an indispensable minimum of knowledge or intuition about how to do it.
Only that. It just depends on the two. Maintaining a successful marriage today, when law, social sanction, morality, religion, and science are no longer able to put pressure on it, is MUCH HARDER.
The only thing the GOVERNMENT can do is to provide a decent way out (as non-traumatic as possible), making the break up of a marriage viable and reasonably painless, if the two are unable to live together forever, that is, until death do them part. That is, institute an easy and costless DIVORCE.
– VII –
But I do not want to broaden the discussion so much that one loses sight of Lippmann’s basic thesis, set out in item I.
This is it.
Salto, SP (BR) June 26, 2019; Published in English on November 20, 2019.