No, this is not a column about my marriage. What? You think I’m a fool?
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I might write about yours, but you’ll never catch me writing about my own.
Got better sense than that. Way, way better.
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‘Marriage as an institution’-I know you must have heard that one a million times. Me, too.
Interesting word, “institution.”
It always conjures up in my mind a big, red-brick building with lots of barbed wire around it.
‘Sanctity of marriage’-there’s another one for you.
Ten or twelve years ago, I’m on the floor of the House of Delegates and a raging debate on the ‘sanctity of marriage’ is ebbing and flowing across the House chamber and all I can think is:
‘Here we are, 100 delegates to this legislature-with maybe 200 divorces among us-trying to tell Virginians how to be married.’
Been doing that a long time. Still doing it-not just here in Virginia, but around the world.
There are nearly 300 recognized human cultures in the planet, and all of them not only practice and regulate-by law, custom, or both-this thing we call ‘marriage,’ but have developed expertise in telling everybody else in the world how to do it, too.
Some form of ‘marriage’ has been around for at least 4500 years. Probably longer-specific references go back at least that far.
Wouldn’t you think, after, 4500 years, we’d have beaten that horse to death?
Dream on. We’re just getting started. I’d say we’re good for another 4500.
The notion of ‘love’ in marriage is a recent upstart. Ditto any notion of ‘happiness.’ Neither had anything to do with in for a couple or three thousand years. (Still doesn’t, for that matter, if you believe the break-up statistics.)
No, the early marriages, mostly tribal affairs, were more matters of resources.
Let me translate that for you: the big issue was how to divide up the women.
From the reading I have done, mostly superficial, marriage got to be a complicated thing when religion and law got into it. The Bible is full of dos and don’ts.
If you’re going to look into it, it might be better if you start with somebody besides Soloman. He’s generally considered among the’wise.’ You might have to overlook the part where he had 700 wives and 300…ahh ‘concubines.’
(Not sure what a ‘concubine’ is, but I think I know.)
Billy Graham once described his marriage as several decades of “happy incompatibility.”
The first marriage in the colony of Virginia is generally considered to have occurred in 1608, when John Layden and Ann Burrus married.
No idea who the second happy couple was. Do know it wasn’t long before the politicians got into it.
In 1628, the know-better-than-yous running the colony passed an act forbidding marriage of any sort “without lycence or asking in church.”
Just here in Virginia, the laws governing marriage since then would fill up a shelf full of books. And that’s just those governing the joining. Those governing the parting would fill another one.
The sheer weight of marriage laws across this country would sink a big ship, and still, the debates drone on. Who can. Who can’t. Who should. Who shouldn’t.
Maybe marriage is done, has played out its course. I don’t know.
Part of me thinks, “good riddance.”
But then I think about Bunny and Tellie Mae Cockram.
Dear, dear people to all of us on this mountain, they were betrothed some 80-odd years ago in the cab of Bunny’s pick-up-preacher standing at the window-in the preacher’s yard, at the foot of Belcher Mountain.
Compatible? Probably not. Happy? No doubt about it.
That union only lasted 75 years.
I smile when I think about them.
Marriage done? I sure hope not.