Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Random Thoughts of a...Relationship Kind?

[Personal reflection]

Okay, so here's a departure from the normal intellectual blogging, because it's something I came up with, not related to class. Rather, this is what happened when I decided to pray in the Adoration Chapel on campus, and read up through this book we have on vocations. All about discerning the vocation which God has chosen for us. It also took special pains to examine just how marriage is a vocation like the celibate callings. That's when God did some mental nudging and prodding, and I kinda realized something.

The pattern of vocation discernment is by far the most reliable method to apply to dating, or whatever you call relationships.

I've definitely heard a good share from one person or another about just what a relationship should or shouldn't be. Practice for having a spouse? A way to get to know somebody well? Something you do after falling in love? Each of these seems to have their advantages and disadvantages, although I don't see them all as being equally advantageous/disadvantageous, obviously. At this point, though, I hadn't really seen an incredibly clear reason for picking one method. To be sure, I favored some over others; the concept of "courtship", for example. But it didn't feel like I had many strong God-based supports for any specific type of relationship.

I mean, I've definitely held the belief that a relationship ought to be geared towards preparing one for the possibility of marriage. I've thought that it should hold some sort of gravity. And I've thought that it should be preceded by the formation of a friendship. (The whole friendship thing, covered elsewhere and previously, by the way) See, though, I didn't have a whole lot to go on. The concept of "true love" can sometimes be very dangerously sentimental, without any real basis for the love.

So, then, here's what sort of gently popped up in my heart as I was reading. "Discernment should be the point of a relationship." And it struck me as a very logical thing. The priesthood has the seminary, where young men go to study, to learn what it's like to be a priest, and then can freely make the choice to commit to the priesthood. Monasteries, convents, and non-cloistered religious communities all involve a period of novitiate, followed by a stronger commitment, climaxing in full profession of vows to live in the community for life. For a smaller-scale one, a household at Franciscan University has an intentship period, where a student expresses a desire to enter a household, followed by closer and closer commitment to the household, until finally you're a full-fledged member.

So, I thought, why couldn't it be the same for marriage? Two people distinguish within themselves the strong possibility that God wills them to be married. They start dating, with an attitude of discerning this through prayer, and seeing where God is leading. If they believe it still exists, they become engaged, which represents a stronger commitment to the vocation which they believe they are called to. They continue to discern and grow closer, and finally are able to commit for life.

Honestly, I see a lot of good things about this, especially the fact that it works harmoniously with the human person. When was the last time you saw somebody in heartbreak and agony when they discerned that a vocation to the priesthood was not their calling? Yet at the same time, the vast majority of relationships end in messy, painful breakups. What if you had a relationship end with the understanding that God's will was being followed, which is a good thing, and a healthy thing, to know? It also keeps the relationship within a healthy framework, because the centermost question is "What does God will for us?" and "Does this truly help us grow in love?" (Because, as JPII has said, the most important aspect of a vocation is that it arises out of love.)

Anyhow, I thought that was an interesting thought. Still continuing to grow and learn, but I think this is a significant step.

Like and Unlike

[PHL 211, Metaphysics]

This is truly something random which struck me...in fact, it struck me in the middle of class. The professor was explaining the concept of univocity, which is one way in which a quality relates to two different things. In univocity, the two things are seen to possess the same quality in the same way. For instance, one may look at Mount Everest, and Mount Kilamanjaro, and see that they both are mountains, in the exact same way. One is not "more mountain" than the other. So, mountain is to Everest as mountain is to Kilamanjaro: the relationship is exactly the same.

And this got me thinking, and eventually manifested itself into a two-liner which I may or may not steal for a book or movie or something...

"I have nothing in common with him. We are two completely different people."

"That is true, but the fact remains, you both are people."

When I wrote this, I was envisioning a protagonist, ready to take a complete course of devastation and vengeance against his enemy, justifying it through the defense of non-affinity. He has nothing in common with the other person, and so it doesn't matter to him what becomes of his enemy. His mentor is correcting him, reminding him that there is indeed an affinity that binds them together: the basic affinity of humanity. And here is where my thoughts take a complete left turn, and totally derail from what we were discussing in class.

I find that very thing to be an interesting concept, that even those who are so different from you, so hostile to you, can be so similar to you, in that one crucial point. In fact, the only reason that you can be so different is because you share a common ground, the ground of humanity. This is the source from which differences can be derived. So thinking upon this, it's a reminder that all of us, no matter where we have ended up, came from the exact same origin, and that one of the most fundamental ways to learn how to accept another person is to bring oneself back to that origin, to remember the common denominator that binds us all together.

Now, within a Christian framework, we can take this one step farther, combining this concept with what we know from Divine Revelation. What exactly does it mean to be a person? As a Christian, one can recognize that this means one is not only created in the image and likeness of God, but is also endowed with the spark of Grace given to us by Christ's death on the Cross. Because of this, each human is created to imitate Christ, and to follow in His footsteps. This also means that every human, regardless of where they have come, how far they have stepped, can always step back and return. So when we look at a person, we can remind ourselves of that crucial fact, that primordial truth, the principle thing beyond all things, that they were created from Love, to love.

Ultimately, this is what can bind humanity as a whole together, when for a brief moment, we also take into account that those who are most different from us are also like us, in a very important way.