I got married young for my class and generation — 27. At the time, I was terribly enamored with the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (I still am but, alas, with some broader understanding). And so I imagined — nay, I believed — that to marry was to make an internal, spiritual-like movement towards the infinite and back again.
What I mean is that, for starters, it didn’t really matter who I was marrying. I know that sounds callous but that’s not how I mean it. What I mean is that the movement into marriage — for my 27 year old self — was not a movement to another person per se but an agreement with another person to have the relationship detour through the infinite. The finitude of this or that person was irrelevant. From a purely practical perspective, most of the women I’ve dated were more or less the same — smart, cute, funny, educated, sexual. I could have married any one of them.
Except that I was not yet ready to make the internal move I had to make — that is, to the infinite and back. When I was, I married the woman standing in front of me. This is not to say I didn’t love her. On the contrary, I was totally in love — and propelled to make that movement, that impossible movement. The act, however, had little to do with her and everything to do with me, with my existential fortitude.
What do I mean about moving through the infinite? When dating, we find ourselves enmeshed in the everyday, in the utter, aching banality of life — eating and crapping and sleeping and cleaning and working. This is not say there is not joy in the everyday. But to exist in the finitude of the everyday is, well, soul crushing (to me, at least). And so when a problem arises — you can’t stand the way the other sleeps or smells or chews or talks to your friends — you have a real problem.
Now refract that relationship through the infinite. Are you going to remain angry over such things forever? Well, no. The everyday banality of this or that complaint compared to the infinite is nothing. And so rather than leaving, you stay. You overcome that complaint.
This is to say, you move from the finite — the way she chews — to the infinite and then back again. And suddenly her chewing is not so annoying. In fact, you can barely hear it over the exquisite hum of the infinite.
Move forward 14 years and I am no longer married. How, then, do I stand towards that movement I made? Did I forgo infinity?
I don’t think so. I believe I’ve redistributed the relationship between the finite and the infinite. I want everyday to be exquisite. And if not exquisite then at least bullshit free. This no doubt demands a certain refraction through the infinite, a certain understanding that traffic or an asshole at work or a shitty date or an upset stomach are little compared to the infinity of the cosmos. On the other hand, I’ve embraced a radical practicality: I want to do the things I want to do, here and now, in this finite world. And this means I don’t want to be married anymore.
I still firmly believe that marriage is an act one makes — with another person, of course — but it is finally a private act, an internal movement. There is no such thing as “I just can’t find the right person — I guess I’m unlucky.” That’s nonsense. If you really want to get married, then you have to make that impossible but actual internal movement.
But you don’t have to get married. There are other ways of distributing love, sex, finitude and infinity. I’ll get back to you when I know more about them.