Sunday, December 14, 2014

PROBLEMS OF UNMARRIED LIFE: Isn't Singleness Made In Heaven too?

The subject of marriage is always favored by my students. Whichever background or class they come from, their preferences never falter on the altar of this magnanimous attraction. My graduate students, existing in the so-called young-adulthood, have, in fact, no other choice in this matter. Their hormones and heartbeats drive them in the direction of a talk or an image displayed on the matter of woman’s union with man.

Perhaps, the word marriage in theology indicates a broader union of any two entities or objects, as in the combination of hydrogen and oxygen atoms to form water.  Separated from that cosmic essence, marriage stands for a social institution, popularized and ‘practicalized’ by every civilized society on the earth. Although marriage differs in its various processes or rituals, its significance has an almost omniscient value among all cultures.
Image Courtesy: Google

What concerns me, a bachelor, is the misuse of the word marriage and its misidentified implication in the society. When it comes to the generally accepted principles on marriage, there comes the factor of age. Man should be of a particular age, and woman too should reach a certain age barrier in order to qualify for a legally sanctioned marriage. I would say, this one rule is important, and must be adhered to, since it guarantees the safety of children from being compelled to be married off at an early age. My concern is about the maximum limit of age a single man or woman can stay unmarried without the heart wrenching compulsions from their own families, along with their community. There will be emotional tortures, that force the young men and women who consider singleness not a big issue, to consider marriage a better refuge from social intervention.  

No scientific study shows that singleness is defective. Celibacy is one of the central values of priesthood in major religions. However, when it comes to accepting one’s own son or daughter choosing a path of life that is closely aligned to singleness, the parents start getting all hot and boiling. The father and mother, intent on seeing the good scene of their son or daughter exchanging marriage vows, could not prevent their hearts from breaking havoc in the lives of their innocent, bachelor sons and daughters. I have often observed that such parental pressure has a social origin. The community’s pressure, (to see their son or daughter getting a good partner, at the earliest) or the frequent queries of neighbors on this matter are examples of some of those social pressures.

As I was researching on the idiom, familiar to most of us from our schooldays, “Here is recalled the creation of Eve, of whom God Himself said, “I will make for man a help meet unto him.” Not only the marriage, but also the bride was Heaven-made, and the wonderful wedding benediction enshrines this idea.” He quotes from the Book of Genesis and shows how the union of man and woman is held in relation to the centre of religious discourse. Israel Abrahams suggest that the concept of Divine Marriage could be found in medieval religious services as well.
Image Courtesy: George Eliot

In order to drive his idea home, he uses an interesting quote from a novel by George Eliot, titled, Daniel Deronda.  

“The Omnipresent,” said a Rabbi, “is occupied in making marriages.” The levity of the saying lies in the ear of him who hears it; for by marriages the speaker meant all the wondrous combinations of the universe, whose issue makes our good and evil.”__ George Eliot, Daniel Deronda

In other words, looking for the heavenly origin of marriages takes us back in time through various courses—through literature, folklore, and theology. What I would urge you to see here is the fact that the divine ordinance associated with marriage, as in the union of man with woman, does not defy singleness. On the other hand, we find ideas like these given below written in some of the greatest works on theology. Here is a quote from the Bible:

“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”__1 Corinthians 7: 8-9.

In this part of the scripture, Paul the apostle holds the argument by saying that the matter of singleness or unmarried life does not call forth an immediate dismantling of both. Let those who wish to remain unmarried remain so, until the time of their choice. In my point of view, those many individuals who oppose singleness, mostly, concerned parents of young boys’ and girls’, confuse singleness with celibacy, and therefore mistake it to be some form of superstitious fundamentalism. 
Image Courtesy: www.lifecoachphil.com
Those who are well grounded in religious concepts might disagree with me here, because in many religious traditions celibacy is not a negative attribute. Celibacy offers an individual the position of priesthood and ascendancy into the alignment with God. In Hinduism, celibacy has a significant position in God-realization. In Catholicism too, celibacy offers the advantage of being a significant individual among the hierarchy. In both religious traditions, priests are considered with great respect. Rishis of ancient India are said to be great celibates, in so much as being a yogi requires a vow of celibacy.

Considering all these facts, one might wonder why young individuals are forced to enter into the vow of marriage without their personal consent. Living single is treated as a necessary aftermath of some defective personal or familial influence. Once, in a youtube video that was on a discussion on life being a single individual, a woman quipped that whenever she attends a wedding, people tend to look at her with some sort of sympathy, as if her decision to remain bachelor is in some way painful. She adds that her being single is completely her own choice, and that she prefers remaining in the same line until she feels comfortable to get married. It’s often seen that when a couple visits a wedding ceremony or a birthday party, the respect and honor they are given are way higher than that showed towards single people.
Image Courtesy: bmedia.fooducate.com

Young individuals, living bachelor lives, are often scorned at, at least in Kerala. The question often asked is, “when are you getting married, mone (son)?” And sometimes, the question is, “Are you waiting to grow teeth through your nose to get married, uh?” Tons of scornful looks and laughter would come one’s way; occasionally, a sympathetic look too. (I prefer receiving sympathies rather than being scorned at.)

Mothers of young girls, in social gatherings, shoot their concerned look at young men. They often talk to the mothers of these young men, asking them when they would marry off their young boy. (As if their daughters’ safety is dependent solely and irrevocably on the shoulders of this young male member of the community.) This is about young men; what about those young girls, whose mothers I just told you about?

Those young girls do not have a choice in this matter. Instead, they prepare themselves, mentally, to take the vows with a man of their parents’ choice, and to remain happily married ever after. If they oppose this drama of being the ‘Hunger Games’ scapegoat, like those many poor, poor women of the Middle-Ages, these young girls too, will be labeled “defective”.

Words like ‘choices’ and ‘personal preferences’ are often alienated, in Kerala. People generally tend to ignore these words, and of course, those who utter them too, labeling them ignominious scum.   
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