I like hard-nosed, no-nonsense spirituality. I don’t like guff.

Marriage is at the core of Mormon spirituality. Marriage and dating, are also, in this culture, swaddled in yards and yards of guff.

From experience and reason, I believe that a great many people are misled by their romantic notions. In finding a partner, they put too much stock in the palpitations of their heart and not enough stock in a cold-eyed summing up of themselves and their prospects. In projecting the future, they expect too much fairy tale and too few tears.

So when I read Matt Walsh’s little diatribe, I approved. Thump that tub, brother. As Bookslinger said, his main point was something I’ve said in the past, that “The One and Only” is a lie.

But when I said it, I was a hypocrite. Because, as much as I think most people need to be less gooey-headed and quit waiting around for something to happen when they ought to be ought working to make it happen, the truth is that my own romance was magical. I fell in love, if not at first sight, then close to it. So did she. I had had passions before, but the quality of this one was so different I didn’t even bother to compare them. I don’t want to say those other passions were just lust, because they weren’t. My romantic feelings were engaged, it’s true. Even so, with my wife, I instantly knew that compared to those this was the real thing. It was like taste after smelling. We both knew within a couple of weeks of dating that we were going to get married. We just knew. It wasn’t something either of us consciously made up our minds about. If I recall we were having a picnic and we were both talking a mile a minute the way lovers do, and somehow the subject of architecture came up, and the ensuing conversation ran along those lines with both of us taking for granted that a future home would be our future home, and both of us taking for granted that the other thought so too. We both just knew that we were getting married, in other words, and that the other one knew it too. And I recall that after the picnic was over and we went our separate ways out of the fairy mound we both panicked and called each other almost simultaneously (I dialed first and she answered halfway through the first ring, since she had the phone in her hand and was dialing me, unless it happened the other way around) and both of us talked over each other blurting out how much we liked each other, of course, of course, but whatever madness had got into us at the picnic was not binding, no indeed, and we were not engaged to be married, it was far too soon, maybe someday, after we had more months together and had thought it over, but not now, that would be crazy. We were both relieved to find that the other was willing to release us from the premature commitment we’d made, without any wailing or heartache.

But the commitment was not premature. All that happened over the next few months was the next few months. The calendar changed, not us, until we reached a point where we felt that public opinion and our own self-respect would allow us to be engaged. At which point we got engaged.

Our married life, or even our engagement, has not been an idyll. The Mrs. and I sometimes go at it hammer and tongs. She has warts of the soul. So do I (many of them, alas, I didn’t know about before. The painful part of marriage isn’t always discovering who your spouse really is. Sometimes it’s discovering who you really are.) We keep slipping away into the fairy mound and then stumbling back out again. We keep having this crazy, over-the-top romance that I wouldn’t believe in if I read it in a book, mixed, without any logic, with a somewhat shopworn domestic partnership, the kind that would probably benefit from a good Brigham Young talking-to.

So what is marriage? Marriage is an art.

Whatever anyone may say to the contrary, I know that art comes from something like the muses. Good art, good writing, has an inspiration, literally something breathed in to them from outside. This thing that is breathed in is divine. It glows in the spirit. But, somehow, when the time comes to execute the inspiration, the going gets rough. The words don’t cooperate. You have to haul on them. You get mad a little. More inspiration may strike to keep you going, but you can’t count on it. There are things you can do that help the inspiration, like taking walks and letting the mind wander, or like Dali drifting off with a spoon poised above a platter, but you still can’t command it.

A few artists are inspired throughout. They work effortlessly. But most produce works that are either too workmanlike, too little inspired, or works where the execution doesn’t live up the conception.

That, to me, is marriage. We call the inspiration romance. It comes from elsewhere. It is something divine. But it can’t exist by itself. It has to be put down into a marriage, which means work and frustration. It can be invited into the marriage, but it can’t be manufactured.  Some of us write our marriages effortlessly, but most of us trudge along without enough inspiration, or don’t stick at the writing enough to match the inspiration we have. Some of us give up when we reach a prolonged spell of writers’ block, when a little more patience would have seen the work through.

What we in the church know is that for as many revisions as needed, the Editor will be on hand.


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