The Mystery Of Marriage: Meditations On The Miracle, by Mike Mason
There are some books, like this one, that tell as much about the author as they do about the subject matter. This is not a bad thing, as this is an author I can definitely identify with, without a question. Some context helps here, as the author is someone who had seriously thought to enter a monastery and ended up marrying. Yet in his marriage he found himself deeply pulled in contrary directions, from his own selfish and deeply private native personality to the radical transparency and openness that is required to marry successfully. And it is that tension between two people who are pushed by love to be together, who have made vows to be loyal to each other through good times and bad until death do they part, and who are pulled by fear to be isolated and alone is a moving and gripping one that makes this book an amazing one out of the rather large body of work of books about marriages . Some people might be afraid that this book is a volume from a would-be modern-day Pharisee, but instead this is a rather deeply personal and intimate set of essays and reflections about what pulls us to other people and what often pulls us apart.
Given the foregoing, it ought to come as little surprise that the book consists of a bit more than 200 pages that have a fair amount of introductory material–a foreword and preface and then a prologue, and then sustained meditations the following subjects: otherness, love, intimacy, vows, sex, submission, and death, before ending with an epilogue and a touching poem about a lover’s hermitage where, as is the case in the book, the author compares marriage to a monastery where one has made vows of loyalty instead of chastity. Over and over again the author wrestles with the otherness of a partner, with the need to see someone as a person, and how all too often we reduce the complexity and depth of others, the qualities that mystify us and sometimes even terrify us about those we live into a caricature of fantasies and imaginations and our own interpretations. This is not a book calculated to harangue or calculated to calm, but rather one I found deeply chilling in the way the author’s dark reflections mirrored my own.
The book, as a whole, is a strong one. This is not the sort of book that everyone would enjoy, it should be mentioned, but this book is the product of someone who is deeply and painfully reflective and more than a little bit melancholy. I don’t know what happened in the future after this book was written and published in 1985 to the author and his marriage, but the book is clearly written by someone for whom the process of getting close to someone was unusually anxiety-ridden and difficult. I can certainly empathize with that. One would like to think that people who have mused over what about them makes it difficult for them to be able to become one flesh with someone else, who have stared into the darkness with them, the horrors of their memories and imaginations, and who have decided to commit to someone for the rest of their lives would do it better than those who rush in headlong thinking that they will find someone who perfectly suits them and that they will not have to be deeply and fundamentally changed by the process. Yet in reading this book it is worthwhile to ponder that this author is not someone whose view of marriage is neither the one of a cynic who cannot bear to be alone nor of a man whose sight has been clouded by rose-colored glasses, and that gives this book a power that it would not have had otherwise.
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