Hope springs …

We celebrated our wedding anniversary by going to watch the film Hope springs … It is a touching story about a couple who have been married nearly as long as we have. Their relationship has become stale. The couple have lost touch with each other. There is no contact apart from the mindless peck on the cheek. They sleep in separate rooms. The film follows Kay’s (played by Meryl Streep) attempt to reconnect with her husband (played by Tommy Lee Jones).

It’s not a great film by any stretch of the imagination – (74% on the tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes) but this (non) touching story reminds me that there needs to be routines and structures for us to keep in touch with each other. This is true of marriage and any community. There comes a time when we can no longer say that we are in touch if our relationships are starved of physical expression.

I love  The Touching Place  by John Bell and Graham Maule. It is a beautiful song set to the tune Dream Angus.

Christ’s is the world in which we move.
Christ’s are the folk we’re summoned to love,
Christ’s is the voice which calls us to care,
and Christ is the One who meets us here.

To the lost Christ shows his face;
to the unloved He gives His embrace;
to those who cry in pain or disgrace,
Christ, makes, with His friends, a touching place.

Feel for the people we most avoid.
Strange or bereaved or never employed;
Feel for the women, and feel for the men
who hear that their living is all in vain.

Feel for the parents who lost their child,
feel for the woman whom men have defiled.
Feel for the baby for whom there’s no breast,
and feel for the weary who find no rest.

Feel for the lives by life confused.
Riddled with doubt, in loving abused;
Feel for the lonely heart, conscious of sin,
which longs to be pure but fears to begin.

Without physical expression feelings become empty. Our feelings get blown away with the wind without physical routines and structures. Community is made of touching places.

I have posted a reflection on the importance of touch by John Hull from his account of the onset of his blindness.

>never marry, but for love

>The Big Fat Gypsy Royal Wedding, Kate and William – weddings galore. But for me today, the privilege of being present at Dave and Shelley’s wedding – a secular affair (and in the sight of a generous God) – at which I have been asked to read “Never marry but for love”, by William Penn – a 17th century Quaker whose face is said to be the face of Quaker Oats. Like Kate Middleton, William Penn was from Reading (Twyford) – or as they say of Kate – “a village in Berkshire” (Bucklebury). Penn, himself, was one of the many missionaries who travelled to America – he founded Pennsylvania, and his experiment there was influential in the development of the American Constitution.

I have sat lightly to the Royal Wedding – and the media interest in it. I did catch sight of David Starkey’s programme, Romance and the Royals – which did underline the importance of romance in marriage as something that has been influenced by royal marriages down the ages where feelings have been the basis of marriage (including lust) – cf various Henrys, Edwards and Georges – as opposed to royal weddings in many other countries, which have been about political alliances.

And congratulations and best wishes for all getting married today – Kate and William, Dave and Shelley – and Irish travellers, Mary and Paddy (married two weeks ago). Never marry but for love.

Never marry, but for love; but see that thou lovest what is lovely.
He that minds a body, but not a soul
has not the better part of that relationship,
and will consequently lack the noblest comfort of a married life.

Between a man and his wife nothing ought to rule but love.
As love ought to bring them together,
so it is the best way to keep them well together.

A husband and wife that love one another
show their children that they should do so too.
Others visibly lose their authority in their families
by their contempt for one another,
and teach their children to be unnatural by their examples.

Let not joy lessen, but augment affection;
it being the basest of passions to like what we have not,
what we slight when we possess.

here it is we ought to search out our pleasure,
where the field is large and full of variety, and of an enduring nature;
sickness, poverty or disgrace being not able to shake it
because it is not under the moving influences of worldly contingencies.

Nothing can be more entire and without reserve;
nothing more zealous, affectionate and sincere;
nothing more contented than such a couple,
nor greater temporal felicity than to be one of them.

William Penn 1644-1718.

Love is a temporary madness. It eruupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being ‘in love’ which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it; we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.

Louis de Bernieres – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

>Sexuality and lust

> “This is my body which is given for you.” Any Christian worshipper will recognise these words of Jesus by which he declares his love for the world because they are central to the Christian gathering. We meet round the table and celebrate that Jesus gave his body for us. The words are repeated by lovers who give themselves to one another. They could be words used in the marriage service – that would hot things up well wouldn’t it? Tim Radcliffe – in What is the Point of Being a Christian? – underlines the importance of the body in love and sexuality, and in so doing manages to distinguish between love and lust, and between erotic and pornographic art. (Rodin’s kiss is lovely. It’s erotic and it’s good because both partners are lost in their mutual self-giving).

We give ourselves in love. With lust we make of the other an object of desire for our own pleasure. Often the focus of desire is one part of the body, so the object of our desire is dismembered before our very eyes. Interestingly Jesus says “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.” (Matt 5:29) presumably to help us to understand that if we dismember others we ought to dismember ourselves. Radcliffe refers to the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland who wouldn’t let Alice eat the mutton to which she had been introduced. “It isn’t etiquette to eat anyone you’ve been introduced to.” she says.
The cure for lust is not chopping off our hand or plucking out our eye – and it’s good that very few have tested that theory – the first step, according to radcliife’s wise words “is not to abolish desire, but to restore it, liberate it, discover that it is for a person and not an object.”