I guess there comes a time in every person’s life when he or she decides to commit. People can commit to all kinds of things ideals, beliefs, ways of life, mental institutions… Usually, in my writing I am inclined to take some sort of societal angle, food-for-thought kind of stuff. But that, and the concept of commitment to me just doesn’t seem right for some reason. I take it as a societal given. A no-brainer. Yes, society needs some modicum of commitment in order to survive, and that’s just what it is. Survival.
Maybe I’m thinking more along the lines of anthropology here. Think of early cave dwellers. They had to commit to some basic ideas to make it through the day, right? Hrothgar was probably pretty committed to finding shelter when necessary and hunting game just about every day of his miserable existence in pre-historic hell. And Hrothgar’s wife, Glok-glok too was probably very busy tending to her children, in a life long commitment to continue the species (and did anyone ever stop to say thanks?).
“Hey, thanks Glok-glok.”
But those are really no-brainers. Sure, without those kinds of commitments I wouldn’t be writing this obscure article for anything but personal joy, just as certainly as you wouldn’t be reading it (of course, the latter would come as a shock). So why did Hrothgar and Glok-glok decide to make a commitment that wasn’t a no-brainer, which didn’t directly relate to the prolonging of their kind? Why did they decide to commit to each other? (Admit it. You knew where I was going with this, didn’t you.)
Now, this is the part where I give the disclaimer. I am by no means an anthropologist. I showed up late to that class in college too many times to know that. I have absolutely no idea if the concept of marriage existed as even a thought balloon during the time of Hrothgar and Glok-glok. I’m just going to assume that humankind has always done what it does at present. Besides, I know for a fact Fred and Wilma were hitched.
The point is at some point in time, some couple somewhere decided it would be a good idea to go through life bonded together through something called marriage and it was, for better or worse, an idea that caught on. I don’t need proof for that. The reasoning behind it, though, seems to me to go a little deeper than mere survival. It seems to go beyond Hrothgar’s exclamation overheard during the Ice Age, “Must keep warm. Fire warm.”
“How make fire?”
In fact, I could just as easily be sitting here, writing away in obscurity, if the idea of marriage never occurred. I mean, people can procreate and continue the species without tying the knot (some would argue it already happens too much). So there really isn’t a cultural, biological, or sociological need for it.
Or is there?
Also, bear in mind that I’m talking about more than just sexual commitment or monogamy. I’m talking about the down and dirty, in your face learning one has to do to keep up with a healthy relationship. The kind of stuff that, I’ll admit, was hard for me to commit to in the past. You know, an idea of commitment that goes beyond knowing someone well, but growing together as two unique individuals, learning not to get on each other’s nerves too much and accepting certain things about yourself and the person you’re with.
Compromising. Sacrificing. Trusting one another. Finding the strength to change a few things about yourself, even if you’ve been the same way your whole life.
These kinds of commitments aren’t really necessary in the text book definition of survival of the species. But we wouldn’t have gotten as far without them. In fact, we were smart enough to realize the importance of these mega-commitments by putting them into one institution called marriage. And because of that, my friends, we as a society have grown.
Of course, I say all this like it’s some kind of a revelation. But it’s not. To some societies and cultures, it’s a rite of passage. To others it is simply tradition. More and more, though, I think people, probably even people like me, are finding that marriage is a convention of time, whose ultimate wisdom is to be experienced, and not studied in a college class.
Indeed, it is an age-old idea of love whose time has finally come.