Friday, May 29, 2009

Marriage and Being in Favor of Open Relationships, But …

Medieval marriage ceremony
The tradition, or rather “institution” of marriage seems to make intuitive sense. Husband and wife form a union and have children, and it becomes the nucleus of a family. As parents, they take care of each other and their children, and the latter grow up in equilibrium of male and female guidance.

Of course, there are various criticisms with this traditional and conservative definition of marriage and family. We must not overlook that, in fact, many of it may seem logical and intuitive but that – alas - human nature follows its own logic.

Part of it may be the fault of our libido, or sexuality, something that has come into the forefront especially since Freud has made sexuality the focal issue of his psychoanalysis. And no matter how much we may stress that we are essentially good and moral, that sex is lust and leads us into temptation and strays us from the correct path, that sex may be even filthy, that sex is unnatural and even abnormal among same-sex partners and whatever else many people might throw and object towards sexuality, it is a given fact, that it is a relevant and undeniable part of human nature.

And I believe that it is the importance of sexuality that causes families to break up, that marriages seemingly blessed in heaven crumble and fall apart. To say that it is “natural” for humans to be in a lifelong union with the same partner is a lie when it comes to our makeup and biology.

Not that it is impossible, but it is rather difficult and takes continual effort and will, and even discipline. When sex becomes a routine, when all the secrets and hidden territories of one's partner are discovered, sexual life becomes rather dull and not as thrilling as it used to be. That's when many couples try to spice up their sex life with games and toys and other types of practices.

Yet the temptation to look for sexual gratification elsewhere, that is, with other partners is constantly present within the individual; it is a definite possibility always lingering in the back or forefront of the mind.

However, there are other factors that impede us from engaging in such sexual behaviors, and one of the strongest would be our conscience. After such an “illicit” act that would temporarily gratify and still our desires, remorse would gradually manifest itself in the conscientious individual. The remorse is not so much because of the act itself, but of its secrecy, its betrayal, where the culprit must keep on smiling while there is inner guilt and turmoil inside.

What would be a solution to this dilemma? An open relationship. By taking away the guilt element and being completely honest with the other person, sexual gratification with other people loses much of its taboo. It is a mutual agreement, and, as such, both would be able to enjoy their relationship, yet at the same time have the door slightly ajar and have sexual adventures outside of the relationship whenever it becomes necessary or desirable.

Would such a relationship actually work? It should be possible, yet it would depend on a clear mutual agreement. Emotions, however, do not always play their part. Men in evolutionary terms tend to be more jealous of sex than women. Male instinct needs to ensure that if their partner is pregnant, that it is undoubtedly his and not someone else's child.

Women, again in an evolutionary perspective, tend to be more jealous when it comes to emotions since they want to ensure that the husband or the father of their child will not end up leaving them behind; they want somebody who would stick around and be available for their own needs and those of their child or children.

Apart from jealousy, human nature often tends to be possessive. This causes a lot of problems and tensions within any relationship. We would claim that the other person is "ours," meaning that they become our commodity. To be able to share that person with another, particularly sexually, seems counter-intuitive for us, at least in our culture. Some cultures used to “lend” their wives to the guest as a sign of hospitality, but for most of us, it raises our hair on end to even consider such a thing.

Consequently, in theory, an open relationship would be the best option to satisfy one's sexual urges, as a form of catharsis. It would also take away some of the stigma of marriage as a kind of prison one is “committed” to. However, on the other hand, it is a difficult undertaking, as humans are often possessive and jealous, and where a relationship is built on being together, a kind of exclusive twosome without the threat of an intruding third party or onlooker.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Color of Paradise and Reading God’s Wor(l)d

Still of blind boy and young girl in Iranian film

The Iranian film Color of Paradise by Majid Majidi, which in its original title literally translates as “God's Color,” is an impressive and genuinely moving spiritual portrait of a blind boy who is rejected not only by society but by his very own father.

Mohammed is a creative, generally content and ingenious boy who despite of his visual impairment manages to climb trees, run through fields, and study literature and poetry with fervor and enthusiasm.

Yet his father, a widow, sees him as a source of embarrassment, especially since he would like to remarry. As a result, he keeps Mohammed's existence hidden from the family of his bride-to-be. He only mentions his two daughters and wants nothing to get into the way of his impending marriage. This cruel and calculated behavior does not remain hidden from the kind and observant eyes of his own mother, Mohammed's beloved grandmother.

The movie manages to give us a heart-rendering glimpse of this blind boy's life. With him we hear the myriad sounds of nature, the chirping and singing of birds, and the constant almost hypnotic knocks of the woodpecker. Mohammed pays full attention to all of those sounds and strongly believes that nature and the birds are communicating with each other, and he tries his best to decipher this ominous language.

I was reminded of the medieval assumption that the world is a creation of God, who as its “author” has left various hidden signs for those who can “see” and read them. Mohammed is pure and innocent, and he is looking to break through and understand this magnificent and for him doubly hidden, mysterious world.

His reading of the world is not necessarily symbolic, yet it is tactile, which makes it much more sensuous. Braille is a form of reading that is closely related to touch, where the words glide and take shape under your fingertips.

In fact, using his hands, Mohammed “reads” all the objects, and even people in his surrounding world. With his fingers he touches his sister's face and realizes that she has “grown a lot.” He touches flowers, barley, sand, and believes that they have letters ingrained in them; he wants to get to the source of their existence from which he hopes to infer the invisible presence of God.

Apart from its religious and philosophical connotations, in its simplest and most basic form, the movie is an appeal to not reject people because of impairments, yet at the same time not to pity them either.
Mohammed wants to be treated like all the other kids and his happiest moments are when he is playing with his sisters in the fields or when he is allowed to enter their school and participate with the other children.

He is not a victim; he is strong enough to overcome and compensate for his lack of sight while his curiosity and lust for life lead him to discoveries and realizations that only the pure-hearted and most faithful can obtain.