Sunday, July 10, 2005

A few thoughts on terrorism

Since the day that a human first took a stick and whipped another human there have been battles between humans. Gradually, the stick became the rock, the rock the arrow, and the arrow the nuclear missile.

As these battles were fought, the “will to power” as Nietzsche would call it, began to show itself as “policy”. Humankind, acting under the superior and dominant will of a “leader” organized itself into groups. Realizing that there is power in numbers, and fearful of their own demise, groups began to form and to stake-out their territory. Following this came the realization that the rights of one group were threatened by the presence of another group, policy became “politics” and modern warfare was invented.

This “will to power” was only the embodiment (in act) of the preservation of what an individual or collectivity envisioned as its happiness and enjoyment of earth’s full bounty. Acting in a way that preserves or promotes one’s happiness became a natural right. Given that there are differences in what one individual deems his happiness there was a natural discovery: The preservation of one’s happiness was often at the cost of another’s happiness.

What other than this “will to power” could explain the actions of children in a sandbox, fighting over the same toy? It is such a natural inclination that it often goes unnoticed. Yet it is this same “will to power” that is at the root of today’s bloody struggles. The stick has become the explosive device, yet it’s used for the same basic purpose.

This “will to power” evolved over time as well. Man’s natural enjoyment differs from one individual to another, at least in the means whereby one attains and preserves it. Certain individuals naturally desire to be a part of a larger group, and are satisfied in the knowledge that the group offers them a further protection of what they deem their “happiness.” Others desire to lead that group, perhaps as an extension of a greater “will to power?” Those that are lead are content with their lot; as sheep are content in the presence of a kind shepherd. Others, whose will to power may be more evident, take it upon themselves to lead, not shepherd, but lead.

The presence of a strong shepherd, one unafraid to sacrifice a lamb, might even be a comfort to those who are led! The individual lamb seeks the protection of his own happiness by placing his faith in the shepherd. In whom does the shepherd place his faith? If the answer is that he places his faith in himself, then there is room to doubt the motive of the shepherd. The shepherd must demonstrate that his faith lies in the collectivity of the sheep. Simultaneously, when that collectivity has no response or call to action when faced with an obstruction to their “will to power” by the “will to power” of another collectivity the shepherd must convince the sheep that he is in communication with a higher “will to power.”

This communication led naturally to a communion of laws. There eventually became, by common experience, the acknowledgement that without agreement on the extent or timing of “permissible” defenses of the protection of the “will to power” there would be chaos. Even in war, rules were made to guide the outcome, and mutually prevent the destruction of everyone’s happiness. War, the destruction of man by man, has always been permitted as an inevitability of our condition. However, rules were made and agreed-upon to prevent total destruction.

At the end of World-War Two, a decision was taken and justified in terms of the preservation of these rules. Two atomic devices were dropped on an unsuspecting Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 199 000 sheep lay dead in demonstration of one nations “will to power” over another’s. The “will to power” of one nation’s leader provided comfort to his flock. Countless other sheep were comforted in the awe that they felt by their leader’s ability not to be attacked by the bombing-nation and their leader.

More than 60% of the direct victims of these bombings died as a result of burns. What effect does this have on the comfort felt by the sheep in their awe of their strong shepherd? And what is the consequence of the cruelty that may be perceived by other flocks and their shepherds? It is the western culture that produced Bob Dylan who said in 1968:

"There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief,
"There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth.
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth."

"No reason to get excited," the thief, he kindly spoke,
"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view.
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl.
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.

Is the world now divided under two riders? Is the hour getting late? Will the time come when we will be arguing, like we did after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that the ends justified the means? Do we expect the lamb to lie down?

A few thoughts on Gay Marriage

I will present you with two scenarios. You are to choose which scenario you would prefer, but both are unpleasant. You have to choose one. You cannot modify the scene or invent a third.

You arrive at home and find the following evidence that the one you love may have engaged in activities you had hoped were reserved: a spent condom, or a dozen roses.

Which scenario do you prefer? The spent condom? A spent condom infers that the one you love may have engaged in activities that you had hoped were reserved. A dozen roses infers that the one you love may have engaged in activities that you had hoped were reserved.

Does one piece of evidence weigh more heavily on your concerns than the other? The spent condom could indicate that your partner is having sex with another because your partner has fallen in love with another, or could indicate a romp and nothing more. A dozen roses could indicate that your partner is willingly accepting the loving gesture of a stranger, and therefore perhaps reciprocating. Or maybe the stranger’s gesture has been unaccepted, but the roses were too pretty to discard.

But you can make only one choice. If you argue that the roses are more acceptable than the condom, you are possibly admitting that you are more concerned about the possibility of love rather than a sexual exploit, or that such an exploit could be accompanied by feelings of love. If you argue that the condom is more acceptable, then you are possibly admitting that you would accept the possibility of your partner engaging in sexual relations with another, as long as they do not fall in love.

How many times have you accepted to brush your teeth with another person’s toothbrush? How many times was that person not someone you trusted completely, and felt devotion towards? Toothbrush-sharing is not something that happens every day, but it is a great test of devotion, commitment and trust. So let’s use this as a third scenario: If your partner said to you that they had accepted to brush their teeth with another person’s toothbrush, would you feel threatened?

Do you think that it is possible to have sex without loving your sexual partner? Do you think that it’s possible to be in love with a person and not have sex? If you answered affirmatively to both, you have established that sex does not necessarily indicate love. Yet we feel threatened if that act, and most specifically that act, is performed by your partner with another.

Do you think that toothbrush-sharing is possible without trust, commitment and devotion? Perhaps toothbrush-sharing should be the act reserved for the wedding night. Maybe more people would be virginal on that night.

All of the former being said, I shudder at the thought of finding a used condom, a bouquet of roses or any evidence of consensual toothbrush-use as evidence of my partner’s actions and decisions. I fear any such breach of the commitment, devotion and trust that I hope we have established as a union.

I brought all of the former considerations to the discussion simply to examine what we have chosen as one of the ultimate physical expressions of that special union that is felt between two beings, and to see whether it could withstand logical examination.

Perhaps it does not survive as intact as we might have anticipated. Perhaps, though, that is all right. We humans seem to engage in, and understand, behaviors that we may not survive reasonable, logical investigation. And I think that’s a part of what makes us human.

This brings me to the topic I wish to explore: Marriage.

Marriage is a word with several definitions. It is differentiated by having a legal, civil definition and a religious one. And it has always been concerned in either the Civil or the Religious sense with the sexuality expressed by mankind.

The easiest to explore is the legal or civil definition. As opposed to other 6 sacraments, the act of marriage and the state of being married implies certain legal rights and civil opportunities not granted to other couples. Here is a list of some of those rights, as presented to me on the following web-page, (a few modifications have been made in order to better present the topic at hand):

1. Shared Taxes

2. Next-of-kin privileges

3. Bereavement leave

4. Wrongful death benefits.

5. Pensions and health insurance

6. Immigration.

7. Social Security.

8. Inheritance

9. Child custody.

10. Family discounts.

11. Car ownership automatically transfers to a spouse, but not to a
surviving partner.

12. Widows/Widowers have standing to challenge their late spouse's

13. Spouses cannot be compelled to testify in court against one

Here's another partial list of rights and privileges denied to the non-married:

Accidental death benefits for the surviving spouse of a government employee
Appointment as guardian of a minor
Award of child custody in divorce proceedings
Beneficial owner status of corporate securities
Bill of Rights benefits for victims and witnesses
Burial of service member's dependents
Certificates of occupation
Consent to post-mortem examinations
Continuation of rights under existing homestead leases
Control, division, acquisition and disposition of community property
Criminal injuries compensation
Death benefits for surviving spouse for government employee
Disclosure of vital statistics records
Division of property after dissolution of marriage
Eligibility for housing opportunity allowance program of the Housing,
Finance and Development Corporation
Exemption from claims of Department of Human Services for social
services payments, financial assistance or burial payments.
Exemption from conveyance tax
Exemption from regulation of condominium sales to owner occupants
Funeral leave for government employees
Homes of totally disabled veterans exempt from property taxes
Income tax deductions, credits, rates exemption and estimates
Inheritance of land patents
Insurance licenses, coverage, eligibility and benefits organization of
mutual benefits society
Legal status with partner's children
Making, revoking and objecting to anatomical gifts
Making partner medical decisions
Nonresident tuition deferential waiver
Notice of guardian ad litem proceedings
Notice of probate proceedings at a facility for the elderly
Real property
Right to purchase leases and cash freehold agreements concerning the
Management and disposition of public land
Right to sue for tort and death by wrongful act
Right to support after divorce
Right to support from spouse
Rights and proceedings for involuntary hospitalization and treatment
Rights by way of dour or courtesy
Rights to notice, protection, benefits and inheritance under the
Uniform Probate code
Social security benefits on the death of spouse
Sole interest in property
Spousal privilege and confidential marriage communications
Spousal immigration benefits
Status of children
Support payments in divorce action
Tax relief for natural disaster losses
Vacation allowance on termination of public employment by death
Veterans' preference to spouse in public employment
In vitro fertilization coverage
Waiver of fees for certified copies and searches of vital statistics

So I would take it that the act of marriage is something which merits some concern, as far as civil liberties, privileges and responsibilities go.

Although I have not performed an exhaustive cross-societal investigation into the various legal definitions of marriage, I have confidence in offering the following broad legal definition as one which is probably shared across many societies:

MARRIAGE - A contract made in due form of law, by which a free man and a free woman reciprocally engage to live with each other during their joint lives, in the union which ought to exist between husband and wife. By the terms freeman and freewoman in this definition are meant, not only that they are free and not slaves, but also that they are clear of all bars to a lawful marriage.To make a valid marriage, the parties must be willing to contract, able to contract, and have actually contracted.They must be willing to contract. Those persons, therefore, who have no legal capacity in point of intellect, to make a contract, cannot legally marry, as idiots, lunatics, and infants; males under the age of fourteen, and females under the age of twelve; and when minors over those ages marry, they must have the consent of their parents or guardians. There is no will when the person is mistaken in the party whom he intended to marry; as, if Peter intending to marry Maria, through error or mistake of person, in fact marries Eliza; but an error in the fortune, as if a man marries a woman whom he believes to be rich, and he finds her to be poor; or in the quality, as if he marries a woman whom he took to be chaste, and whom he finds of an opposite character, this does not invalidate the marriage, because in these cases the error is only of some quality or accident, and not in the person.When the marriage is obtained by force or fraud, it is clear that there is no consent; it is, therefore, void ab initio, and may be treated as null by every court in which its validity may incidentally be called in question.Generally, all persons who are of sound mind, and have arrived to years of maturity, are able to contract marriage. To this general rule, however, there are many exceptions, among which the following may be enumerated:The previous marriage of the party to another person who is still living. Consanguinity, or affinity between the parties within the prohibited degree. It seems that persons in the descending or ascending line, however remote from each other, cannot lawfully marry; such marriages are against nature; but when we come to consider collaterals, it is not so easy to fix the forbidden degrees, by clear and established principles. In several of the United States, marriages within the limited degrees are made void by statute.Impotency, which must have existed at the time of the marriage, and be incurable.Adultery. By statutory provision in Pennsylvania, when a person is convicted of adultery with another person, or is divorced from her husband, or his wife, he or she cannot afterwards marry the partner of his or her guilt. This provision is copied from the civil law. And the same provision exists in the French code civil.The parties must not only be willing and able, but must have actually contracted in due form of law. The common law requires no particular ceremony to the valid celebration of marriage. The consent of the parties is all that is necessary, and as marriage is said to be a contract jure gentium, that consent is all that is needful by natural or public law. If the contract be made per verba de presenti, or if made per verba de futuro, and followed by consummation, it amounts to a valid marriage, and which the parties cannot dissolve, if otherwise competent; it is not necessary that a clergyman should be present to give validity to the marriage; the consent of the parties may be declared before a magistrate, or simply before witnesses; or subsequently confessed or acknowledged, or the marriage may even be inferred from continual cohabitation, and reputation as husband and wife, except in cases of civil actions for adultery, or public prosecutions for bigamy. But a promise to marry at a future time, cannot, by any process of law, be converted into a marriage, though the breach of such promise will be the foundation of an action for damages.In some of the states, statutory regulations have been made on this subject. In Maine and Massachusetts, the marriage must be made in the presence, and with the assent of a magistrate, or a stated or ordained minister of the gospel. The statute of Connecticut on this subject, requires the marriage to be celebrated by a clergyman or magistrate, and requires the previous publication of the intention of marriage, and the consent of parents; it inflicts a penalty on those who disobey its regulations. The marriage, however, would probably be considered valid, although the regulations of the statutes had not been observed. The rule in Pennsylvania is, that the marriage is valid, although the directions of the statute have not been observed. The same rule probably obtains in New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Kentucky. In Louisiana, a license must be obtained from the parish judge of the parish in which at least one of the parties is domiciliated, and the marriage must be celebrated before a priest or minister of a religious sect, or an authorized justice of the peace; it must be celebrated in the presence of three witnesses of full age, and an act must be made of the celebration, signed by the person who celebrated the marriage, by the parties and the witnesses. The 89th article of the Code declares, that such marriages only are recognized by law, as are contracted and solemnized according to the rules which it prescribes. But the Code does not declare null a marriage not preceded by a license, and not evidenced by an act signed by a certain number of witnesses and the parties, nor does it make such an act exclusive evidence of the marriage. The laws relating to forms and ceremonies are directory to those who are authorized to celebrate marriage.A marriage made in a foreign country, if good there, would, in general, be held good in this country, unless when it would work injustice, or be contra bonos mores, or be repugnant to the settled principles and policy of our laws.Marriage is a contract intended in its origin to endure till the death of one of the contracting parties. It is dissolved by death or divorce.In some cases, as in prosecutions for bigamy, by the common law, an actual marriage must be proved in order to convict the accused. But for many purposes it may be proved by circumstances; for example, cohabitation; acknowledgment by the parties themselves that they were married; their reception as such by their friends and relations; their correspondence, on being casually separated, addressing each other as man and wife declaring, deliberately, that the marriage took place in a foreign country, describing their children, in parish registers of baptism, as their legitimate offspring or when the parties pass for husband and wife by common reputation. After their death, the presumption is generally conclusive.The civil effects of marriage are the following:It confirms all matrimonial agreements between the parties. It vests in the husband all the personal property of the wife, that which is in possession absolutely, and choses in action, upon the condition that he shall reduce them to possession; it also vests in the husband right to manage the real estate of the wife, and enjoy the profits arising from it during their joint lives, and after her death, an estate by the courtesy when a child has been born. It vests in the wife after the husband's death, an estate in dower in the husband's lands, and a right to a certain part of his personal estate, when he dies intestate. In some states, the wife now retains her separate property by statute.It creates the civil affinity which each contracts towards the relations of the other.It gives the husband marital authority over the person of his wife.The wife acquires thereby the name of her husband, as they are considered as but one, of which he is the head. In general, the wife follows the condition of her husband. The wife, on her marriage, loses her domicile and gains that of her husband.One of the effects of marriage is to give paternal power over the issue.The children acquire the domicile of their father.It gives to the children who are the fruits of the marriage, the rights of kindred not only with the father and mother, but all their kin. It makes all the issue legitimate. (source: )

Now we know something that is certain: Lawyers like to speak more than I do. But we also see again that marriage, as far as the law is concerned, is heavily interested in property. Also in rights, privileges and obligations.

As I stated earlier, there is also a religious definition of marriage. As far as Christian religions are concerned, the union of marriage is now considered a sacrament. I feel confident that other religions treat the union in much the same way.

However, the origins of marriage in the religious sense are quite interesting! It is a union more-or-less assumed. The Bible, according to my research, does not go to the extent of the civil definition in establishing the manner of entering into marriage. It does little to establish the rights of each member of the union, but does make some ado over the obligations of each toward the other party.

The earliest reference that I can find relating to the union of Marriage is found in Genesis 1:27 – “God created man in the image of Himself, In the image of God He created him, Male and female He created them,” ‘Man’ is hereby described as a hermaphrodite, sharing in each gender. “God created man”. Only after the description ‘man” is there a differentiation between the sexes.

I feel that this passage establishes the sexes as a creation of God, to give each equal status as creatures of God. But it does little to establish the union of the two. Of course, it is quite logical to deduce that God would want his creatures to unite.

Genesis 2:24 does speak to this issue – “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” I note that in this passage it is not a woman, but rather a wife that the man leaves his mother and father for. This assumes that the marriage, or rather the union, has already taken place, for what is the definition of wife?

Websters defines it as follows: “The lawful consort of a man; a woman who is united to a man in wedlock; a woman who has a husband; a married woman.” I find this a little circular, but we have not yet delved into what it means to be a wife.

Allow me to introduce a few biblical definitions of what it means to be a wife. According to the Easton Biblical Dictionary, the rights of the wife and the origins of her relation to the husband are as follows:

The ordinance of marriage was sanctioned in Paradise (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6). Monogamy was the original law under which man lived, but polygamy early commenced (Gen. 4:19), and continued to prevail all down through Jewish history. The Law of Moses regulated but did not prohibit polygamy. A man might have a plurality of wives, but a wife could have only one husband. A wife's legal rights (Ex. 21:10) and her duties (Prov. 31:10-31; 1 Tim. 5:14) are specified. She could be divorced in special cases (Deut. 22:13-21), but could not divorce her husband. Divorce was restricted by our Lord to the single case of adultery (Matt. 19:3-9). The duties of husbands and wives in their relations to each other are distinctly set forth in the New Testament (1 Cor. 7:2-5; Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18, 19; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).

This speaks to what I feel is an important part of the understanding of what is meant by the union. I sense that there is an understanding that both shall not be equal, at least as far as the normal understanding of power is concerned. But this is strictly guided by the principles offered in the guidance: devotion, commitment and trust. God is the Father, yet he placed his trust, his devotion and his commitment to Christ. Christ is the servant of God, yet he reveals Himself in obeying his duty to be devoted to God, to trust in God, and to maintain his commitment in God. Who is more subservient than whom?

Even accepting the wording that “Christ is the servant of God” allows for the servant’s needs to master the actions of the master himself. An analogy might make my thoughts more clear: Who has trapped whom: the bolt or the nut?

Thus, even amid the semantics that can be thrown at the concept of husband as keeper and wife as servant, we can see how the concept of union can take place.

If a “wife” was to be an “offering”, and “husband” to be a “caregiver”, does the sexual gender retain its meaning? Does the soul have a sexual gender? This is not meant to obscure the obvious goal of preserving the species’ ability to procreate and to care adequately for the outcome of such procreation. This is meant as an exploration of what the religious definition of marriage should rightly preserve.

Corinthians seems to present a rather ambivalent attitude towards marriage. “7:25Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who has obtained mercy from the Lord to be trustworthy. 7:26I think that it is good therefore, because of the distress that is on us, that it is good for a man to be as he is. 7:27Are you bound to a wife? Don't seek to be freed. Are you free from a wife? Don't seek a wife. 7:28But if you marry, you have not sinned. If a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have oppression in the flesh, and I want to spare you.”

It even gets more bold as the passage continues on: “But I say this, brothers: the time is short, that from now on, both those who have wives may be as though they had none; 7:30and those who weep, as though they didn't weep; and those who rejoice, as though they didn't rejoice; and those who buy, as though they didn't possess; 7:31and those who use the world, as not using it to the fullest. For the mode of this world passes away. 7:32But I desire to have you to be free from cares. He who is unmarried is concerned for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 7:33but he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.”

It is quite reciprocal, however: “There is also a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world--how she may please her husband. 7:35This I say for your own profit; not that I may ensnare you, but for that which is appropriate, and that you may attend to the Lord without distraction. 7:36But if any man thinks that he is behaving inappropriately toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of her age, and if need so requires, let him do what he desires. He doesn't sin. Let them marry. 7:37But he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own heart, to keep his own virgin, does well. 7:38So then both he who gives his own virgin in marriage does well, and he who doesn't give her in marriage does better. 7:39A wife is bound by law for as long as her husband lives; but if the husband is dead, she is free to be married to whoever she desires, only in the Lord. 7:40But she is happier if she stays as she is, in my judgment, and I think that I also have God's Spirit.”

I thank the online version of the King James Bible for the preceding passages:

Jesus himself seems to have not shared in this ambivalence towards marriage. As we witnessed in Genesis 2:24, so it is repeated in Matthew 19:4-6 – “4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Here we have the concept of cleaving, and the insistence upon the permanence of the union. I believe that these two concepts for an essential part of the religious (Christian?) concept of Marriage. Surely, there is an insistence that the two beings united be separate, but the entering into matrimony makes them one. This is the essential desire of the union itself. Is it the union that is paramount, or the constitutive components of said union?

So we move between the Pauline tradition of marriage of the Corinthians with its ambivalence; towards the Patristic period of the concept of marriage. I quote here the Ste-Catherine of Sienna Catholic Community Origin of the Sacrament of Marriage, found at . I find the following passage especially interesting:

“The Patristic period reveals remarkable diversity in Catholic understandings of marriage. One thing is clear--during this era there was no mandated religious ceremony required for valid marriages. Juridical concerns with regard to marriage were handled exclusively by the state. While consent and blessing of the bishop or presbyter was encouraged (e.g. Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp) there is no evidence that this was a common practice.
Attention was being paid to the theological aspect of the marriage relationship. Many of the Fathers defended marriage against the attacks of the Gnostics and later the Manichaeans. The apologetics, however, focused on procreation as the essential function of sexual relations and marriage. Augustine's justification of marriage in terms of procreation is well-known. Although this was his main emphasis, he also recognized that marriage expressed the social nature of humans. As such, marriage could be seen as a type of spiritual communion. Unfortunately, neither Augustine nor any of the other Fathers saw the connection between these two understandings.
One significant development which occurred in the Middle Ages, was the rise of ecclesiastical marriage ceremonies and legislation. Prior to this period, it was left to civil authorities to legislate marriages. The Church concerned itself with only the moral dimension of the marriage relationship. This changed, in part, because of a clash in traditions regarding matrimony. In the Roman culture, a marriage was legal and binding on the basis of consent between the spouses and their guardians. In the Frankish and Germanic traditions, a marriage was not considered binding until consummated by sexual intercourse. As these traditions blended, the problem of secret marriages arose. An individual who did not wish to enter into an arranged marriage would claim that consent had secretly been given to another. In the Roman tradition, this prior consent was considered binding. The Church therefore slowly began to recommend public consent given in the presence of a priest and witnesses. By the twelfth century, ecclesiastical wedding ceremonies incorporating this public witness, had become common in Europe. The Council of Trent made such ceremonies mandatory.
Throughout the Church's history, theologians have been somewhat skittish about the religious significance of the marriage institution. The attacks of the Albigensians and Waldensians on the goodness of sexuality, much like the Gnostics and Manichaeans of an earlier time, led the Church to speak explicitly of the sacramentality of marriage. It was included as a sacrament in Pope Innocent III's Profession of Faith in 1208 and was listed definitively by the Council of Trent in 1563.
In spite of the affirmation of marriage's sacramentality at Trent, the Church theologically continued to view marriage as a contractual agreement. The impression was given that the sacramental character lay in the contract itself. The husband and wife each had certain rights and responsibilities. The primary function continued to be the procreation of children. Nonetheless, Pope Pius Xl's encyclical CASTI CONNUBII (1930) speaks of the "mutual faithfulness of husband and wife" as the "second blessing" of marriage.
According to this source, the act of entering into the union was firstly an affair of the two entering into such a union. This was confessed to the state, who occupied itself with civil affairs of property and obligations. And then the Church would merely recognize, perhaps bless the event that had nonetheless already occurred. I find it especially interesting to note that the union was not even considered a sacrament until twelve centuries after the creation of Christ’s Church.

Christ himself administered certain sacraments, but nowhere have I seen evidence of Christ administering the sacrament of marriage. Was this done by error or by choice?

In all that I have seen the Church maintains an instructive role on how it sees the union which is essential to society and to humanity. As such it has a maintained position to involve itself not in the profane aspects, but in the sacred. It is not involved in nor interested in the aspects which I had gleaned from a legal inspection of the union, with its preoccupation with property, rights, privileges and obligations, any more than an aside. It preoccupies itself rather on the timeless elements of the union itself.

Perhaps there is another way of seeing that Religion merely offers opinion on what is essentially an issue between the two partners, recognized separately as a civil and legal issue and perhaps lastly as an issue that Religion is concerned with: We call our siblings and parents obtained as a result of said union our Fathers, Mothers, Brothers and Sister our “In-Laws”.

Whereas I believe that religion may instruct us on how to address the civil issues of who can or should marry, and what rights and obligations each shall owe the other in the union, and how or when it is legitimate to terminate the union itself, I cannot see it as offering any more than its opinion on such matters. Religion should do no more than that since the union takes place between the two. In admitting that it is really the two individuals who decide to form the union, we must accept that the union has in fact occurred. Who decides that they want to spend the rest of their lives with another only after they have consulted either their priest or judge?

Accepting this opinion, we come to another conclusion: The wedding ceremony is a celebration of the commitment that two human beings have made towards each other. That celebration may involve inviting the Church or the Court. If the Church or the Court refuse to accept the invitation, that is their prerogative. The celebration will occur regardless. Does this mean that the Court or the Church can refuse to accept the union? Or does it merely illustrate either’s right to participate in the celebration. Humans have a natural right to association.

Religious decisions are taken only after long periods of study and inspection, because the goal of religious decisions are to reach beyond the immediate, the temporal. Religion can be more concerned with the preservation of those aspects which are not temporal, not subject to the conditions of earth: trust, commitment and devotion. These are possible and desirable between two humans… Any two humans.

The Church and others have made arguments against this definition. If any two humans, (goes the argument,) can marry where is the ban on incest? A mother and her son, or a father and his son, may be in love and desiring of a formal partnership.

Firstly, this argument suffers of the logical flaw of the slippery-slope. Accepting that any two humans may desire to marry does not lead to the conclusion that all humans will desire to marry.

At this point it is necessary to examine the desire to marry in the first place, and the consequences of that choice. Marriage is the desire to enter into a union of committed devotion and love. Child-bearing is a desire to bring new humans into the world. And of course the civil authorities and the Church are interested in this distinction.

However, I have separated the two desires. They are distinct. The creation of new human beings is a subject not to be taken lightly, however it is not a necessary consequence of the union and therefore cannot be a condition of the union. No one knows in advance whether or not they are capable of procreation. In the same way that we cannot, or should not, condemn the union of impotent heterosexual unions we cannot and should not condemn the union of impotent homosexual unions. You may argue at this point that the homosexual union is a de-facto impotent union, to which I will counter that even an impotent union is capable of adoption.

Since the creation of a new human is the creation of a distinct person, who at the time of birth is not capable of defending his/her own rights, it becomes the responsibility of Society to ensure those rights.

If we separate each act, of the union and of procreation, we may be able to get to the case-at-hand. The act of Marriage occurs between two consenting adults, entering into a mutual commitment. The act of procreation involves the rights of a third-party: The person born.

It is merely efficient to assume that the control of one act will maintain the outcome of the other. Even heterosexual relations laws are not sufficient to ensure the rights of those borne unto those unions.

Society has a responsibility to constantly evaluate the conditions of its members. That being said humans who enter into a sexual union are by-and-large capable of understanding the consequences of their sexual activities. Heterosexuals face the same challenges as homosexuals when faced with that responsibility. If there were any evidence that your offspring would be born with defects, you must decide: Do you attempt to conceive or not?

Homosexuals are no less capable of assuming that challenge. Homosexuals are not deficient in their capability of facing that choice.

And after that choice is made, as humans you must face the reality of that choice. You must care for the offspring. This is not a condition that can be eliminated by a discussion of the meaning and appropriateness of marriage.

A mustachioed person in history once thought that the successful outcome of the human race was dependant on the control by his party of who could marry and how to measure and control the outcome. I think we can all see the evil in his actions.

A Diary to my Daughter

A Diary with Emma

June 20th, 2001: Mommy woke me up like it was any other Wednesday morning. I asked her if I could sleep in a little bit, because I had no special need to be in early. She said no, that the coffee was ready and that I should take a shower and be ready to leave.

So I got out of bed and walked into the kitchen. I saw a special look in her face and asked her if I was going to work today. She said no.

I felt a little strange. Here was my baby, coming into the world exactly on her due-date. At this point, I didn’t know if I was going to meet little Benjamin or little Emma. But I knew I had to get things ready.

The first thing was to tell my boss that I wasn’t going to be in to work today. It was too early to call, so I decided to send her an e-mail. Down to the computer I went, and wrote: “I won’t be in to work today. I’m going to somebody’s birthday party!

I walked into your bedroom and realized that I hadn’t installed the ceiling light-fixture. What bright lights would be shining down on my baby! This just won’t do!

I noticed also that the dimmer-switch wasn’t installed. So I immediately rushed to install them. I realized that I was so nervous that it was probably dangerous to be working with electricity. But I had to get everything right! So I was just extra-careful. Mommy helped me as much as she could, but she was nervous and excited too.

When I put the pretty elephant and hippo embossed face-plate on the light-switch, I realized we had made a mistake. The embossing was too large, and the switch just didn’t fit over it. I had to figure something out. So I needed to go to the store and get some glue to install an extender over the existing switch. Off to the store I went.

Then I realized that I should go and tell your Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma was sleeping soundly in the chair we had lent her. She needed to sleep in a reclining chair because she had a broken arm. When Grandpa saw me he asked what was up. I told him that today was the day! Grandma was half asleep, but when she heard me and Grandpa talking she asked if Elysa had had the baby. I said no, not yet, but any time soon. I noted that when Mommy is given a job to do, she just gets it done! I couldn’t believe that you were going to be born on the exact due-date!

Then I came back home and figured out how I could accomplish my task. I needed to find some tape to hold the switch steady, because my hands sure weren’t doing a very good job of it.

Then I looked around the house for anything else that had to be done before you were born. Mommy had prepared everything we needed months in advance, and I felt very reassured because of that. But I still had to do my part. I was hungry, so I looked for something to eat. It was then that I noticed we had no bread.

No bread! Every home has bread! How can a baby come into an incomplete house! Off to the store I went again. I got the bread and went back home to make tuna sandwiches. I figured we may have awhile to go, and so it’s best to have eaten a little something. Still wanting to do my part, I decided that I’d make a few extra to bring along with us. Mommy wound up making them after-all, because as soon as I had finished eating mine I went back to fussing about the house making everything ready.

By eleven-thirty, Mommy decided that the contractions were the right amount of time apart, and because she had already called the hospital several hours before to make sure they were expecting us, the hospital even called to ask if we were coming in. We got the bags ready and got into the car. I couldn’t believe how calm I was driving. You see in the movies about the couple driving frantically and getting stopped by the police for speeding, and this was just the opposite! We even joked about that.

Even though we had not visited the maternity ward before, Mommy seemed to know exactly where to go. We got to the birthing center, and were greeted by Lorraine, the nurse on duty. Lorraine led us into the room, and Mommy changed into her gown.

We didn’t know exactly what we were supposed to be doing by this point. I tried and tried to remember what the prenatal courses had taught me, but I couldn’t feel comfortable. So we winged it!

At one point we walked around the birthing center. Mommy seemed to enjoy the walking, and I discovered it was a good way to get better magazines. There was only one other couple giving birth at that time, and the birthing-center looked as if it could handle twenty simultaneous births. All I could remember was that a friend of mine had told me that his wife had sat in the bath and that that had worked wonders. But it was too early for any of my ideas.

Lorraine came in and showed us some of the massages. I remember feeling so dumb, because Loraine was able to make Elysa feel better, whereas I couldn’t. I did the best that I could, and Elysa thanked me very much for my efforts. I felt pain at the sight of Elysa’s suffering. But Mommy showed no signs of regret!

The one massage that Mommy liked was the hip massage. She had lost some time at work due to hip pain, and I tried to do that one as much as possible. Finally the time came, though, where that just wasn’t enough. So off to the bath we went.

We undressed Mommy and got her into the bath. Lorraine had a hard time opening one of the jets, and asked me for some help. I tried, but at first couldn’t get it open either. Lorraine said that there was no use, it couldn’t be opened.

“No use!”, I thought. “I will get this thing opened if it’s the last thing I do!” These were the thoughts in my mind, but I knew I shouldn’t say them. I knew at that point that my personal vanity was completely out-of-place. Mommy was in some pretty serious pain at this point and I knew that comforting her was the thing that I had to do.

So I sat beside the bath. I remember feeling utterly useless, as Mommy winced at every contraction. I also noted the sense of relief she had at the end of every one, and a look of accomplishment could not help but spread across her face. We ended the second twenty-minute bath, and the contractions were still there. Mommy felt a little sad asking for the epidural. I so wanted her to feel that she needn’t, but she couldn’t help feeling that in some way she was failing.

Just after we started the third bath, she asked the new nurse, Mimi if she could have it. Mimi examined her and said that she was not dilated enough. She needed to be dilated to four centimeters, but she was only at about three and a half. But she couldn’t even complete her sentence when another very strong contraction had Mommy bearing down. Mimi looked at me and said that she would go get the epiudural ready now.

Both me and Mommy were very worried about that long needle that they used, but the doctor and nurses were all very reassuring. Mommy draped her arms around me and exposed her back to the doctor, and it was all over in a minute.

Mimi examined Mommy one more time. “You are fully dilated!” she exclaimed. This was no more than five minutes after the last examination. “It’s time to start pushing!” she said. After a bit of pushing Mimi told Mommy to relax a while and left the room. She explained that you were ready, but still had to come down the birth canal. Neither I nor mommy remember how long she was gone. I say that she couldn’t have been gone more than 15 minutes, Mommy says it must have been at least an hour.

I guess that Mommy was right. After all, Grandma and Grandpa had time to come to the hospital and give us the video camera. Either way, Mimi did come back and told us we should start pushing again. At this point, Grandma and Grandpa decided it was time for them to leave.

Mommy began pushing and it was not long before the nurse motioned for me to come to her side and see. There, inside Mommy I could see the top of your head. The color difference told me that it was finally going to happen, you were soon going to be born! I didn’t want to let Mommy know that I had seen you, because I didn’t know if that would help her or make her more nervous. After only a few more pushes, Mimi asked Mommy if she would like a mirror to see for herself. Mommy said no at first, but decided she would like to after all.

Mimi went to get the standing mirror and set it up. That was all the encouragement that Mommy needed! On the very next push, the nurse had to tell Mommy to stop! You were beginning to come out! Your head was outside about two inches!

Mimi shouted out into the hallway “Someone get Dr. Simon and tell her to scrub… Quickly!” When Dr. Simon got in, they both worked frantically to set up the gowns and get everything ready. They both noted that it seemed not to be Mommies’ first baby! She made it all look so easy at this point.

Dr. Simon encouraged Mommy to give another push and your head came all the way out, your body was inside but your head was out, and facing down. I saw you blow your cheeks out twice as Dr. Simon wiped your head with a soft wet cloth. She used a small syringe to get the mucous out of your mouth and nose and then asked Mommy to push once more. And that was it! You were born!

Dr. Simon held you up to show Mommy, and then exclaimed that we had a baby boy. She cleaned you off a little more and then noticed her mistake. You weren’t a boy after all, you were a beautiful baby girl! I looked at Mommy with the tears swelling up, and I couldn’t believe the joy that was pounding at my heart! We had a baby girl! Mommy looked so beautiful lying there looking at you! Her eyes were shining like puddles of soft green gold! Dr. Simon presented you to me, so that I could cut the umbilical chord. I did so with nervous, trembling hands. Then they put you on Mommy’s chest. What a beautiful sight you were, getting your first affections from your beautiful mother!

After an all-too brief exchange of affections, the nurse took you to the heat table. She began to administer a series of tests known as the apgar tests. You scored a nine-ten-ten on the apgar tests, but we were only to know that later. The apgar tests are given at one minute, then at five minutes and then again at ten minutes. They measure your body’s color, your heart-rate, respiratory rate, muscle tone, and reflexes.

I went to the table after she was done, and stared into your eyes. At only seven minutes of life, I was already bonding with you. Your eyes darted around the room and you grabbed on to my finger. We continued to look at each other for another two or three minutes, and then I went over and kissed your mother like I had never kissed her before.

Then the nurse wrapped you up and brought you back to Mommy! It was her turn to bond, and to look into your eyes and try to tell you how much you were loved. What a beautiful sight, you and Mommy together after an all too painful first separation. Mommy kissed you and I was told that Grandma Oostveen had showed up and was waiting outside. I rushed out into the hallway to tell her the news.

With tears in my eyes and my heart pounding in my chest, I cried to your Grandma “At seven thirty-six, Emma Becker was brought into the world!” I could hardly speak I was crying so hard, but Grandma just smiled! Back we went, into the delivery room. I had been separated from you for too long now!

I called Grandma and Grandpa Becker. I could hardly get the words out over the phone. “Mom,” I said, “You have to come to the hospital now.” I could tell that I was crying so hard now that my mother was probably worried that something terrible had happened. “She’s beautiful!” I said, the only way I could think of to let her know everything had gone well. Then I got the video camera and started to film you and Mommy.

In a very little while, I decided I would go down to greet your grandparents at the door. I hadn’t yet told them your name, and I wanted to be able to do so as soon as possible. I wasn’t waiting more than five minutes downstairs when I saw them drive up. Again I said those fantastic words: “At seven thirty-six, Emma was born!” My mother cried and hugged me and my father, still behind the steering-wheel of his car, and gave me a hug that I’ll remember forever.

It was time to go back up to see you. We rushed back up in to the birthing-room, and there you were, in Grandma Oostveen’s arms! Time to get the video camera! At exactly fifteen minutes of life and after you were placed back under the heat lamp, I began to film the first shots of my new daughter.

When I had filmed enough, the nurse told us that it was time for you to go to the nursery and receive some medications and get your registry filled. They told me that I would come along, and I remember thinking that they were darned right! We got you on to the nursery table, and the nurse there put some ointment in your eyes. Then she got out the needle with the vitamin K and told me that this was to help you stop bleeding if you got cut. Before I could figure out what was happening, I saw the most horrible thing!

Another human had made you cry!!! This was the first time in your life that I heard the sound of pain in your voice. You made it known that you did not appreciate being stabbed in the leg with that needle! I knew that the nurse was doing this because the pain you would feel from the pin-prick far outweighed what could happen if you were to not be able to stop bleeding, but the hairs on my back stood up anyway as I went into protective mode.

After a few more brief examinations, we started to clean you up to go back to Mommy. The nurse explained a few things to me about cleaning you, things that I absolutely did not hear. There were too many words in my head already, and all I could do was smile at you. The nurse told me I would be wheeling you back in to the delivery room. As I rolled the table down through the hallway, I told you that this was the first drive that you were taking with Daddy.

More video and pictures were taken. Everyone wanted to have a memory of their first contact with you. Mommy asked if she could have the cookie that the nurse had told her she couldn’t eat while she was in labor. But after a little while, it was time for me and Mommy to be alone with you.

I kissed Mommy and you both on the cheek, and noted that the feeling of kissing you and kissing Mommy was not quite the same. I knew then that a new kind of love had entered my life. I kissed Mommy again to savor the beautiful feeling of her touch, and I looked into your eyes once more. I couldn’t believe how beautiful you both were.

Then it was time to go, and I knew there was plenty that I had to do. Even though it was eleven o’clock, I wanted to go to the store and buy you a present. A little stuffed bear! A baby needs a bear! But it was no use. I would have to wait until tomorrow to buy you the bear. But the dogs! I have to go home a wash the dogs! They’re going to protect you, and they have to meet you in order to know who to protect! And how could the dogs meet you if they were not perfectly clean? So I went home and washed the both of them, until three a.m.

I went to bed for the first time without my family in the house for me. I cried hot tears as I realized how much I missed you both. Visions of you and Mommy danced in my brain as I slowly drifted off to sleep.

June 21st: Morning came early that next day. I knew I had to get back to the hospital quickly, to make sure you were both well. Mommy gave me that reassurance when she called, and asked when I would be back to the hospital. But I had a bear to get! And emails and phone-calls to make! I called Lisa, then Patti, then Vicki and Bob. I tried hard to phone Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Andy, but they were away.

I stopped by Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and went off to Toys ‘R Us. I shopped through all the bears until I found one precious enough for you. I remember the feeling of pride I felt when I went to the counter to buy my daughter her first toy!

I clutched the bear tightly in my arms as I raced up the stairs of the hospital to greet you both again. As I opened the door to the room my heart filled with pride as I saw you suckling on your mother’s breast.

Mommy asked if I wanted to have you lie down with me, and I said yes. I held you against my chest as your mother griped at me about having tied my shoes too tight. She wanted me to take them off so I could be more comfortable on the bed. Later that afternoon I walked down the hallway of the hospital, as everyone who saw you remarked how beautiful you were. I have never felt that kind of pride before.

Grandma and Grandpa came by the hospital to see you also, and each took their turn holding you. I remember how good it felt to kiss your little cheek, and how your eyes turned towards me every time I did so. But soon it was time again for me to go. I had things to do! Grandma and Grandpa drove me to the party-supply store, and I got the letters that I would spell out “Welcome, Emma, Bienvenue.” I needed to share the joy that I had with the neighbors, and I remember thinking that this was also a way to get others to help me watch out for you.

I came back to the hospital as soon as I could, and already visitors were lining up to see you. Genevieve and Frederic came to see you (some friends of mine from work) and took digital pictures of you. Jeff and Lori came by and brought you your brown teddy. David Bandura was by to see you, and Elizabeth and Micheal. Valerie, Erika, Anne-Marie and Daniel came by too. Grandma Oostveen had been there for quite some time now.

All the fussing over you came to an end all to quickly that night. Again it was time for me to leave you. I stayed on a little while longer and slept with you on my chest for the first time. It was a very light sleep! Again I had to leave you and go home.

It was all I could do to prevent me from going back to the hospital and sleeping on the floor, and I knew Mommy would get mad at me for doing it, but I let Norton and Othello sleep with me that night. After all, they were clean and I desperately needed to hug something to sleep. He was never as good as you for that purpose, but tonight Norton would have to do.

I had predicted a lot of the events of those few days. I had predicted that you were going to be born on your due-date and you were. I had predicted that you would be born around eight o’clock in the evening, and you were. And I had predicted that you would be home with Mommy around noon on that next day.

June 22nd: I got the call from Elysa that morning, telling me that you would be coming home as soon as the nurses and doctors had taken a last look at you. I told Mommy that I had a lot of things to get done!

I started to give the house a final cleaning. I mopped the whole house, upstairs and down and put every last little thing away. I gave every room a once-over to make sure there was nothing to trip over or put in your mouth. And I knew I would have to eat something beforehand, so that I would not be interrupted in this most important task of getting you home safely.

At eleven thirty I showed up at the hospital. Mommy said that she wanted to take a shower, and that gave us a chance to catch up on old times together and have another nap.

I was awoken from another very light sleep when the doctor called me Mrs. Becker. He placed a stethoscope on your chest and you complained loudly of the cold. He moved all your little parts around, making sure that all was well and told me that when Mommy got back we could go. Mommy showed up just at that moment, and the Dr. gave us some last minute advice. We only had to get the blood test done and we could go.

Here it was, the time had finally come to bring you out into the world. I brought the car around and Mommy made sure that you were perfectly strapped in for the car-drive home. I put the four-way blinkers on, and remembered to take them off every time I wanted to signal a turn. I also made Mommy check your breathing four times on the short ride home. Mommy made fun of me, but I was taking every precaution and feeling really good about doing so.

As we drove up, Grandpa took pictures of our arrival. Mommy and Daddy were so proud that we had gotten you home, and I put on your very first album to listen to: CBS Masterworks “Portrait of Wynton Marsalis”. I remember that I wouldn’t even turn on the radio, I wanted so much for this to be your first album.

You never made it to the second album. You were tucked away in your bed with people fussing all around you after the first album was done. Soon the commotion subsided, and Mommy and Daddy were alone in the house with their new baby girl. Uncle Andy and Aunt Lorraine were the first people to come by to visit you. I was so happy to see them, because they are my god-parents and I know that they have cared for me my whole life.

More people came by the next few days to see you, and we had our first dance together on your second evening home. It was “Teach Your Children Well” which I chose for the lyric “teach your parents well.” I knew by that point that you had taught me a lot already, and knew you would continue doing so far on into the future. It is now the second morning that you have been home, and I began writing this to you just last night.

You know how beautiful life is? One thing that we cannot experience first-hand is the moment of our birth, or even our first accomplishments. Our first breath, our first words, our first steps… All these are experienced vicariously through our children. You have brought me and Mommy our vicarious experience of our own beginnings. I wrote you this so you didn’t have to wait so long. But I know how much this will pale in comparison to the experience of the birth of your first child.

I love you, Emma!


Saturday, July 09, 2005

PCHS Class of 1985 Reunion Pictures

Here are a few pictures of the gang from Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School's Class of 1985. I apologise for the first few - they're pictures taken with a phone (who would've thought that possible 20 years ago?)

Also, the colour washout is wholly unintentional, although it is an appropriate representation of my field of vision at the time.

I realy had an amazing time! I hope everyone else did too!