Romance and the Single Woman

Sometimes I honestly believe that there are no good women left in the world. I know that this isn’t true, and this isn’t a boohoo, woe is me, I’ll never find a wife kind of post.  I’m completely aware that sometimes this feeling has everything to do with me. However, I spent tonight with a bunch of college students (the vast majority of them female) watching a bollywood romance movie (I think I’ve had nightmares about this scenario). The movie was… not great. The female lead was clearly narcissistic and quite possibly a sociopath.

This womn was obsessed with ‘adventure’, by which she meant the adrenaline rush she got from lying, cheating, stealing, and generally ruining other peoples lives. The story opens with her father forcing her to marry against her will. Her answer to this problem? Take advantage of a hard-working man whom her father had cheated by forcing him to kidnap her at gun point (even though she was actually the one holding the gun) and demand an outrageous ransom. She forces/convinces him to steal for her, help her con an innocent gas station attendant out of 10,000 rupies (I think its rupies at least), break into a strangers house and set it up as their home base, and by half-way through the movie this poor man is madly in love with her… this is clearly stockholm syndrome. So, as it turns out, this man’s father is the premier kidnapper in northern India and he has both of them kidnapped to bring his son home. His son, the hard-working man, originally left home because he wanted nothing to do with his father’s business of kidnapping people. He wanted to live an honest life, which this woman has now ruined. She, however, gets along great with his family (half cheats and half decent folks… maybe) and insinuates herself into the fold, even convincing his father to raise the ransom he is demanding for her to a point that will leave her own family impoverished. When her father finally does show up with his daughter (because, what do you know, he actually loves her… can’t figure out why), the kidnapper’s family wants her to stay. The kidnapper, however, leaves the choice up to his son. He, of course, tells her to go home with her father because he wants her to be safe and happy! Of course, this will never happen with a family of thieves and kidnappers, and so she leaves in a huff, deciding that she hates him. The movie does manage to salvage a half-way decent (though non-sensical) ending with the kidnapper’s family mending their ways and the hard-working man winning her back (though why I still can’t figure out). However, it’s a movie so, what do you really expect.

My biggest problem though was not with the movie, but with the women who were watching the movie. The women who found the woman’s clearly horrific actions to be cute, endearing, and romantic. The women who saw every reason for this poor young man to fall in love. The women who were furious with the hard-working man for acting in her best interest even though it hurt him (I believe I heard one woman shout ‘I’ll punch him!’). Honestly, the woman in this movie was the kind of woman that any sensible man should run from, far and fast. She was Emma from Madame Bovary or Scarlett from Gone with the Wind. She was a selfish, childish woman with no moral compass, and no care for others, who wanted a man who would simultaneously be her slave and a dangerous bad guy. In short, she was the farthest thing from romantic, and certainly not a woman that anyone should attempt to emulate.

So, this left me ultimately frustrated. A frustration which I now vent here. Tonight has not been good for my hopes of finding a quality woman somewhere out in the world. Still, as I said at the beginning, I do know a few women of high quality, so at least they do exist.

The Power of a Joyful Life… or Revisiting the Notion of Happiness

I’ve mentioned before (at least I think I’ve said it here… if not I know I’ve said it elsewhere), that I dislike John Piper’s notion of Christian Hedonism. It strikes me that any philosophy based solely or primarily in what brings me the most pleasure is problematic, regardless of the ends it espouses. If my pleasure is the ultimate goal, then I am putting myself at the center of all things, and this is a place that I should never be. That being said, for the past two years God has been teaching me about joy, and I feel like I’m finally getting to the heart of the lesson. For most of my life happiness has been… unimportant. My goal was to be strong, or to be powerful, or to be righteous, or to be good, or to be spiritual (kind of in that order actually), and happiness was something that I always saw as an addendum at best, or a distraction at worst.

A few years ago a friend of mine was lecturing me about the way I approach life and asked me, ‘don’t you want to be happy?’ The only response that I could give was ‘Eh, maybe I guess…’ I want to stress here that my goal was not to be unhappy. I’ve never seen misery as a sign of righteousness (or at least I don’t think I have), but I also never made it a goal to be happy. Over the past two years God has been slowly changing this.

So, recently my bible study (yes, I’m part of a bible study now… yes, I realize that I haven’t posted in ‘like forever’ which translates to a couple of months in real time… thus proving the theory of internet relativity:T=CPI or Time=Care exponentially multiplied by the Perspective of the Individual)… anyway, my bible study has been studying the book of Ecclesiastes, which is a book that I’ve loved for a long time, but recently I’ve had a new perspective on. I think that, at its core, Ecclesiastes is an admonition to joy. The author repeatedly points to the pointlessness, injustice, and repetitiveness of life, and then responds to himself by arguing that true purpose can be found in God.

In chapter one and two he shows that none of the things we normally cling to: labor, love, wealth, knowledge, and pleasure, can possibly serve as the purpose of a meaningful life. All of these are fleeting, ephemeral, and ultimately vanity. However, in chapter 3 he shows that, while none of these things is the point of life, all of them have a point in life. This is an important distinction. A life lived for the pursuit of any of these things will ultimately be unfulfilling, because they are, in themselves, vane. However, all of them are gifts given by God to bring pleasure to life and add to its ultimate purpose. Solomon argues that everything happens for a reason, and that God is the ultimate arbiter of that reason, so should we argue that he got things wrong?

Chapters four and five continue in this vein, showing the vanity and injustice of everyday life when we live it without God, but the pleasure that God can bring through that same vanity when we place him at the center of our lives. I have long been somewhat enamored by the mystic ascetics (or ascetic mystics… whatever you want to call them). And I think that true joy can be found in the ascetic pursuit of God, but this is not the only way to glorify him.

Whoever we are, whatever path God takes us on (and I’m not trying to preach Universalism here, if you think God is calling you to be a Buddhist Monk you need to revisit the scriptures), we can and should find joy when we truly place him at the center of our lives. This is something that I’m currently working on. For a long time I, like the Pharisees, turned moral virtue and righteousness into an idol, all too often replacing my worship with God with a worship of goodness. Even when I left this behind, I didn’t seek to enjoy God, but simply to endure with him.

My circumstances haven’t changed much in the past few years. I’m still single, still poor, and I still have debts that I’ll probably never be able to realistically pay (though this is in God’s hands). I still struggle with depression, fear, doubt, worry, etc. However, I’m struggling less and enjoying more. I’m learning to find my joy in God and truly, thoroughly worship him.