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.

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Bovary Moments Part 2

So, a few days ago I mentioned a novel that I’ve been listening to as a book on tape (full disclosure here) called Madame Bovary. I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the book. To be completely honest, it’s pretty much infuriating! The entire novel revolves around an incredibly selfish woman and the pain that she causes to everyone around her. Emma, Madam Bovary, is an adulteress and wastrel who spends her husband’s money on her lovers until there is no money left to spend, and then continues spending until her family is ruined, at which point she commits suicide. She is convinced of her own worth, flaky, flighty, and constantly plays the victim while the real victim of the novel, her husband Charles, blissfully goes about his days in apparent ignorance. I haven’t quite finished the novel yet, so I don’t know if it will be revealed that Charles was simply a trusting victim or if he knew of his wife’s indiscretions and chose to love her anyway. I want to identify with Charles. He’s a good man, an honest man, and a hard worker. I want to see Charles in myself, and to see Emma in the people around me. The truth is often the other way around.

I’ve been doing fairly well with my struggles lately. I’m generally satisfied with my life, though T’Amber shot me down when I finally asked her out yesterday. I’m planning to ask a couple more times. In this, I’m going to go by the sayings ‘Third Times the Charm’ and ‘Three Strikes and You’re Out’. She was very nice about shooting me down, and I don’t figure a couple more polite invitations are likely to hurt anything. I’ve been doing fairly well in my internet struggles as well. I’ve wrestled with the desire to look at pornography, but I haven’t fallen much lately, and I’m very happy about that. I did just break down and pay for a year-long membership to eHarmony… it was a good sale price… still, I have a feeling I’m going to regret that. Nonetheless, I’ve been doing well (Happify has helped with that some, I suggest checking it out). Nonetheless, no matter how well I do, I am not Charles.

I am all too often fickle. I like T’Amber and I plan to try again, but then there’s also a very pretty young lady who just started taking Karate at the school at which I help teach Aikido. I have a feeling that one of my other students might try to set us up, and I am in no way opposed to this. Then I still have to ask Sally to lunch, although I’ve recently found out that she’s not available in the first place, which made me indescribably happy.

More than that, I’m not only fickle, I’m downright selfish. I want to be loved, often (I was going to write sometimes here… but that wouldn’t really be honest) more than I want to love others. I want to be desired as much as Madame Bovary does, and I want to play the victim. I always like to have someone to blame when something goes wrong. I know that I should take responsibility for my actions, but all to often I don’t. In short, I am just as selfish a man as Bovary is a woman. The thing is, I think this is true of all of us. We all want… we all desire… we all need… often we don’t even know what we want/desire/need. We are listless, indecisive, and ultimately we don’t have the time or the energy to care about anyone else. It’s not a good thing. In fact, this is exactly what God is trying to fix through the process of sanctification.

However, as I’ve said many times, sanctification is a process. I don’t get there overnight. In fact, I won’t get there until I’m dead. Until then I keep trying to be better, and often I keep failing, and God keeps forgiving.

I’ve also been reading The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (Lawrence of the Resurrection if you want to look him up) lately, and there is a huge difference between the life to which Brother Lawrence exhorts us, and the life that Gustave Flaubert displays. Lawrence exhorts us to a life of consistent worship, a life filled with the presence, the wonder, the beauty, and the satisfaction of God. Flaubert displays a life without any of those things. A life in constant quest for beauty, wonder, and love. A life in which satisfaction is an undreamable dream (I know I stole that, but I can’t remember where).

I am struck by just how much Emma had, and still her life was empty, compared with how little Lawrence  had (he was a lay brother and kitchen worker in a Carmelite monastery in Paris, a man of absolutely no importance). None the less Lawrence espouses a complete satisfaction with life that Bovary never considers a possibility. I have written before that I am currently searching for eudaimonia. The thing is, eudaimonia does not lie in financial security, in things (duh), in the respect and admiration of those around me, in knowledge or wisdom, or in the bosom of a beautiful woman. Eudaimonia is something that I can only reach by the daily practice of walking in God’s presence. Something that I’m still fairly poor at. Nonetheless, on with the process I march.

Bovary Moments

I’ve started this post three different times in three different ways. I’ve been trying to think of something to write all day. I was going to write about the meaning of success, the pursuit of excellence, and the importance of being good enough. I was going to write about a book that I’m reading and the moderate depression that it’s thrown me into. And I was going to write (yet again) about how sometimes I still feel like I’m always going to be alone… and sometimes want to be… both of those have something to do with the book I’m reading. The book is Madame Bovary and it’s pretty much making me hate women. The entire book is about a spoiled, selfish, flighty woman who doesn’t know what she wants, doesn’t know what she has, and hurts everyone around here (especially her husband and daughter) because of it.

My body isn’t what it used to be. Well… I shouldn’t actually say that because I’m probably pretty close to the best shape of my life. I think last year was probably the best shape of my life, which is kind of sad. Still, I hiked about eight miles today and by the time I got home both my hips and my knees felt like they were going to give out. I really needed the hike though. It gave me time to think, and enough perspective to realize that, all to often, I am Bovary. I can be a moody bastard, and all too often I’m selfish and don’t think about others in the pursuit of whatever fancy takes me. I truly hope that I’m not as bad as Madame Bovary is in the novel, but I’m certainly no saint.

I tend to be prone to extremes. I was once about two days worth of sharpening away from cutting out my eyes with a sharp, sterilized spoon. I had a roommate at the time that inadvertently talked me out of that (thankfully). I’ve also given actual consideration to making myself a eunuch, and before I converted I made multiple suicide attempts. I liked to walk in front of cars on highways… only God knows how many accidents I caused. Needless to say, this very Bovarylike behavior is not the extent of my similarities with this fictional slattern for whom I am filled with loathing.

In my extremes I tend to flip back and forth between believing that only the best passes muster, and saying ‘fuck excellence! I just want to be good enough’. I will say that I don’t think we give enough credit to good enough. The vast majority of us never reach good enough in much of what we do, and it’s certainly evident that, in our quest for excellence, we as a nation have abysmally failed to reach good enough in many areas, welfare and education two of the most outstanding.

That being said, as long as the quest for excellence doesn’t end in a failure to be good enough, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Madame Bovary certainly doesn’t seem to seek excellence in anything she does. She isn’t even a very good adulteress, the one thing that she seems moderately passionate about in the novel. All to often we too set down our quest for excellence and settle for less than mediocre standards… of course, I deal daily with students do don’t actually manage to meet those less than mediocre standards… so I might be a bit jaded.

Then again, I have to say that one of the things that I love about my job is seeing a student start off the class with Ds and end it getting Bs and As. This is an excellent feeling. All to often few and far between, but a truly excellent feeling. Nonetheless, I feel like I’m failing the students who don’t improve. Some of them I probably am, but some of them I do my very best to help and they reject it at every possible opportunity. Some people seem to aim for sub-mediocre intentionally.

The thing is, sometimes I wonder if I’m not one of those people. I’m not particularly ambitious, and I don’t have a whole lot of pride left… though that’s something that God’s been systematically drilling out of me for a long time now. I’ve had many people tell me that they see great potential in me, and I have to wonder if I’m failing to live up to it.

Then I look at my friends, who consistently tell me that I’m a pretty amazing guy, a great teacher, a good friend, and that any woman would be lucky to have me. I’m not sure how much of this is simply friends telling me what they think I need to hear, and how much of it is honest, critical assessment. Still, there seems to be something to it.

I’m always hesitant to say anything positive about myself because I’m afraid that I’ll come off as prideful. All to often, I can’t tell the difference between pride and confidence, and I think that these are two of the easiest attitudes to confuse, both in yourself and in others. I haven’t managed to catch my post count up to the number of followers… which is still a mild source of annoyance to me, but I’m dealing with it. It makes me think that people find value in what I say… which I still don’t understand.

Here’s the thing that I’m consistently failing to do. I’ve said it before: In Romans 12 God tells us to see ourselves ‘rightly’. Throughout scripture he tells us to judge ourselves by his measure, which means two things: 1) to understand that I am in every way a sinner, fully deserving of eternity in hell, and 2) that when God looks at me, he not only sees someone of value, but someone who is filled with his son. I’m still struggling with to reconcile these concepts of myself.

I find this task equally as difficult as reconciling within myself both Christ’s extreme desire to see people follow him, and his extreme willingness to drive them away if they didn’t measure up to his rather harsh standards. In both tasks I tend to be able to do one or the other, but I can’t manage both simultaneously. Maybe someday…

Grak-Tor!!

I hate porn. I also believe very strongly in the freedom of speech and expression, and that American law should reflect the American people, not attempt to impose the value system of one small group of that people on the rest of the nation. To be consistent in this position I find that I have to argue that the obscenity exception to the first amendment really isn’t legitimate, but is instead an imposition of specifically Judeo-Christian values that probably shouldn’t be a part of the law.

That being said, I with that all porn was illegal, that any creation or distribution of porn came with stiff fines… and perhaps prison time. I wish that porn wasn’t a part of the internet, and that it wasn’t a part of my life. I wish that I didn’t struggle with it. Unfortunately, none of the above wishes are true, or even realistic. Porn is legal, and to be consistent with my beliefs I have to say that it should be legal, much as I wish that it wasn’t. It is a part of the internet, and that’s never going to change, and it is something that I struggle with. Hopefully someday that will change, but it hasn’t yet. So, this all leads me back to GRAK-TOR!!!

Yes, I’m well aware that none of you know what that means. Unsurprisingly, I’m fine with that. There are a great many situations in which we don’t get what we want. Even more in which we get what we thought we wanted, only to find out that we didn’t really want it all that much. We are incredibly dumb people.

I’m currently reading Madame Bovary, which has nothing to do with porn so far as I can tell, but which has everything to do with being incredibly dumb and not knowing what we want. So far, the book is about a woman who doesn’t have a clue what she wants out of life and hurts everyone around her trying to figure it out. I find that I identify with that very closely, and it makes me wonder how much pain I’ve caused simply by being an idiot. I know how much pain I’ve been caused because of the idiocy of others, but I can only guess at how much pain my own idiocy has caused. I’m going to guess that I’ve probably given at least as bad as I’ve gotten.

I’m using the terms ‘idiot’ and ‘dumb’ here in a technical sense. For those of you who don’t know, and probably have never actually cared, an ignorant person is a person with out knowledge. We are all ignorant about many things, and there isn’t really anything wrong with that. Ignorance is simply a state of being that can be changed. A stupid person, however, is a person who staunchly clings to their own ignorance, even when they have a chance to change. A stupid person refuses to learn, even when he has repeated opportunities. There is something wrong with that.

An idiot on the other hand, or a person who is dumb, is a person without the intellectual capacity to learn something. For instance, it’s not that I am stupid and refuse to learn to play the piano. It’s that I have no sense of rhythm, and that I’m tone-deaf to the point that I can’t really tell the difference between listening to Mozart and listening to Beethoven (I’m told there’s a big difference), and thus no matter how hard I try, I utterly and completely fail at playing the piano.

So, when I say that we are idiots, what I mean is that no matter how hard we try, we are going to fail. We are going to make foolish decisions,  we are going to hurt people, and we are going to get hurt. Hopefully we can be smart enough to eventually stop making the same foolish decisions (for instance, I’m not going to date another emotionally disturbed 19 year old), but we will still make entirely new foolish decisions. Only God can save us from ourselves.