In the Magazine section of the
newspaper that we take, there is an interview that asks the same
questions of a famous person. I was surprised to read this answer to the question ‘What is your screen saver’ Paul Merton, the interviewee said ‘I don’t have a computer or a mobile phone. I don’t have e.mail. I manage because my wife has those things.’
I was somewhat taken aback to hear this. It raised so many questions for me that I thought that it was worth exploring.
The first thing to say is that I am not a ‘technology junkie’. I am, I think, what the industry calls a ‘middle’ up-taker of technology. When new things come out I’ll say ‘Do I need this? Not yet!’ But then later on, some one will show me what they can do with their technology and I can see the benefit of it, and so I will perhaps go and buy one of whatever it is.’
But what I am struggling with is the idea that one person can simply ‘do away’ with a whole set of tools because their partner looks after that thing.
Here is the first side of the
conversation. I once built a sailing boat. I got the instructions and the wood from the Class Association, and started building. When I had a
question, I reluctantly ran someone up. When it came time for fitting all the parts to the boat, I sought advice. They said ‘Have a BBQ, buy a slab of beer, invite the members of the association and have a ‘fitting day.’ I did. During the day I got some feedback. Of course when someone is building a boat everyone in the Association wants to know how it is going etc. At the ‘fitting day’ they said to me “You are known as a ‘very independent’ boat builder.” I was surprised. I did not know that in the wings was a group of friends wanting to help more than I wanted them to help.
So I am a very independent person. I have grown up believing that if I want something done, then I’d better be able to do it myself because there is not going to be too much help. When it comes to technology or fixing things, my first instinct is to have a look to see if I can fix it myself, because there is power in being able to fix things. I got into metal turning because one day I saw a person working at a lathe. I asked ‘What are you doing?’ He replied “I am fitting a motor to my beach buggy. But the thread from the fuel line in the motor is different to the thread in the fuel line from the chassis that I’m using, so I have to make a connecting piece.’ I was hooked. What power. Instead of being at the mercy of the manufacturers, or instead of having to look for and buy a whole new fuel line and petrol tank, the guy could make a ‘connector’. I have since done this many times. I am also freed from having to buy 24 bolts in a ‘blister pack’ when I just want 2!
I also hate the idea of being dependant on other people’s time to do things. Imagine the person in the article having to wait till their wife decided that she had the time to send an e.mail for him.
In relationships too I have tended to be more on the ‘me and you’ side of things than on the ‘us’ side of things. In our growing up disagreeing with authority was not welcomed. We did it, but it was a struggle. I have tried (perhaps over tried) to differentiate my self. The down side of that is that I tend to be a ‘loner’. The up side of this is what Edwin Newman says about families that are ‘fused’ or enmeshed in his book ‘Failure of Nerve’. He says “Perhaps the major goal of family counsellors ought to be to help people to be separate so that they do not have to ‘separate’ .“ That’s what I think.
In congregations too the same dynamics are at work. One thing that used to happen is that Person A gets an idea. They then say to the vicar ‘You ought to do this!’. When we had Parish Council planning meetings, we would say ‘Everyone has to be responsible for their own Idea. We will support you, but we cannot have people saying ‘I want X to happen, and I want you to do it!’
So when I see people who are two, but acting like one (finishing one another’s sentences, one person knowing how to work the technology and another not) it contradicts my own ‘prime mode of being’.
But! After meeting my spouse I
discovered that in many ways she makes me look better than I am. Being Robyn and Paul contributes much more in terms of skill in hospitality and generosity than I could ever manage. Robyn and I are a much
better ‘person’ than I could be on my own. It is sometimes not easy though. I have to learn to accept the gifts that another brimgs, which are not the same as my own. I have to learn not to be resentful when I am asked to do a thing that I think someone else ought to be able to do for themselves.
This is the meaning of what the Bible says when it says ‘The two shall become one flesh’. This is the meaning of the description of marriage as a sacrament, because, like a sacrament, it describes a kind of ‘communion’ (a ‘marrying’) where two people ‘indwell’ each other.
This communion is a sacrament because it reflects the divine life too. The Holy Trinity is a loving communion of three persona. It is interesting to see what is said about this in Church Doctrine. The Church wanted to describe the utmost intimacy and communion between Father, Son, and Spirit. There can be no deeper unity: so much so that they developed the idea that ‘What can be said of one Person of the Trinity, can be said of the other two.’ But at the same time, they wanted a very clear differentiation between the Father, Son and Spirit. (See the picture below. The ‘identity’ is shown by saying ‘The Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God.’ But the differentiation’ is shown in the circle ‘The Father is not the Son is not the Spirit’)
I think that is what I’m aiming toward. I don’t like the idea of a fusion of
identities where one cannot tell one person of a couple from another, or where one is totally dependant on the other for all of one sphere of life. But at the same time, I love how being a ‘couple’ enhances both of us and brings more to the image of us as a ‘couple’ than either of us could bring individually. Blessed be God, the Holy Trinity. Three in one, and one in three!