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What is Marriage?

Café-Salon Philosophique #41

August 7, 1999

No. of Participants: 17

Topic for the evening's discussion: "What is marriage?"

Samuel welcomed one and all back to Café-Salon Philosophique after a short break in July. He read the revised Café-Salon guidelines to the group and clarified the purpose as to why the guidelines are a part of the gatherings.We were also informed that the Troubadour Bookstore will be "phasing out" its retail operation over the next month, so, once again, we will be looking for a new space for gathering.

Suggested topics for the evening's discussion included: "What can we do about the monopoly of huge corporations? What is marriage? Do absolutes exist?" The majority of the group decided that they wanted to discuss marriage and relationships.

Mable began the discussion by saying, "marriage is one of the major institutions of our Society." People enter into this institution for various reasons, depending upon their upbringing, which culture they are from, what religious order they follow, etc. "It depends on the norms of the time." She believes that "people who have been married for ten years or longer seem to have a better sense of who they are, where they are going, and what the relationship is all about."

Dennis thinks "we are shifting from a a role based society to a relational society." Samuel asked, "Why is it that the Church and State are the ones who have the right to "license" people to love and live together?"

Why do we have the institution of marriage? Do we commit by will? What about individual sovereignty?

"Marriage gives people the opportunity to change, grow, and to see themselves and the other person in a different way. The willingness to change must be present." says Mabel.

Tom retraced a little history of the suppression and oppression of women in the various cultures throughout time. "Women used to be treated like property. They worked like slaves in factories, prostituted their bodies, and used marriage as a protection." "Marriage has changed over time." He sees marriage now as being entered into as a "partnership for business, convenience, corporations and, yes, still for love."

Aziza thinks "marriage is outdated." She feels the church is just a way to control relationships through the religious ceremony of "sanctioned marriages." She also feels that we have been "brainwashed" into believing that we "should be" married. Ciona wanted us to think about what happens to children everywhere because of unstable relationships, faulty marriages, transient relationships. Where is the support and stability for their needed growth and development?

Dan commented that he has seen "turmoil and distress in various relationships around him." "I've also seen sex get in the way of good relationships or good friendships," he added. "People can be intimate, grow, learn and change without sex."

Chanra was married in a backyard. "The place wasn't as important as the people who were present to witness the ceremony." She wonders at times why she got married "in the first place," and why she has stayed married? Her answer, "for the kids." Her daughter tells her she can "always work harder to make it work." Years of marriage has not only been a commitment to working on a relationship but has helped her to look in the mirror at what she doesn't like about her self - the "dark side." Although she feels the marriage has been rough at times, she still feels as though she is cherished for her beautiful self that she is.

Mable asked, "why do we stay in marriages?" She believes the institution of marriage is changing because both partners of the relationship seem to work, have dual incomes and no kids. If kids are present, they are the ones who have to adapt to whatever. Chanra piped up and said that "we as women have to play many different roles, the bitch, mother, goddess and the whore."

Dennis commented on how, some people in marriages have explored nothing. Dan says "it is people's choices whether or not they want kids." "Alot of people do it to save on taxes." Very simply he said, in a relationship you have to be open to change, compromise, dissolve the marriage, or possibly marry another person.

Polygomy and extended families were popular and still are in various cultures and civilizations throughout the world. Samuel commented on arranged marriages and how his parents' marriage was arranged. Kings and people of nobility were also married through arrangements to protect and keep the wealth among the rich.

Louisa thinks the church has "brainwashed" people into believing that only monogamous relationships are good. She believes that people "commit to a monogamous relationship for survival" which she believes is "primitive, instinctual and inherent with a person." She sees a certain "possessiveness" happening in relationships also.

Chanra does alot of introspection and feels that she can have alot of intimate relationships with lots of different people. She still concedes that her best relationship is with her husband whom is her best friend, lover, and roommate. She says "you just have to learn to surrender to growth." "Marriage is a sacred vessel that you have to tend to with care." There must be ritual and ceremony to keep the relationship going.

"Marriage is a sacred commitment," says Ciona. "The commitment to the relationship is what is important, not the sex. People go out and have sex all the time with different people." Dan believes that the marriage creates the sacred agreement. Dennis says "Sacredness is bull shit!" Mable countered with, "you've gotta define why it is so." Dennis didn't have an answer to back up the statement.

Mable continued by saying, "marriage is always changing." If something doesn't work, you try something else. Dan stated that there are different bonds with different people. No two relationships are alike. Friendship is built by bonding. There are all different levels of friendship. Bonding contains the relationship.

Dennis says there are no containers. It is all an illusion. Tom believes that there is such a thing as a container. This group is a container. The sacredness of sharing knowledge to know the real truth is possible when contained in such a group as this. Louisa says sacredness and ceremony can only having meaning to those who want to know the truth. Tom says the concept of marriage has been distorted by the formalized ceremony of marriage, and is supposedly sacred when "god blesses it."

Mable says "if and when she ever gets married, she is not going to need the church, a priest or anyone else blessing her." She says that when you enter a relationship, you enter to create meaning in life. Samuel says that sacred marriages of today are a kind of psychosocial contract.

We were then getting a little short on time so Samuel asked some of the ones who hadn't spoken to share their feelings and thoughts about marriage.Terry feels that "marriage is not necessary." She feels the institution of marriage is changing, that we don't need to elect to do it. Susan says that she has always taken the romantic view of marriage. But her views are changing as she realizes some of the illusions of that. She doesn't feel that it is necessary to be sanctioned and certified to be in love or committed to a relationship through the approval or authority of the church or state.

Chris does see marriage as a "sanctified celebration" which is tied and blessed by the church. "Marriage", to her, "is a sacrament." Through the church, she feels as though a couple can invite God into the marriage. Nora just thinks that it is a spiritual practice that we have learned over time. We use it to make love tangible and to be able to feel as though we are accepted. Alot of people use it because being single can be lonely.

Mark says, one needs to know what sacred is before entering a relationship. One needs to stop and consider what sacredness means. There are infinite possibilities that we are blind to, and there is so much potential in relationships that a couple can experience if they open the doors and are willing to change, give up ideas and preconceived notions. Frank was pondering the question, "What is commitment?"

Samuel dares to speak out against the church and stated he doesn't feel that we should be like sheep being led to sign contracts to certify commitment to a relationship or marriage. Whatever happened to individual sovereignty anyway?

Aziza commented that when people enter into a marriage they are trying to unify and marry themselves. She believes that one needs to establish a relationship with themselves first, then a marriage can happen. She says singlehood is okay and that the partner is just a mirror for self growth. Louisa feels like marriage is a good self validation. Dan says it is a gift, and Chanra believes that a creative individual brings a spark to marriage.

This ended the discussion for the evening, and some participants continued the conversation at a local café. Our next Café meeting will be held August 21, 1999 at the Troubadour Bookstore located at 1638 Pearl St. Start time is 6:30 p.m. Bring your topics, comments, questions or concerns, along with your friends! See you then!

Reported by Alessandra

"Samuel brings awareness to the soul of people and gives the artists who work under his direction the need, dedication, and love for the world of silence and the beautiful art of movement."


- Marcel Marceau, BIP 1961

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