If someone asks you what “monogamy” is, don’t go to or quote a dictionary. What you’d find there would be an accurate definition I’m sure, by which I mean, you’d find what the rank and file of us think of when we use the word. There you’d find what our children are taught in school to think when they hear the word. I like dictionaries, I do; I make use of them often and I suppose it’s true that in some ways they share with us the experience of our fellow-humans because speech not only reflects how we live—it shapes it. Still,dictionaries aren’t warm; they’re cold. They record without passion or commitment or shame or affection how the current populace uses the sounds we call words. There’s nothing creative about a dictionary; it lacks imagination, it doesn’t create worlds—it simply defines past or existing worlds; it runs after aging worlds, listening and recording what’s said. Again, a dictionary’s redeeming factor is that it deals with words and words are not dictionaries. Words well used can set an entire world on fire or set a sleepy world dancing. Words can defy an existing world that’s filled with despair and create an imagined world that is free and joyous. (Read the prayer-songs of Hannah and Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus) Words can create new worlds by generating vision but vision is in some ways more more wonderful than words though words and visions keep very close company indeed.
If you had told Harry Emerson Fosdick that monogamy was the conviction that men and women should have only one husband/wife at a time he would have said something like, That’s not monogamy. Monogamy is a woman and a man, all their lives, wanting to love one another as they love no other person in all the world. That’s monogamy!
If you gave Landon Saunders the dictionary definition he would have said something of this sort, That’s not monogamy. Monogamy is a man or a woman looking into the others eyes and saying, Others may come and go in your life but I won’t. I’ll never leave you. If you’re sick I’ll nurse you, feed you, bathe you, sit with you, read to you, listen to you; if I hurt you I’ll apologize, I’ll ask your forgiveness, if you’re lonely I’ll keep company with you; if you’re happy I’ll rejoice with you, sing, smile or laugh with you. I’ll do anything but leave you. I’ll never leave you. That’s monogamy!
It isn’t that we should ignore the dictionary but we’re blessed if we see more than the dictionary; We hear and feel more than the dictionary. Critic or cynics might well say that talk like that is too sickeningly sweet in the light of the real world; Who lives like that? they might say. It’s a dream world and not the world we live in.
Hmmm, perhaps. Yet, dreams are not all bad and even if we can’t quite make it to the place we dream of, should we not dream of better and finer?
But while dreams and vision are intimately related they’re not quite the same. The dreams we dream as we look at and experience life are shaped, I would suggest they’re shaped, by vision, by whatever it is that shapes our entire worldview.
To be visionary like, for example, GK Chesterton, would mean that while we don’t despise brain-power or intellect we become seers [which is what in the early days of the OT the prophets were called seers].
We’d be less cognitive, less prepositional and rational and more imaginative as we reflect on lovely relationships—yes, and richer because of it.
We wouldn’t take leave of our senses but some new sense of things would be ours. The father is speaking the sober truth when he says to his daughter, about the young man she is now in love with, I don’t know what you see in him! Precisely! She’s in love with him and the father isn’t and love gives the seer new eyes and senses. It doesn’t matter what it is were talking about—life’s realities or relationships. There’s a way of seeing the ordinary, or at least the commonplace, that means it is no longer ordinary or commonplace.
Chesterton saw what millions of us see—we shrug and he was mesmerized. The sun doesn’t rise every morning because the earth spins! Chesterton said it comes up every morning because God every morning says to it, Get up! That’s vision!
Richard Ahler allows us to imagine a fully contented man moving to the close of his life. He’s reflecting on his relationship with his beloved who is now deceased and he says this:
When I think how soon we run out of time,
Lookin’ back at what I’ve done in my time,
My accomplishments are few,
But for my days of loving you!
If I’ve never gone too far in this world,
When I might have made my mark in this world,
I had better things to do,
I had my days of loving you!
Let the others go their way,
Seeking more and more,
Give me just one yesterday,
Filled with love like yours!
I have nothin’ to regret in this life,
I’ve had all there is to get in this life,
Once I lived a dream come true,
I had my days of loving you!
That’s monogamy! Well, yes, but it’s more—it’s vision! We who are badly hurt or sour or cynical can’t and won’t share such a vision and that’s tragic.
Anna Louise de Staël [it’s very probable that Nietzsche didn’t say it] said something like this: “Those who were seen to dance were thought to be insane by those who couldn’t hear the music.”
God bless us more and more with His way of seeing and hearing and feelings things. God bless us with men and women who can wide-eyed and sincerely use the word Behold! and not just look! and point, point at something that only a moment ago or a day ago or a year ago or a sad lifetime ago was too familiar and by his/her bright vision it has been transformed into something wondrous and new. And maybe if we’re blessed their way of seeing will become ours and yhen our children’s and then their children’s.
(Please, Father of grace and goodness. This prayer in Jesus name.)