[Personal preface here – 2 minute read]
In this article, the author describes how a movement which becomes institutionalized into a religion, becomes a monument. I have replaced this reference to religion with an individual “marriage,” for an interesting exercise…
In The Wisdom Pattern, Father Richard summarizes five stages of change that take place in marriage. He calls these stages the “Five M’s”: human, movement, machine, monument, and memory. This week we explore these stages as inspiration for marriage renewal.
It seems that many great things start with loving a single human being. If a person says/does something full of life that names reality well to a partner, the message often moves to the second stage of becoming a movement. That’s the period of greatest energy. A marriage is at its greatest vitality as a “Love Movement,” and marriage is merely a vehicle for that movement. The movement stage is always very exciting, creative, and also risky.
It’s risky because partners’ movement in marriage is larger than any culture, or any ability to verbalize it. We feel out of control in this stage of romantic love, and yet why would anybody want it to be anything less? Would we respect and love a spouse that we could control? I don’t think so! Yet we move rather quickly out and beyond the risky movement stage to the machine stage. This is predictable and understandable.
The mechanical or machine stage of a marriage will necessarily be a less-alive manifestation of the love between partners. This is not bad, although it is always surprising for those who see marriage as an end in itself, instead of merely a vehicle for the original vision. We need “the less noble” parts to keep us all growing toward love (1 Corinthians 12:22–24). There is no other way; but when we don’t realize a machine’s limited capacities, we try to make it into something more than it is. We make it a monument, a closed system operating inside of its own, often self-serving, logic. By then, it’s very hard to take risks for/towards our spouse.
Eventually this monument and its maintenance and self-preservation become ends in themselves. It is easy just to step on board and worship a monument without ever remembering the risk-taking love that originated it. At this point, we have jumped over the human and movement stages and have become “frozen people.” There is no hint of knowing that we are beloved by spouse and invited to inner journeys. In this state, marriage is merely an excuse to remain unconscious, holding on to a memory of something that must once have been a great adventure. Now marital love for our partner is no longer life itself, but actually a substitute for life or, worse, an avoidance of life. The secret is to know how to keep in touch with the human and movement stages without being naïve about the necessity of some machines and the inevitability of those who worship monuments. We must also be honest: all of us love monuments when they are monuments to our human, our movement, or our machine.
Neil D. 2022-03-06