Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at Scotch On The Rocks (SOTR) 2011 (Edinburgh) with:

I Find The Conflict Of Truth And Need To Be Deeply Romantic

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: Life

WARNING: For this post, I have to talk about the plot lines of a few different movies. Specifically, The Matrix, Legion, and The Adjustment Bureau. I know that the Adjustment Bureau was just released, so I'll try not to talk about that one in too much detail; but, be forewarned that there are definitely some plot spoilers below.

After watching The Adjustment Bureau last weekend, I realized that there was a part of it that hit me in the bottom of my chest. When I get touched here, emotionally speaking, I lose a lot of my ability to articular my feelings. I start using words like Potential, Fate, Love, Erotic, Sexual, and Desire as if they were all the same, interchangeable concept.

When I took a moment and tried to reflect upon the reaction that I was having to the movie, I got the sense that what I liked was the conflict between Truth and Need - between what is true and what is necessary. And when I thought it about like that, I suddenly started to see a small, deeply engaging pattern emerge in a few of the movies that I've seen.

The Matrix (1998)

The earliest example of Truth vs Need that I can think of is the Matrix. In the Matrix, Morpheus believes that Neo is the "one." However, when Morpheus brings Neo to see the Oracle, the Oracle tells Neo that he is, in fact, not the one.


 
 
 

 
The Matrix as it pertains to the conflict of Truth vs. Need.  
 
 
 

Towards the end of a climactic scene, Neo, then tries to relate this news back to Morpheus. Morpheus, however, cuts him off:

Neo: Morpheus... The Oracle, she told me, I'm...

Morpheus: She told you exactly what you needed to hear... that's all. Neo, sooner or later, you're going to realize, just as I did, that there's a different between knowing the path... and walking the path.

And, if this wasn't awesome enough, Neo is then quickly pit against Agent Smith in the subway. However, rather than fleeing, Neo turns around and prepares to fight. At seeing this confusing behavior, Trinity and Morpheus have a quick back-and-forth:

Trinity: What is he doing?!

Morpheus: He's beginning to believe...

This scenes was so powerful that even now, twelve years later, I feel my body getting flushed at the very thought of it.

Legion (2010)

Last year, I saw the movie, Legion. This one doesn't quite fit as nicely into the Need vs. Truth mold because three being intersect on the same point; but, I think the reason that I was touched by it was the same. In the movie, God has lost his faith in humanity and sends out an army to destroy mankind. The angel, Michael, however, still believes in the human potential and abandons God's army to come to man's defense.


 
 
 

 
The Legion as it pertains to the conflict of Truth vs. Need.  
 
 
 

At seeing this, the angel Gabriel comes down to fight Michael. The ensuing battle is intense and at the end, it is demonstrated that God's faith in humanity has been restored - he has changed his mind. At this point, Gabriel is confused. Michael then says:

Michael: You gave him what he ask for, I gave him what he needed.

There is something profoundly moving about this line. Honestly, I didn't much care for the movie as a whole; but this one line made sitting through it entirely worthwhile.

Like the Matrix, this scene spells it out very explicitly - Michael gave God what he needed, not what he asked for. And, if you believe in the objective Truth of God, then we find ourselves again with the Truth vs. Need conflict.

Just following this line, Michael then has an opportunity to kill Gabriel, but refuses. He is even taunted by Gabriel to do so, and still refuses:

Gabriel: Do it, do it!

Michael: No.

Gabriel: I would not have shown you the same mercy.

Michael: I know, that is why you failed him.

This last exchange gives us an even more provocative concept. Gabriel's shortcoming was not that he followed the Truth; rather, it was that he failed to see anything but the Truth. In a way, you could say that he was blinded by the Truth. And, as it turns out, the Truth was not what he needed.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

In the Adjustment Bureau, David Norris and Elise Sellas are star-crossed lovers; or rather, they used to be in a previous version of the "plan" (think Fate). In the most current version of the Plan, however, they are not supposed to ever meet again. They are even warned by agents of the Adjustment Bureau that should they continue to seek each other out, they will ruin each other's lives.


 
 
 

 
The Adjustment Bureau as it pertains to the conflict of Truth vs. Need.  
 
 
 

Despite these warnings and the many hardships brought before them, David and Elise continue to find a way to be together. At one point, David declares that even if the rest of his life is very short (alluding to the inevitable wraith brought down by the Bureau), he wants to spend what little time he has left with her.

The movie culminates with David and Elise locked in one last passionate kiss before judgement is rendered upon them. However, when they release each other, it is revealed that the Plan has been, once again, rewritten; this time, the two are meant to be together. Confused at the sudden change, David confronts Agent Harry Mitchell (forgive my memory - there is no online script for this movie yet):

David: Was this all some kind of test?

Harry: Everything is a test.

I didn't think this movie was particularly great; but, like Legion, there was something deeply fulfilling about this final scene. The concept is not as explicitly stated in The Adjustment Bureau as it is in the Matrix or the Legion; but, again, we see that there is a difference between what is True and what people Need to hear.

Thoughts On Why Truth vs. Need Is So Deeply Moving

As I was mulling these three movies over and over in my mind, I was having a really hard time figuring out exactly why I found the pattern so emotionally rich. At first, I thought the allure might just be superficial - the hope that one can ignore Truth and still end up on the right path. But, such an idea is completely off-based - none of these characters had an easy time of it; if anything, following the letter of the Truth would have proved to be much easier path.

I think the reason that I find this concept so tremendously moving is because, in all cases, the characters did not use an externalized sense of self. Each of them went on a journey in which their own Truth was discovered to be inherently part of their being. Neo started to believe that he was the one despite being told otherwise. Michael believed that he could restore God's faith in humanity. David and Elise risked horrible consequences following a love that they could no longer bear to ignore.

In Philosophy, we are taught that ultimate wisdom lives inside all of us. The problem is that accessing that wisdom is hard and requires continuous practice. If you can think of wisdom like a lightbulb, our minds are so dusty that the light no longer shines through. When I see characters like the above, I think I get so turned on because they appear to represent people who have found that internal wisdom - who have cleaned off the dust and let the light of Truth shine fiercely from within their being.

Perhaps in the context of this blog post, Truth is the externalized representation of wisdom; and Need is the path that brings us to our own internalized Truth and the source of ultimate wisdom.

I'm not really sure. I can't quite figure out why I find these scenes so incredibly moving. All I know is that I do.



Reader Comments

You're an extraordinary fellow. Thanks for sharing your thoughts like this -- it takes courage, but is the essence of personal blogging.

As for the topic at hand... perhaps each hero is answering a deep need for deep(er) truth. In Neo's case he truly was *not* the One when he first saw the oracle - because he didn't believe at all. He became (determined) his true destiny with each decision he made (like facing Agent Smith in the subway) that arose from his developing faith.

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@Sprague,

Right, exactly! He is finding a deeper truth. But, as you say, that truth is *in* him and his belief system. He wasn't the One at first because *he* didn't believe.

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The Adjustment Bureau explains the fall of the Romans, Incas, and other advanced societies. For me, it all makes sense how we humans went from fighting and killing each other to creating an enlightened society, then falling back into the "dark ages", and fortunately returning to the light, so to speak.

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@Jon,

Yeah, I thought their explanation of that was very interesting. And, they end the movie on a hopeful note, that such patterns won't always occur.

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I tried not to read in too much depth the part about the Adjustment Bureau so that there's a chance if I watch it, I won't remember what I read. :-) Which, I have the amazing capacity to do that.

But what little bit I did read, it kind of reminded me of Hancock a little bit. Although, I don't think there was anything about Truth Vs. Need in Hancock...I don't think so. I could be wrong, I don't really remember that movie too much, but I don't think so.

@Sprague - you so perfectly verbalized my thoughts that were forming as I was reading @Ben's post. It is so awesome when that happens! Gotta love it! I was thinking "real" truth or "ultimate" truth and the consequences of choice. There's this path. The path is the perfect path. If we were perfect...if we understood and could see taht light, that wisdom, we would follow this perfect path. But some of us are not. Some of us veer off of that path. So we reach the same destination, we just reach it on a less desirable path (and may hit some road bumps along the way). That reminds me of Robert Frosts's poem "The Road Less Traveled" (or whatever) I think about that a lot. Sometimes I wonder if both roads lead to the same path, and they are just different ways to get there and different scenery, or if they take you to two completely different destinations.

I do love the idea of everything being a test. It was, in fact, not the truth, or the truth as it would ultimately play out...all along, you were destined to make those decisions...you were ultimately going to make them, and everything was set into motion for you to make the decisions you ended up making. But you couldn't know, because that would change the course. Anyway, I realize now it probably is starting to sound like I am talking in circles, so I'll stop on this subject.

The Legion thing reminded me of Exodus whenever God wanted to destroy humanity, or at least THOSE humans...His chosen people, because they had gotten so "bad". But Moses begged him not to. Then, when Moses came down from the mountain, he was so furious and said that he should have just let God destroy them afterall. I am no biblical scholar, so I may have gotten some of that wrong, but the correct jist is there. It also reminds me of an internal struggle a lot of people go through, some on a regular basis, of doing what they desire vs. what they need whenever the two collide. Sometimes you can want something SO bad, but know that it isn't what you need, and although it can be so hard to let go of it, it's what you have to do and you have the wisdom to realize that and are able to do it. But it is very difficult.

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@Anna,

It's definitely very easy to start talking in circles on such a topic. Even in the Matrix, in the scene where Neo meets the Oracle for the first time, she tells him not to worry about the Vase. At which point, he knocks over the vase. He apologizes and she says something like, If you really want to bake your noodle, do you think you would have knocked over the vase if I hadn't said anything.

As far as Hancock, I actually was thinking about that movie, but in terms of Vulnerability rather than truth.

http://www.bennadel.com/blog/2118-The-School-Of-Practical-Philosophy-Philosophy-Works-Week-Four.htm

Also, a very interesting topic.

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That one line literally did make 'Legion' and I agree these lines do emotionally grab you. Perhaps because we spend our entire lives being told what to do, and I always feel there's the eye of the storm right as I start to go against the grain and someone or something will come behind me and rectify my free-thinking. Not being an impulsive person, I probably fall victim to this line of thinking more than others.

Still it's something that rings true with many people, and something we admire about these movie characters at least I do.

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I'll try to make this comment as brief as possible and not get off on a tangent, since I struggle with that sometimes.

@Ben and Drew: Yes, that line did make that movie (legion), and when I read the recanting of it here, I had tears in my eyes and was holding back the crying, not because it is sad, but because it is so touching. I have a much harder time crying when I am touched rather than sad.

@Drew: That's a good thing...it can be a very good thing, because a lot of people just throw caution to the wind, and a lot of actions do have natural consequences. And unfortunately, there are a lot of people who ignore that fact and the consequences, and they just do whatever and then, the bad thing is, not only do they suffer, but they cause others pain through the consequences of their actions. So it is good to be a little cautious sometimes. :-)

@Ben: thanks for understanding about the talking in circles. I do that often when I get into a subject that is deep beyond my imagination. I feel like a dog chasing my tail around sometimes. Nevertheless, I do enjoy pondering and talking about subjects of depth. :-) So thanks for encouraging this type of discussion.

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@Anna - Robert Frost's poem "The road not taken" (http://www.bartleby.com/119/1.html)... One of my most favorite poems. I was going to refer to this before reading your comment...:)

@Ben - You may want to throw in "want" to the mix of truth and need to make it even more complex, not that it is any lesser complex now...:) Most of the time people know what they want but then the question is "is that what they need?" Who decides if the want is not the need? The need and want may be completely aligned or it may come to some form of compromise or win to determine the action. So it is our choices/actions that make all the difference. As much as we would like to believe there is a master plan or a Messiah, there is no such thing if we let ourselves believe (or not believe…:)... Borrowing from mad men "There is no system, no plan. The universe is indifferent.". I think its human nature that always looks for ways to avoid conflict and hard decisions. Or hopes someone else would make the decision for them. The struggle, dilemmas, mistakes all part of the truth as much as convictions, decisions and actions. It comes down to who is ready for what and when. I would categorize wants as feelings, needs as the reasons to get to the outcome that is the truth. It may just be one truth that we get to realize and who says the other truths were any less likely. (Going back to the road not taken poem...:)

Life is nothing but full of coincidences which are somehow generated through a combined choices that appear as accidents. Combined since we are not fully aware or in tune with others' needs/truth. So the coincidence may in reality be an obvious outcome when viewed by an external observer. To simplify we want to believe that as some master plan.

Not sure if you have seen this movie "The Answer Man". It's an okay movie but had some interesting quotes… (Jeff Daniel plays the role of Arlen Faber)

Kris Lucas: Why can't I do the things I want to do? There's so much I know I'm capable of that I never actually do. Why is that?

Arlen Faber: The trick is to realize that you're always doing what you want to do... always. Nobody's making you do anything. Once you get that, you see that you're free and that life is really just a series of choices. Nothing happens to you. You choose.

Thanks for these thought provoking articles.

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Gee, I haven't seen any of these movies, not even Matrix, as I've spent many years locked
in a tower mopping floors and singing with mice.

However, what these interesting points you've brought out make me think is that these writers/producers are attempting to downplay the notion of absolute truth and
praise the idea of relative truth.

I believe they do this because they want to promote the idea of free expression, following
one's heart, doing what 'feels' right, and also to criticize the idea of being
accountable to an outside authority.

In each instance, those who reject absolute truth in favor of relative truth are portrayed
as heroes. You pointed out that they suffered for following relative truth, and it is that suffering in combination with their ultimate success that strenthens the 'hero effect'. Although they suffered for following
their heart, each protagonist would have suffered in a different way if they had followed the external voice of truth: In the Matrix, Neo would have missed out on 'being the one'. In Legion, the character would have cruelly wiped out the planet and been
portrayed as heartless and cold, like the one who embraced absolute truth.

Likewise, in Adjustment Bureau, following the authority's 'truth' would have killed
the plot along with the couple's love, the whole audience would have suffered,
but following their hearts created all kinds of passion and adventure and ultimately the fulfillment of their desire.

The problem with this type of didacticism is that, in the real world, people's hearts are
often much less noble than those on the big screen. Consequently, when my neighbor 'follows his heart', I may not like what his heart is telling him and may, in fact, have to pay a price for him embracing his inner truth. I, personally, would rather have an intelligent being dictating what truth should be rather than leaving it up to each individual to battle it out.

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@Amber,

Excluding very few percentage of sick people in society, I do believe most people have pure heart and goodwill. In most of the cases they lack inner will or strength of conviction or courage to step up and follow their heart. I think these movies speak of that. Since people like to believe in some higher power, controller, destiny, these movies portray those entities as someone who may not be as clear of the truth as we want to believe. Ultimately it's the individual making the choices that leads to absolute truth.

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Oh, wow . . . this is a bit over my head, especially so early in the morning when I'm still a bit groggy from my sleep. I have an anecdote, though, which may help illustrate the point you're trying to make. Yesterday, I read an online article about my bishop, which will be published in the Sunday paper of the Washington Post. Recently, he's ruffled quite a few feathers due to his vision for the future path of my jurisdiction and his management style. He is the youngest bishop (51) to have been elected to the metropolitan rank.

He, as a young man, liked living in the world and a girlfriend, and was the vice president of his father's mortgage company and could have taken it over. Yet he was drawn to the church, and had a dilemma on his hand. He went to see an elder at Valaam Monastery, and was advised to become a priest-monk. He says in the interview that he didn't particularly like the idea, and wanted to get married and have a family. But, he realized he had another path. Here, in his words, "The whole point of Christian practice of asceticism is you deny yourself what is good for what is better for you."

What about the girlfriend? Well . . . she didn't take it well, apparently. But perhaps, she did have another path that was better for her.

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@Lola,

That's an interesting anecdote. I think the bishop didn't want family as much as he thought. He loved the priesthood more. If he wanted both equally then he would have somehow found a way to do both, I believe there are churches that doesn't require priests to be celibate. (anyway this is some made up rules that churches have come up to protect their wealth and avoid turning it to some sort of royal monarchy - now that's a completely different topic)

I'm sure bishop went with the decision that he knew he can handle the outcome and truly be happy and by doing that he saved the girl from an unhappy future. So in this case he just didn't make a choice for himself but for the girlfriend also.

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@Lola,

One other thing, the monks at monastery acted as controller, since they made the choice for the bishop from their point of view. If they were oracle they would have said follow your heart. So they had hand in the outcome for both the bishop and his girlfriend.

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@Smita

You think most people are good and can be trusted to do right by others. People are only 'good' as long as they are held accountable by external forces. That's why the Lord of the Flies is such a distinctive piece of literature. Would you feel comfortable taking one of the average 'good' people off the street and making them your dictator?

Why is it that a dictatorship is the most feared form of government? Isn't it because once a person is no longer held accountable to any external power there is a natural tendancy to turn selfish and corrupt, often at the expense of many others?

History is filled with examples of valiant revolutionaries rising up against oppressive
dictators and eventually becoming the same type of tyrant they fought to depose. I am convinced many of these men started off with excellent intentions and possessed many exceptional qualities, but couldn't resist that downward slide that can befall any of us when there is no external restraint to temper our natural selfishness.

I see a simple example of this all the time at my local Target. Almost every time I get something to drink there, I see people buying a lower priced soda and putting a higher priced slurpee in the cup, since it's a self-serve machine and none of the workers are
paying attention. Because people can get away with it, they do it. They don't seem to care
about the fact that they're stealing from Target. On the other hand, if there was a video camera on the Slurpee machine broadcasting a live feed to a Slurpee stealers exposee, I think those Slurpee stealers would be greatly deterred.

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@Amber,

I was speaking in context of general human tendencies. I do believe people are generally good. It's the socio-economic conditions that affect their behavior. For example we see what a contrast between how Japanese are handling such a huge devastation vs. how at some other places after calamities people turn to looting and insensitive acts. Now regarding people in power, the saying "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" is very true. That's why democracy is the best form of government (when the citizens will it). We definitely need rules and regulations for any system to work.

When referring to wants, desires, needs of each individual, I was focused on those that do not affect other individuals adversely. That means within the perimeter of "your freedom ends where my freedom begins". For example, let's say a boy from one religion/community loves a girl from a different one; they give up their love because of religious or family pressure, so their wants/desires are not realized. If there was no pressure there might have been a 50/50 chance that it might have worked or not. But with the outside pressure the truth is altered. Individuals are so much affected and conditioned by prejudices and fear that they don't give themselves a chance to get above it and let life take its course. I used to wonder at times how can some people be so (orthodox) religious and live life exactly dictated by their religion without questioning it. Then my friend told me (not exact words... but the gist) that "Not everyone wants choices, since they don't want to choose, they don't want to put themselves in a situation where they might make a mistake or go disarray. So they like to put themselves under these strict rules. So even if they live a strict physical life, they keep their lives risk free and simple." I guess I can see that from their point of view… but it sounds so unthinkable for me. Somehow I find it offensive to be good because my religion teaches me to be good. I prefer my human compassion and sensibility to lead the way. If I am in a situation where my heart and mind may be challenged then I would like to have my heart and mind to battle it out and make my own decision even if that leads me to fall flat on my face. But later when I look back I can still be proud of myself for being true to myself.

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This is my kind of topic, that I love to discuss. Yes, I felt moved the same way, like I think those of us that are perceptive, or intuitive to the Truth, tend to have seen ourselves as Neo's being awoken.

Which kind of bring's me to one of my other favorite keanu reeves movie, "The Little Buddha". Let me show you just 1 quote that is so amazing.

Lama Norbu: [Narrating] One day Siddhartha heard an old musician on a passing boat speaking to his people.
Old Musician: If you tighten the string too much it will snap and if you leave it too slack, it won't play.
Lama Norbu: [continues narrating] Suddenly, Siddhartha realized that these simple words held the great truth, and that in all these years he had been following the wrong path.

I think all of us are on some path, or multiple paths, that change, diverge or grow. Like the path from baby to death, marriage to children, new employee to senior employee.

The question is really what satisfaction to our life, and what mark we leave on other people's lives.

Truth can be allow the unblurring of reality, so that we can see as it is, not how we perceive reality to be.

But does any of that truth, or perception make us wiser or happier people?

I don't know.

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@Drew,

I can relate to that; I am definitely someone who believes his decisions carry a lot of weight - probably way more than they deserve to. I live trying to avoid conflict way too much.

@Smita,

The Answer Man sounds very interesting, at least from the quote you provided. I'll have to check that out for sure.

As far as living conflict-free, I am definitely guilty of that. I dread the idea of having to hurt someone's feelings. And, as I said to @Drew, I am sure most of that is an egotistical, self-centered view - as if my choices had to the power to crush other people's lives.

I think we tend to live with belief that *we* can bear much more of a burden than those around us. As such, we suffer in silence. Of course, this is probably silly to overestimate our own impact and underestimate the understanding of others.

As my friend, Clark, always says: you have lean *into* problems. Don't avoid them - treat them as opportunities for personal growth.

@Amber,

Ah, and therein lies the unspoken fact - these are all dare-to-be-great situations. These are not simple, mundane choices - everyday situations. These are monumental, life-altering moments.

Of course, perhaps we need to see the exaggerated truth so that we can accept it; then, apply it to the smaller situations that we can all more readily relate to? Ultimately, I think one of the critical take-aways is that examining one's own belief system is a critical aspect of life. Being able to take such paths presupposed that people really really really know what they want and really know what truths they believe in. But, I would posit that many people actually don't. I've met enough unhappy people to know that many people really don't know what they want - that they don't really know what makes them happy.

Also, I can't believe you haven't seen The Matrix?? You totally need to rent it and watch it in the dark (it's a visually dark movie). It's really high-quality stuff.

@Smita,

As I was saying to @Amber, I believe that part of why this kind of stuff appeals to people is that the exacting understand standing of one's own feelings is also very inspiring. I don't know how many people feel so strongly about any thing that they could not be swayed.

In the speech in the movie Any Given Sunday ( http://www.bennadel.com/blog/368-Perhaps-The-Most-Inspirational-Speech-Ever.htm ), there is a couple of lines like this:

Now, I can't make you do it - you gotta look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes; now I think you're gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you. You're gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows, when it comes down to it, you're gonna do the same for him. That's a team gentlemen; and either we heal, now, as a team - or we will die as individuals.

At the time, when I saw this, I remember talking to my girlfriend at the time and asking her if she felt that strongly about anyone - to have undying faith in a support structure.

I bring this up, not because this scene directly relates to the topic in this post; rather, I bring it up because I think have extremely strong convictions is something that people find romantic as well (since I think it is not something that everyone feels on a personal level).

... gotta start work... will pick up later.

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@Ben,

You are so right about being egotistical and self-centered when we don't have enough trust in the understanding of others and we think that our sorrow and pain are too heavy for someone else to bear (as though we are uniquely superior than others)... So we only share the happy/safe side of us but at the same time selfish enough for wanting to fix other's problems. "Oh no! That's so me!" Lol... I had never looked at it that way...

This in someway reminds me of the movie "Keeping the faith"...Not sure if you have seen it. It's an Edward Norton movie Ben Stiller plays the Rabbi who is in love with a friend who is christian but unable to commit since she is not jewish and he hides this from his congregation...then in the end he gives a sermon to his congregation where he says... he is not sorry that he fell in love with a non-jew, but he is sorry that he didn't have enough faith in his congregation to share this that they would understand. I loved that line in the movie. (Couldn't find exact quote anywhere online). (Side note - Edward Norton plays a catholic priest who is also in love with the same girl - i loved his character the most or may be he is just too cute...:)

Regarding strong conviction, I guess it comes from how secure one is with oneself. Not everyone would have strong conviction in every situation or about everything. But as long as one keeps one's mind and heart open and lets it feel, the inner voice then gets clearer. And yes there are people who are so convinced one way or other, they cannot be swayed…:) Remember the saying "The tragedy of this world is that fools are cocksure and intelligent are always in doubt"…:)

I haven't seen the movie, Any Given Sunday that you mention of. I'll have to watch it when I get a chance. It sounds inspirational.

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Hey everybody. You all make some very good points, and I wish I wasn't slammed at work, but I am, so I will have to keep this very brief (thank goodness, right?) and maybe come back later.

@Smita - Awesome! That's a great poem, right? One of my favorites, too. :-)

@Craig...is that movie an adaptation of the book "Siddhartha"? If so, I would love to watch it! I really enjoyed reading Siddhartha. Sickly enough, one of my favorite parts of the book was when he sat in the thorn bush. I know that sounds sick, but it was interesting to me, the different ways different cultures handle pain, and the ways that some cultures choose to attempt to overcome it or be able to tolerate it.

@Amber -- so many good points you made, so little time for me to address them all. Thanks for bringing up Lord of the Flies. That was another one of my favorite pieces of literature. I could go on and on and on about democracy, but I will resist at this time. :-)

@Amber & @Smita: Good discussion about inherit good of people vs inherit bad of people. I believe all people have both good and bad, and some have more good, others more bad. I have been very unfortunate to be introduced to a lot of people who have more of the bad, so my faith in mankind (humankind) as a whole is completely shaken, and I am totally jaded. However, I have known some very good people, too, so I know there's that out there, as well. There's probably a pretty good balance...people in the middle of the road, and then about the same of good and bad people so they all just cancel each other out/balance each other out. But I don't know. Unfortunately, I have known some very evil people in my time.

@Ben. Good discussion. Thanks for bringing it! Keep it coming. :-)

Now, back to work. (which I have plenty of today) :-)

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Great post Ben. I saw the Adjustment Bureau a couple weeks ago. Not a great movie, but I was touched by the last scene. I think it had a lot to do with the concept of "free will". Doing what you feel is right and going for it....all in.

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@Craig, thanks, Craig! that sounds really interesting. Siddhartha was one of my favorite pieces of literature. I will enjoy reading it and seeing the movie.

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I'm surprised that no one has explicitly stated the lack-of-Biblical-viewpoint stance that those movies preach, but Amber seemed to touch on it.

I grew up in a Protestant church so that upbringing definitely weighs on my mind, and, like @Ben, I tend to think things through so far that I probably miss out on a lot of potentially wonderful experiences. On the other hand, I rarely make regrettable decisions. On the other hand, I tend to worry.

Anyway - the overarching debate would end up being, "Is there ABSOLUTE TRUTH!?!"

If I sleep with my neighbor's wife, and neither he nor my wife find out about it, is it wrong? If Abs Truth = True then yes, else I don't know. But my conscience would know. My brain would remember. If I do it again and again, would I eventually no longer even feel guilty? I don't know. Most likely we'd eventually screw up our screwing around and get caught.

I was taught that choosing the right path kept you closer to God's Will for your life, and that actively choosing an alternate path would lead my life astray.

Beats me whether it's true or not. I've made lots of choices that were probably on that path and plenty that weren't. Who knows where I'd be if I made all of them on the "right" path or all of them on the "wrong" path.

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@Randall,

In the hypothetical situation you have described, I think the absolute truth is something that you and your neighbor's wife might have ignored and chose not to address that and rather chose the momentary easy path. Getting to the bottom of one's wants and desires is also very important. Like Ben referred to it in one of his comments that sometimes we truly don't know what we want or afraid to address the real need. The need may be facing the truth that you and the neighbor's wife are not happy with your current relationships. The truth may want you to get divorced from respective marriage and then get together. And then the other truth that not everyone is marrying kind. Fear of society forces some to marry and procreate that they never should.

One other point I wanted to raise is that purity in thoughts is as important as actions that means if one thinks about stealing, another helps someone else in stealing and someone actually steals. Legally may be only the person who did the stealing is considered guilty. But in terms of conscience all three are equally wrong. The true happiness comes from keeping one's thoughts as pure and innocent as the outward actions. That's easier said than done. But not impossible.

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Good points to both @Randall and @Smita. The purity of thoughts comes down at least partly to integrity. What would you do if no one could see you or you could be assured 100% you would not get caught? That's the question you come across often. To @Randall, you would probably eventually not feel guilty about it at all. I, unfortunately, know from personal experience of going down a few wrong paths that guilt subsides as long as you stay on the wrong path, and often, you start to rationalize the behavior, and make excuses.

That's a good thing, @Randall, thinking things through. That will keep you from going on the wrong path too many times like I have and getting in too deep. I am rather impulsive sometimes, unfortunately. There are some things I analyze to death, agonizingly so, but there are some things that I have been impulsive about and have paid. And the consequences are far-reaching and can affect lots of people, unfortunately, as well as get you stuck in a life-long situation you hadn't prepared for.

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@Anna,

I can so understand what you mean by being impulsive. I think I am also very impulsive and at times really naïve (more than I would like to admit). In my past I have put myself in few situations that I'm not so proud of myself. But then I think I needed those huge jolts to feel liberated in some ways… I somehow feel there are no wrong path per say. We all are in a journey since we are born and each moment prepares us for what to come in future like it saves us from bigger shock. The saying "Everything happens for a reason" comes to mind. I think life wants us to take everything that it throws at us in stride. We fail when we resist, resist to acknowledge the feelings, resist to recover or learn from a situation, waste time in self-loathing or self-pity...

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@Amber,

I can't remember what book it was - Predictably Irrational or maybe How We Decide? In one of them, they look at people who cheat. From what I remember, people are basically good; however, with even the smallest layer of abstraction, people quickly turn bad. For example, most people wouldn't take money out of someone's wallet; however, most people wouldn't worry about taking something like a Soda out of someone's refrigerator. Clearly, the soda costs money - but, the layer of separation between the person and the money, and we pretty much lose our moral path pretty fast. Of course, one can *think* themselves out of that; but, it becomes much less obvious, apparently.

@Craig,

I haven't seen that movie. I remember it coming out years ago; I'll have to see if I can get it on Netflix. ... and of coures, they don't have it on instant streaming. I'll find it some other way.

@Smita,

I LOVE Keeping the Faith; actually, it's one of my favorite movies. One of the few that I actually own on DVD. Great story, great cast; and, the line you pointed out is great! Now I feel like watching it :)

@Jason,

Yeah, it was a really great storyline, just didn't come together as well as it could. I think the plot was compelling enough to carry it though.

@Randall,

Speaking to religion, I was actually just listening to a pod cast (after this blog post) of a Rabbi talking about the Matrix. He was saying that the Matrix is basically the ultimate Aish movie. The pod cast wasn't particularly engaging; but, he was saying that when examined closely, the movie has lots of parallels with Jewish belief systems and concepts like waking up from a false reality and seeking truth, etc. etc.

The way I see it, if I can regret less and less as I go, then I feel like I am probably making good decisions. Probably a good thing for me would be to look at themes in that which I reget and use that to temper my actions for the future.

To share something personal (but not really personal), I was born out of wedlock. My family teasingly call me "the little bastard" from time to time. To many, this (being born out of wedlock) would be a horrible thing. But, I was raised by two of the most amazing parents I think anyone could ask for. They got married soon after and were together in total closed to 30 years before my father passed. People who are Orthodox might look at them with dismissal; but, as far as I'm concerned, I was raised with some of the best role models I can think of.

I don't know where I am going with that exactly :) Perhaps with every Truth there must be flexibility. As per the Siddhartha quote somewhere above, you need to have a compromise.

One of my favorite Ani DiFranco lyrics:

Buildings and bridges
are made to bend in the wind
to withstand the world,
that's what it takes
All that steel and stone
is no match for the air, my friend
what doesn't bend breaks.

I think I lost my train of thought.... :D

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  • [The Rabbi] was saying that the Matrix is basically the ultimate Aish movie. ...when examined closely, the movie has lots of parallels with Jewish belief systems and concepts like waking up from a false reality and seeking truth, etc. etc.

@Little Bastard,

When I saw the Matrix I immediately said, "I think I've seen this story before. It's called, 'The Bible.'"

Personally, I saw it as a more New Testament parallel than Old Testament:
Neo = "The One" = Jesus
The Matrix = those not 'Born Again' while that other reality was comparable to being Born Again.
Oh, and that whole rising up from the goo scene was very much like a Baptism > Born Again.

It's been years since I've seen it, but, yeah, plenty of ||'s.

I think the whole "bastard" child thing is surprising. I'm guessing you grew up near the City, right? That seems so counter to us Bible-Belter's think of NYC (ultra-liberal versus ultra-conservative). There's plenty of "bastards" here in the Belt so I'm surprised the term was ever even said.

Anyway, as you said, I think the fact that they did take responsibility for their actions is very commendable and I'm glad that they kept the 'Till Death' part as well. You seem like you were raised well.

  • Probably a good thing for me would be to look at themes in that which I reget and use that to temper my actions for the future.

Absolutely. Like there were many females I regret never expressing any feelings for (as in never even asked them out on a date) so I will never know how that would have turned out. I notice my ego is too protective, so I avoid risks to avoid failure (even though we know failure is how you learn the most).

  • cheat

Even placing a greeter at the front door of Walmart deters stealing as do those black orbs that might have a camera in them (they probably don't). Another case for religion is that God Sees All helps keep you in line.

Oh, and I must, must, must drop the "Freakonomics" suggestion again.

  • Perhaps with every Truth there must be flexibility.

Like your Fu-Tzu quotes, yes.

Also, I've got a Christian friend who says she's not 'religious.' By that she means she tries not to judge others, but to instead just love them by encouraging/guiding them to take the right action, and -- as we've discussed -- if you've taken the wrong path/action, steering back towards the right path. I guess that's the best we can do.

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Oh, regarding flexibility, I also asked her if she'd ever marry a divorced man (Bible says you'd be an adulterer if so). She said much the same thing -- that there would have to be some flexibility, that she'd not view it as a Boolean "If divorced then no, if widowed or never-married then yes" value ;-)

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@Ben - that's a cool thing that you shared about your personal life...thanks for sharing that. It shows some of the good that can come out of things that some people look down upon. And it would certainly have no reflection on you, regardless, as you yourself wasn't in on the initial action which caused the circumstance. However, it does sound like you had excellent role models and an excellent upbringing, regardless of the situation. I am sure that gives hope to many who may feel hopeless in the same situation. It is very commendable that your parents took responsibility for their actions, and that they became extremely good role models for you and raised you right. That says a lot about their character. The only bad thing I see from some similar circumstances that start out that way (not your parents, but others), is when the parents DON'T follow the same course your parents do and leave a child with a broken home and a broken heart. And when the child is left to struggle with one parent while the other runs around being a "single" person, and being completely irresponsible. That's the only thing I see as reprehensible...not necessarily on the part of the person who has taken responsibility for the child, but on the part of the person who hasn't...and who has left all of the burden on the person who has taken responsibility for the child. That is shameful. But, by the same token, these days, many children are born to such circumstances and turn out fine having been raised by just one person who loves them very much...or by two people, even if one is not their parent "biologically".

@Smita - yeah, I think about that saying often, that "everything happens for a reason". I believe that fully about certain things in my life, and am SO GLAD that the other thing which caused me such pain happened (eventually I am feeling glad about it), because it brings me 3x the pleasure that the original pain that had occurred. But, I will say that I do still feel guilty when my actions cause someone else to suffer. I can't help but feel guilty in those cases, especially when it is someone I care deeply about. I try not to affect anyone else's life negatively like that, but sometimes I can't help it...sometimes their life is effected, even though I didn't intend to do so.

@Ben and @Randall - there are lots of movies, etc., that have parallels to religion and/or the Bible. I am constantly seeing them. I think sometimes, that is intentional, and sometimes not.

An example: Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery had parallels to Ecclesiastes, I thought, especially I thought in the tone of it. There have been several other times when I have been reading something and thought maybe there were parallels, but I could've just been imagining them, or it may have been completely unintentional. :-)

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@Ben,

Regarding you being born out of wedlock is kind of cool. Society may look down upon that in most cultures. But spiritually that's the best way to bring a child into the world in my opinion. (Sorry to hear that your father has passed away... So nice to hear from you about him. I'm sure he was proud of you.) I'm not talking about irresponsible teens and adults who lack integrity. Here is a bit about me. I come from a culture of arranged marriage and children are born out of sense of duty to family and in some cases marital rape. At the same time I'm sure there are perfectly happy and in love couples in arranged marriages as well. Somehow I knew it was not for me, it always felt really strange to see friends get married that way, felt like a business deal. I'm glad, I married for love. Sometimes I feel decision to marry someone is so much based on materialistic and physical needs (even in love marriages since our mind arranges it somehow based on various parameters). I think I'm a hopeless romantic who hopes for true love story and spiritual relations for everyone. Relationship that is not limited  to society's norm and regulations, but rather built on pure love and compassion.

@Randall,

I find it strange that your friend thinks divorce is adultery. What would she say to someone who is in an unhappy/abusive relationship that is neither good for them nor healthy for their children. Lol I just thought of a joke that might sound harsh... Since she is okay with an widower vs divorced, the man should probably kill his wife to go out with her. (sorry if I have offended, just couldn't resist myself...:) In India, many believe in one union in one lifetime (especially for women). So in olden days once a woman is widow she can't marry again. And divorce didn't exist. I don't think people think that way anymore. Though in society the divorced and widow still carry the stigma and the former is considered worse than the later. So I can see how your friend looks at this.

@Anna, 

I know it's harder to forgive oneself for causing others pain... But sometimes it's impossible to make everyone happy.   May be we all are not equipped to resolve a situation or evolve without going through the hurt or pain or making mistakes.  Universe throws similar challenges at us until we learn the lesson from it so that we are ready to face next challenge. Somewhat similar to murphy's theory one is forced to address one's weakness time and again until one learns to overcome that. That's why we often hear "why does this always happen to me?".

One other interesting theory I had heard about is how each person that comes along in our paths somehow knew us or was part of our lives in previous life (if you believe in theory of reincarnation) and will be part of our lives in future. So sometimes we feel strong connection with strangers. Will not go deep into theory of reincarnation which is interestingly a parallel theory among most of the ancient cultures and religions... And most of these movies also refer to the theory of transmigration in some form or other.

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@Randall,

I had older brothers - which is where the term got tossed around more often ;) It was never said in a hurtful way - just some quality teasing between kin. I was raised in an extremely supportive environment.

Speaking of ego, I went to studio art class this morning. First time I've really drawn in years. I was SO NERVOUS about it. All I could think was how much better everyone else in the class was going to be. Talk about Ego! Like *anyone* in their right mind would even care what I was doing there - they are all there to practice their own skills.

And, once the class got started, it was totally fine. In fact, I had a great time. And, rather than being *intimidated* by the other artists, I was actually quite *inspired* by them. My Ego can be such a lame beast!

@Anna,

Yeah, I definitely ended up having a great living situation. Both my parents are pretty amazing. My father was brilliant and extremely successful. I hope to one day be even a *little* like him. My mother is tremendously talending and so open minded and loving and outgoing. She's almost never in a bad mood and just seems to be the life of any party. I have a some very big shoes to fill!

@Anna, @Randall,

Religion makes for good movie drama, no doubt!

@Smita,

Last week, I read a book called "Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and Women at the Dawn of the 1960s". America was not such a great place for many women for a long time. Here's a terrifying fact - apparently "marital rape" was *still* legal in the US (in one state) until 1993.... that's not so long ago!!

But you and me are in the same boat - we can be hopeless romantics together :D

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@Ben...wow is there anything you can't do? I'm beginning to think there's not. I had no idea you can draw. I can't for anything. I did some art modeling in college, though. Boy, you have to have a pretty set self esteem for that, to let people draw you like that. It's like you're under a microscope or something. So that explains why you're so smart, then, hug? :-) I'm sorry to hear about your father, though. I'm sure it can be tough. I'm a bit confused, though. You said older brothers, right? If they are older, doesn't that mean they were born in the exact same situation? I'm sorry, I'm not asking in judgment or trying to be nosy, just for clarification.

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@Smita:

  • I find it strange that your friend thinks divorce is adultery. What would she say to someone who is in an unhappy/abusive relationship that is neither good for them nor healthy for their children.

A perfect example is Christian artist Amy Grant. Her ex-husband, Gary Chapman, battles alcoholism (a quick skim of his Wiki article shows he recently got a DUI). I'll let you Google more information regarding that, but in short she took a lot of grief for "giving up" on her marriage.

This page covers most (all?) of the Bible verses that relate:

http://www.jeremiahproject.com/culture/divorce.html

By no means am I intending to start a religious debate. Simply stating what the Bible says.

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@Smita and @Randall: I can see where both of you are coming from on the divorce issue. I hope someday to be a loving part of a happy marriage, and once I commit to someone on that level, it would take something extreme to break that union. At the same time, I wouldn't hesitate to save the man's life by giving him a speedy divorce if he cheated on me, because otherwise, I'd kill him. Haha just kidding. But I would be emotional about it in a wide variety of ways. :-) and as a reminder, a lot if people, including the Bible, believe that once infidelity is entered into a marriage, the vows are effectively broken, and divorce is an acceptable solution. And a lot of Christians believe that extends to abuse as well.

@Smita: I am so glad you are in a happy marriage and have found true love, because it rarely happens and is a tremendous gift when it does, even when people are able to choose. Often, people's choices have way more to do with physical attraction than they should, including at times on a sub-conscious level. Balzac, my favorite philosopher, postulated that the most beautiful women in the world were the ones who had the most difficult time finding true love, and having had in high school a best friend who was a pageant girl and a current best friend who is downright gorgeous, and living thru their relationship problems with them, I can see where he may have a point.

The other comment I have is...the arranged marriages. I am so jaded. There are times when I think that may actually be a good idea. Did you catch the Big Bang Theory episode about arranged marriages? (1st season, The Grasshopper Experiment). That is one of my favorites. In a perfect world, your parents would take your feelings into consideration and find you a great man/person. In that circumstance, I could see it working.

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@Anna,

You are too kind :) I happen to really like doodling, but hardly ever get to draw actual things. Felt good to exercise that part of my brain again. And yeah, you have to be pretty confident to pose out in front like that. She seems very comfortable with herself.

My brothers are from my mom's first marriage. At a technical level, they are my half-brothers. But I have known them all my life - I had never even heard of the concept of a "half-brother" till I was in my teenage years. They are as family as family can get.

@Randall, @Smita,

I don't wish to get into a religious debate because I simply don't know enough about any of the religions. Besides, I find it much more satisfying to discover the truths within ourselves.

@Anna,

If only anyone but us knew what we were really like... and could take that into account when choosing a marriage partner :) Look how bad *we* are at choosing for ourselves :)

I think the only thing that makes arranges marriages less likely to end in divorce is because the parties involved probably don't see the marriage as optional. In other words, it's a final act. But, does this mean it is as satisfying and fulfilling?

If you bear with me, I'm gonna come of as the lamest person ever - willing to watch *any* movie... in the movie The Wedding Planner (starring Jennifer Lopez), she finds out that her father and mother were in an arranged marriage. The father describes it as this:

We met on the day of our wedding. We couldn't even look at each other. I was in love with another girl... and your mother wanted nothing to do with me. She said I had big eyebrows and a low IQ. Anyway, one day...
I got very sick with scarlet fever... and she stayed by my side. She took good care of me. For the fiirst time... I appreciated her. Then the appreciation grew to respect. Respect grew to like. Then like grew to love. A deeper love than I could ever hope for.

I always found this scene ironic because it talks about "a deeper love than I could ever hope for"... and at the same time, states that getting here requires contracting a deadly disease and having the other person involved proving their worth.

I don't think this is a testament for arranged marriage - I think it a testament of the enormous capacity that human being have to love.

For my money, it's all about the love :D

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@Ben,

I know women rights movement has been a slow and steady progress even here in US. There is still a long way to go. It's not just enough for men and women to have equal rights legally, it's the general mindset that needs to change. Like racism, discrimination against women is subtle and under the surface, it's like a pain you feel but can't put your finger on it. I had glanced at the blog that you had posted about this book and I really had an instant respect for you since there are people who look at women as objects rather than human beings. I wait for a day when we don't have to try to make sure there are women in certain professions to show that we have made progress but rather reject or select a woman purely on the basis of her merits. Our presidential candidates won't feel the need to pick female running mates (even though they could be as dumb as they get) to show that they are somehow for men/women equality.

@Randall,

I don't know where to begin since my views may fall under the other end of the spectrum (if not beyond).... The religious texts that have been written centuries ago were written for those times and played a significant role in forming safe societies for the civilization to nurture and survive... the physical condition of our lives have changed tremendously... for example women then were primarily responsible towards homemaking while men were providers and care takers... and now the roles are inter-mingled. Even the society structures have changed where a blacksmith's son no longer needs to be a blacksmith. Not mentioning all the modern inventions and innovations which have made our lives much more safer, comfortable and opened up our options in life and at the same time have raised brand new unique issues that nobody in bible era could have thought of. I'm sure when the bible was written they didn't imagine we would be holding on to the literal meanings of the text even after two thousand years. These texts were supposed to be treated as broad guidelines. So the point I want to make is that it's time to look at each situations in new lights and ask "What would Jesus REALLY do?"

@Anna,

Thanks Anna! I've been very lucky I suppose. First met my husband 10 years back (it didn't even cross my mind then that we would ever even be talking to each other in personal terms let alone be married), went out 8 years back and have been married for 6 years. We have a boy (almost 2 years old). I am a big believer of everyone has multiple soul mates it's just that when you meet them and whether you are available and in right frame of mind. Somehow from my dating days until I met my husband, the significant difference I felt is that how easy it is in the right relationship... things just happen without trying. He or she comes along without even looking for them. So one lesson I took is that if either is trying hard in a relationship then that might be a sign of something is not right and needs to be addressed squarely and with pure honesty. You sound like a wonderful girl and I'm sure the right guy is somewhere out there. Now about that arranged marriage episode of The Big Bang Theory was so hilarious. Howard was such a riot…:) Trust me, arranged marriage could be really romantic when it's ideal and the couple explore the relationship after marriage as someone had mentioned to me... arranged marriage is like putting a pot of cold water on the stove that boils slowly vs love marriage is like taking a pot of hot water off the stove...:) I have nothing against arranged marriage... it just that i knew what i wanted... i was so extreme that i didn't even want to be setup...:) rather a believer of serendipity! But let me know what you are looking for.. i will keep my eyes open in case i find someone perfect to set you up with...;) That's one of the mitzvah as per jewish religion to be able to get two people together in a happy union. Lol! I have been working too long at a company among 80% religious jews...:) i joke with them that i can be a rabbi since i know so much...:)

I'll check out the philosopher Balzac, I agree the beautiful women always have so much difficulty when it comes to relationships contrary to what we would expect. I know it from few personal experiences... my mom, couple of friends...:(

Now about cheating and relationship issues... i will not go into details since this has been awfully long already...sorry! Just suggesting a movie "The Last Kiss" (which you may have seen already) - I loved this movie since it shows all different type of relationships with human follies without any pretentions. As much as we would like to think that we know exactly how we would act if certain situation happens to us, we would surprise ourselves with how we feel when actually faced with reality.

Here is a quote from the movie...

Anna (Jenna's mother): Life is pretty much in the grays for the most part and if you insist always on black and white... you are going to be very unhappy.

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@Smita, @Anna,

Speaking of attractive girls, one of my favorite Ani DiFranco songs (heck, I've already admitting to seeing The Wedding Planner, I might as well tell you that Ani DiFranco is probably my favorite singer) 32 Flavors. She has the following set of lyrics:

and god help you if you are an ugly girl
course too pretty is also your doom
cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
for the prettiest girl in the room
and god help you if you are a phoenix
and you dare to rise up from the ash
a thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
while you are just flying back

Sorry, just made me think of that.

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@Smita,

I agree that 2k y.o. texts are possibly out of date, but there are definitely some good points that stand the test of time. That said, I wonder constantly if they were purely written by someone who was merely trying to control somebody else and yet claimed it was God writing them (or G-d, if you're Jewish ;-)). I'm both defending them as well as criticizing.

@Anna and @Ben,

I was faced with a situation on St. Patty's Day that surprised me. I went out w/ a co-worker and she introduced me to a friend of hers. The female friend and I hit it off. She said something like, "My boyfriend is out of town and he and I have this 'understanding.'" My wife was also out of town.

Now, I went out basically hoping for that exact situation to occur. Yet, in that moment, my mind "warp sped" through time, and the thought of my wife being deeply hurt hit at that moment. It was pretty fascinating that what I wanted was not what I truly wanted (nor chose). So, to be clear, I went home, alone, clear conscienced.

But just as odd is that when my wife came home, I was happier to see her than had that event not occurred. Weird, huh?

Okay, end of my "a little too personal" post which I may ask Ben to delete later ;-)

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@Ben: No reason at all to be ashamed for having watched The Wedding Planner; I have seen it! :-) But I don't remember the part about the arranged marriage, though. GREAT WORDS in that song! I really like that. So true! Yes, it is very difficult to pose like that if you don't have a rock-solid self esteem, and even then, it can challenge it. :-) The artists are constantly making comments like, "oh, those thighs are WAY too big. A little bit needs to be chopped off"...and although, it is certain they are talking about their drawing, it would be easy to misunderstand and think they are talking about your thighs being too big! But, it is extremely interesting when it is all done, and you have this beautiful work of art that you have created...plus, you have helped out in the artist community and allowed them to practice drawing people, which can be a difficult task. So it is all worth it. Blow or no blow to your self-esteem. :-)

@Randall: That's awesome, I am glad you chose not to hurt the one you love. You may have gotten away with it, but in the long run, it could've ended up coming out...or, it could've hurt you instead, that secret eatting up inside of you.

@Smita: Thank you so much! You are a sweetheart, and very awesome! I am sure that is one of the reasons your husband is head over heels in love with you! I am so glad you have found someone special to share your life with!

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BTW, there seems to be a missing closing "em" tag in Randall's latest comment.

@Smita, arranged marriages existed for the most part to keep property from going out of the family, to form alliances. Usually, this happened in communities where everybody pretty much knew who was who. So, it was easy to weed out the unsuitables.

This was pretty much true in the Western society, up until the beginning of the 19th century, when economic conditions were gradually improving, at least for those above the poverty rank. I'm a big fan of Jane Austen, and her books are set during the era when it was becoming more and more accepted for people to marry for love (as long as the social mobility was upwards, especially for the woman). In part, it's a very interesting commentary on the social mores of her time, and part of the reason why her books are so popular. Of course, there are movies and series that I like to watch, some more than others. I like the Colin Firth version of Sense & Sensibility the best.

Couple months ago we rented this indie movie that was made in New York City, I think. It's about two teachers, one Muslim and the other an Orthodox Jew and they become friends. Of course, they don't date, and they expect to enter arranged marriages. But they do express in their own how happy they are (or how unhappy) with candidates being pushed forward. I can't remember the name, though. It's really good, though.

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@Ben - btw, I meant to say I understand about the half brother thing. A little personal info about me: I, along with my sister, who was technically my half biological sister, were adopted. Later, the parents who adopted us had 2 other children. I never thought of them any different...they were always ALL my sisters. I never think of my sister as a half sister, even though technically, she is, biologically. And I don't think of my other sisters as any different from my biological half sister. They're all just family to me.

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@Randall,

Good to hear that you question and believe at the same time since that's the most normal thing I can associate with. Definitely all good virtues depicted in all these ancient literatures will always stand the test of time. "Be kind and helpful to others" was true then and will remain true forever. I'm born Hindu. But I am more of a spiritual person who doesn't believe in god (rather universe as a system). I think that all religions were postulated to help human being structure their life in functioning families / societies / states. Here is my theory about the Torah/Bible/Koran and other religious texts - these texts were written by not a single person but rather groups of knowledgeable people under the guidance/influence of the prophets/saints (today they would be called philosophers) who must have spent lots of time studying the issues and solutions towards better living and it must have taken them years to formulate these documents. When it came to having people follow these rules & regulations that in fact would be good for them, they needed to give these prophets bigger than life image (God or Godlike), and so it works quicker if people are told "God wants you to be good" rather than just simply "Be good". Let's face it, it does get easier for people to meditate/pray or feel grounded and centered by referring to a particular name than "whomsoever may be or may not be". I can't prove it or argue over it, just feel it this way. I admire people's faith in their religion. I think religion is truly personal for each individual. Even though people may be categorized into Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and etc, in the core each one of us has our own version of religion (it's like an object that extends from a base and is free to have its own new attributes or overloaded methods).

I love your honesty. In my last comment I had mentioned about the movie "The Last Kiss". Now I hope you watch it with your wife. I had seen it in theatre when it had come out in 2006 with my husband and I can still remember our drive back from theatre and it was a full moon night and I was just so happy.

@Lola,

You are right the arranged marriage started most likely as soon as people came up with class system. It started with upper class people. In India the kingly states pretty much used the princess as a bargaining chip to the neighboring king/prince to establish a relation where they can prevent any future attack and/or takeover. Another reason for arranged marriage is maintaining ancestral lineage. I'm sure in the beginning of civilization there must have been love marriages only as evident in all tribal cultures.

I love Jane Austen's novels. I love how Emma tries to do match making and goofs up big time...:) I have seen the Pride & Prejudice miniseries in which Colin Firth played Mr. Darcy (think I have the DVDs). He has been the best Mr. Darcy so far. Have to check out his Sense and Sensibility version. I have seen the movie where Emma Thompson and Kate Winselet play the sisters.

Are you talking about the movie "Arranged": http://two-movies.com/watch_movie/Arranged - seems like a very good movie? I'll have to watch it.

Another movie (nothing to do with arranged marriage) "The infidel" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1424003/) - which is really funny in which a Muslim man finds out that he was actually born Jewish.

@Anna,

Thanks… not sure if my husband is head over heels in love with me or his iPad2…:) But we are more like best friends and communication has been the key to our relationship. I think I would be really upset if I can't discuss and communicate with him on anything that is on my mind.

@Ben,

Love your love for these movies…:)I have to check out: Ani DiFranco's music.

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I've been absent for a while but still taking everything in.

@Randall - You initially stated my comments seemed remotely related to Christianity and they were, in fact, coming from that perspective.

There was some earlier discussion among you all regarding convictions and/or the lack therof, and I do personally have very strong Christian convictions; however, those are not simply because I was taught the Bible from a young age or just happen to really believe in the words that are written in that 'text', although those things are true. My faith is based mostly on a personal experience I had when I was 19 years old.

At that time my life was very much centered around drinking and partying. Really into the Punk Rock scene back in the 80's. Drugs were okay, although I was not yet hooked on anything particular. I had a church upbringing but also grew up a very isolated only child who was very shy and insecure and in a dysfunctional family, so just very lonely and unhappy a lot of the time. Once I turned 14, church no longer had any effect on my behavior, other than to make me feel guilty from time to time.

By the age of 19, I had spent about a year and a half in a really intense relationship that had turned abusive. It was a real struggle getting out of it and I turned to God for help.
I tried to go back to church at that time, but was really having trouble sticking with it because I was so centered around a partying lifestyle. At that time, although I believed in God, one thing that never made sense to me was that the Bible was a book of miraculous
happenings spanning thousands of years but I never saw any of those miracles in 'real life' - whether in church or elswhere.

I started just reading the Bible with some friends who were not church-goers because I could relate to them more than to the young people at my church. Half the kids at my church were going to please their parents, and
were out partying every weekend just like I was, and the other half had never had any desire to do that stuff and not struggling with the issues I was facing.

Anyway, during that time my (future) husband and I had discussions about speaking in tongues. This is a phenomenon that occurred in the Bible where people would miraculously get the ability to speak in other languages.
I didn't believe in it but my (future) husband did, although it had never happened to him and so he wasn't exactly able to wage a persuasive argument on the topic.

One day he invited a guy to our Bible study who was well-known as a hard drug user and was even raised in a family of drug users. This guy, Steve, told us how he had received the 'Holy Spirit', which had really changed his
life and took away his desire to smoke, drink and use drugs. He told me that I needed to have this experience. I asked him how would I know if I had it or not, as my church had told me that I received the Holy Spirit the day I was baptized, when I was 12, although I distinctly remember feeling disappointed that day because I felt no different after getting baptized than before.

Steve said I would know when I received the Holy Spirit because I would have another Presence in my body from that day forward that would allow me to speak and/or pray
supernaturally in another language. He showed me examples in the book of Acts where the first Christians had this experience. At that time I did remember reading in the Bible how John the Baptist said Jesus would
come after him and baptize people with the Holy Ghost and Fire. I always wondered what exactly that meant, as it sounded like a powerful experience.

Like me, my (future) husband was also interested in knowing more about the Holy Spirit so we started going to church with
Steve and within a few weeks of praying, I received the Holy Spirit at a friend's house while praying with some other people who were already Spirit-filled. At that time I was healed from a 5-year smoking addiction and have
never had another alcoholic drink since that day and, of course, no drugs. It really changed me. Within a year, my mom and my step-dad also became Spirit-filled Christians.

20 years have passed since then and drama has unfolded. For the most part, my life has been blessed. I finished college and grad school and my (future) husband and I spent about 5 years really involved with evangelizing while going to college and he was a really
big inspiration to me in a lot of ways. After being best friends for those years, we ended up getting married and had a happy marriage
for about 7 years.

At that point, my husband left church and became totally consumed with his career. He decided to return to grad school and eventually got accepted to a Stanford PhD program. With God no longer in his life,
he also began to slip back into that vice-prone person that both of us used to be. Drinking and partying were once again a big part of his life, as were a lot of other selfish behaviors that I'd never had to put up
with before.

Because of my relationship with God, I was able to stick with the marriage for another 7 years. Jesus does clearly say in the Bible that adultery is the only excuse for annulling a marriage. I can really see the wisdom in Jesus saying those words - although the marriage was difficult, I had promised before God to stay with my husband 'for better or for worse' and I definitely wouldn't have wanted him leaving me just because I was going through a 'dark' time in my life. In addition, I didn't want my children to be part of a divorced family and go through those crazy dynamics that typically accompany that scenario.

So for 7 years, I supported myself and our three children physically, emotionally and financially while my husband attended grad school out of town and continues to do so. Throughout the majority of our marriage, I even had to work two jobs to make ends meet, as I also supported my husband for 5 years prior to grad school while he ran a business that often didn't make much money. It's been challenging, but I have to say that God has put lots of people in my life to help me out along the way.

These last 2 years have been exceptionally difficult because my husband really struggled to pass a required exam necessary to complete the program. During this time he was very stressed and really self-absorbed, not a nice guy and not spending much time with any of us. As it turns out, he was also unfaithful to me during this time. God put him in a situation where he had to admit this to me, as he knew the angry husband of the women he cheated with was trying to get a hold of me to tell me. Another BIG detail in the story is that I'm also pregnant with our 4th child.

And so, I'm currently in this situation of being pregnant with child #4, approaching the age of 40 and looking at getting a divorce from this man who I've worked like a slave to support all these years, right at the point where I might have started to see some reward for all the hard work. I suppose this may look like a tragic situation, but the Bible is full of tragic situations that God has turned around. The Bible says that Christians are
appointed to suffer difficulties, but God has shown me over the years that I can trust Him to take care of me, so that's where my confidence lies.

In my situation, especially being pregnant, some women would probably just reconcile with their husband, which is what my husband REALLY wants to do. However, my husband did a lot of things over the years to try and drag
me down in my faith, as well as my children, and I can see a lot of ways in which God was preparing me for this time in my life, so I am convinced that God has me on this path to divorce for some very good reasons. One example of how I feel God has prepared me is that my husband got ill right before
I had my third child, so he actually wasn't at the hospital at all when I had her. As a result, I have no apprehension about delivering this child on my own.

Anyway, I know this is an epic post. Thank you for bearing with me. I really wanted to share my personal experiences regarding faith, convictions and relationships, and to give God credit for what He's done in my life. Without
Him I would have never had the strength to finish school, get an awesome job that I love, be a good mom or a good wife or go through what I'm currently going through.

Now, as for you Randall, just the fact that you were out partying in public with two women is an insult to your wife. I'm glad you were able to resist the bigger tempation, but I hope you'll pay her more respect in the future.
I know my husband has always gotten along well with women and been able to have women as friends, so one of the things I've had to put up with for years is the perception that my husband may be fooling around with women that are, in fact, his friends and it's almost as humiliating as if it were true. Not saying it's wrong to hang out with women, but when you're out drinking with them, it's another story.

Another thing to think about, Randall, if you have kids and you would have crossed the line - how would you feel if your wife found out, divorced you and then another strange man who may or may not care about your kids ended up
spending huge amounts of time with them? And whether this man cared for them or not, he may not share your values and you would have to tolerate this unwanted presence influencing your kids? Anyway, no more lecturing.
I'm glad you did the right thing.

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I've done that before as well, with the italics...glad you got the italics thing fixed, @Ben. :-)

@Amber: I also keep my eye on some of the postings here, even if I am at times too busy to respond in writing. That was a beautiful story you told, even if you think I sound sick for saying that. It is beautiful because you are keeping the faith and not letting the situation get you jaded. I think, even though it was scummy and wrong of him, that the fact that him cheating gave you an out...that may be a blessing in disguise. Unfortunately, I had men who have treated me in ways you described as this man, and I know, unfortunately, how difficult it can be when you feel stuck to someone like that. Regardless, your children are a blessing, and hopefully, they will be the ones (partly) who give you strength as well...maybe something else God brought into your life to give you joy.

With your story of your upbringing...I have some very similar parallels and situations going on in my life as well. Things have panned out for me, and I love my life and consider myself to have a great one, so all things considered, things turned out pretty well for me. But I know what you mean about some of the rough patches. And sometimes, like you were talking about addiction, sometimes it takes something drastic to get you to overcome that. Sometimes, He just has to hit you in the head with something so huge, you just can't ignore it. I could tell you some stories, but I don't want to get too personal here and throw up on everyone emotionally who is reading my post.

@Randall, I am glad you did the right thing as well and was blessed when you went home and enjoyed your wife more than before.

@Randall and @Amber: I know what it is like also with men when it comes to the other women thing. I have been involved before, unfortunately, with a guy who would sit me down on a stool, and turn his back to me, and then every now and then, maybe 3 times in a 4 hour span, turn around and condescendingly pat me on the leg. Boy that really got my anger stirring when he treated me that way. Not only that, but he would pay lots of attention to other women in front of me, and would sometimes invite other women along and would get much more involved in conversation with them in front of me than involving me in the conversation. This is a miserable way to treat someone, and when you do, that person feels miserable. I could never imagine staying with someone I had such a total lack of regard for. (unless I had committed to them and made that decision, but I couldn't see doing that with someone I had such a lack of regard for).

@Amber, again, I have admitted that I am jaded. If you read above, maybe you can kind of see why. I am glad you are not allowing this to become of you, and I applaud you for keeping the faith. I hope things work out. It'll be hard, but I think you have been prepared for it pretty well. You sound like a strong person, and hopefully you will come out of this thing relatively unscarred.

@Ben...gottta check out that Ani DiFranco!!! :-)

@Smita - it sounds like you have an awesome relationship there, and the blessing of a child increases it tenfold. I am so glad you have found that. It sounds like a completely lovely relationship, and what a lot of people are searching for.

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@Anna

I have to say, Anna, in this day and age our experiences with men are not unusual. My mom, aunt and a childhood friend have all done daycare for many years and in the past 5 or 10 years they all see a pronounced breakdown in the ability of parents to maintain committed relationships.

I really think women suffer more than men because many of us are wired to want a committed relationship, especially when children are involved, but we're left either having to settle for less or stay off the playing field - it's hurtful either way.

As for my situation, I knew my husband before he knew God, while he knew God and after he turned away from God. I saw him completely transformed from an angst-ridden teenager, to an amazingly charasmatic and positive young adult and then back to a lesser state. I saw how my life was blessed and secure when he was looking to God, rather than to our relationship or any other external thing, for his source of happiness. I saw how that sense of security was completely erroded in a variety of ways once he turned away from God. I also know how my own relationship with God allows me to deal with life without expecting things to be self-gratifying or fair.

And so, I really don't have any confidence in people, including myself. I don't particularly trust them or their motives since, similar to some of your experiences, I've never been in a 'good' relationship when God has not been involved. I do know, however, that God is good and He can change people and that's what I hope in.

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@Randall,

Sometimes, I think we just really need to feel special and getting the attention of someone else is definitely a way to feel special. It kind of recharges the battery. I remember one time, like 8 months ago, I helped a woman get a jar of jam from a high shelf at the market. After handing it to her, she gave me a high-five. I tell you what - it made me feel so special that I actually think about that moment every few months. After it happened, I felt like I was walking on air. I couldn't, for the life of me, tell you what she looked like (brunette), but I can tell you exactly how it made me feel.

So, like you're saying, sometimes what we need isn't even what we think we want.

@Lola,

I really like Colin Firth - I'm pretty sure I've seen that version of the movie. Firth is actually a very versatile actor. He does excellent drama, romance, and even goofy comedy (I watched the Accidental Husband on my flight back from Scotland).

@Anna,

Both my sisters are adopted (Korean). I think they were adopted when I was like a year old. Like you, they've always been my family; it would be weird to even think of them in any other way.

@All,

Since we seemed to have gotten onto the topic of arranged marriages, I was talking to Smita earlier about Monsoon Wedding - a very touching and beautifully done movie about arranged marriages and love. In it, the main family is indebted to wealthy uncle, and is therefore hesitant to go against him. But, towards the end of the movie, the father finally steps up and potential to great personal hardship (financially) and has a great line:

These are my children, and I will protect them from myself even if I have to.

It's a pretty powerful scene.... completely off topic, but it made me think of it and I wanted to share :)

@Amber,

Thank you for sharing your story - it's very interesting. One of my clients is this guy named John Hope Bryant. He wrote a book called Love Leadership:

http://www.bennadel.com/blog/1779-Love-Leadership-The-New-Way-To-Lead-In-A-Fear-Based-World-By-John-Hope-Bryant.htm

But that is aside from the point. He is a *wonderful* speaker - very moving. I went to see him give a talk a few months ago and he kept driving home the point that Leaders are born from hardship. It was a great talk. I wish I had recorded it on my phone. I got choked up a few times just listening to him talk.

That said, I am glad you have things that give you strength!

@Anna,

Ani DiFranco is the awesome :) The has a way of bring emotion to her lyrics like no one else I know. I swear, the woman has a muse. She kind of blows my mind.

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@Ben: I will definitely have to check her out. I really liked the lyrics you posted earlier. I think I mentioned in a preivous post that I write song lyrics sometimes as a hobby, so I can respect and appreciate great lyrics. I typically like a song either because it has great lyrics or great music (beat). Sometimes, it's lucky enough to have both, but that doesn't happen very often. Oftentimes, I will like a song for the music/beat, and then I will be somewhere and will read the lyrics, and they leave me kind of empty without the music.

Wow...didn't know you had adopted members in your family. That is very cool. It sounds like you have this huge awesome and amazing family, and that your mother (and I am sure other family members) has this amazingly huge capacity for love. People who adopt and who are able to love their adopted children as much as the ones they have naturally have been gifted with this extraordinary ability to love beyond what is naturally everyone else's capacity. It's really an amazing thing. I'll add, as well, that my sister, who was adopted with me, in turn adopted once she found the one. I also was tempted in my teens to adopt this boy I met when I met my foster parents, because he was just so awesome, but I had enough sense to know I was not in the right place and time, and he would be better off with other parents.

@Smita: here is a site which tells about Balzac:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor%C3%A9_de_Balzac

and here is a site where you can read some of his literature:

http://www.online-literature.com/honore_de_balzac/

The following was what I was referring to earlier in his philosophy about beautiful woman. The first time I read it, I found it to be poetic, and it so touched me.

The deformed woman whom her husband thinks straight, the lame woman whom he would not have otherwise, the old woman who seems ever young --are they not the happiest creatures of the feminine world? Can human passion go beyond it? The glory of a woman is to be adored for a defect. To forget that a lame woman does not walk straight may be the glamour of a moment, but to love her because she is lame is the deification of her defects. In the gospel of womanhood it is written: "Blessed are the imperfect, for theirs is the kingdom of Love."

and

If this be so, surely beauty is a misfortune... But the love inspired or bestowed by a woman disinherited of the frail advantages pursued by the sons of Adam, is true love, the mysterious passion, the ardent embrace of souls, a sentiment for which the day of disenchantment never comes. That woman has charms unknown to the world...her glory lies in making her imperfections forgotten, and thus she constantly succeeds in doing so.

Both are from The Alkahest, 3rd Chapter, although I didn't realize that the first time I read it. I just thought it was really cool philosophy from Balzac. I've gotta read that whole work one of these days! I love how he intermingles philosophy with his literature!!!

OH, and from the same one, since we have gotten on the subject of fidelity in this post, there is this said about fidelity:

Fidelity, often the result of social principle, religious duty, or self-interest on the part of a husband, was in this case involuntary, and not without the sweet flatteries of the spring-time of love. Duty was the only marriage obligation unknown to these lovers, whose love was equal;

We've also (not necessarily you and me, but the posters on this site have discussed it), happiness. There is this in the same story about happiness:

For this reason unalloyed happiness is found at the two extremes of the moral scale. The good-natured fool and the man of genius alone are capable--the one through weakness, the other by strength--of that equanimity of temper, that unvarying gentleness, which soften the asperities of daily life...This is why clever women are disposed to take dull men as the small change for great ones.

And, @Amber -- there are some parts of this piece that reminded me of you and your situation, as well:

Most men have inequalities of character which produce discord, and deprive their households of the harmony which is the ideal of a home; the majority are blemished with some littleness or meanness, and meanness of any kind begets bickering. One man is honorable and diligent, but hard and crabbed; another kindly, but obstinate; this one loves his wife, yet his will is arbitrary and uncertain; that other, preoccupied by ambition, pays off his affections as he would a debt, bestows the luxuries of wealth but deprives the daily life of happiness,--in short, the average man of social life is essentially incomplete, without being signally to blame. Men of talent are as variable as barometers; genius alone is intrinsically good

This has, as well, been my experience. I am amazed that a man wrote this. At first glance, when I read it, I tend to think it is a woman who has been jaded or who has come to see the light, but then am astonished when I realize this is a man who has become enlightened and has seen the ways of the world. It's great when a man can step back and look at things and admit when there are thigns going on that are wrong, and things other men are doing that are not good. Even better when that man can take a lesson from it and strive not to be like that. I have found in my life, unfortunately, his words to be so true. There is possibly a man out there who can go against all of that which is posted above from Balzac, but I have yet to meet him. Some day, if and when I do, I will snatch him up :-) If he's single, of course. :-)

Anyway, @All...sorry I have posted someone else's works, I will rarely do that. But his works grab me in this way that is inexplicable...and he puts things in ways I am incompentent to do so. I had a crush on this guy during most of my college years. I have had a crush on a 400 lb, centuries-old dead guy...how sick is that? If they still made guys like that, I would be in business! I would definitely do my best to make him my own if a guy like this existed these days, but these days, there seems to be a shortage of them. :-/

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