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- Men, Women, and God - 5/23 -


be a thing worth making any fuss about. But it is a mistake. Partly, to put it bluntly, because kissing sometimes arouses desires which kissing cannot satisfy; and partly because it is, I believe, a fine instinct which suggests to both men and women that they should keep their kisses for the one person who will or may some day have love's right to them.

And here I think I ought to put down for the sake of girls a fact of which they are often ignorant. When you allow men to embrace and kiss you--even when you allow them lesser familiarities--you may go your way thinking no more about it and undisturbed. The whole thing may not really have stirred you. But with men it is not so. Often by such things tumults are raised in them whereby the way of self-control and chastity is made cruelly difficult. Only some of you do it, and you have done it generally in ignorance. When you realize the truth you will see that it is unkind--possibly you may even realize that it is dangerous. And yet I do not want to overstate even this point. I heard lately of a girl who, having been told the truth, became so nervous that she was afraid to sit within five feet of a man and found general social intercourse spoilt for her. There are no dangers for men, but on the contrary there is very great help for men, in the society of girls who will meet them in a spontaneous, natural, and friendly way. It is when the girls who should be their natural companions are found to be prudish and stiff that men are all too apt to look for other girls who will at least be friendly and often much more than friendly. All that I want girls to know is that there are dangers on the horizon of this part of life, and to ask them to use their wisdom and their common sense. What I ask of men is that they should cease meanly trying to avoid responsibility in this connection, and should face their half of the problem. For the problem _is_ worth solving. Happy, free, wholesome companionship between men and women is a bracing and splendid thing. We cannot possibly solve the whole problem of human life till we have attained to it.

And now a last word to the people to whom at the beginning I offered an apology--to the exceptional young people who take no interest in the other sex. I do not commend your attitude. It is not wise. If it is in your case instinctive and spontaneous you need not worry, for nature will soon cure it. But if you have consciously adopted it, or are deliberately retaining it, you are making a serious mistake. You are not sexless beings, and by adopting this attitude you are repressing certain parts of your natures which will one day make their presence felt whether you like it or no, and possibly in unhappy and unnatural ways. Girl friendships cannot fully and finally satisfy any girl. Companionships with other men are insufficient for any man. Instincts in your beings which may not be denied demand something else.

If you have decided that there is nothing worth while in the fellowships that may exist between men and women, surely it is plain that you must be wrong, for the verdict of nine-tenths of mankind is against you. If you have in you any positive antagonism to the other sex, that is in itself a manifestation of your sexual nature, and a bad one.

There is a fine, breezy, sunny world full of beauty, interest, and deep satisfaction for our humanity, the doors of which you are closing on yourselves. If some people have traveled there unwisely or have lost their way in it, that is only a coward's reason for staying outside. Things may seem to be going very well with you in spite of your attitude while you are still in the early twenties--you may say that you are getting from life all that you want. But as you approach the thirties you will infallibly discover your mistake. Nature will then assert herself. A certain mysterious loneliness will overtake you, and life will lose its flavor. In all modern life there is no harder problem than the one which arises for those who without any will of their own have to face that situation. To court it is mere folly. As a matter of fact behind your attitude there lies concealed the attempt to deny your sex, and that is the one impossible thing to do. You may control it, discipline it, or sublimate it; but you will do nothing but make trouble for yourself till you have accepted it. If it annoys you to find that you are not sufficient in yourself for yourself--if in particular you resent the mere suggestion that the other sex should in any way be necessary to your completeness and happiness, you are really quarrelling with the established nature of things. You may do that if you like, but there is always only one end to the quarrel. It is we who get broken, not the eternal order.

CHAPTER III

LOVE

The crowning fact about sex is that it makes possible the experience of being in love. I am sure that all possibility of a right handling of sex problems depends upon a true understanding and valuation of love-- that beautiful and imperious emotion which masters and transforms both men and women, which is closely linked with the creative instinct, and which at a certain stage in its growth calls into being the whole group of tumultuous sensations and demands known as passion that it may achieve its own fulfillment. If we know the truth about this matter we shall with comparative ease answer most of the questions which arise in connection with sex.

By what divine and mysterious instinct it is that love is awakened I do not know. A man may know and appreciate a score of women, and yet remain in the depths of him essentially unmoved; and then some one woman with no conscious purpose will release some secret spring of life in the depths of his personality, whereby she becomes for him hence forth the center of the world. It may happen that this love comes on the heels of knowledge and grows out of friendship. I believe they are fortunate persons to whom things happen in this way. But it may also be that the mysterious instinct will do its work at a first meeting. Love at first sight may be quite incomprehensible and unreasonable, but it is a fact none the less. One meeting may fix the destiny of a man or a woman, even though the second may not occur for months or even years.

The days that immediately follow this experience may not be happy days. Many a man has to serve and wait ere he can awaken love in her who is to him the one woman in the world. Many a woman has to wait and wonder and face distress. Then, too, till the stage of mutual acknowledgment is reached love makes men and women awkward. They do uncouth, crude, and clumsy things. They get into muddles. They make mistakes. It would seem that some delicate process of mutual adjustment is often necessary before two souls can really find each other, and while the stumbling preliminary days last, love is often a torture as well as a delight. Nor are the best lovers the most successful at first. A superficial emotion may be easily handled, but a deep one will upset a man and make him strange to himself. And so two people will maneuver and wander and baffle each other. They will often be sure and then uncertain by turns, and will wonder whether love does not chiefly mean hopeless complications.

But when two souls do really discover each other, then at once a new life begins, so radiant, beautiful, stimulating, and mysterious, that even the poets have failed to find sufficient words for it. In their hearts two lovers always know that this is what they were made for-- that this is the very core and essence of human existence. I think they generally know that they have been ushered into a house of life of which they are quite unworthy, and that they take their first steps therein in reverence and in awe.

Let me simply enumerate some of the manifest consequences of this love.

1. From the very first love expresses itself as a reaching after intimacy. For many days two lovers are busy telling each other all about themselves, about their past experiences, their hopes and aspirations, their doubts and fears, their relations to other people, and their various circumstances. They want to know and be known. They want to share everything. Towards mere friends we do well to practice some reserve. By talking about ourselves we may be apt to bore them. But lovers want to know everything, and are wise if they have no reserves.

2. Then, secondly, love obviously increases the vitality and so adds to the physical beauty of both men and women. Indeed it increases vigor of all kinds, producing new powers of sheer physical and nervous endurance. What will a man who is truly in love not do for love's sake, and that without thinking of fatigue! What untold things women have accomplished under the spur of the same inspiration.

3. Thirdly, it awakens the latent idealism of both, It is not by accident that men in love are found trying to write poetry, though it may be a bad accident if other people have to try to read it. Of course we laugh at this na´ve habit, because poetry seems a thing incongruous with the ordinary prosaic man, with his baggy trousers and clumsy ways. But for my part I rather incline to thank God that such an impulse should ever disturb the average man. What could be better than that at one stage of his life at least he should try to reach the stars. And if from the works of real poets we were to banish all the love-inspired poetry, how paltry would the remainder seem.

4. Still further, love awakens the soul. Our spiritual capacities share in the general stimulus which it brings. It is not by chance that courting couples go to church. They do _not_ go simply to whisper in the gallery, and if they do hold hands during the sermon I do not think that God is ill pleased. They go because the inspiration of love inclines them to long after God. Of course it does. All love is of God, and this special kind bears openly upon it the marks of its divine origin. And while on the one hand it is true that love leads towards religion, it is equally true that without a sense of things spiritual love cannot be its perfect self. Perhaps the commonest cause of the failure of love lies in some arrest of spiritual development. For when the soul is asleep, what is left of love is a poor thing.

5. And then, fifthly, at some point in its growth love summons passion into life. What has been hitherto an emotion of the heart becomes also a tumultuous activity of the whole being, and love having mastered the whole incarnate nature of each in turn drives the two together in that oneness of the flesh which is the decree of God. No doubt it is just here that the compulsions of civilized society set a serious problem for ardent lovers. Primitive men probably knew nothing of a period of engagement, and lovers would proceed to become wholly wedded just as soon as nature laid her compelling hand upon them. But it is our glory that we are not simply the tools of natural forces. We belong to the directorate in this life, and even on the force of love we can impose times and seasons. But when the right time does come, then lovers who have already been attaining to union of heart and mind express their passion also in the union of their bodies, and this wonderful experience, when it does so enter life, is realized as something sacramental. It is literally and exactly an expression in the terms of the body of something which is already a spiritual fact. Nothing satisfies real love except this complete mingling of two personalities. It is not satisfied without physical intimacy, and yet physical intimacy alone is not enough. That which is satisfied by mere physical intimacy is not love. The full human passion which alone deserves that name calls also for intimacies of mind and spirit--for the interplay of


Men, Women, and God - 5/23

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