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- Men, Women, and God - 6/23 -


two personalities through the whole stretch of their powers. But it cannot be too strongly said that on the terms I have indicated the ultimate bodily union of two lovers is a beautiful and happy thing. It is felt to be something with large spiritual consequences. In some mysterious way it really does bind souls together. Each knows that henceforth he or she is bound to the other for life, and a man is usually moved by a glowing sense of reverent gratitude to the woman who has thus trod with him the strange paths of that new country. Considered apart from love, such an experience may seem to be gross, because apart from love it is gross. But as an incident in the communion of two loyal hearts it is realized as a pure and natural thing. Through it the flesh is caught up into harmony with the spirit and is thereby redeemed. A certain new balance and repose of being is attained whereby a whole personality will experience a wonderful sense of liberation. [Footnote: I do not think the creative instinct often enters into consciousness at this point. It does so with some women, but with very few men. As a rule the real content of the experience is just an ardent desire in each for utter nearness to the other. It is the expression of their love that they desire. It is each other that they love--not as yet any third person.]

6. And then, sixthly, from love that has thus run its natural and ordained course a new life results. Even human love has creative value, and by it the doors are opened into that most sacred world in which a man and a woman succumb together to the power and beauty of an infant, thrill together over its untold charms, and find that little hands are clutching at their hearts with amazing and mystic power. And not until that point is reached is love made perfect. Mere lover's love is a selfish thing. I do not say it in criticism, for I believe lovers have an inalienable right to live for a while simply for each other. But from the point when they bend together over a baby's cradle they take a step up in life, and their love becomes a call to service, whereby its selfishness is purged away. Parentage is usually thought of as supremely the crown of a woman's life. So it is, though it is not its only possible crown. But I believe that it is equally the crown of a man's life. It is perhaps true that the production of true fathers belongs to a later stage of human evolution than the production of mothers, for fathers are not so obviously essential to young children. But I hazard the suggestion that one of the prime needs of the stage at which we have now arrived is just that men should learn the arts and powers of fatherhood, and take a larger part in the rearing of children. And I believe men will find, as I have said, that parentage is for them also the crown of life. With many men the emotions that come with fatherhood are the deepest of which they are capable, and they are also the finest. Even men who seem to me pretty low in the scale of humanity often recover some of their lost manhood when under the power of their own little children. And with normal men their fatherhood comes to dominate life.

Its most obvious result is that it compels a man to work, and to work hard. We are mostly born slackers. We should like to take many holidays, and if we were left alone we would do it. But parentage binds us to the wheel. We discover that we have got to face the grind, because the plain alternative is that the bairns would starve. And so we do it. Of course at times we rebel. You may hear men every now and then complaining half cynically and half humorously that, having once been indiscreet enough to fall in love, they were thenceforth swept along by rapids till at last they found themselves involved in all the paraphernalia of family life from perambulators to doctor's bills. But there are few men who do not know in their hearts that the toils have been the making of them. If love led only to delights, it would ruin us. It is because it leads also to heavy labor that it makes us. It is because I see this so clearly that I am not so much distressed as some people are over the fact that motherhood also means very hard work. [Footnote: No doubt in our disordered social life it often means far too much work. No doubt thousands of mothers are simply crushed by it. But it is not a good thing when mothers can evade even reasonably hard work.] The great discoveries of the moral and spiritual worlds are only made in and through work--yes, and sometimes through work that is sheer grind. There is no other road to moral or spiritual maturity either for man or woman. I have this deeply rooted objection to inherited wealth-- that it makes possible an escape from this redeeming discipline, and by removing one of the normal consequences of love often leads to the spoiling of love.

Let us, however, be clear about this further fact--love does not merely lead to enforced labor, it also redeems that labor. Not merely does a man face up to his job because it is in a sense done for love's sake, but love itself supplies the necessary respite and counterbalance to the burden of toil. We all need recreations. The tightly drawn string must be relaxed. Moods come when normal and quite Christian men say, "Oh, I can't stick it any longer; I want to enjoy myself." We naturally demand that there should be an element of delight somewhere in life. Notoriously it is rather hard to come by. City crowds at night present the spectacle of people making huge and fevered efforts to run delight to earth and often achieving only pitiful failure. I believe the normal way in which delight ought to enter the lives of married people is just through their satisfaction in each other's society, enriched by the society of their children. When a man and a woman have made the right sort of home they escape finally from all fevered cravings after picture-houses and ball-rooms. There lies to hand for them that which will day after day refresh and delight them, and make them ready for to-morrow's toil.

I am not forgetting that at this point modern voices will want to break in on me with appropriate quotations from Bernard Shaw and others, and try to silence me by pointing out what a mean, petty, dull, sickly, and stodgy thing mere domesticity can be. Yes! it can be all that for people who let it be all that. Even love that once was passionate cannot redeem the life of two people unless there is something there to redeem. Two lifeless and stupid people living together _can_ make of life something duller than either could make alone. If it be part of general wisdom to try to live widely and fully, and to use as much of our natures as is possible, that is surely as true for two people together as it could be for them apart. And to make a marriage into a great thing both parties to it must work to make it wide in its horizons and worthy because of the multitude of its interests. No sane persons imagine that mere marriage excuses people from the necessity for handling this big, mysterious, and difficult thing which we call human life with vigilance and determination. But life on any terms for the great majority of people must have monotonous and trying periods in it. It almost always has heavy sorrows and not a few bitter disappointments. And it is in view of these things that married love is found to have redeeming power. It is one of the lies of the cynic that love must needs burn itself out somewhere about the forties. Thousands of people have found at forty that the best was yet to be. For the fact is that all through the afternoon of life and even when the shadows lengthen towards the end love will still send beams of beauty and romance into daily life, and remaining still passionate will put golden content into the passing hours.

It is life stories of this sort which alone reveal the meaning and purpose of God in making the sex interest so almighty and central in life. We do not understand love till we have thus looked on towards the end. When it is allowed to run its true course it does in this way redeem life.

If I am told that I have drawn a hopelessly idealized picture of married love, I can only reply by a blunt denial. Twenty-five years of intimate contact with ordinary people have taught me these things. The kind of life I have pictured is going on in uncounted small and unknown homes all over the country. It is going on with commonplace people who are neither very interesting nor very clever, but who are wise enough to be simple and human. The real wonder of love is just that it can lift two commonplace people into a life that is not commonplace. And that is just how most of us get our chance in life. The people who are going through these experiences are for the most part quiet people. We do not hear about them. They do not have novels written about them, and they supply no copy for the society newspapers. It is the other people who advertise their woes. It is the unhappily married who make a noise. Only the very greatest novelists can make a good novel out of the story of a successful marriage. But apparently almost anyone can produce stories that people will read if only he or she puts in enough highly colored material about the aberrations of lovers and the possible ways in which marriage can be wrecked. It is sheer untruth to say that most marriages are failures. In most indeed there are ups and downs. The most affectionate couples make mistakes and quarrel over trifles. Love does not make all tempers smooth in a hurry. But love does teach people how to get past such troubles. It does bring balance and repose into life for both husband and wife. It does tend to produce efficiency and health in those who handle it truly. It does make for normal and happy development.

It is only with this background of positive truth about normal love that I can approach the other questions which must be dealt with in this book. If we are going to inquire as to the sanctions of the received moral standards, and the reasons which make the moral struggle worth while--if we are going to find the truth about the way in which to conduct married life, and find any light on the question of birth control, it can only be in relation to the positive truth about love and its manifold reactions on human beings. We shall never learn to manage the emotions and desires which arise from our sexual natures until we have first understood what it is that nature is trying to achieve through these means. To a number of these further questions I shall pass on in the succeeding chapters.

I hope I may do so now on the assumption that anything is worth while if only we can conserve for ourselves the possibility of such a career of experience as I have outlined, and that whatever spoils such experience beforehand, or renders it impossible, is really an enemy both to our well-being and our happiness. If

"Life, with all it yields of joy and woe And hope and fear... Is just our chance o' the prize of learning love How love might be, hath been indeed and is,"

then the key to all morality and all sound practical wisdom is just to conserve at all costs our chance of knowing love--love pure, passionate, fruitful, and holy.

_Unreturned Love_

I ask myself whether I can say anything of use to those who love deeply and truly, but find their love unreturned. Many who read these pages may say to themselves that they can fully believe that mutual love is the way into a wonderful country of new and full life, but that for them love has meant only a great longing and a great pain. They could give generously and nobly. They have in them a great wealth of love which they long to spend lavishly; but because he or she remains indifferent they find themselves tormented by that which is best in them. There is something here harder to face than even the sorrow of widows or widowers. To have loved and lost might be said to be a tolerable situation compared with the feeling that one's love has not been wanted.

Those who have never known such a situation may speak lightly of it. Those who have will always want to deal gently and reverently with it.


Men, Women, and God - 6/23

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