Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Back home it's prom time, and Mr. Clean has gone and acquired himself a girlfriend - or, at any rate, she's acquired herself a boyfriend who happens to be him, which makes it pretty safe to assume that he's acquired himself a girlfriend who happens to be her. What with the time of year, and my birthday, I'm kind of being immersed in thoughts about boys and girls and what happens when they meet. In honor of the occasion I'm listening to my favorites from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, which is my favorite movie musical of all time even if the commercial soundtrack was a bitter disappointment.

The comment about my birthday refers to the only way in which I actually feel old. I would not describe myself as old (except in jest, but my friends do that often enough that I rarely feel the need), but I am somewhat old for my grade and older than all but two of my friends up here. I do not feel old, and I don't expect to feel old for a good long time. However, there is one way in which I "feel my age," if you will:

I want a family.

Now, generally speaking I consider statements like that to be a warning alarm for character flaws, so in all fairness to my own heuristic I should qualify that. I do want a family - just a wife at first; kids later - but I do not truly want a family right now. I am not done with school. And I would say the fact that I clearly have no romantic prospects at the moment is a fairly clear sign from God that I shouldn't be moving on yet. That will do as good as any segue for a brief monologue on dating, which I feel has been due for a while.

To begin with, let me answer the Great Question: do I believe in love at first sight?

The short answer to that is no, but the real answer is that in Natalie that is a null question. The Natalian definition of love (courtesy of Mr. Lewis) is to seek another's good. That is, seek//pursue//create. The phrase "at first sight" here has the connotation of "pre-interaction," and it is therefore logically impossible to have love at first sight on the Natalian conception.

So on to the second Great Question: do I believe in The One?

The short answer to that is yes, but the real answer is rather more complicated. I believe that God has created a single woman whom he plans for me to marry. I cannot back that belief up with any sort of verifiable truth, though, so my belief doesn't count for much. It's essentially something I hope because I think it would be nice. In point of fact I challenge//defy any of you to prove to me that the "One" hypothesis is the only one justified by a sensitive reading of Scripture. For all I know M'lakMavet is right and God doesn't have one person specially in mind for me; only certain standards that a girl must meet to be my wife (as I must meet for her, of course). The short answer to this question is yes because logic and our knowledge of physics necessitates that God exists independent of the dimension we label "time," and therefore it seems reasonable to assume that God already knows who I will marry.

So, with the formalities out of the way, what did I actually want to talk about?

First, let me revise my earlier comment that "if you're not in a life position to marry a girl, don't bother dating her," followed by the comment that "this is, of course, something that I already believe." I do believe//affirm that statement. No, I don't think that you should only date a girl if you have the financial capacity to support a household. Yes, I think you should only marry a girl if you two can provide for your own household, but that's another issue.

What I do mean by that statement is that you both ought to be in a position personally to marry. This is necessitated by the idea of Christians only dating to evaluate each other for marriage. If you aren't ready for marriage, then there's nothing to evaluate - and if you try, your instruments probably won't be calibrated correctly. What do I mean by ready? For starters, both people should be emotionally whole - free from any glaring emotional deficiencies - and have proven character. Are they self-controlled? Are they patient? Are they kind? Are they gentle? Do they seek others' good? Do they love the Lord in a way that transcends mere emotions? Do they also love the Lord in a way that transcends mere intellect? And are these things true of them not just often, but almost always?

Perfect? Of course not. But growing, consistently. If you are not already becoming more perfect before you date somebody then I don't think you will be loving your significant other. In my view dating absolutely must not have anything to do with fixing either person. If either needs fixing, terminate the romantic part of the relationship - in deed, not in word - and get fixed.

The other salient point in my dating philosophy is that God should tell you both to date one another. This is essentially an extension of my romantic nature. If you don't mind generalizing, I think every decision a Christian makes can be divided into Little Deals and Big Deals.

For Little Deals, you assume God is okay with it unless he tells you otherwise. I confess that I don't inquire of the Lord whether I should eat a hamburger or pizza for lunch (shocking ...). Things like that. If a Little Deal can't be traced to a basic Biblical principle that okays it in general, I'd be suspicious of the classification, but most "everyday" decisions can be.

Big Deals are those decisions so momentous that you assume God is not okay with it until he tells you otherwise. These are the decisions where you say with Moses, "if Your Presence does not go with me, do not bring me up from here." I would classify choosing your college as a common Big Deal.

I also choose to classify dating as a Big Deal. I couldn't call myself a romantic and not treat dating as a momentous thing. I expect that dating will at some point have a significant impact on the course of my life - certainly a bigger impact than my choice of college! It seems to me it would be inconsistent to make the bigger of the two decisions without waiting for explicit confirmation from the Father.

What about the idea that I might miss The One by doing that? I doubt it. If there is a One, then she's the One because God made her that way. God may think I'm being silly by deciding not to date a girl he hasn't explicitly told me to go for, but the root motivation there is a desire to submit my romantic life to his leading. And it would be patently out of character for God to penalize me for that.

I just realized that I've been throwing the word "dating" around a lot and haven't defined it. I am afraid that is because I am incapable at the moment of defining dating in a truly precise way. Allow me to posulate the following, however: dating is, fundamentally, emotional pair-bonding. Contrast to marriage, which is simply an emotional pair-bond that has no option to terminate. Do or die, come on you apes, you wanna live forever, and all that jazz. No, I can't give you a definition of "pair-bond." Make of that what you will. You'll just have to get a sense of what I mean by it by listening to me talk.

Those of you familiar with Time Enough for Love will point out that Lazarus Long doesn't define permanency as part of marriage, and would probably therefore view my two definitions as equivalent. I disagree with Mr. Long, of course, but that's because we come from different universes. His hypothetical point does illustrate a basic idea of my father's that I have decided to adopt until further notice: the emotional relationship between a man and woman while dating and married are different only in degree, not in kind. That is, "dating" and "marriage" are on the same spectrum, emotionally speaking.

Antilles is the logically trained one around here, so he may be able to point me up on this, but I believe that philosophy leaves room for "dates" (a guy and a girl doing something for the purpose of enjoying one another's company) outside of "dating." I had a "date" with Shanah this evening, but I hope that neither she nor Cloud thinks I am interesting in dating her (I'm not, for the record)!

I do think that it is remarkably easy to slip into a pair-bond with someone. I did it last year while telling myself I wasn't, and I'm fairly certain the same thing happened to Ransom and Chariessa this year. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but I think it deserves to be said, because this is the fundamental reason behind my renewed resovle to be cautious around girls. I can't fully control my feelings of attraction, but I can control whether or not I cultivate them - and while I think pair-bonding requires cultivation, in many cases it seems to require remarkably little. Like Mr. Lewis, I believe that the human machine was designed in two parts. Like an alkaline, those parts have a remarkable tendency to bond with random species in the solution of life with very little prompting.

I suppose that's about all I had to say. I have once again behaved irresponsibly by staying up past my bedtime. I should go to bed now, I think.

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