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Notes from a Small Place - Issue #5 (The Given and the Synthetic)

Notes on marriage, economies, and odd assortments from the past two weeks:
Notes from a Small Place - Issue #5 (The Given and the Synthetic)
By Jake Meador • Issue #5 • View online
Notes on marriage, economies, and odd assortments from the past two weeks:

The Given and the Synthetic
There’s a particularly sad piece The Atlantic published recently that is worth a close read if you are at all invested in the health of marriage and the various ways of life implicated by marriage:
More Couples Having Friends Officiate Their Weddings - The Atlantic
I’ll keep this short both due to the format of the newsletter and because it relates to some larger projects I am beginning to work on. But I just want to note that the abandonment of traditional vows and rituals as part of the wedding do not simply imply things about the couple and their idea of marriage, as the author of this piece seems to understand.
These changes also imply a more pervasive change in the couple’s relationship to their marriage and to the place in which their marriage is lived. The article notes that same-sex marriage has played a major role in this shift and that is precisely right: A definitionally sterile union will obviously transform how we think about marriage. But, then, the normalization of sterile marriages is a trend that has been building for a long time as I wrote several years ago:
The Inevitability of Same-Sex Marriage - Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture
In that piece, published back in July of 2015, I argued that we have essentially been sterilizing marriage for 50 years. Same-sex marriage is simply the announcement and institutionalization of a work that has already been under way for some time.
So what is the alternative to an implicitly sterile, companionate model of marriage?
It is not simply a procreative, covenantal model of marriage, though it is that. It is a recovery of the fecundity of the cosmos, of the recognition that human marriages are simply a formal enactment of human participation in the life of the world. And as such the manner of the wedding ceremony must have certain traits. It should recognize that the union is not simply about the relationship of two people, but about a covenant they make to one another before God, their witnesses, and creation itself. It also recognizes that their union is simply one of the many life-giving unions that fill the world and propagate the existence of humanity and of the places that make human society both possible and delightful. In short, the traditional wedding ceremony is important precisely because of what it says not about the couple but about the cosmos. Because we have turned our back on the cosmos, finding it to be boring and unworthy of our attentiveness, we now can only look at each other. And we can only understand marriage as a kind of life achievement in which we express the truth not of the world, but of ourselves.
The abandonment of the traditional ceremony is, then, a tragic but unsurprising thing.
Reading
Selling our Birthright for a Quiet Pew | Comment Magazine
Life and Death in West Virginia - Guernica
Two Tolkiens, One Better World | The American Conservative
What the College-Admissions Scandal Reveals - The Atlantic
[Reviews] Shallow Calls to Shallow by Garry Willis | Harper's Magazine
Personal News
I’m currently working on a couple book proposals that I hope to have done in the next couple weeks so that I can begin shopping them to publishers. Please be in prayer for that process.
Also: I’m in the early phases of doing some business planning for Mere Orthodoxy. We are now officially a non-profit so I’m starting to do some of the needed work to set us up for, lord-willing, some successful fund-raising and building out of the work that is already being done there. I’d appreciate your prayers for that work as well.
The Last Word
“We need good liturgies, and we need natural ones; we need a life neither patternless nor over patterned, if the city is to be built. And I think the root of it all is caring. Not that that will turn the trick all by itself, but that we can produce nothing good without it. True liturgies take things for what they really are, and offer them up in loving delight. Adam naming the animals is instituting the first of all the liturgies; speech, by which man the priest of creation picks up each of the world’s pieces and by his wonder bears it into the dance. "By George,” he says, “there’s an elephant in my garden; isn’t that something!” Adam has been at work a long time; civilization is the fruit of his priestly labors.
Culture is the liturgy of nature as it is offered up by man. But culture can come only from caring enough about things to want them really to be themselves - to want the poem to scan perfectly, the song to be genuinely melodic, the basketball actually to drop through the middle of the hoop, the edge of the board to be utterly straight, the pastry to be really flaky. Few of us have very many great things to care about, but we all have plenty of small ones; and that’s enough for the dance. It is precisely through the things we put on the table, and the liturgies we form around it, that the city is built, caring is more than half the work.“
~Robert Farrar Capon
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Jake Meador

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Jake Meador, Lincoln NE