Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Love

Can Romance Turn into a Disease?


The pest control guy came over this morning, ready to spray away the carpenter ants. These ants had built a colony in the heating vent, he explained, and survived in what felt to them like summer. When they were hungry, they came out to my kitchen to pick up crumbs.

As he sprayed the edges of the house, he stroke a conversation about the importance of family. He said he had been married for thirty years and had three adult children who were healthy and well educated. He said that other people in his family were not as fortunate, that they had divorced, which had a negative impact on their children when they grew up.

The Americans for Divorce Reform estimates that “Probably, 40 or possibly 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue.” This once did not apply to the Chaldean (Christian Iraqi) community in America. But nowadays, divorce has become a trend to a people that once were determined to make it work, especially when children were involved.

“People spend a year or two preparing for the wedding,” said the pest control guy. “They pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars going all out. They have the wedding reception, and then the marriage lasts as little as a year.”

In his case, it took thirty days to prepare for his wedding. It was just a matter of calling the priest, calling a local restaurant to make a reservation, inviting the closest people and reserving most of the focus on the marriage, not the wedding.

I remembered something my yoga instructor said last week. She’s a beautiful Asian woman that looks as though she’s 24 years old. But when she said she’d been married for 34 years and has two children, I figured she’s much older than that. As we groaned while holding a position for what felt like forever, she said, “The challenge is learning how to become comfortable in what sometimes feels uncomfortable. That’s how my marriage with my husband has lasted this long.”

Most of the divorces that he and I witnessed were for petty issues that could have been worked out. I thought about something that Stuart Wilde once said, “What makes anything sacred is the fact that we concentrate on it and say, ‘This is sacred.’ You make it important. In fact love is actually concentration. Romance is actually a disease that comes from over concentrating on another person.”

The best article that talks about this is by Axinia, a Russian born blogger and photographer who works and lives in Austria.

Romantic Love vs. True Love and Why Happy Marriages are so Rare in the West

By: Axinia

Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness, and ecstasy…We are so accustomed to living with the beliefs and assumptions of romantic love that we think it is the only form of “love” on which marriage or love relationships can be based. We think it is the only “true love”. But there is much that we can learn from the East about this. In Eastern countries, like those of India and Japan, we find that married couples love each other with great warmth, often with a stability and devotion that puts us to shame. But their love is not “romantic love” as we know it. They don’t impose the same ideals on their relationships, nor do they impose such impossible demands and expectations on each other as we do.

Romantic love has existed throughout history in many cultures. We find it in the literature of ancient Greece, the Roman empire, ancient Persia, and feudal Japan. But our modern Western society is the only culture in history that has experienced romantic love as a mass phenomenon. We are the only society that makes romance the basis of our marriages and love relationships and the cultural ideal of “true love”.

One of the greatest paradoxes in romantic love is that it never produces human relationships as long as it stays romantic. It produces drama, daring adventures, wondrous, intense love scenes, jealousies, and betrayal; but people never seem to settle into relationship with each other as flesh-and-blood human beings until they are out of the romantic love stage, until they love each other instead of “being in love”.

Romance, in its purest form, seeks only one thing – passion. It is willing to sacrifice everything else – every duty, obligation, relationship, or commitment  – in order to have passion.

A Proud Aunt

The Nieces

My nieces have grown up to be wonderful women, wives and mothers – most of whom also juggle work. The other day one of them invited us over her house and she proved, once again, to be a great hostess. Watching them do what they do, I am proud to be their aunt, and to have played a role in their lives. I’m a godmother to a few of them, have at one point or another babysat all of them, as well as tutored some, put others to work, gave them quite a bit of advice, and of course, engaged in arguments with them.

Stepping back and observing their lives, I’m once again reminded how sacred family life really is. In the end, the work we put towards our loved ones does pay off.

I Don’t Speak Your Language, But Let’s Talk!

Today two of my nieces, who are also sisters, each baptized her baby son. After church, we gathered at a lovely restaurant in downtown Rochester. Neither of my nieces’ husbands is of Middle Eastern backgrounds. One of them is originally from Central America. Well, he decided to have a little chat with my mom. Mind you, he does not speak Arabic or Chaldean. My mother does not speak Spanish or English.

They talked about totally different subjects. My mother raved about what a good person her granddaughter is and how much she loves her and he accused my mother of knowing more English than she leads on (probably doesn’t help that his wife, my niece, always felt like my mother is an undercover FBI agent who understands more than she has everyone believe). Yet even though their words hit in various directions, the two enjoyed some nice communication. And believe me when I tell you, it is not easy to get my mother to talk!

Goes to show, one need not know the same language in order to enjoy each other’s company or have a good conversation. One need only have a big heart.

With her grand-daughter's husbands
My mother with my nieces’ husbands

A Message from a Roach

My daughter had half-a-day of school today. After picking her up, I dropped off my son at nursery and she and I went to a café for lunch. While I worked on my computer, she ate a bowl of soup. Suddenly, she said, “Mom, there’s a bug here!”

I looked at the roach lying on its back on the windowsill. Its legs struggled to move in the air as it gave its last few breaths. The sight of it saddened me, reminding me how petty our problems often are. Last night, for instance, a lot of tension arose between me and my three-year-old son when he threw a one-hour tantrum over chocolate ice cream. We didn’t have chocolate ice cream. I ended up yelling at him, and feeling guilty about it. Seeing the roach grasp for life made me realize how ridiculous it is to dwell on the negative. I decided to put my computer aside and enjoy my lunch with my daughter. At that moment, I looked up and saw a bird flipping its wings and flying high.

“Mom, it’s not dead!”

The roach had flipped itself over onto its legs and was now moving. I smiled.

“Let’s take it outside when we leave,” I said.

Using a paper receipt, my daughter placed it on the cafe menu, after she’d said to it, “I survived you” meaning she saved it. We dropped it off at a circle of dirt, bushes and trees, where it belongs. In her excitement, my daughter forgot her Ipod inside the cafe. She hurriedly went back to get it. Thank God it was still there. Otherwise, I would have paid too much to save a roach’s life.  

When I picked up my son from school, he had made a maraca out of a plastic bottle. It was stuffed with variously paint-colored corn kernels. It was exactly what I was looking for, for reasons I cannot yet explain in this post.

I handed my son his bag of snacks (chocolate milk and potato chips) which he always ate in the car after a hard two-hour day at nursery.

“You got me potato chips,” he said smiling and crunching. “So I’m not mad at you today.”


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January 8, 2013

Food, Prayer, Marriage

Wedding rings

Ever since snow arrived, my children wanted to build a snowman. So Sunday we gave them a substitute snow activity – sledding. Needless to say they had a great time. Myself, who as a young girl rode roller coasters at Cedar Point, simply videotaped their adventure. Yes, I was too scared to slide down the hill that my three-year-old and six-year-old thought nothing of.

Yesterday was so packed with activities there was no way I could write a new post at night. We bought the children snow gear, took them sledding with their cousins, I discovered black tomatoes at the produce market and we attended a small 500 guest Chaldean American wedding (usually they’re 700 plus). And most importantly, church!

“The Life of Abraham” lecture series started at Freedom Christian. As the pastor spoke of Prophet Abraham, I thought of my ancestors’ land, Ur of the Chaldees in Iraq, where Abraham originated. This city, which is mentioned several times in the Bible was one of the great urban centers of the Sumerian civilization of southern Iraq and remained an important city until its conquest by Alexander the Great a few centuries before Christ. Ur was eventually incorporated into Babylonia. The Ziggurat of Ur, believed to be 4,000 years old and originally a temple to the moon god, has become a symbol of honor for Iraqi ingenuity and culture, as well as being the birth place of the prophet Abraham.

During the lecture, the pastor said something very important about marriage.

“Your marriage is not your true identity. It is not the job or your wife or your husband to make you happy, not that they should attempt to do otherwise. Your hope of who you are should be based on your relationship with God.”

I agree. Many marriages fail today because a lot of pressure is placed on what spouses should do and not do for each other. In the movie Eat, Pray, Love, Julia Roberts plays a married woman who is not happy in her marriage. She wants a divorce to go out and find herself but her husband desperately does not want the divorce. He asks her, “Why can’t you find yourself inside our marriage?”

She could have.

“Enjoy your vacations,” said the pastor. “Enjoy your relationships, enjoy your work, but don’t make them the source of our joy or your status. God is the source.”