Friday, March 19, 2010

Chance Remark

I met a group of former co-workers for lunch a few days ago. The group was diverse in many ways besides ethnicity and cultural background. We had among us those who were  young and still single, older and suddenly single, married for two decades and those who were in relationships that Facebook would categorize as "It's Complicated"

While we were waiting for our lunch, conversation turned to L's long time girlfriend who is yet to come into an engagement ring and has been prodding him to challenge the status quo. M made a comment mainly directed to L that stayed stuck in my head. "You should always choose your spouse with the greatest care. Any amount of time you need to make a decision is fair. After all, that is the only relationship in your life where you even have the ability to choose. You get the parents, family and siblings without your input or consent and its the same with your children. Your spouse is the only person you have the power to choose." M is married now but it took him a very long time to decide who he would choose to marry.

Clearly, his thoughts resonated with everyone around the table - and particularly with L who must have felt vindicated in his commitment phobia. Anyone who has dated for any length of time is all too familiar with hold-outs. These are the people who bring a lot to the table and have equally high (often deeply unrealistic) expectations from their partner. Like M, they want to choose with utmost care and deliberation. They refuse to rush or be rushed into a lifetime commitment against their will.

It does not matter if the process is emotionally (and sometimes even physically) debilitating. They will go on looking for this ideal partner for years and decades if so required - they refuse to end up with someone in an accident of fate.

That would explain the western world view of arranged marriages and the disenchantment with this system among the liberated and progressive minded in the east.Like their western counterparts, they have started to believe in the myth of being free agents when it comes to selecting a spouse. They honestly believe that their steadfast refusal to make a decision is an exercise of free will and it is critically important to have this ability if one wishes to choose wisely and well.

It seems to me that the more time anyone has spent discarding what and who does not work for them, the harder it is for them to exercise this supposed "free will" when time comes to make a choice. They have whittled down their options to just one - the last one standing by the process of elimination and not as a consequence of them being the chosen one.

This was obviously the wrong kind of crowd for me to say anything about the wonders of surrender and resignation, let alone suggest that if everything else in our life was pre-ordained or completely random, there is no logical reason for the spouse to be the solitary exception. We go through our lives with imperfect parents, siblings and kids that we did not get to choose and can suffer disproportionately due to the spouse that  we did get to select. Maybe there is something to be said for the lack of choice after all.
I held my peace and enjoyed the exceptional Caribbean Chicken Salad instead.


Sunil Deepak said...

I think that it sounds a kind of illogical, but still I would agree with you. The free will illusion and apparent surrender to chance and destiny are perhaps two sides of the same coin?

Anonymous said...

Brilliant point ! I think that says it all :) very well written and insightful post.

Anonymous said...

parents we didn't get to choose and the partner we chose? nice remark there says it all.

I might not get along great with parents but they've held my hand and not imposed their views on me. My partner was the opposite. It was a 'I chose him'. Paid the price. A costly one.