Friday, April 21, 2006

Unknown Country Song

UPDATE: Song is "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" by Mary Chapin Carpenter. Thanks CD!!!

I was listening to the radio for the first time in a long time- WMZQ country. Until Dawn and I figure out how to find this song, it will just remain unknown, unless one of my 2 readers knows it...

Basically, in the song, a woman has three children by the time she's 29 (this is, naturally, supposedly apalling) and one day packs her suitcase and says to her husband "I don't love you anymore" and then it goes on to talk about her work. Now, I did not hear the whole song. It's entirely possible that in the end, this woman comes to her senses and realizes that she was totally and utterly selfish.


Besides that first thing, which is just ridiculous (the fantastic Danielle Bean, at 33, is working on number 8... cue applause!) [b.n.: Please note that I am not saying that everyone is supposed to do the same. At all. And I'm not saying that 3 kids is nothing and couldn't possibly be overwhelming. In fact, I'm sure it is! I'm just saying we shouldn't be horrified by this.]

What is up with this justification of women leaving their children to find themselves thing? It's on Oprah, it's in books and now it's even infiltrated country music. If you can't "find yourself" in the midst of your children, I've got bad news for ya: You ain't gonna find yourself anywhere else.

Look at me, breaking out "ain't"- it's all about absorbing whatever topic I'm in at the time. I should do a British post next.

Lucky for you, wretches, I wrote a paper last semester that addresses this a lil bit, and I'll post my intro here. This is about to become a monster post. Feel free to stop reading at any time :)

When Nora abandoned her husband and children in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in 1879, she was a symbol of disconnected motherhood. The shift that made this possible began centuries earlier, and now, 126 years later, there are countless women going on Oprah declaring their need to “find themselves” apart from their families. It is not that there had never been delinquent mothers before the Enlightenment, but Ibsen saw and remarked that “A woman cannot be herself in the society of today, which is exclusively a masculine society, with laws written by men, and with accusers and judges who judge feminine conduct from the masculine standpoint.”[1] He could see the peculiarity of the modern situation and the lengths that some women may go to escape it. In seeking out a valuable place in society, women failed to challenge the system that determines what is valuable. Women instead accepted the definitions and sought to change themselves accordingly.
The ancient concept of the constitutive individual, as well as the Jewish understanding of corporate personality, would have made an exit such as Nora’s unthinkable.
[2] The constitutive individual is the primary unit of understanding for Classical philosophy. For Aristotle or Aquinas, the original units of reality are already complex, with four causes which define them. Man is not atomistic or unconnected to the world around him. The human person is a body-soul unity, structured with an end and purpose for which he is to act. He is but one in a world full of other beings who are likewise complex. He is unique among them but not independent or self-sufficient. There is a fundamental unity among beings. This places the human being securely in a web of relationships, without which he is not himself.
Modernity firmly rejected this complex view of the human person. The fruits of this rejection, such as the embracing of freedom of indifference and radical individuality, have devastating effects on women’s experience of motherhood. Nora is one example of this, but on a grander scale, abortion, contraception and in vitro fertilization show that the meaning of motherhood is changed. Freedom now means an original and independent act of choice rather than a response to a value. Underneath each of these things is the view that the human being should be able to decide when, if and how to have children. A woman in this framework has no true answer to give for her motherhood. She will either see it as something that “happened to” her, which she has the option to change, or something she reasonably chose for herself. This self is the determining factor.
Following the logic of self as primary value, a woman must be in control. Tina Miller documents some reactions to pregnancy in her narrative approach, Making Sense of Motherhood. One woman remarks, “I feel that from being the person in charge work-wise, to the person that is being taken over by something else, or someone else, is quite a lot to take in.”
[3] During pregnancy, women are profoundly out of control of what is happening to their bodies. This experience is difficult to make sense out of if your conception of yourself in bound up with anything besides love. A woman will experience intense physical changes as well as changed attitudes toward her from other people. One woman says, “I think you have to fight more to keep your individuality.”[4] And another, “There’s something else going on that you haven’t got any control over, that you are not the person you were anymore, and you know from now on you’re going to be a mother.”[5] The struggles these women express in understanding their lives as mothers reveal two values they hold as dominant: freedom (in the sense of control) and individuality. These two issues are discovered at the center where modernity meets motherhood.
These two prominent features of modernity run contrary to the two definitive words of the Blessed Mother; her fiat and magnificat.
[6] With “Let it be done to me according to your word,” Mary shows that her freedom is found in the will of another. In consenting to God’s will, which asks everything, Mary conceives the Son of God. She gives up any semblance of control, calling herself the handmaid of the Lord. When she is told what will take place, her consent is presumed, for she has always said “yes”.[7] In Mary, freedom is at the service of love.
In her magnificat, Mary counters the concept of the person as an atomistic individual. She rejoices in the Lord, and declares that her soul magnifies Him, thus defining herself in relation to another. While she proclaims what God has done for her, she immediately connects it to both the future and the past. “For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” speaks of all the people to follow, and she ends in connecting God’s action in her to His promise with Abraham. Mary is deeply connected to Israel and the covenant. She is “Daughter Zion,” the new Israel. She recognizes that the preparation for the Incarnation began long before her, and that its implications would reach until the end of time. She is profoundly connected to every other person, which is confirmed in her title as mother of all Christians. In these two instances, Mary offers the true meaning of freedom and the person.

[1] Ibsen, Henrik. “Notes for the Tradegy of Today,” a letter cited by William Archer in his introduction to the play found at
[2] The concept of corporate personality falls outside of the scope of this paper, but it is key to understanding ancient Israel. It is explored in H.W. Robinson’s Corporate Personality in Ancient Israel, among other places. The understanding of the person as both an individual and carrying the entire group within him is, for example, the reason that the covenant made with Abraham is also with the entire people.
[3] Tina Miller. Making Sense of Motherhood. p 82.
[4] Ibid., p 81.
[5] Ibid., p 81.
[6] Lk 1:38 and Lk 1:46-56 respectively.
[7] This was pointed out in Von Balthasar’s Creative Spirit. p. 226.

1 comment:

Erin of Forest Glen said...

thanks, dear, for that post :)

okay, so unity and indissolubility are the two essential aspects of sacramental (spousal) love, right?

well, it occurs to me that unity and indissolubility can be found in Mary's fiat and magnificat, respectively.

In her fiat, she places her heart in union with the Lord's so that her will is His will...
and in the magnificat she points to God's for-us-ness (best *vocab* word EVER!) as having been from generation to generation, referring back to Abraham and then adding "and his seed FOREVER". You're right - past and present and future are all there. God's love says "Forever".... indissolubility!

You said that those two instance explain what a human person is and what freedom is. Not that you could make distinctions as clear as I'm about to, but unity (with the ultimate Other) is the end of the human person, and indissolubility is the end of freedom, eh?