A painting of a woman in a long blue dress reclining on a couch, a wall of books behind her


This essay revives and completes another, “Love & Marriage,” that I started in 2001. It consists of eight theses and five codas. I use the word thesis because the essay draws on my lived experience of the human condition and its conundrums. Theses are not laws or rules; life is not a set of algorithms, but it has discernible patterns. There’s no map, just a way in and a way out, neither very well marked.

My polemical goals are several. I want to lift the improbable weight that tradition has placed on marriage by demanding that it fulfill every human need. There may be such marriages, truly self-contained, but they seem unlikely. I believe that we need a new tradition of marriage and, along with it, a new tradition of family. I also want to raise the stature of friendship, acknowledging the potential and even the likelihood that it will overlap marriage and family. Friendships are voluntary and self-renewing. How they relate to the familial contexts of the friends, if there are such contexts, cannot be prescribed or proscribed in advance. Any new traditions of marriage and family need to account for this, which suggests in turn that a new tradition of friendship may be needed, too.

This essay was written in parts, each of which was posted on my blog, Quotes & Thoughts. This is an edited and condensed version of those posts. It was written in Berkeley, September–October 2011.

— John Parman

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.