Sunny day with a high blue ceiling brings hope and flavorful expectations of lilacs and honeysuckle ahead. Today. The Conococheague Stream is full and rushing over the rocks arranged by teen boys to make a swimming hole about an easy seven iron shot downhill from my office door. A large sycamore log teeters on this primitive overflowing dam, big enough for two log rollers to compete upon. In two months kids will be screaming and flying off the rope swing on the other side of the wooden bridge that used to support slow trains back in the day. In one month fishermen will walk through those waters in hip waders, hoping to catch freshly stocked trout. Two blocks from our noisy town.
Today is merely the promise of things to come, like a good night kiss on the first date. This summer maybe I’ll kayak the stream all the way to the first barbed wire fence downstream. It’s one of those things I pondered doing a time or two. Like biking the C&O Canal years ago from Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia to Potomac, Maryland outside D.C. Yup. Seven hours start to finish one glorious October day. Memorable things start with just a whisper of a promise on a day when you happen to be zoning out of stress while tapping in to the vibe of your local universe. Before you know it, heavy petting and luscious affections flow by, quick as a lizard on hot asphalt. (If you understand the last two sentences, please PM me and explain.)
We all make promises, usually with the intention of honoring them when the time comes. We call it “keeping your word”. Lots of us have trouble either making too many promises or not keeping enough of them. I remember a promise about Iraq paying for the three trillion dollar war we waged there. We would simply take their precious oil and sell it to recoup our expenses for, well, for what? Destroying a failed nation? For being an international SWAT team? We also have folks who promise (swear) to tell the truth,the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to Congress and then conveniently fail to tell the whole truth or blatantly lie under oath. “Oh well”, we say,”they’re politicians. What did you expect?” Maybe a wall that Mexico paid for? With what? Tequila and taquitos?
There are intelligence workers who swear to keep our national secrets secret, who then leak them to Wikileaks to expose to the entire world. Heck, there are millions of folks who promise to pay for what they bought on credit who walk away from a house or car or credit card bill. Some declare bankruptcy; others just go off the radar. Promise keepers keep on working through their debts, their oaths, their commitments whether they like it or not.
I know an Amish man who borrowed $150,000 dollars to start a business that eventually failed. The other party was an Amish millionaire who loaned money out to fellow Plain folks. My guy’s business went belly up during the recession of 2007-2010. No one wanted what he was trying to sell. One consequence was that “Enoch” had to sell his house and workshop and little barn to partially pay back his debt. He and “Rachel” moved into a shabby old rental house. Both kept working diligently to pay off their promises to everyone except the electric company. (Why? you ask. Cuz they are off the grid. They’re Amish.) They didn’t complain or go for bankruptcy. They simply trudged forward in simple honesty, steadily repaying a loan that will likely go with them to their graves. Most folks I know would not do this. Instead they would declare bankruptcy and get out of financial Dodge as soon as was physically possible.
Now, I am not advocating debtors prisons or harsh laws against folks in impossible craters of debt. Nope. I am advocating for making fewer promises and keeping all of them. Perhaps the greatest worstest example of breaking promises is the awful state of marriage.
I borrowed this chart from an article by Randal S. Olson. You see the strange dance of marriage and divorce over time and circumstances. Ironically, the two trend lines seem to be wedded to each other. One goes up, the other follows. One falls, the other does too. It’s so strange to see this parallel. Notice the spikes and valleys during the depression and world wars. I was curious about the uptick in divorces at 1970. then I remembered that was the year “no fault” divorce became a law in California,and other states followed. Divorces needed no blame or shame to be granted from that point onward.
Makes you wonder how much the economy has to do with marriage and/or divorce. And if that is the case, to whom or to what is the promise made? The stock market? Interest rates? Here are the traditional vows of a Christian wedding ….
Standard Episcopal Church Vows
In the name of God, I, Edward, take you, Sylvia, to be my wife,
to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better or worse, for richer or poorer,
in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,
until we are parted by death.
This is my solemn vow.
Sylvia would say the exact same thing in a different voice. Note the solemnity and the reference to God. Big words, folks. Some people take their vows seriously and struggle mightily to maintain difficult partnerships. Other folks look for loopholes. Still others feel trapped and resentful of their vows, as if they were tricked into saying them under pressure. As if they had been pressure conned by a greasy guy selling time shares in Miami. Looks like if we want fewer divorces, we need fewer marriages, especially marriages made for wrong reasons. I’ve heard quite a lot of stupid reasons for marriage.
- It’s cheaper for two people to live together as man and wife.
- I needed to get out of my parents’ house.
- I thought I could change him/her.
- All my friends were getting married.
- I was bored and lonely.
- I needed someone to care for and control.
- The sex was great.
- He had a lot of money.
- I wanted citizenship.
- I wanted children.
One that spins in my mind years after hearing it goes like this…”I was crying as I walked down the aisle on my dad’s arm. Everyone thought I was overjoyed and couldn’t hold back my happy tears. The truth was I wanted to run. I was making the biggest mistake in my life, but I had come too far to turn back.”
If you can’t keep your promises, don’t make’m.
*** If you would be so kind, please rate this post. I’m trying to track feedback in 2017. Thanks.