Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Losing Whitney - Essay by Chet Shupe
LOSING WHITNEY -
When first realizing the full implications of our expulsion from Eden, what angered me most was: How could I have possibly been born into a world that offers no access to a spiritual home−an extended family bonded by feelings. It isn’t just me that suffers. This world is wading in suffering as a consequence of having anchored our lives in money and law, instead of relationships based on soul-felt needs.
Regarding marriage, for the happily married, rejoice in your good fortune. The issue here is not to disparage the value of any relationship that works. If you are experiencing relational intimacy, you are clearly finding resolution to the needs of your souls. Nothing more can be asked of any relationship. On the other hand, our souls will never ask for less.
In view of the institutions’ many dimensions of failure, why do we continue to believe in marriage? Institutions provide the illusion of control. Having outlawed the human spirit—our authentic reference for order—by securing our lives in the law, illusions of control are all we have left. The more they fail, the more desperate we become for the control we hope they will provide. Do cults breakup because their “end of the world” predictions prove untrue? No. Having cut their ties with the “larger world,” we find a tighter knit group of believers than before. It is the same with institutions. Having cut our ties with the natural world, the more our institutions fail, the more we honor them with our devotion—this applies to all institutions, not just marriage.
I feel that if any other entity resulted in as many disappointments and outright failures, exemplified by emotional, sexual, and physical abuse, including death, as marriage, we would outlaw it before the sun rises the next morning. And yet we worship it. Why? As citizens, we have been trained by circumstances, words, and deeds, to secure our lives in money and law, not in relationships. As such, the institution of marriage, being legally based, is the only reference for family we have.
Most people agree that to know relational intimacy we must anchor our lives in relationships. But to do so requires that we trust the human spirit. The institution of marriage, like all institutions, is based on belief that the free spirit is not trustworthy. As such, not only do we continue to anchor our lives in money and law, but also suffer the spiritual insult of families based on legal arrangements, rather than on our need for relational intimacy.
As an engineer I was once assigned the task of determining why missile fuses coming off the production line were failing their final tests. The issue had gone unresolved for months, during which the factory kept tightening the specifications on the fuse’s subsystems hoping it would fix the problem. Instead of fixing it, this only compounded their problem. Not only did the unacceptable failure rate continue, but due to tightening of subsystem specs the fuses were becoming difficult to make, resulting in a production rate that had fallen to almost nothing. It didn’t take long to determine which subsystem caused the problem. More significantly, the problem was being caused by something for which they weren’t even testing. With the real problem under control, the subsystem specifications were loosened, production rates went back up, and the fuses performed as expected. The point is: To resolve problems, we must properly direct our effort. If institutions indeed provide only the illusion of control, then we can put all the effort and devotion we can muster into making them work and it will result in nothing other than wasted time and resources, while the real issues continue to worsen. Misdirected effort digs holes. It does not solve problems.
This is exemplified by the loss of Whitney Houston early in 2012. She thrilled the world with her talent, her beauty, and her grace. As noted by family and friends at her funeral, she was as genuine and caring a person as can be. Yet, by the misdirected effort resulting from her devotion to what she had been taught about right and wrong since childhood, she threw herself into making a relationship work that, due to no fault of her own, did not meet the needs of either her or her husband’s soul, and it destroyed her.
It wasn’t just the relationship. Like us, she had no spiritual home, which gets a lot of people who attain fame into trouble. We like fame because, in our world, fame means acceptance, which in our natural state is the basic requirement for survival. But finding acceptance by the members of a spiritual bond is a very different matter than being accepted by millions. There are many ways to relate to others with whom we are emotionally acquainted, and thus many avenues by which to feed one another’s souls. The only way to relate to millions, on the other hand, is to be perfect so as not to disappoint. There is food for the soul there also, but, needing to be perfect confronts us with issues that can drain our souls.
So here was this remarkable woman, burdened not only by a dysfunctional relationship, but also with concerns about whether she was good enough. As Kevin Costner testified at her funeral, “Yes, Whitney, you were good enough,” a remark that brought the congregation, in unison, to a standing ovation. The quality of her personhood wasn’t the problem. The issue was the circumstances of her life, circumstances that weigh on each of us, to a greater or lesser extent, as a result our being without spiritual homes.