Either love or experiment

The Boomers divorced like mad and my generation grew up in the ruins. One response to the wreckage was a fear of marriage which made it seem reasonable to try a trial marriage first. What one called the trial marriage was unimportant (“moving in with each other”, “test drive” etc.) the logic of the relationship was trial marriage. But logic also decrees “trial marriage” a contradiction in terms: trials are incompatible with oaths and while marriage consists in an oath. Still, the desire “to know if it will work out” still remains. We want to be sure – why not do some research?

It’s one thing to figure out someone and get to know them, but what we’re talking about here crosses over a line into running trials and experiments. But the realities in question here – eros and/or friendship between persons – don’t respond well to experiments. There are very old stories* about the man who contrives a test of fidelity, but from the minute the story begins the audience or the reader can see the inevitable catastrophe. An experiment with the fidelity of another is itself an act of infidelity, since it requires making provision to deny exclusivity. The very act of trying to gain certainty about love by experimental trial negates the very love that the experiment seeks to be certain about.

What is here true on the natural level carries over into the supernatural, and has its supreme expression in the drama of Christ being tempted at the parapet of the temple. The devil is quite literally tempting Christ to confirm a hypothesis about God’s providence for his creatures, and Christ’s response to deny that the relationship between God and creatures is the sort of thing one tests. This is simply a corollary to the first commandment – for it is precisely because our relationship to God is to someone loved that it wholly excludes the sort of relationship we have to something we are experimenting on.


*My favorite version of the story is the one told in Don Quixote and Cosi Fan Tutte, though the story itself might be taken from Decameron. 


  1. PG said,

    May 9, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Yes! I have had almost this exact conversation several times in the last year. Othello is my personal favorite example. This is how faith works, both with God and with those around us. There is no faith without relationship, and relationship cannot be submitted to the sort of scrutiny scientific rigor would demand without vivisecting the very thing we wish to prove. This is also why “blind faith” is such an inept term, verging on oxymoronism. Faith has nothing to do with wishful thinking or stabs in the dark.

  2. May 10, 2013 at 7:51 am

    And if it’s taken from the Decameron, it probably came from elsewhere…

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