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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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As Bauman notes, 'Most of us, most of the time, are in two minds about that novelty of "bond-free living" - of relationships "with no strings attached". We covet them and fear them at the same time.' The flipside of freedom from ties rooted in social convention is a lack of guarantees, and a heightened consciouness of the risk involved in relationships. Bauman refers to the old idea that to love someone means giving a hostage to fortune, but what he goes on to describe is very different from Francis Bacon's famous and essentially pre-modern observation (borrowing in fact from the Latin poet Lucan): 'He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief'.
What Bauman means is not simply that the object of one's affections is vulnerable, and therefore a liability, but that in modernity the object of one's affections is also a subject. Loving a subject means 'making oneself dependent on another person endowed with a similar freedom to choose and the will to follow that choice - and so a person full of surprises, unpredictable.' That person's surprising choices can be painful. In the absence of the guarantees offered by tradition, the whole enterprise of commitment is fundamentally unilateral, and consequently precarious. Traditional marriage, in contrast, meant staying together 'through thick and thin' for the sake of convention rooted in practicality, rather than as a fully autonomous decision. Bourgeois marriage is, or was, emblematic of 'solid modernity', combining, never quite satisfactorily, traditional function with an ideal of free choice. That tension between practicality and romance is not resolved in 'liquid modernity', merely disenchanted.
Where subjectivity is unconstrained by tradition, then, it is instead inhibited by uncertainty. Dea Birkett argued recently in the Guardian: 'Falling in and out of love is unpredictable. Promising to love someone forever is a promise no honest person would make.' But this apparent hard-headed realism is really the flipside of sentimentality. Both attitudes abandon responsibility to the Fates, casting love as a mere subjective feeling rather than, as it might be, a rational determination.
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