Monday, April 25, 2011

Zen and the Art of Boards Studying

This is not a lotus tree (but is near Lagunita @ Stanford)

I’ve long had a problem with higher education. We learn a bunch of stuff that will be forgotten and that is never used in real life. At one time, I knew how to calculate the size of a footing for a foundation that would be required to support a building. Now I don’t. Why did I learn that? To get a piece of paper that let me go on to get another piece of paper that will finally let me learn a skill that I might actually use.

We like to describe learning as a pyramid, and the specialties as the apex, depending on all the blocks below. But it’s perfectly obvious that most people forget most of what they learned in college. And the same, it seems, will happen in medical school. It really doesn’t matter to patients that you know that Glyceraldehyde-3-P becomes 1,3 bis-phosphoglycerate in the process of glycolysis. Though I have to know that to pass a test, it is not relevant to patients (if you doubt this, ask your doctor next time you see them what the next step in glycolysis is after G3P).

This has frustrated me. I like spending my time doing productive things, and learning random molecule names is as far from productive as I could imagine. Studying for the USMLE Step I Board exam has been rather frustrating because much of it is this sort of brain-hammering.

But then I had an epiphany. I wished it had come while I was sitting under a lotus tree, because that would have been much cooler than sitting on a brown couch. But unfortunately I was sitting on a brown couch. Maybe lotus trees were the brown couches of India until a prince had an epiphany under one of them, and then they got cool. Anyways, the epiphany was this: I don’t matter.

Now this bothered me, but I realized the truth of it. It made me remember all the things that I just read in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and what I remembered of Ecclesiastes. Everything we do is ultimately in vain; all of it is as useless as ‘grasping for the wind’. Solomon explains that no matter how rich a person gets, or how great a kingdom he builds, he’s going to die and others will inherit everything. His legacy will eventually die, and he will be forgotten given enough time. What is man, then? No better than a dog. Both will have about the same impact on the world.

In my mind, I previously had a bright white line dividing the ‘useful’ from the ‘useless’ activities. But I realized that this line was imaginary. My actions were on a line. Near zero were actions that lasted a short time and had no echoes. Then there were actions of varying significances spread from “Being a good doctor,” lasting a few years (right around 40 years of significance) to things that mattered long after I died, “Ending extreme poverty” (reaching maybe 400 years of significance; we’ll assume the Great Intergalactic Famine of the year 2412 brings my work to naught). But then zoom out a bit so that you can see all of recorded human history. My 400 years are barely visible. Zoom out to 100,000 years and the greatest thing I could hope to accomplish with my life is invisible.

From God’s perspective, my power and my achievements are nothing; they were accomplished with gifts given to me by Him, and He could do all I could and more with just a word. This realization should be humbling. My works, great or small, don’t matter; only He matters. Before the brilliance of God, my bright white line of usefulness cannot even be made out.

The practice of doing things that will not matter is useful in keeping this perspective. My pride is very tricky, and is often able to persuade me that I matter, and that my ‘significant’ works are ultimately significant in themselves. But not even my great pride can succeed in persuading me that my memorizing what comes after G3P has significance. In memorizing minutiae, I draw close to God in humility. In doing meaningless work, there is an emptying of the self. And this is freeing.

I discovered this physically last year when I started what I thought to be a futile labor: digging up a road. I would spend hours per week just digging, with no real hope that I’d accomplish anything. I just dug to dig. And there was a freedom in this humiliation.

I realized that menial labor, mental or physical, can teach a person humility. Such labor is a good habit to build, particularly for those inclined to pride. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Bearable Heaviness of Being (4 of 4)

Conclusion Thoughts "On the Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera

“Missions are stupid, Tereza. I have no mission. No one has. And it’s a terrific relief to realize you’re free, free of all missions.” 313

It would be a relief to be free of missions, because it would be a relief to be free of existence. Unfortunately, we’re not the sort of beings that can cede our existence. We exist. We are moral creatures. We have in our hearts images of justice and peace and love. Freedom comes not in abandonment of our nature. It comes by the right exercise of it. We live in a universe of laws. We do not gain freedom from gravity by ignoring it. We find freedom from gravity when we understand it, and how it can be overcome. It is only through mission that we can be free.

Kundera’s dichotomy between heaviness and lightness is a false one. We can have both. Indeed, we must have both. If we choose only heaviness, we are devoured by our destiny, pulled down from joyous life into dread duty, following a mission that is ultimately futile. If we choose lightness, though we gain joy, it is unbearable. A purposeless man is not a man; we float into the heavens like a mist and dissolve in insignificance. Indeed, Kundera commends us to be less like men and more like animals; the true hero of his story is Karenin the dog, who lives in a circle of repetition, ignorant of all heaviness, who dies a meaningless death like all the other characters.

But we are not dogs. Though they may be able to escape in blissful and ignorant lightness, we don’t have that option. We cannot escape the feeling that we have weight. It is also clear that we do not want to remain bound as if by chains to this world. So what are we to do? Let us follow after the first one to escape this dilemma. His great weight was carried off, into the sky, not like a feather, but with feathers. Christ’s weight was like that of a bird: it included the apparatus to be weightless. And so, if we are to remain humans, and if we are to escape death through falling or death through rising, we must follow Christ into the heavens.

Table of Contents:
Introduction - Part 1 of 4
Review - Part 2 of 4
Christ and Kundera - Part 3 of 4

Bonus XKCD Comic:
Randall of XKCD makes pretty much the same argument as Kundera

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Christ and Kundera (3 of 4)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being strikes me as a modern Ecclesiastes. Kundera, as far as I can tell, is saying what Solomon did: “Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry” (Ecc 8:15). Kundera, like Solomon, makes clear the futility of life and chides all our grasping at the wind. And, in a certain context, this is absolutely true.

But Solomon’s greater context is the Bible. After Solomon has searched out this life and found the only comfort in lightness, we see the incredible heaviness of Isaiah’s prophecies, of a city which will bring about the heavy ideas of global peace and justice. After Isaiah, we see in the visions of Daniel a stone made without hands, plummeting to earth and ending the futile Grand March of humanity, only to grow into a mountain that fills the whole earth, the Kingdom of Heaven. And then, as these images slip away as vain dreams, we hear the cry of a virgin in labor, and then the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord!”

And then all our notions of purpose and peace, holiness and profanity, lightness and heaviness are all throw into disarray. For all our neat categories, the man who comes blows up all our neat categories into tiny bits, and then begins to piece them back together again. He wasn’t clean. Sometimes he didn’t even wash his hands. Yet the greatest prophet of his age felt unworthy to unloose his sandal strap. He ate with sinners, he cavorted with prostitutes, he broke the law; yet no one could accuse him, and at his trial, he was acquitted.

From the time of his maturity, he had an absolutely clear mission. He lived with an urgency and purpose, under the eyes of his Father in heaven. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” To accomplish this mission, he suffered poverty, rejection and persecution. His work was not something that didn’t matter; he was perhaps the central figure of human history. From his lips came some of the heaviest sayings ever to be uttered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands hang all the law and the prophets.” Jesus was, in Kundera’s words, incredibly heavy.

But he didn’t seem to understand the contradiction between heaviness and lightness. Though he was undoubtedly among the most weighty characters in all of history, he was simultaneously also among the lightest. He proclaimed that, in his presence, his disciples ought to be joyful, like guests at a wedding. Unpleasant ritual would cease, and though all of that age fasted with downcast faces, his disciples never did. He spent a good deal of his time at parties, and at one, even provided the liquor. Though a prominent man and important mission-driven rabbi, he stopped teaching one day to play with some kids. It is not just furrow-browed churchmen who would quote him, but pot-smoking artists like Bob Marley. Like Bob later would, Jesus tells us “Don’t worry”: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof” (Mat 6:24).

Table of Contents:
Introduction - Part 1 of 4
Review - Part 2 of 4
Conclusion - Part 4 of 4

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera (2 of 4)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being has as its antithesis lightness and heaviness. Lightness is good, and heaviness is unbearable. But there is a mysterious pull to both of them. Some choose heaviness, and others lightness. What is heaviness, and what is lightness? They’re a mystery that take a whole book to describe. But as best I can, I will summarize. Lightness is that which has no ultimate meaning. Kundera associates lightness with freedom from duty and responsibility, and also of worry.

Heaviness, is the opposite. It is that which is eternal, which has significance. Ideals are heavy. Duty is heavy. Standing up against Communism is heavy. In perhaps my favorite motif of the book, Kundera uses a line from Beethoven to capture the sense of heaviness, “Es muss sein!” in German (“It must be!”). He even writes out the line of sheet music to go along with it (p32). This line is repeated whenever someone has to do something big or ‘important’.

Kundera’s characters each make ‘heavy’ or ‘light’ choices. But in the end, the last chapter shows the happiness that is gained by one who lives in lightness. I think the most powerful chapters, the final few, are in praise of the life of the protagonist’s dog. He glorifies animals because they can live life happy; they can live in a circle, with no ultimate duty, need to march forward. He explains, “That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition” (298).

Key Thematic Quotes:

“In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make.” 5

“For there is nothing heavier than compassion.” 31

“Only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.” 33

“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect some day to suffer vertigo.” 59

“That darkness was pure, perfect, thoughtless, visionless; that darkness was without end, without borders; that darkness was the infinite we each carry within us. (Yes, if you’re looking for infinity, just close your eyes!)… A man with closed eyes is a wreck of a man.” 95 (This was said of Franz, who was the one who sought a heavy life).

 “Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being.” 122

“His choice was not between playacting and action. His choice was between playacting and no action at all.” 268

“That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is longing for repetition” 298

My Favorite Quotes:

“Tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with.”11

“Ever since man has learned to give each part of the body a name, the body has given him less trouble. He has also learned that the soul is nothing more than the gray matter of the brain in action. The old duality of body and soul has become shrouded in scientific terminology, and we can laugh at it as merely an obsolete prejudice. But just make someone who has fallen in love listen to his stomach rumble, and the unity of body and soul, that lyrical illusion of the age of science, instantly fades away.” 40

“Sheets of paper covered with words pile up in archives sadder than cemeteries, because no one ever visits them, not even on All Souls’ Day. Culture is perishing in overproduction, in an avalanche of words, in the madness of quantity … a sea of words with no weight and no resemblance to life.” 103

 “Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate.”139

“Sometimes you make up your mind about something without knowing why, and your decision persists by the power of inertia. Every year it gets harder to change.” 308

Table of Contents:
Introduction - Part 1 of 4
Christ and Kundera - Part 3 of 4
Conclusion - Part 4 of 4

Going to Visit a Worldview (1 of 4)

I love invitations. When you are invited into someone's home, you enter in as a guest into the world of another. The kinds of invitations I like best are those which call me into the Weltanschauung or worldview of another. I have been inside Ayn Rand’s Temple to the Human Spirit, and admired it. Homer invited me to walk amongst the columns of the Greek mind, and I admired the manly virtues there. And of course, I myself live in a Cathedral, with lines pointing upwards and colored light illuminating the solid stone foundations set by the Bible.

I was recently invited into another world. I was invited to live in Czechoslovakia under the Soviet Union and to see the world through the eyes of an ironic Humanist. I read Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

Whenever you enter a new worldview, the first thing you do is notice the differences. Indeed, the differences are most instructive. They offer the sharpest criticisms of your own worldview, especially when they are fully understood. The flying buttresses are pretty, but one gains a much deeper appreciation of the architect when one understands they have structural purposes beyond their aesthetic ones.

But before I describe the worldview, I need to share my feeling after having emerged from it. The greatest thing I feel is relief. I know that this will be painful for my kindly host to hear (the person who recommended the book), but I must confess that I am happy to emerge from the stuffy and poorly-lit apartment. I have been, for the hours reading the book, without hope and without purpose. Coming from Cathedral of Christianity, these are things that I have grown quite accustomed to and miss terribly if I am without them. If I wanted to stay in my home worldview, I could have. But reading books is not always about maintaining creature comforts.

 It’s like visiting a family member in the New Jersey; the smell and lighting and noise of the place are all unpleasant, but that’s not why you’re there. The reason you’re there is to spend time with someone you love; you don’t go for the scenery. And I don’t always read books for the scenery; sometimes I read to visit my friends and to better understand their world. So though it has been unpleasant, it has been eminently worthwhile.

Table of Contents:
Review - Part 2 of 4
Christ and Kundera - Part 3 of 4
Conclusion - Part 4 of 4

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On Productive Discussion and Arena-Man

John Lennox at Stanford, April 4, 2011
I’ve been reflecting on modes of discussion and the need for discussion recently. It occurred to me, after nearly seeing the government shutdown, that we really don’t know how to argue anymore. A classmate made a political argument, and then apologized for making the argument when he realized that someone disagreed with him. In many realms, from the political to the religious, we’re incredibly insulated in our own worldview.

The best way to get un-insulated is to hear the views of others. Of course, you could always listen to lectures of people talk about their ideas, but I’ve found lectures on a topic far less interesting than a conversation. In particular, I’ve long enjoyed debate as a means of hearing out other people. It’s high-adrenaline, and it forces both sides to be concise, a thing that a long speech does not require.

The prototype debater on Christianity is William Lane Craig. Sam Harris in his debate with Craig on Friday, explained that Craig can “put the fear of God” into Atheists (Apologetics315 – Sam Harris v William Lane Craig Debate). And of course, seeing a fair-won intellectual victory gives heart to allies. Strategically, from a Christian perspective, both of these are very useful. I have long enjoyed watching him debate because he is a master at the craft: his rigorous logic, quick mind, and exhaustive practice make him a force to be reckoned with.

A second strategy is characterized by John Lennox. Lennox, unlike Craig, does not use arguments that are hard-hitting; he is not ruthless. Instead, he is a master at having real, meaningful conversation. He had a wonderful conversation a while ago with Richard Dawkins and last week with Daniel Lowenstein at UCLA (Veritas – “Christianity or the Tooth Fairy”). In these conversations, Lennox is able to listen to his discussant, and to engage the person in a way that I have never seen before.

Both of these strategies are instructive. A good debate is very valuable; a good discussion is priceless. And I this is where Arena-Man (the blog) comes in. I have always enjoyed the image of Roosevelt’s man in the arena (as you may have guessed from the Blog title). But it has recently occurred to me that though I like the image, this blog is not like an arena at all; it’s a pulpit. And though pulpits have their place, they’re not as good when they’re hogged. So that being said, I will start inviting people who disagree with me to present their views on Arena-Man, hoping to foster online debate, and God willing, even discussion.

We desperately need to recapture the spirit of collegiality and scholasticism; we must re-learn how to entertain and evaluate diverse views. I hope that this process can begin here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Critique: "Finding the Love of Your Life" by Neil Clark Warren

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Before I say anything by way of critique, I need to eat humble pie (though I do prefer rhubarb). Neil Clark Warren is possibly the most successful matchmaker in the history of the world. eHarmony was his brainchild, and it works. Warren’s ideas have caused many thousands of people to be happily married, and mine have not led to a single marriage of any kind, not even my own. Though I will disagree with him in some parts, it is not out of a lack of respect. eHarmony is the only new thing that I know of that has any claim on having improved marriage in America (excepting the Church, whose attendees have much lower divorce rates that non-attenders; but the Church is a few thousand years old).

Importance of Choosing

Unfortunately, I happen to disagree with his primary thesis. I do not believe that selection is the most important thing in a marriage. My evidence is that most humans for most of history (and billions today) have been in marriages they did not choose with someone who was selected with none of Warren’s criteria. Arranged marriages worked and are still working. One of the most important patriarchs in Warren's faith and mine is Isaac, who was married to a woman he never met, Rebecca, who was selected for him by his father’s servant. A theory of marriage needs to account for as much of the data as possible. And it seems to me that Warren’s fails to account for most of the data. If he were arguing that American marriages work thusly, he'd be on a lot stronger ground.

Nevertheless, I agree with nearly all his pillars of support, but I cannot make the final leap. It’s certainly good to have something in common with your partner. It’s good to be ‘healthy’. It’s good to have passionate and compassionate love (eros and agape) for your partner. But where I disagree is with the relative importance of commitment and selection. Commitment for Warren is one of his 9 chapters, while selection is what everything seems to be in support of. In my opinion, these should be switched. If they were, it would allow for success in arranged marriages, and it would give hope to people who have made a bad choice.

Marriage Determinism

Warren seems to have been heavily influenced by the ‘scientific evidence’ and, in my opinion, by the determinism that is often associated with men of science. As a philosophical critique, I strongly disagree with his statement, “Nevertheless, a careful observance of each of them will significantly increase your odds of a lasting and satisfying marriage” (163). The philosophy expressed here is that one’s satisfaction depends on external physical factors. This is exactly wrong on the Christian view. There are philosophies that would come to this conclusion, but Christianity is not one of them. Jesus was constantly saying, “My kingdom is not of this earth,” emphasizing that visible success on planet earth was not what counted. Paul writes from prison, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content” (Phl 4:11) and “Rejoice in the Lord alway: [and] again I say, Rejoice” (Phl 4:4). Medieval philosopher Peter Abelard continues this line of thought, and argues that even a malicious demon who put you into the Matrix (my translation of his ideas), could not ruin your happiness, because it was founded in Heaven, not earth. ‘Odds’ have nothing to do with it.

Good marriage is not necessarily ‘happy’ marriage. One’s satisfaction in marriage has nothing to do with the other partner. I would argue that the prophet Hosea was satisfied in his marriage, though he, by God’s command, married a prostitute who continued to cheat on him after marriage. Or consider God Himself, for whom Hosea was a physical example: God continues to love us and does not need to be loved in return. Consider God’s marriage to Israel by Warren’s criteria: He selected Israel not for any similarity He had with her, but simply because He chose her. Israel was not holy. Israel was not strong. Israel was not wise. Yet He chose Israel. Satisfaction comes not from being loved, but in loving others. This, I think, is one of the most profound things about marriage. It is never anything but an insane promise, an insane promise we’re supposed to keep. Warren asks, “Can you ever know enough at the beginning to commit yourself for a lifetime? This is a question that plagues me!” (136). As my pastor Scott Treadway once said, “I don’t care how long you’ve been dating, when you get married, you’re marrying a stranger.”

Marriage will never be a rational choice. There is far too much uncertainty. Warren’s suggestions indeed reduce this uncertainty and perhaps prepares people for what they will have to endure. But in the end, Warren redeems himself from the determinism of the rest of the book when he admits, “love is a decision.”

Scientific Evidence

To his credit, he cites sociological research on the subject. But to my disappointment, the evidence (by medical standards), is laughable. I recognize that it is not fair to apply the standards of one discipline onto another. But when words like ‘fact’ are used, that evokes the scientist in me. And the scientist in me thinks that a cross-sectional study of 51 middle-aged wives would barely even count as preliminary evidence, let alone something to base a conclusion on (9).

In medicine, we don’t believe anything until we have multiple confirmations from extremely powerful studies (large-scale, multi-site randomized control trials). Thousands of subjects need to be studied under extremely well-controlled circumstances. For drug trials, you need thousands of subjects, and the cost to control and carefully measure each subject is $50,000. And even then there is a huge amount of uncertainty (according to Ioannidis  at Stanford, less than a third of these studies are true (Ref 1)). I was very surprised to see so strong an assertion based on an incredibly weak study design on an extremely small number of people. But I’m not well-read in the psychological and relationship literature; perhaps this is a common thing to do in psychology research.

But weak evidence in support of a true idea does nothing to invalidate the idea. In fact, I happen to agree with most of the things he used surveys to prove. Perhaps it has been my time at Stanford that makes me eager to attack vulnerable-looking scientific claims.

Last Word

I disagree with his conclusion, with his deterministic attitude, with some of this evidence (and the tone with which he presents it). But the other 90% of the book I agree with. Each individual chapter is, by itself, probably true. And I’ll probably end up following most of it. By luck, I happen to be turning 26 this month, and if I found someone in the next two years, I’d be exactly in Warren’s marriage sweet spot (28-30). I don’t want to marry someone too young; and I don’t want to marry someone I just met; I don’t want to marry a crazy woman (Chapter 1 is full of good advice!). I want to find someone with similar values, with whom I can work together on shared goals, and who loves God with all her heart. I hope to talk through similarities and differences with my partner, and to work through or compromise on the differences and arguments. I will strive to be flexible, and I hope to find someone who is herself flexible. I think it’s important to be able to listen and discuss things dispassionately, while developing passionate romantic feelings toward her, and most importantly to have ‘compassionate’ agape love for her. All these things I agree with whole-heartedly.

I’m glad Warren wrote this book. It is a valiant attempt to improve marriage and is full of good advice. It has challenged my thinking, produced ~2000 words of my own though, which is pretty good for a little 150 page book. My own ideas on marriage have been crystallized a bit more though this challenge. Most importantly, he didn’t just write this book. He made this book a reality for thousands upon thousands of people. Thank you, Dr. Warren.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Review: "Finding the Love of Your Life" by Neil Clark Warren

I have long thought about how relationships are broken in America. Divorce rates are ridiculously high. Pretty much every one of my friends who’s been in a relationship has had their heart torn from their chest by a breakup or cheating. It is clear to me that we (America) are doing something wrong. And so I am always happy to hear out proposed solutions to our problems.

“Finding the Love of Your Life” by Dr. Warren proposes a solution. There are a billion relationship books out there, but this one is unique. Or at least its author is unique. After writing this book, Warren went on to use his principles to start the most successful marriage match-making site to date: 5% of US marriages are arranged by eHarmony. That’s 542 marriages PER DAY (Ref 1). So what does he say?


The big idea, as I read it, is that marriage is successful if the match is well-chosen. The book is well summarized by Warren’s statement on the back cover, “Here is a startling fact: The selection you make of a marriage partner may well have more to do with the quality of your marriage than everything you do after getting married.” Warren, a psychologist, relates his feelings about a couple who fell in love and wants to spend the rest of their lives together, “What? Do you know what ‘the rest of your lives’ means?” (9).

The first chapter talks about pitfalls of a partner: don’t marry too young (<28 years old), too quickly (<2 years of dating), with too much eagerness, with unrealistic expectations; don’t get married for someone else (i.e. a parent); don’t get married without seeing all of a person’s life; don’t marry someone with ‘personality problems.’

The later chapters mostly discuss criteria for mate selection. “Find a Person to Love Who Is a Lot Like You” (47) is a critical chapter, one on which eHarmony was largely built. He compares similarities to assets and differences to liabilities, “For couples, similarities are like money in the bank, and differences are like debts they owe” (49). In the last part of the chapter, he identifies 50 preferences ranging from heavy “Life goals” to superficial, “Temperature of home during the day and night,” and the more of these that are in common, the better (61).

 Some of the chapters are less-intuitively titled, but identify characteristics that are important for success in marriage. One characteristic, being “healthy,” is important for both partners; both partners need to have a sense of inner security, a respect for the truth, the ability to collect and weigh all the information, and then can make authentic decisions.

Warren argues that while dating, it’s important to develop passionate love (I think he’s talking about eros). It made me very happy when Warren quoted Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes to explain this kind of love: “First, your heart falls into your stomach and splashes your innards. All the moisture makes you sweat profusely. This condensation shorts the circuits of your brain, and you get all woozy. When your brain burns out altogether, your mouth disengages and you babble like a Cretin until she leaves” (79). He believes that sex itself should wait until marriage, but that the passion is essential before it. He then explains that you also need something else, ‘compassionate love’ to maintain the relationship when the passionate love wanes (I think he’s talking about agape here). You need “…a strong bond including tender attachment, enjoyment of the other’s company, and friendship” (92). They need to be selfless in their love for each other, but must recognize that this cannot involve losing one’s own self in the relationship. He also identifies skills in conflict resolution as important in successful marriage (115).

In chapter 9, Warren argues for the importance of marriage and commitment, “I am convinced that our society’s fundamental problem is the breakdown of the traditional family. And I’m further convinced that the family will never be structurally sound again until we begin to take seriously all that is involved in commitment” (132). Almost as if he lost a wrestling match with himself, he admits, “In the final analysis, and not without a major struggle within me, I believe that love is a decision. I admit that it is tough to have to exert willpower and determination to love someone,” and then brings this around to his thesis, “It is so much easier when love flows naturally.”

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