“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are placed in the preamble of the American constitution in the spirit of equality.
The spirit of this preamble has given a significant space to individual liberty unchallenged by any other creed of society.
Long before the advent of the Enlightenment, Aristotle valued individual liberty above social efficiency and power. The idea prevailed right from that point of time that happiness and liberty are individualistic, which was an attempt to extricate it from a communistic society.
Pursuit of this unlimited happiness and passion for individual liberty and life impaired the strong structure of society which has been built for ages. Social or political institutions evolved in due course, and were seen to recalibrate themselves to these new ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Out of many others, marriage is one of the most important and oldest social institutions to hold society and civilisation in order and growth. The building of love between two individuals has been the cornerstone of marriage.
Accordingly, the system of marriage has shifted to more of a bi-individual contract, away from the long practice of multi-parties contract.
Questions about marriage
Is marriage a contract between two personas, two bodies, or two minds? Is the objective of marriage to create a bond between two persons for building eternal love?
Is love a pre-condition for marriage, or does marriage end with love? Why does marriage break, or is there legal provisions both in human and divine law to allow separation?
An attempt to find answers to all these questions above may be useful to understand the meaning of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
German philosopher Schopenhauer wrote: “He who marries from love must live in sorrow.” He believed it was humanly impossible to be happy in a marriage made through love.
Thus, the objective of marriage is not to achieve happiness or build love or a relationship, which is an affair of the mind. Two minds need to unify in moods, thoughts, feelings, and spirit to achieve happiness or to build love.
But neither the soul nor the mind of two bodies can unify to generate similar thoughts or spirit. The aspirations created in two individuals before marriage to match in everything in the affairs of the mind is impracticable.
Love built between two persons is divine and can’t end in marriage only, which is a contract. But love is not the same. The love built through marriage is a by-product, not a predetermined condition or any provision in the contract.
What, then, is the objective of marriage? Marriage is a contract to help civilisational development, and hence works better if arranged through familial norms. Two families, getting together, can decide the best that could be produced by a contract of marriage and help advance the family lineage.
The contract they attain is essentially a legal approval by both families for two bodies to physically meet and procreate.
There is no provision in the contract to create “eternal” love. It leaves a space for failure, and hence it stipulates financial guarantees to the groom or bride based on the structure of the society.
Most of the world as a patriarchal society provides a vantage space to the male in the contract.
The equality of men and women is absent in the societal structure, which is a clear conflict with the preamble of the American constitution.
Aware of these constraints and of all provisions of the contract, he who marries through the familial arrangement doesn’t struggle much to face failure in dream or duration of the contract.
The chances of a broken heart and or losing the meaning of life are rare, since it is a contract between two bodies, not two hearts.
On a practical note, when two bodies meet, they don’t care how it makes two hearts feel; it cares whether the meeting is meaningful enough to procreate. He who marries under their own arrangements and has a heartbreak finds the pain much lower than the failure of a couple to produce the new generation.
The frustration of a childless couple is much higher than two hearts failing to hold the tempo of love promised before marriage.
The spirit of the American constitution has been largely misconstrued as the pursuit of individual right or equality, liberty, and happiness. Most of the world draws a sense of liberalism from the spirit of the American political contract written in a society which was divided between slaves and freed people.
Equality was meant between two distinct classes rather than between individuals or genders. The need for the family to build newer families is gradually waning due to this sense of individual happiness.
As a result, society is breaking into splinters and losing its age-old linear structure.
The institution of marriage is not only an arrangement between two persons, but also between two families.
The bi-individual marriage contract, as a popular choice, is putting two individuals left alone to decide to live life or leave each other all by themselves, keeping no role for the family. The idea of family as the lowest unit of political governance has diminished in many parts of the world due to the change of the status of the marriage contract.
The role that family plays to build values to contribute to making a stable society is under severe challenges.
Political governance is unable to fill the vacuum that the absence of the family has created.
Happiness is not something to be built and borne by two individuals only; rather all of society needs to extract the essence of it for its continued healthy growth.
A re-analysis must be taken on the institution of marriage and its purpose, which guarantees stability in society and growth of a happy civilisation, rather than two short-lasting happy individuals.
Brig Gen AF Jaglul Ahmed, ndc, psc is Commandant, the East Bengal Regimental Centre. He can be contacted at [email protected]