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Ask Dr. Salvo

April 26, 1994

Dr. Salvo and Tim

Ask Dr. Salvo

Dear Dr. Salvo,

I do not know your marital status yet I feel you and all rational persons would agree with these comments on marriage. Marriage is a downer, a bummer, the pits.

One out of two marriages end in divorce. How long before nine out of ten? Marriage should be chunked into the dust bin of history as a failed and outmoded institution.

The rational person realizes that marriage is the end of one socially, intellectually, financially and every other way. Marriage is an expensive way to have free sex. Love dies, whether fulfilled or unfulfilled. It is impossible for a couple to be truly happy and permanently in love.

That a couple would stand before a minister and pledge eternal love is sheer madness. One may find true love on a honeymoon. Remember the movie The Heartbreak Kid. While the bride was forced to stay in the motel room due to severe sunburn, the groom found the love of his life poolside.

Marriage is absolutely contrary to nature, both because a man cannot help desiring many women and because in any case women become undesirable at age thirty. Exception, Dian Parkinson, forty-two years old and Anna Nicole Smith, thirty-eight years old.

What is needed? Sex clubs, where unattached individuals of whatever sexual orientation, hetero-homo-bi-tri sexual can meet with the understanding there would be no complications leading to marriage. Marriage leads to one conclusion, that human beings should not live together

Jesse Bailey
Birmingham, AL

Dear J.B.,

I feel morally certain you wrote this broadside for the express purpose of provoking Ellen Gilchrist. I hope you do and that she will sweetly correct your errors in a Cloud of Knowing. Once again you will fail to persuade one another of anything at all.

If to marry twice is the triumph of optimism over experience -- then does it follow that not to marry at all represents the victory of pessimism wedded to ignorance? Or should we say innocence?

Men complain that marriage was invented by women (or the devil), then add that it is purely an arrangement for the rearing of children. Put those two notions together and women begin to look smarter. Can you think of a better invention? Of course, like W.C. Fields, you may be saying who needs children anyway, e.g., "Any man who hates children and dogs can't be all bad."

J.B. (remember the Job play, J.B.?) I sometimes wonder if your initials are trying to enlighten us, to teach us that your perpetual misery and discontent are serious, perhaps cosmic.

I hope not. Job at least rejoiced when things were fat! How did you fall out with the Universe?

So, Ellen and I do not agree with your paragraphs 1, 3, and 5. However, we might agree with Paragraph 2, since some figures don't lie, but reserve some doubts about making free with the dust bin of history. Human judgment being so prone to err, it is well that the process of natural selection will tidy up with marriage. But, so far it hasn't tossed it, so marriage must then have survival selection value. So far.

Paragraph 3 leads me to suspect that two experiences have passed you by: Being close friends with a woman. Being "in love" during courtship and early marriage -- but learning to love someone over the years. A slow process, demanding effort by both partners. Paragraph 4 has a lot of truth in it. Perhaps the poor confused young couple should merely promise "I will love X as well as I can for as long as I can." Even that is a sizable commitment, since one cannot force oneself to love another.

Paragraph 4 "The great -- frantic -- inseminator," owner of all females in sight, etc. is indeed the male animal in the state of nature. But nearly everything we rejoice in and celebrate in any culture is contrary to nature -- starting with gastronomy, viniculture, architecture, the weaving and sewing of fine garments. Nature needs our help.

As to the sex clubs, they are already here, but perhaps not so frenetic since the advent of some serious, and one fatal venereal disease. Back to your suggestions for society to provide for sexual expression without marriage, it does appear at this stage of our ignorance that AIDS is best prevented by marriage, or a sexual relation of connubial fidelity; or abstinence. Our society has just begun to perceive this truth.

Well, J.B., your letters never fail to start some hares, which I won't hunt down every one. Let them gambol over this Gromboolian Plain till Ellen Gilchrist picks them off. Who are these estimable ladies Dian and Anna, whose charm and constancy have somehow survived your misogyny and given you hope?!?


P.S. Some sage remarked that life is lived forward, but understood backward. That is true of marriage. Here is a merry jingle to comfort you in your angst.

"Our forebears (thanks to good King James)
Talked funny. They had oddish names
They fell in love, succumbed to lust,
And trampled strangers in the dust
They suffered flood and fire and drought
A few of them remained devout
Their lives were jolly, vapid, grim,
According to Jehovah's whim
How little things have changed since then!
Whose fault that is, God knows. Amen.

by Jeanne Steig

Dear Salvo,

In the tragedy of the tornado that struck Piedmont, Alabama, the sound of yeh-yehs have arisen once more from the mouths of the righteous whose sole purpose in life seems to be to keep the rest of us from enjoying life. Heavy and imponderable discourse was in last Sabbath's newspaper suggesting that the tornado was, or was not, the wrath of God. It was, or was not, a predictable outcome of the interaction of updrafts, down drafts, raindrops and dust specks that bowed to the pressure of heat, vacuums and other powers including the sun that make up weather.

The cruelest cut of all from the fundamentalist right was the suggestion that the United Methodist Church was struck by the tornado as God's vengeance for their having a woman as their pastor!

I believe that God had everything to do with the tornado but not for such vengeful intent as these Righteous impute. Does it bring joy to the hearts of these naysayers to know that God took out his punishment on children as well "for of such is the kingdom of heaven?" And what had pissed God off so that he also used the wind to kill off all the non-religious people who died in the terrible winds of that day? They didn't have a woman pastor! What a despotic God these people must worship. Perhaps they will be blessed to live with him forever, enraptured with his obsession with maleness.

Of course God is responsible for the tornado just as he assumed responsibility for everything else when he decided to create a universe. If you want blame, lay it at his feet, not on the head of a battered woman pastor who trusts that Creator even though her heart is wounded by the death of her child in that tornado.

It's time to expose the religious conspiracy against women that's maintained the fragile ego of males through Jewry and Christianity for so many centuries. First, "man" created in the image of God is, according to the Book of Genesis, both male and female. The conjecture that because the male is superior because he was made first is empty. God made "man" both male and female. "Adam" means mankind, not "male."

But, the blame placed upon Eve for instigating sin is as hollow.

Eve got a bum rap. If Adam had been a real person, we would regard him as a first class wimp. He had neither the guts to test out God's threat nor any control over Eve. Eve was the risk-taker in this drama. When asked why he had eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam copped out and told God that the woman that God gave Adam was responsible. Adam blamed Eve and God for making Eve with such power as to overwhelm his fragile will. Do we see a trend developing?

Eve, of course, not wanting the whole wrath of God on her head, passed on the responsibility to the serpent, the wisest of all creatures (but not wise enough to have avoided a set-up to do God's dirty work). He probably slithered off into the woods muttering that was the last time he would try to stir up a little division into the world.

Then, perhaps the "wisest of all creatures" had the wisdom to sense what God was up to and so facilitated the so-called "Fall of Man."

But, let's review this primal scenario and scrutinize the ill-fated couple upon whom most of western religious thought has hung the responsibility for the sins of the whole world. We'll see that it was a set-up from the beginning.

God must have known what he was doing when he created a man with a flaw, one that made him unable to resist temptation. Then, if God was serious about not wanting Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, why create such a tree in the first place?

The final twist in the setting up of Adam and Eve comes sauntering into the Garden in the form of the serpent. God then goes fishing while this scoundrel is turned loose to do his tempting. Think now! How many earthly fathers would go off and leave his innocent children alone in the park when a dirty ol' man with a box full of chocolates is lurking close by. Then, he comes back later acting shocked and dismayed that each of the characters fell for the plot. Instead of rushing the kids off to the doctor to see if they are injured, he punishes them for their failure to resist the wiles of a grown man with years of expertise in his trade. And, there's no second chance for anyone.

Hey! This couple was innocent before God planted the tree, made his threats, created the snake, wandered off and let the snake have his way then raised hell when everybody does what they were set up to do.

Eve got a bum rap. She's been blamed for bringing about all the ills of the earth (at least Pandora is now off the hook). So, if she's to blame for all the woes of the world, then the rest of us are off scot free. No wonder the males wanted to keep the females off balance.

Had not Eve screwed up the courage to taste the fruit in the face of God's ominous warnings, then where, brother, would you and I be today?

I hope the lady preacher stays in Piedmont. I hope the members of that Church will pray, as I do, for Light to shine upon the dark hearts of them that accuse God of willingly inflicting such violence upon people for such a frivolous motive. Men preachers and men laymen must be very insecure to be so threatened by the faith of a courageous lady who never even questioned God about the tornado.

I have some thoughts about the quandary of the origin of tragedies and misfortunes in this life. First, it wasn't Eve's doing as I've shown. Then, there is the realization that God made an imperfect world because perfection would be an infinity of boredom. God and we needed somewhere to go in order to become what we may.

Then, Jesus of Nazareth (who is reputed to know a little of God's mind) once encountered a man born blind. His (male) disciples asked who had sinned that this man was born blind, him or his parents? Funny thing, but Jesus didn't blame Adam and Eve. In fact, he didn't blame anyone. Rather, he said, "This is a chance to show God's grace" and so he healed the man.

Fixing blame for tragedy may help law enforcement and insurance companies. For the rest of us, it is a chance to show God's grace by doing something about the problem. If the righteous people gotta blame someone for tragedies, blame God. He/She can take it. Then, having established the upper hand, they can instruct Him/Her in how to properly run a universe.


Dear Metatarsus,

Your letter about the recent tornado deaths and the hazards of hiring lady preachers was quite thought provoking. Why, only an archaeological eye-blink ago, if we may believe Robert Graves in The White Goddess -- major deities were female and so were priests. That is gods and priests of power and prestige. The world got along on that basis for a few thousand years without any signals of God's wrath. The paternalistic gods were apparently not top-hole until some vague period of say five or six hundred B.C. The masculine deities graciously -- and in politic wisdom -- often allowed female deities an honored place in the new pantheon. Many female saints were included in several of the Eastern and Near-Eastern religions. In fact, quite a few ancient pagan goddesses took on new life with their same (now Christian) birthday celebration at their original shrines.

Throughout all this shuffling and miscegynation (new word) over the centuries, God evinced no unusual rancor. An occasional cataclysm such as plagues, floods, earthquakes and famines -- all these were regarded by the good natured faithful as "yer got ter tyke the rough with the smooth, Mite!" Nobody blamed God or felt singled out for chastisement by way of blowing down a church in a tiny country town. The question you address in your first page would have been answered over the ages just as you did, given the sufficient leisure, reading, and thinking. The folks who make life so hard are those without these advantages, who "know the answer" with ease, having never struggled to think them through.

I enjoyed very much your sprightly version of Adam and Eve, God and the Serpent, and find very little with which to take issue. It was indeed a Divine Sting operation. Every character's actions were pre-programmed, as was the predestined penalties. I felt some sympathy for the Serpent, who had no fingers to point at Adam and Eve in the classic Nixon X of the forefingers. So, the buck stopped on him.

As you point out "good vs. evil" were already set forth by God's instruction against tinkering with the Tree-of-the-Knowledge-of-good-and-Evil. However, in my family it is considered dangerous to tell a child not to put a marble up his nose!

Somewhere there is a floating file in the old Salvo papers, containing various references to a theme labeled "Bad Bargains With Big Daddy." In that file are references and quotes from such varied works as Cat On A Hot Tin Roof; King Lear; Abraham & Isaac; the prodigal son; Adam & Eve; The Book of Job; Jesus, Judas, Pilate and God, and others. What ties these stories together is what a frenchman would call the "scandale" of God's behavior, or that of power figures in godlike roles.

Job, in particular, suggests a God so capricious and shallow, so disloyal, as to strike a playful wager with Satan, for the body and soul of Job, a blameless man. To what end? To inflict awful torments on Job to prove how much Job will persist in his love and loyalty toward God? Or to overwhelm us with the knowledge that our human values are matters of indifference to God, and are even irrelevant in the Divine scheme.

Some physicists and astronomers have a tidy way of viewing such an absurd world as this. They say that God make some things phenomena, constant and predictable -- others he left up to chance. Others still, man could decide for himself.

Those who criticize the implicit deopathology in Job can crawfish out of the trouble by saying the "story is not meant literally -- but it shows you how absurd it is to blame the absurd misfortunes of the world on Him." Some critics say, "Why this inordinate need, on God's part, to have ocular proof that Man loves Him and how can God be so needy?" One could adopt the position that Man, plus Chance, plus Choice are placed in the Universe as God's insurance against eternal monotony.

Well, Metatarsus, you gave us all a ride to shake up the 1012 nerve cells in our curious brains. Or was it 1210? Add 13 trillion synapses and that gives us some notion of the game we're playing. The game we are only beginning to play in the Universe. Crank us up again sometimes soon!


April 26, 1994

The Harbinger