Experts on the subject claim that money, sex, and in-laws are not the only causes of marital discord. Another cause is too much closeness. Given the supposition that “tying the knot” was meant to secure this very thing, such an assertion may surprise us. As usual, however, there can be too much of a good thing. It is important for us to remember this as we face, increasingly, shrinking living spaces in our world. Ordinary life provides us with models exemplifying the benefits of a delicate balance of closeness and distance. Orchestral members tune up by playing the note given out by the concertmaster. In order to have music, however, they all play different notes. Even dissonance has a unique kind of harmony which could not be achieved without strict adherence to distinct tones. Without this tonal quality the resulting effect is flat, colorless, abrasive. Clearly, different notes played in unison enhance harmony and beauty. Again, those who design restaurants sometimes give diners the simultaneous experience of being close to those with whom they eat while being distanced from others by the creative use of plants or woodwork. Publishers of magazines and books often provide blank spaces, not only to break the monotony of continuous print, but to allow the reader time to reflect on what was just read or to give the eyes rest before moving on to the next chapter or article. The paradox of distance, difference, and contrast increasing the possibilities for closeness, intimacy, and harmony can be operative also in human relationships. Those whose desire for intimacy is too great might neglect to give others respectful distance and risk losing the very thing they want. We need to allow others time and space to discover themselves and bring to us their own uniqueness, or the end result will be a flat, colorless, or even abrasive family, community, or society. From time to time we might like to reflect on all those who have graced our lives with color and harmony different from our own or because they simply allowed us to be.
—Mary E. Penrose, OSB
|Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.|