I Never Promised You an Ecstasy Garden

Individual results may vary

Since we’ve been discussing some Mormon perspectives on conversion and personal revelation, I’ve got the perfect excuse to link to Daniel Siliman’s essay on Catholic conversion stories.  It’s very much a RTWT, but I’ll post an excerpt to whet your appetite. (Ok, it’s a long excerpt. I got carried away.)

My sense is, too, that while there’re certainly historic examples of Catholic conversion narratives, that this widespread popularity — that conversion narratives as a common Catholic practice — is new.

Catholics don’t traditionally need these narratives. If a Catholic is asked, are you a Catholic?, the answer — the evidence — isn’t normally going to be a conversion story, or an account of how one got that way. A Catholic might say, “I was born in the church,” or, “I’ve been baptized and confirmed,” or, “I go to mass regularly.”

The faith is understood as being, in a sense, not personal. It is an institution in which one participates, not something that is essentially about the individual or an internal reality for a single person. It’s not necessary to have searched for the church or to have found it. It’s enough it’s just there and that one just is Catholic.

…This is different, obviously, for evangelicals. The conversion story is essential to evangelicals.

The authenticity of one’s faith for them isn’t evidenced by facts, or participation in rituals, or a list somewhere. Instead, it’s evidenced most essentially by the evangelical’s testimony.

…To be a Christian, for an evangelical, it’s essential that one have made a decision — there has to be this moment of choice. The evidence for that is a story, in this very specific genre of conversion narrative.

There’s a long, long tradition of conversion narratives in evangelicalism — there’s maybe even an argument that it’s these narratives that bind evangelicalism into a single whole, absent any kind of magasterium. The genre of narativizing one’s own life as a story of searching, running, fleeing, feeling and finding God is central to what evangelicalism is.

Nevertheless, it appears that it’s now pretty popular with Catholics. There’re now enough Catholic conversion narratives out there that, even if it’s still not necessary for a Catholic to have this kind of a story ready and rehearsed for a spontaneous delivery, there really is a sub-genre of conversion narratives that are specifically and uniquely Catholic.

There are two questions, then, that arise from the adoption of this genre of personal conversion story by contemporary Catholics:

1) What does this tell us about Catholicism today? Or: what is the felt need that these Catholic conversion narratives are responding to?

2) What does this tell us about about the genre itself?

Putting a very heavy emphasis on the conversion story and the moment of recognition seems a little like telling and retelling the story of how a couple met or the way they knew they wanted to get engaged.  It’s not that those moments aren’t interesting (I only read the NYT wedding announcements that include stories), and the thought processes can be instructive, but those moments aren’t the heart of the marriage.  They may have kicked it off, but the marriage itself isn’t an ancedote, it’s a process.

Thinking of relationships in terms of epiphany moments seems like it would get you stuck on the hedonic treadmill.  If your love is no longer as urgent feeling, if it’s not still giving you hits of revelation, maybe it’s not real love.  Maybe you’d be better off with a new person who promises new rushes and new moments of conviction.  It’s a bad model for romance or friendship, and I suspect it works out pretty badly when applied to philosophy as well.

Matt touched on this a little in a comment:

One of things I enjoy about Catholicism is that it’s not about feelings in the same way Evangelical denominations often are. It’s not necessarily a sign of your lack of holiness that you aren’t constantly in ecstasy, and the beauty of the sacraments is that grace is made concrete. There’s not the pressure to wonder about the silence of God as often happens in Calvinism. When it came out that Mother Theresa often did not feel the presence of God, understanding Catholics saw no fundamental issue, and mostly just thought this showed her faith to be all the stronger.

That said, you’d be sorely missing a core part of the Faith if you reduce all feelings and experience to “warm fuzzies,” and I believe that you’d be making a theological error to think that the truth of the Faith rests on some conception of reason seperable from emotions and experiences…

If my turning point was “Morality loves me,” my project is figuring out how to accept and return that love.  And it’s a lot more kludgy and tentative than the initial change was.

 

If you want to see a lot of examples of Catholic conversion genre, Why I’m Catholic has a big library of conversion stories.  I didn’t tend to find them persuasive when I was an atheist, though I thought a lot of the Protestant-to-Catholic stories looked like they’d patched errors.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Ted Seeber

    I notice that the huge majority of conversion stories in Catholicism- come from evangelical converts.

    I think the main reason for this is that Catholicism, unlike evangelical Protestantism, doesn’t accept Once Saved Always Saved. We accept the idea of lifelong conversion instead. Every minute of every day that you are awake, you are faced with decisions, and with each decision, you can choose to convert towards God/Christ/whomever in virtue- or fall away in sin. It is only habitual falling away- consciously rejecting virtue- that will cause you to be lost forever- and even then only if you *reject* the chance to continue your conversion after death in purgatory.

    From that standpoint, the Catholic God is almost as bad as a timeshare resort salesman- who won’t take any answer other than yes.

    • Niemand

      It is only habitual falling away- consciously rejecting virtue- that will cause you to be lost forever- and even then only if you *reject* the chance to continue your conversion after death in purgatory.

      Interesting. I’ve read a couple of SF/F stories that have characters redeeming themselves in Hell and ending up eventually heading off to Heaven (or, in one case, staying to help others), but I had no idea this was even remotely close to accepted theology for any religion.

      • Ted Seeber

        I recommend (especially if you enjoy science fiction) CS Lewis’s _The Great Divorce_, which is an exploration of the Theology of Purgatory in exactly those terms (a bunch of people taking a bus holiday from Hell to Heaven- and if they fail to get back on the bus at the end of the day, then it simply wasn’t hell for them, but only purgatory).

        In Dante’s La Divina Comedia, Purgatory was Hawaii (which is a really interesting analogy considering that in the 1300s, when he wrote it, the Italians had no idea of the existence of Hawaii). To get there, his angels took him through the fire pits of Gehenna outside Jerusalem, straight down through the bowels of the Earth, and out the other side. He then had to climb the volcano with all the praying people in conversion to get to Heaven.

        Pope John Paul II, in the last years of his life, was given a great vision of Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell that he delivered in his Wednesday addresses in 1999. In his vision, they’re not places- they’re states of mind, states of conversion; and completely reachable without dying first. The difference? Heaven and Hell are so overwhelming that they become permanent- and for most people, this life is really more like Purgatory, learning as we go. A few saints reach the ecstasy of heaven before they leave this life; and we’ve all met people who seem to be stuck in hell long before they leave this life, addicted so much to some sin that it takes over their lives completely and they cannot escape.

        We can still, though, since we don’t know for sure, have the hope that all will eventually reach Heaven, and that aside from the fallen angels, Hell is empty.

        Now that you say what you said above, it occurs to me that this might be part of Leah’s conversion story as well; Leah, did the doctrine of Purgatory play any role in your decision to study Catholicism?

        • Niemand

          Why not the fallen angels too? Can’t angels repent and be saved? (Sorry if that’s a dumb question.)

          • Ted Seeber

            It’s a bit of a dumb question, because Angels are not Human Beings, and do not, in our mythology, actually possess free will.

            The fallen angels, in the mythology (which, BTW, is identical to Judaism) are why Hell exists in the first place- they are the ones who tried to take free will from God by force and by rebellion, out of supposed jealousy. Hell is an example of God’s Mercy- that any created being who is so deophobic as to be incapable of being in the presence of God, has a place to go.

            So basically, Hell was created for the fallen angels, and if they could choose to accept God’s mercy, they would have already and Hell itself would not have a reason to exist.

          • Niemand

            But…how do you rebel without free will?

          • Ted Seeber

            That’s a whole submyth and area of investigation in theology, in and of itself. Nobody ever said that theology did not contain paradox.

            You can start at the wikipedia article on the subject:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallen_angel

          • http://ereadingromanticism.wordpress.com Bernadette

            Not a dumb question; to the contrary, it’s a question that’s been of interest to theologians for a really, really long time. In fact, Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD) held that not only the fallen angels but even the Devil would eventually be saved.

      • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

        Interesting. I’ve read a couple of SF/F stories that have characters redeeming themselves in Hell and ending up eventually heading off to Heaven (or, in one case, staying to help others),

        Somebody’s been reading Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle :) I loved those books — those came closer than anything else ever has to persuading me that there could be a point to hell.

  • Joshua Gonnerman

    “I notice that the huge majority of conversion stories in Catholicism- come from evangelical converts.”

    This seems to be the case, and so it can be seen as an element of Protestant influence on contemporary anglophonic Catholicism.

    But there is a significant difference; Catholic conversion narratives tend to focus on “Why do I believe Catholicism is true? How did I come to see the Error of my Protestant Ways, and believe in the One True Church?” There might be something about a grandmother’s rosary, or walking into a Catholic Church and being comforted by the red light, but it’s usually not the focus. As such, they are much more a subset of apologetic literature than are evangelical conversion narratives, which tend to focus more on “What has God done in my life? What messy, ugly Dump of Sin and/or Sadness did I used to wallow in, and how did God lift me up out of it?”

    Compare, of course, the greatest of all conversion narratives, St. Augustine’s Confessions, where the prime moments are a) the garden, where Augustine commits morally to live what he has believed for a long time, and b) baptism, where he is sacramentally incorporated into Christ.

  • JeseC

    I wonder if some of this isn’t also a pushback against the “cultural Catholic.” Many areas I know for a long time were plagued with poorly catechized Catholics, many of whom were baptized and confirmed in the Church but rarely attended it and had very little idea of the actual beliefs and teachings. Typically this sort of individual was a cradle Catholic. I think a lot of serious Catholics want to distance themselves from this by emphasizing a personal choice of some sort.

  • Stephen P.

    “Putting a very heavy emphasis on the conversion story and the moment of recognition seems a little like telling and retelling the story of how a couple met or the way they knew they wanted to get engaged. It’s not that those moments aren’t interesting (I only read the NYT wedding announcements that include stories), and the thought processes can be instructive, but those moments aren’t the heart of the marriage. They may have kicked it off, but the marriage itself isn’t an ancedote, it’s a process.”

    Very good, Leah. I dislike putting a heavy emphasis on “vocation stories” (be it priesthood, religious life, etc.) for very similar reasons.

    • Stephen P.

      Also, note how the theological divergence between Catholics and Evangelicals on questions of sanctification and justification- above and beyond cultural contingencies- quite naturally lends itself to differing perspectives on the role of conversion narratives.

    • grok87

      Yeah I too like the idea of faith as a journey or a process. Providentially it reminds me of one of my favorite pslams, from this mornings Morning prayer, psalm 84 (my favorite line is “in whose hearts are the roads to Zion”)
      http://divineoffice.org/

      How lovely is your dwelling place,Lord, God of hosts.

      My soul is longing and yearning, is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
      My heart and my soul ring out their joy to God, the living God.

      The sparrow herself finds a home and the swallow a nest for her brood;
      she lays her young by your altars, Lord of hosts, my king and my God.

      They are happy, who dwell in your house, for ever singing your praise.
      They are happy, whose strength is in you, in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.

      As they go through the Bitter Valley they make it a place of springs,
      the autumn rain covers it with blessings. They walk with ever growing strength,
      they will see the God of gods in Zion.

      cheers,

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

    I guess my traditions is strange. I was raised reformed protestant and we didn’t focus on conversion stories at all. Most were born and raised in the faith and hated protestants who asked, “When were you saved?”

    Becoming Catholic I read a ton of conversion stories. I love them. They don’t need to be about changing religions. They just need to be about sacrificing in pursuit of greater truth or goodness. Even when atheists do that I find it encouraging. Moving from being a functional atheist to being an explicit atheist is actually an encouraging story to me. It is being unafraid to examine the big questions of life.

    That is what disgusts me most about western culture. So many otherwise impressive people are cowards when it comes to asking what life really means. They are afraid such reflections might interfere with their fun. So when someone pursues the truth about the human person and dares to follow the evidence wherever it leads I have a great respect for that. Their stories inspire me.

    Stories have always been great motivators. Think of St Paul. His Road to Damacus story is in the New Testament 4 times. Once when it happens. Three more times when he tells this story to someone else. You get the idea that nobody talked to Paul very long without hearing that story. We don’t all have a story that powerful but if we do we need to share it. But Paul didn’t just tell his conversion story. He also talked about his thorn in the flesh and his episodes of torture and his visions of the 3rd heaven. Any story of an encounter with God might encourage another person. I know, they tend to also be quite personal and quite humiliating. But to a Christian humility is a virtue.

  • http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester Jeff Miller

    I wonder how much Patrick Madrid’s popular “Surprised by Truth” series had on this trend? Especially since the majority of the stories were Protestant converts where conversion stories were more common. There there is also The Journey Home on EWTN which is a conversion story in interview format.

    As for the usefulness of these Catholic conversion stories the audience is really not for those opposed to the faith, but to those on the journey where they can be helped with seeing other as having had the same doctrinal/personal struggles. The combination of apologetics and personal story is certainly appealing and the apologetics angle has been growing among Catholic laity which might also have some part of this trend.

    Though really the start of the genre could be linked to St. Augustine’s Confessions which really has all aspects of the conversion story from the apologetic to the personal, and the psychological aspects of conversion.

  • leper

    As a Catholic, I’ve listened and read conversion stories. I see the Holy Spirit yet again in action doing what He does.

    Because humans have rational, immortal souls, loving God is not primarily an emotional experience. However, I’m aware that some enjoy/suffer emotions in their encounters with God. Love is an act of the intellect and will (e.g., midnight feeding, changing diapers). Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14: 15)

  • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

    As I mentioned in my guest post, sometimes Mormons get tagged with the label of “nothing but emotion” due to out emphasis on conversion stories that, while often incorporating or carrying implicit within them careful study and reasoning, emphasize the spiritual confirmation of the pondering. One great example of a Mormon conversion story that is NOT like that was related by a Brazilian LDS leader ,Carlos A. Godoy, in a worldwide General Conference back in October 2008. ( https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/testimony-as-a-process?lang=eng ) It really had a big impact on me because I’ve personally never identified with the typical LDS conversion story that resembles the Evangelical moment of “being saved.”

    However, just focusing on Mormon conversion stories would occlude much of the LDS experience that makes one recognize that being Mormon isn’t intended to be a spiritual hedonic treadmill. While people might derive strength from past spiritual witnesses, there’s a lot of relatively boring activity; people joke that the fourteenth Mormon Article of Faith should be “We believe in meetings-all that have been scheduled, all that now are scheduled, and we believe that there yet will be many more great and important meetings. We have endured many meetings and hope to be able to endure all meetings. If there is a meeting, we seek after it.” Beyond that, people often convert with only enough of a witness to propel their conversion. Only later might many gain testimonies of the dietary code, tithing, the ordinances of the temples, or the operations of church bureaucracy. It’s a matter of constant growth and development.

  • http://www.whyimcatholic.com Steven Lawson

    Leah,
    I think a conversion stories have their place because they speak to the human heart in a special way. Pretty much all conversion stories speak of an individual sensing that there must be “more” out there, whether that means goodness, truth or beauty. I believe this is a common experience many can relate to. There is something very authentic about someone explaining their journey in a humble way. When I share something intimate about myself with another, it helps them to let their guard down and to open themselves to what I have to say.

    Furthermore, in my experience one’s immediate conversion is often a matter of the heart and of the mind. Apologetics can convince but rarely can they motivate and inspire like narrative. When I started Why I’m Catholic it was a fruit of prayer and I didn’t really know what role it would serve. Although conversions have resulted from the site I think the biggest graces have been in affirming those who are discouraged and helping to engage disengaged Catholics.

    Out of curiosity Leah, now that you’re on the “inside” as it were, what do you think is the best way to spread the faith of the Church? I think in many ways we fail at a Church to evangelize and I would love to hear your thoughts on effective ways to evangelize given your background.

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m eager to see what Leah says in response to this question- but I bet it’ll have something to do with the reason side rather than the faith side. You can’t actually spread faith; you can plant little seeds of reason that grow into faith with help from the Holy Spirit. I find quite often as a bit of an internet evangelist, and even what little evangelizing I’ve done in real life, that sometimes you have to be satisfied with never hearing the end of the conversion story and only being a part of the beginning.

    • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

      I think conversion stories have their place because they speak to the human heart in a special way…an individual sensing that there must be “more” out there, whether that means goodness, truth or beauty…one’s immediate conversion is often a matter of the heart and of the mind.

      Yes to all of that! Even as an atheist, I’m intrigued by conversion stories precisely because of this. I think it also speaks to our sense that the journey is more important than the destination. A conversion story is about a journey, a search, a quest (for the Holy Grail?); once you’re there, it’s somehow not quite as enchanting a tale (for the listener, that is).

      It’s the classic narrative pattern of The Quest. The most enthralling narratives start with a disruption in the protagonist’s life — Frodo is given the ring, Harry finds out he’s a wizard, Katniss is picked for the Hunger Games — and we read the rest of the story eagerly to find out how the protagonist deals with this disruption. The ones I’ve cited are physical disruptions but it could just as easily be a psychological or philosophical one: a midlife crisis, a crisis of faith, an existential crisis. What’s exciting is following the hero as he deals with this thing that has turned his life upside down. Once they’ve done so (in this case, through conversion), we’re happy for them but our interest in their story also fades.

  • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

    I don’t see anything particularly wrong with Catholic conversion stories, but in a faith that practices infant baptism, they do seem a little kludgy.

  • Michael

    There are at least 3 fascinating aspects to this:

    1. The conversion story in Evangelicalism has at least implicit or vestigal roots in the actual history of Protestantism. It is an ideology of individual “conversion” that centres on personalities, who – ironically – get sublimated in the need to “relive” the Reformation experience of rebelling against a Church authority (and sadly getting stuck with a secular authority who couldn’t really care less – hence the nostalgia for the “beginning moment”?)…

    2. Catholicism has “conversion stories” – it’s just that they are subordinate to, you know, actual conversions. Name 10 A-list saints who didn’t have some sort of turning point – normally as adults! – that is comparable to an Evangelical conversion… but note: these are usually (terrifyingly) public, concrete, one might say exorbitant; quite the opposite of the subjective “conversion” one reads about (also from modern Catholic apologists)…

    3. At its base, the entire Gospel is a conversion story with lots and lots of protaginists. It’s the crucial point that’s missing though: conversion is *to Christ* and if He is not present here and now, we are just stuck with subjective / so-called “intellectual” conversions that don’t make great movies (or religion).

  • Owlmirror

      “If my turning point was “Morality loves me,” my project is figuring out how to accept and return that love.”

    I certainly hope that you will correct me if I am under a misapprehension, but do I correctly infer, from your phrasing, that you have decided that your category mistake — on par with “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” — cannot possibly be a mistake, and that pointing out that it is a mistake will have no effect on you whatsoever?

    • Ted Seeber

      It’s worse than that Owlmirror- in Leah’s world, and in fact the entire Catholic world of a billion human beings, it isn’t a mistake at all.

      It’s a matter of basic axioms. Leah’s basic axiom she is testing with her conversion is that Morality (and thus God) Loves Leah- that is, by following that morality, she can be a better Leah than by Not Following the Morality (and in fact, that the morality at least *seems* to want what is best for her to be her).

      I’m a bit less emotionally based and a bit more reason based in my faith- so I would say “For God So Loved the World that he Sent His Only Begotten Son, To Teach Us How to Be More Fully Human”, mixing of course Western and Eastern Philosophy (because that is what Catholicism really is- the synthesis of what is universally right and good for all human beings to be).

      This is a much different definition of the word Love than you have been previously aware of, so you doubt it. But the doubt is, in and of itself, good. Without doubt, we cannot grow.

      • Owlmirror

        It doesn’t matter if every single person in the world thinks that a mistake is not a mistake. It still remains a mistake.

        And thinking that because a lot of people think that a mistake is not a mistake that a mistake is not a mistake is itself a mistake.

        A category mistake is semantic nonsense. It no more makes sense to say that morality is a person who loves Leah than it does to say that the Pythagorean theorem is a person who loves Andrew Wiles.

        Morality cannot possibly be a person because morality is an abstraction that refers to rules that persons accept and follow (or fail to follow), or reject for various reasons.

        Your reformulation of John 3:16 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either, when some of the hidden assumptions are expanded out:
        “A putative invisible person with magical superpowers felt a particular emotion (which is called “love”, wth some putative new definition for the term) for “the world” [everyone in the world? All humans? All primates? All eukaryotes? All life?], so he had sex (obviously, the first thing one does when one “loves” “the world”) with a young girl (putatively a virgin, depending on the translation you like), who gave birth to a boy who became a man who did some magic tricks and, putatively, told some stories whose purpose, putatively, was to make humans more human, because humans were less human back then, and the only things that could possibly make humans that are less human more human are stories told by another human whose daddy happens to be an invisible person with magical superpowers.”

        Or something like that.

        Why am I not convinced that Catholics actually care about making sense?

        • Maiki

          or to rewrite without gross theological errors:

          “A putative invisible person with superpowers committed an act of will of self-giving called “love” for “the world” [I think the right answer is technically all "sentient" corporeal life, right now limited to humans, but might be revised], so he incarnated (made flesh out of nothing) in a young girl (putatively a virgin, depending on the translation you like), who gave birth to a boy who became a man who did some seemingly impossible acts and, putatively, told some stories and willingly died for the world, his death whose purpose, putatively, was to make humans more human, because humans were less human without this, and the only things that could possibly make humans that are less human more human is a life willingly given which is worth infinitely more because his daddy happens to be an invisible person with superpowers.”

          There, fixed it for you, hopefully retaining your skepticism. I don’t think the word “magic” adds anything, since it is imprecise, but other than that, clarified that by “love” it is meant the act of self-giving, not the desire for a beloved; that no where in the narrative is sex implied, but rather the act of creation; that what redeems a human being is Christ’s gift in death, not his moral teachings. You are correct that a human being mired in sin is “less than” their full potential — but not only back then, but even now.

          • Owlmirror

            But you removed my snark! My beautiful, lovely snark!

            The whole point of the word “magic” — in addition to the snark — is is to highlight that theology is not just imprecise, but also incoherent.

            If “begotten” means anything, it does not mean “flesh out of nothing”, except, perhaps, for the spermatozoon. Making magic spunk inside someone is not exactly the same thing as sex, so I will concede that there may be some slight distinction. So:

            [...] he made a magical sperm by magic (obviously, the first thing one does when one “loves” “the world”) inside a young girl [...]

            I also disagree that magic tricks are necessarily “seemingly impossible acts”, unless you concede that any prestidigitator who pulls a rabbit from a hat or saws someone in half does “seemingly impossible acts”. For example, all you need to “raise someone from the dead” are three (or four, counting the “magician”) good actors (one of them being preferably sickly-looking, and good at holding still), and maybe some rotten meat as an odiferous prop.

            The bit about moral teachings was Seeber’s modification, so you’ll have to take that up with him.

            And, finally, Jesus didn’t die, but was rather temporarily unconscious for about 40 hours (at a maximum). The whole point of death is that humans don’t come back from it (brief heart failure or somewhat prolonged low metabolic state notwithstanding), and, even in the Christian myth, are not guaranteed a happy afterlife in heaven.

            I’m baffled how you think this putative period of unconsciousness is supposed to make humans more human. Is it by magic?

            [...] told some stories and was putatively unconcious for about 40 hours, this inconveniencing whose purpose, putatively, was to magially make humans more human, because humans were less human without this, and the only thing that could possibly make humans that are less human more human by magic is a magic temporary inconveniencing willingly made which is magically worth infinitely more because his daddy happens to be an invisible person with magical superpowers.”

            Can you define what “sin” means, by the way, since your “a human is less than their full potential” is dependent on that?

  • chchchili

    Why is this blog in the Atheism section? Seems kinda strange.

    • Ted Seeber

      Might be a glitch in Patheos 3.0- Leah started out in the atheism section before her recent conversion and is now in the Catholic Channel (possibly as well).

  • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

    Thinking of relationships in terms of epiphany moments seems like it would get you stuck on the hedonic treadmill. If your love is no longer as urgent feeling, if it’s not still giving you hits of revelation, maybe it’s not real love. Maybe you’d be better off with a new person who promises new rushes and new moments of conviction. It’s a bad model for romance or friendship, and I suspect it works out pretty badly when applied to philosophy as well.

    I have a good friend from college whose husband decided he didn’t want to be married on exactly this basis: He wasn’t ecstatically happy any more. You’re right, it’s a crappy model. So why are we so hooked on it? Why are we more interesting in the journey than the destination, in the quest than the fulfillment and the denouement? Why do fairy tales end with “and they lived happily ever after” rather than with “and then they argued over whether the toilet paper should go OVER or UNDER the roll and whose turn it was to feed the dog” ?


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