Girl Sitting on Wall, Homer

“Men and women, however, live together not only to procreate children but also to have whatever is needed for life. Indeed, from the beginning, family duties are distinct; some are proper to the husband, others to the wife. Thus mutual needs are provided for, when each contributes his own services to the common good.” Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Being different can be challenging. Even threatening.

Many voices are saying that we’re the same. And it is tempting to think that we are; or in any case to wish that it were so.

But experience keeps saying otherwise.

It is interesting how many things we can try to impose on ourselves: on our psyches, and even on our bodies. But nature will not have it. We can feel trapped, forced, even tricked. This isn’t the way it should be; this isn’t what I would have chosen.

But, it is the way it is. And then, lo, we find, sometimes only much later, that the way it is is better than the way we wanted it to be.

Men and women are different. And we need each other to discover and to be what we are called to be, in a dance of complementarity. The more we listen to what our very selves are saying to us, the more we see the truth—a truth of shocking, even grotesque, proportions. A truth we only really see if we’re willing to receive—receive a schema we never would have chosen, or even imagined. Until we experience it. Only a little bit at a time; from the inside. And we want to laugh out loud, in gratitude.

For we finally see why we had to endure all that: to come to this place, this vision. Together.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Nicomachean Ethics is his main moral treatise.

Image: Winslow Homer, Peach Blossoms

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

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John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.

7 COMMENTS

  1. “Complemntarian” doctrine assigns the interesting and creative virtues — intelligence, courage, initiative, leadership — only to men and leaves the shit ones – ‘nurturing, – to women. You get a grovelling devoted cheerleader and she gets to be a doormat.

    • Dear Karen:

      It’s too bad Professor Cuddeback used that loaded word “complementarity,” isn’t it? It’s unfortunate that it has been coopted by people who want to use it as a euphemism for “subordination of women.” What “complementarity” should mean is that men need women as judges, preachers, elders and deacons, CEOs, judges, and as teachers of men, as much as women need men, sometimes, to do those jobs. We need women’s wisdom, and we need to refrain from trying too hard to define how that might be different from “men’s wisdom.” This stuff shouldn’t even have to be said out loud anymore, but it does. Thanks for the admonition.
      Perhaps Professor had all this in the back of his mind even though he didn’t say it. I suspect that as a philosopher, he’s well aware of highly respected philosophers such as Hannah Arendt, Eleonore Stump, Nancey Murphy, Martha Nussbaum, and others.

  2. Yet another reminder that this male-female, husband-wife thing is far, FAR bigger than we are! It’s His design, not ours!

    Thanks!

  3. I note that the sacrament of marriage, that a man and woman shall become one flesh and bear fruit is a sacrament established before the Fall and the only one not directly or indirectly associated with sin or some redemptive humility. It is therein the most profound of the sacraments. I have a feminine side: my wife.

  4. Dear Karen:

    It’s too bad Professor Cuddeback used that loaded word “complementarity,” isn’t it? It’s unfortunate that it has been coopted by people who want to use it as a euphemism for “subordination of women.” What “complementarity” should mean is that men need women as judges, preachers, elders and deacons, CEOs, judges, and as teachers of men, as much as women need men, sometimes, to do those jobs. We need women’s wisdom, and we need to refrain from trying too hard to define how that might be different from “men’s wisdom.” This stuff shouldn’t even have to be said out loud anymore, but it does. Thanks for the admonition.

    • Thank you for that considerate and thoughtful response. As you say, we don’t need “women’s wisdom” or “men’s wisdom;” we need wisdom. Assigning a gender to wisdom diminishes it.

  5. ~~~“Complemntarian” doctrine assigns the interesting and creative virtues — intelligence, courage, initiative, leadership — only to men and leaves the shit ones – ‘nurturing, – to women. You get a grovelling devoted cheerleader and she gets to be a doormat.~~~

    Note that he didn’t use the term ‘complementarian,’ but ‘complementarity,’ a noun which should carry no ideological or ‘doctrinal’ weight. Rather than offloading your own biases onto a writer’s use of a term, you should at least make the attempt to read it properly and in context.

    “What ‘complementarity’ should mean is that men need women as judges, preachers, elders and deacons, CEOs, judges, and as teachers of men, as much as women need men, sometimes, to do those jobs.”

    Sounds more like ‘identity.’ If there are no differences complementarity is meaningless. A wrench and a bolt are complementary; two wrenches or two bolts, not so much.

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