Thursday, October 23, 2008

Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Jane Austin.

After seeing a movie based on the novel, I was inspired to read Persuasion. I read it several years ago, but had forgotten most of the details. I finished it today and a few of the quotes struck me, got me to thinking and even laughing.

There is hardly any personal defect which an agreeable manner might not eventually reconcile one to.

This makes me chuckle. My translation: If you don't want to marry a guy with bad teeth, don't date a guy with bad teeth. You are bound to find plenty of things that you like about him and begin overlooking the teeth.
No. Really. If we like someone enough, physical "defects" don't matter a bit. And, if someone else is offensive enough, their good looks don't amount to a thing.
How often have women dated jerks to end up surprised to find themselves married to a jerk? In our culture, at least, it is very unlikely that any woman would have to marry a man she doesn't love. And it is even less likely that a woman would fall in love with a man she hasn't spent a good amount of time with...
I'm not dating, obviously, but this principle did apply to me once and could apply still. My husband was not my ideal in looks. (He's heard this before and just rolls his eyes). But, as soon as I knew his character, my heart was his and I wanted nothing but to be close to him. I thought I was more attracted to other men, to begin with, but then they'd open their mouths and that was usually the beginning of the end of it. And, realizing now that I am married, I will most likely never cheat on my husband or even be tempted to if I don't have friendships with other men, I maintain very guarded relationships with members of the opposite sex. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude how “these things” happen, you know.

A persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favor of happiness as a very resolute character.

This quotation comforted me and mended my still-wounded spirit over an unhealthy friendship from my past. A person I loved treated me with contempt for being a “push over,” considering me “weak” because I was “too easily persuaded.” But, at the very same time, on different subjects, that person also considered me “too narrow minded” or “legalistic.” I was never able to reconcile how the same person could have such conflicting opinions about my character. But, elsewhere in the book, there was another quote that helped answer this for me.

One man's way of doing things may be as good as another, but one always prefers his way best.

It's trite, but that friend of mine should have just “agreed to let me to disagree.” But, since I didn't have the freedom to differ in anything, really, I realize now that person just resorted to spirit-crushing tactics and pure meanness.
It is best not to think too highly of ourselves. And we should hold most of our own opinions far enough away to review them from all sides. I try to grant my friends the freedom to do things their way, without condemning them for, in one thing, staying aligned with me, while in something else, after genuine thought and with clear conviction, changing their minds and holding a different opinion, even taking a different course of action.
Sometimes, though, it is just practical, if not absolutely critical, to agree, especially in relationships that require intimacy, constant cooperation and unity, like marriage, for example. "What fellowship does light have with darkness?" after all.

Austin uses the entire novel Persuasion, appropriately named, to explore the idea that people shouldn't be too weak in their convictions that they are swayed by just anyone nor too obstinate and proud to ever change their minds. Real virtue and wisdom are always found somewhere in between.

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