Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Little Irritants

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, July 14, 2017

The toilet lid is up.

The toilet seat is up.

The toothpaste cap is off.

The toothpaste tube is squeezed all over.

The toilet paper hangs off the back.

The toilet paper hangs off the front.

Dirty dishes remain in the kitchen sink overnight.

We are only as big as the smallest thing that irritates us.

Professor Dr. Robert Alter, PhD, professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in his 1984 book “The Art of Biblical Poetry” that a dialogue with “the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy” the sensuous joys of sexuality and the encouraging dialogue of friends occurs in Song of Solomon, the unmistakably erotic book in the Bible.

Feminist Biblical scholar Dr. Jo Cheryl Exum, PhD, Professor Emeritus at the University of Sheffield, England, in an expository entitled “Song of Songs” in the 2012 book “Women’s Bible Commentary,” wrote in part that, “We do not know whether or not the situation – love, one-to-one relationship – allowed a certain freedom from social constraints, or whether the genre (love poetry) of the social setting (private rather than public life) accounts for the Song’s unique portrayal of mutuality in love, but in any event, the Song testifies to a world-view that included a vision of romance in which importance was attached to mutual desire. Without the Song, we could be tempted to conclude from the rest of the Bible that desire was constructed as male and as dangerous, something to be repressed or controlled – as we see in the laws governing sexual relations, the advice of Proverbs to young men, and the “lessons” taught by the examples of heroes like Samson and David, led astray by their libidos.

“The Song looks at love and longing from both a woman’s and a man’s point of view, and it does so entirely by relying upon dialogue, so that we learn about love through what lovers say about it. The dialogue format creates the impression that we are overhearing the lovers as they speak, and observing their love unfold. The lover’s voices are in harmony; each desires the other and both rejoice in the pleasures of sexual intimacy.

“A third speaking voice belongs to the women of Jerusalem, a kind of women’s chorus, who function as an audience within the poem and whose participation in the lovers’ erotic encounters facilitates the reader’s participation.

“…love poetry, given its association with the domestic sphere, may have been a genre to which women made a special contribution.

“We are not in the world of real lovers or real events. The lovers are personae created by the poet, whose own voice we never hear. It is they who speak poem, and each other, into existence, and through whom the poet explores the nature of love. In this poetic world normal rules of time and space are suspended. Present, past, and future merge. The lovers effortlessly traverse a poetic landscape of palaces, gardens, cities, mountain ranges, wild places, cultivated vineyards, pastureland, and the vast step, but, for all the references to familiar and exotic places, where are they when they speak? Nowhere (that is, only on the page before us), and thus anywhere.

“Who is speaking in these verses? There are only three identifiable speaking voices in the poem, and there is no reason to post additional posit additional speakers. The voices are those of a man, a woman, and the women of Jerusalem (literally, “daughters of Jerusalem,” that is, the female inhabitants of Jerusalem). Although it is not clear in most English translations of the Song, it is usually easy to determine whether a man or a woman is speaking, because Hebrew uses different forms for masculine and feminine nouns, adjectives, verbs, pronouns, and pronoun suffixes. Are the voices we hear those of different women and men more of the same couple? It is not a question of either/or. The lovers are not identified with any particular people or historical time. Appearing simply as themselves (without identification) or in different guises (multiple identities as royalty or simple folk, as in these verses), they represent any and all lovers.

“The Song begins (and ends) with a woman’s voice. Not only is the attention the woman receives in the Song unique in the Bible; so too is her characterization, for there is no other female character in the Bible who we get to know so well through her intimate in innermost thoughts and feelings. She expresses her sexuality as freely as the man does. Without any introduction – out of nowhere, so to speak – the first words of the poem voice her desire (“let him kiss me” and present us with a love affair already in progress. There is no indication that the woman and man are married, although they are lovers, at least on the level of erotic suggestiveness or double entendre.”

In the second chapter of the Song of Songs, the bride’s friends (daughters of Jerusalem) exclaim, “Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!” (NLT)

The allegorical sense conveyed is that small things can ruin the abundant sweetness and pleasantness of love.

In a somewhat oblique manner, the Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Grapes” similarly supports that notion, by concluding with the renown “sour grapes” motif.

In relationships – whether romantic, collegial, familial, or otherwise – it’s only very rarely the case that “BIG THINGS” (such as catastrophe) cause deterioration of relationship. Rather, it’s more often the niggling little things that seemingly irritate us to no end, which eventually destroy the pleasantly edifying character of relationship.

Or as researchers Dr. Daniel Gilbert, PhD, et al, wrote in their 2004 paper entitled “The Peculiar Longevity of Things Not So Bad,“People rationalize divorces, demotions, and diseases, but not slow elevators and uninspired burgundies. The paradoxical consequence is that people may sometimes recover more quickly from truly distressing experiences than from slightly distressing ones.”

Why is that?

We don’t know with certainty, but one possible explanation is that continual exposure to an irritant drains our resources more so than an immensely catastrophic event. It’s like a small drip on a faucet; if it’s not repaired, eventually, it will significantly increase the water bill. Whereas with a burst pipe, even if the water loss is the same, the catastrophic event is quickly ameliorated and rapidly repaired in response to the event, where as the small faucet drip often continues.

Similarly, the old joke about the lazy hillbilly who refused to repair a hole in his ramshackle roof because it didn’t leak when it didn’t rain, is applicable here.

For whatever reason, we seem to be more emotionally prepared to “get it over with quickly” than to continually struggle through unpleasant events.

Again, we do not know exactly why, but we do know that “the little foxes spoil the grapes.”

That’s why it’s exceedingly important to acknowledge and to communicate about small things, and to talk about how things make you feel.

All interpersonal relationships – whether romantic, familial, neighborly, or collegial – in varying degrees, are predicated upon mutuality. And when one feels disrespected and ignores the feelings of another, it’s an immediate warning sign that should not be ignored.

No one can argue with how we feel.

And how we feel is based upon what we think.

If we fail to maintain open lines of communication with each other, and fail to honestly discuss what we think, and how we feel, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Such failure certainly won’t be instantaneous, but it will be eventually certain.

Communication is simply listening, and then sharing.

It’s a fairly simple formula: Treat people with respect instead of blaming or shaming them. Listen intently to what they have to say.


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