Friday, February 11, 2011
Formality and Affection
“Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.” I Sam 29:41
David bowed down before his friend three times, with his face to the ground, after he found out what Jonathan had done for him. There was no reason for David to be so formal in his expression of gratitude to his friend; it was nonetheless necessary for him to do, considering Jonathan was still the son of Saul, and was the next in line to the throne.
Formality is necessary in all relationships, which is something we often neglect. Politeness is needed even if it’s not necessary. We Chinese often commend couples that treat each other with respect by telling them that they honor their spouses as if they were guests (相敬如賓.)
Don’t we sometimes treat our guests a lot better than we do our spouses? I am afraid so. I believe many marital problems can be avoided if we treat our spouses as if they are our honored guests. There is definitely a place for formality and decorum in all our intimate relationships.
What David did could have embarrassed Jonathan since he didn’t expect a gesture like that, but he appreciated it just the same and they were able to be more spontaneous in their expression of love to each other after all the formalities were out of the way. Formality is something that makes affection possible. Form and content are equally important in all relationships, for form defines a clear boundary for any given relationship by which unbridled affection should abide.
Even though they kissed each other and wept uncontrollably, what they were doing was still within the boundary of decorum since it was acceptable for male friends to do so during that age and no one would mistake male affection for something other than just that. It was common for Chinese girls to hold hands in public in my time and no one would have done a double take, but I rarely see that these days, which is a shame since we seem to have lost the freedom of showing affection to our friends physically.
Pure friendship among males seems to have become a lost art and we are a lot worse off without it. The form of this particular kind of love has become so vague that we abandon the precious content altogether for fear of being misunderstood or misconstrued. We can hardly keep ourselves from making a verdict when we see two men holding hands or kissing each other in public, can we?
A true friend who can find?
Perhaps we should restore the form of friendship before we can truly appreciate the content. There was not any pretence and constraint in David and Jonathan’s friendship, yet they did have formality and spontaneity. They were free to express their love and affection for each other and no one would be appalled by their lavishness in showing their love for another male or consider it weird. When the form is clearly defined, we can be liberal in storing up the contents.
- ► 2008 (46)