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Love, Romance, and Women in ancient Africa

   Thu, June 3, 2010 - 2:04 AM

and why we aren't happy...?

"If happiness is defined in the context of society, then happiness becomes that feeling which an individual derives, from a given economic, political and cultural context, that he is in a position to make good his aspirations. "

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

We women are members of a culture and people who have been conquered and rendered powerless. Lack of power is all pervasive, it is not just a matter affecting material things but also spiritual things. We have trouble establishing and maintaining families, finding mates, finding love and what we believe is romance. Is there any wonder that we African women as a group are not happy?

But it wasn't always so.

Ancient Africa understood all that was positive and negative in love and romance. The Great God-Kings (Pharaohs) of the Nile Valley (Kemet, Kush, Cush) often built fabulous temples and tombs for their beloved as tangible symbols of their feelings for their Queens. The closest thing we have to such expressions in contemporary human society is the Taj Mahal in India.

Whereas the Taj Mahal is thought of as an astonishing exception in human relations, these kinds of expressions were fairly commonplace in the ancient dynasties of Africa. Love played a large part in the life of ancient Africans. Love poems written by workers to their beloved spoke of mundane everyday things as in this excerpt:

I'll go down to the water with you,
and come out to you carrying a red fish,
which is just right in my fingers.

While some love poems celebrated proletarian activities such as retrieving the best fish for your beloved others were classical examples of effusive worship of the beloved. Here are a few excerpts as examples of such poetry:

I wish I were your mirror
so that you always looked at me.
I wish I were your garment
so that you would always wear me.
I wish I were the water that washes
your body.

I wish I were the unguent, O woman,
that I could anoint you.

And the band around your breasts,
and the beads around your neck.
I wish I were your sandal
that you would wear me!

To hear your voice is pomegranate wine to me:

I draw life from hearing it.
Could I see you with every glance,
It would be better for me
to eat and to drink.

Women in ancient Africa, because the majority of the societies were essentially communal and matriarchal, had more influence and control of their romantic and family lives. Even in dynastic Nile Valley societies the spiritual beliefs of the society - that is the absolute requirement to meet the needs and concerns of the individual citizen of the society -- tended to empower the women generally.

Let us not forget that the musicians who played the music that accompanied much of the poetry were mostly women. Frequently the women were the author of such poetry dedicated to their beloved men.

This status of the woman was also reflected in the central role of such Goddesses as Isis, Hathor and others (here we are using the Greek names for these goddesses as they are most familiar to most people in modern society).

One of the most famous spiritual rite of Nile Valley society was the "Festival of the Great Meeting". This celebrated the annual reunion between Hathor and her husband. The Kemetic people celebrated with singing, dancing, fine dining and sacred drink (generally wine).
To get a feel for the spirit of the African peoples' celebration of love and life let us look at this poetic excerpt.

So seize the day! hold holiday!
Be unwearied, unceasing, alive
you and your own true love;

Let not the heart be troubled during your sojourn on Earth,
but seize the day as it passes!

So, clearly we have a grand and worthy history of love.Recently a very positive piece has been circulated around the web, it read


"Good Black Men are indeed all around us. We pass them on the streets, in the malls and the halls at work. Most we can't see because we don't know what a good man really looks like. He usually isn't flashy enough or rich enough to turn our heads. He might not wear a suit or push a Lexus. He might not have a body like Tyson with a Denzel face. But, as you mature; you realize it's better to find someone who's got your back rather than someone who turns your head.

"A good man doesn't agree wholeheartedly with everything you say. He doesn't just tell you what you want to hear and do the opposite. He doesn't declare how sensitive, sweet, caring, sincere, yada, yada he is (He won't have to because it shows).

"He has his own opinions and yours may clash, but he doesn't have to degrade you to prove he's right. He even admits at times to being wrong, especially if you are willing to do the same.

"A good man is not going to meet every item on your checklist. He is human with frailties and faults mixed in with all of his wonderful, strong attributes. He needs your love and respect. "He needs to feel that you don't live to catch him doing something wrong so you can declare, Aha! I knew you were a dog!! A good man isn't insecure about his women having great achievements.

"In fact he is her number one supporter and becomes disappointed with her when she begins to lose herself, for the sake of not hurting his feelings, or just want to make him happy.

"His happiness comes with seeing her excel in her dreams and accomplishing her goals. For as she excels and is exalted, a good woman will bring her good man right along with her. A good man doesn't necessarily give you a huge birthday or Valentine's gift. He shows his love in the ways that are comfortable to him. Don't judge him by TV standards. No one is really living a fairy-tale. You'll miss out on your own fairy tale by buying into the myth that our men are no good. It's Just not true. "



add a comment
Thu, June 3, 2010 - 2:19 AM

This is a pretty good piece as it addresses some of the fundamental problem in most relationships or more precisely in the way society shapes relationships. It does not necessarily address the totality of our problem for example the negative impact of the disproportionate imprisonment of our men the permanent economic depression in our community and so forth.

But it does touch on some of the important issues. For example there is much too much naiveté about love and romance or alternatively too much crass absolutely cynical acquisitiveness in the global society we live in. Neither of these approaches bodes well for us.

Let me give you one example. A woman, who was having a moment typical slave mentality, She is a love coach and authored a quiz on what she called picking the right man, entitled: Is He The One: What's In His Wallet May Be The Key. Right under her lead in to the quiz was an ad that ran, "If He Is Not the One... Find Other Singles Just Like You"

The subtitle of her quiz was, "Are There Any Deal Breakers? Referring to attributes that she posited as disqualifying a potential mate.

The first thing she asked was, "What should you do if your man doesn't have a credit card?" -- and two options for answers are "Don't Worry About It" or "Run", she provided a hint...the hint was Credit Cards are needed for a good credit rating...if you select the "Don't Worry About It" answer you are told: "INCORRECT: This is a serious red flag that almost definitely means your man does not have his own financial houses in order."

This is indicative of how much relationship and love generally are prostituted in contemporary society. This quiz was a classical, cynical attempt to reduce the man woman dynamic to a commercial deal. The quiz validates the theories expressed by Mary Batten in her book "Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates", she made some piquant observations such as'

"We may teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but natural selection favors the skillful lie."

"Human mate choice is one of the oldest, coldest business deals known."
and "Female choice functions to screen males and select those of highest value."

"What do females want in a mate? How do they choose which males they will allow to mate with them? Why do men and women lie to each other? Why are so many women attracted to wealthy, powerful men? Is it inevitable that men love to look at young, voluptuous women? "

"Contrary to myth, it is the females, not the males, of many species that actively select which males will mate. Although Charles Darwin introduced the theory of female mate choice more than a century ago, only in recent years has this controversial idea been appreciated by the scientific community. Studies of female choice have demolished the age-old myth of the passive female. From fruitflies to primates, female choice plays a pivotal role in the evolution of species.

"By understanding female mate choice and the female's true role in evolution, we see our own complex species with greater clarify. We gain greater insight into why males and females, including men and women, have built-in conflicts in their mating behavior that spills over into politics and every other aspect of life. Sexual Strategies illuminates the roots of current social problems related to gender competition and shows that they cannot be fully understood outside a biological context."

Then there is the psychology at work here...why is there so much confusion and tension in what we would like to believe is the idyllic state of being in love? Why is there so little real enthusiasm and appreciation for actual romance? Scholars from Freud, Jung to Engels;
philosophers, song writers, poets, novelists, clergy and God knows who else have commented on the complexity and dynamics of the man - woman interplay/relationship

One source quotes Ms. Batten in making his point about the role of romance and love in camouflaging what we are doing with and to each other in the mating game.

"Mary Batten, in "Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates", New York: Putnam 1992, speculates that what we call love is an evolved 'psychological state beyond conscious control' to help insure the continuation of the species. If love isn't blind, then it certainly suffers from tunnel vision. And evolution seems to have a narrowly focused objective. Batten writes:

"Although the biological link between love and babies seems clear enough, most of the literary rhapsodizing about love omits any association with reproduction. It's easy to understand why. The heat of passion seems to have little connection with diaper rash. Being on call twenty-four hours a day until a child leaves for college is hardly the stuff of love songs. Romance enables lovers to deceive themselves about the likely consequences of their overwhelming passion. And, like it or not, self-deception figures prominently in love."
Thu, June 3, 2010 - 2:33 AM

This Thing Called Love

and here is a more exhaustive examination of the contemporary psychological perspective on the subject of love and romance, one that relies exclusively on psychotherapeutic analysis and processes. I don't necessarily agree with everything in the piece that follows, nor do I agree with everything Mary wrote, but on the whole their approach is a good basis for scientific thought on the matter.

"Courtly Love

"In patriarchal societies, where property passes through the male lineage, knowing a child's father is of greatest importance; why women are carefully guarded sexually.

"Yes, there are occasional stories, some very poetical and tragical about men and women, each promised in an arranged marriage to another, who became passionately attracted to each other. But, as with most things in life, these exceptions only prove the rule: through most of human history, about the only thing that hardly ever seemed to influence mating was romantic love.

Yet, when we think about finding a mate we tend to think of romantic love. And one of the most enduring images of romantic love is the medieval knight in shining armor, the strong but pure man who rescued the lady in distress . . . and they lived happily ever after.

"Wait a minute," you say. That's not what's going on today. Courtly love was pure and ideal. So what happened?

"Well, the troubadours and their Provencal poetry happened."

Thus the knights went from lusting after their friend's wives to swooning in love over a woman's glove. The literature idealized love to such an extent, and set so many obstacles in front of it, that this love became almost impossible to attain. And so romance became a sort of poetic quest.

"The aristocracy upheld this ideal of courtly love on the surface while doing what it wanted behind the scenes, of course, and it provided the underlying European moral influence for the masses, for the last several centuries. Consequently, bolstered by Hollywood cinema in the 20th century, romantic love became the obsessive secular quest of life. And then, with the collapse of sexual morality beginning in the 1960s, the final association was made: the chalice of courtly love is filled with sex.

"In other words, the chalice of courtly love" and all the romantic sentiments and sexual activity that fill it" is an illusion. It's impossible to heal your own emotional brokenness through the body of another person as mortal and broken as you are.

"Fear Of Love

" Believe it or not, most of us are brought up in modern culture to fear love. This is a radical statement, so pause a bit and consider it. How often were you, as a child, criticized and laughed at for expressing your honest feelings? How often are you now used, in our culture of merchandising, as an object to be manipulated in order to satisfy some other person's desire for profit and power?

"How often do you shape yourself "with diets, implants, workouts, jewelry, tattoos, makeup, hair dye, and clothing" to meet the expectations of someone's desire? So what does a person learn from childhood experiences other than that this is a world of competition, strife, and conflict, geared toward the survival of the "fittest" or in today's world, the meanest "in which honesty and compassion are foolish weakness?

"And how often, in the midst of all this exploitation, has anyone ever done anything for your own growth and welfare, without thought of what could be had in return? To offer real love is "to will the good of another " is to be satisfied with one's own weakness, humility, and insignificance. Love is an act of will, not something that you "fall" into.

"You can fall into desperate desire, and you can fall into fatal attraction, but you can't fall into love. Love is a sacrifice of sorts, and it's a sacrifice of all that the culture deems valuable. So to offer this real love, or true love, is to stand against the culture...

"But, because romance is not based in true love, romance is, in technical psychological terms, a game and to play this game, you must put yourself in competition with everyone else playing the same game. This explains the essence of jealousy: in your fear of losing what you desperately want, you hate any person who might come between you and what you want.

"True love, therefore, forsakes the prestige offered by the culture in its illusions. And, when we have been taught from childhood to covet this prestige as our very identity, is it any wonder that we fear love? Far "easier and safer" isn't it, to hide behind illusions and games of wealth, power, intrigue, and seduction?
Thu, June 3, 2010 - 2:35 AM

Recently I received a submission call from the Women's Study Quarterly, a feminist academic journal. The call was for material on the female body and its role in society and love. One thing that struck me was that the issuers of the call were focused on the issue of the use of race in this equation.

As any observer of western society can readily verify the "race" question is often a big part of this equation; however the callers were also concerned about the possibility that "queer" theory was beginning to supersede the normal feminist line on the subject.

The call also stated that it was open to a Marxist "labor" praxis interpretation as well as Freudian and several other approaches.

Now I tell you all this because I think that the confusion about sexuality, sex, intimacy, love and romance is something that holds human civilization back and only benefits the lowest elements of society and human culture. Those who enthusiastically exploit the confusion for material gain and those who see it as a means of achieving selfish sexual gratification.

Here I am not talking about the notorious serial fornicators, or habitual philanderers, I am referring to those who make billions and billions of dollars exploiting this situation and who use the confusion to hold down people around the globe. The woman's view of her body and its ability to attract true positive responses from men is a big part of this process. It is a well known fact that virtually all women are concerned that their body is not up to (a deliberately contrived and completely ludicrous set of) standards.

A set of standards that is totally artificial and created by people who wish to market concepts and products; and various services and methodologies to solve the artificially created problem ... they exploit the fear and apprehension of women and cater to/engender a false machismo among men that leads the gullible and unscrupulously to value conquest before lasting friendship. Is there any wonder many women are afraid of relationships? Afraid of rejection? Just afraid?

I agree with Freud when he wrote that sexual impulsions contained within a framework of the proper degree of interpersonal discipline is the key to a long lasting affectionate relationship between men and women. I also endorse Jung's view that the question of love is a fundamental aspect of human history and a vitally necessary component aspect of human culture and civilization,

I also agree with those, primarily women, who advocate that women should become more familiar with their psyches, spiritual being and their body. How many women can actually know how their bodies respond, for example where the famed G-spot actually is? More important how many women feel comfortable talking to their lovers about their bodies, their needs and desires and so forth?

I agree with the men who advocate that men should try to understand the needs of women better and attempt to satisfy them. There are many very positive evocative views on the subject matter that are worth taking a look see. I cite one example here, that of the triangulation theory of love, propagated by Yale Prof. Robert Sternberg. Here is wikipedia's summary of the theory:

"The triangular theory of love characterizes love in an interpersonal relationship on three different scales: intimacy, passion and commitment. It was developed by Robert Sternberg. Different stages and types of love can be explained as different combinations of the three elements, intimacy, passion and commitment. Sternberg states that a relationship based on a single element is less likely to survive than one based on two or more.
Thu, June 3, 2010 - 2:37 AM

"Forms of romantic love Combinations of intimacy, passion, and commitment

Liking or Friendship - intimacy
Infatuation or Limerence - passion
Empty love - commitment
Romantic love - intimacy & passion
Companionate love - intimacy & commitment
Fatuous love (Whirlwind romance) - passion & commitment
Consummate love - intimacy passion commitment

"The relative emphasis of each component changes over time as an adult romantic relationship develops.

Liking includes only one of the love components - intimacy. In this case, liking is not used in a trivial sense. Sternberg says that this intimate liking characterizes true friendships, in which a person feels a bondedness, a warmth, and a closeness with another but not intense passion or long-term commitment.

Infatuated love consists solely of passion and is often what is felt as "love at first sight." But without the intimacy and the commitment components of love, infatuated love may disappear suddenly.

Empty love consists of the commitment component without intimacy or passion. Sometimes, a stronger love deteriorates into empty love, in which the commitment remains, but the intimacy and passion have died. In cultures in which arranged marriages are common, relationships often begin as empty love.

Romantic love is a combination of intimacy and passion. Romantic lovers are bonded emotionally (as in liking) and physically through passionate arousal.

Companionate love consists of intimacy and commitment. This type of love is often found in marriages in which the passion has gone out of the relationship, but a deep affection and commitment remain.

Fatuous love has the passion and the commitment components but not the intimacy component. This type of love can be exemplified by a whirlwind courtship and marriage in which a commitment is motivated largely by passion, without the stabilizing influence of intimacy.
Consummate love is the only type of love that includes all three components--intimacy, passion and commitment.

Consummate love is the most complete form of love, and it represents the ideal love relationship for which many people strive but which apparently few achieve. Sternberg cautions that maintaining a consummate love may be even harder than achieving it. He stresses the importance of translating the components of love into action. "Without expression," he warns, "even the greatest of loves can die" (1987, p.341).

"Companionate love

"Companionate love is a form of love that combines friendship and commitment. Companionate love is generally a personal relation you build with somebody you share your life with, but with no sexual or physical desire. It is stronger than friendship because of the extra element of commitment. The love ideally shared between family members is a form of companionate love, as is the love between deep friends or those who spend a lot of time together in any asexual but friendly relationship.

"Consummate love

"Consummate love is the most complete type of love experienced in interpersonal relationships, the three major components: intimacy, passion and commitment, are all present and balanced.

"Consummate love may not be permanent. For example, if passion is lost over time, it may fade into companionate love.

If one wishes to embrace consummate love…the fullest expression of love…the kind of love expressed silently and openly by many of us as our goals in life, we will have to work with our men and our children to build a modern model of the old grand communal world of Africa. Then we will be happy.