The English prefix ‘inter’ is used to denote a being between or among.1 The Latin preposition ‘inter’, from which the English prefix originated,2 carries the same meaning.3 And this goes also for the Sanskrit ‘antar’,4 to which the Latin preposition can be traced back.5 Now a being between presupposes a plurality. And a plurality presupposes an alterity and a difference. If there are no alterity and difference among certain givens, if they are all completely identical, then the unity of one single given is the case, and not the plurality of a multitude of givens. And then there can also be no case of a being between, and thus the term ‘inter’ will then not be applicable.
In the title of this contemplation the prefix ‘inter’ is fixed to the word ‘wedlock’. ‘Wedlock’ is nowadays used to simply denote the condition of being (literary or legislative) married,6 but referred in older times more meaningful to the marriage vow of being faithful.7 It is a compound word, composed of the terms ‘wed’ and ‘lock’. ‘Wed’ here taken as a verb refers to the act of marrying,8 however when taken as a noun does it refer to a pledge.9 This latter meaning is also attached to its presumed prehistoric Germanic root ‘wathjōjan’.10 So the word ‘wed’ as it appears in ‘wedlock’ refers in its root to a pledge.
The second term of which ‘wedlock’ is compounded, namely; ‘lock’, refers primarily to a fastening and an enclosing.11 Taking the two primary meanings of ‘wed’ and ‘lock’ back again in the compounded word ‘wedlock’ it comes to refer to a pledge that fastens and encloses. In wedlock two people pledge faithfulness, fastening themselves to each other and enclosing themselves from other such pledges with others. It is in this more primal meaning that ‘wedlock’ is used here. This primal meaning leaves room for pledged relationships outside legislative marriage to fall under the term ‘wedlock’.
‘Inter-wedlock’, to attach the earlier contemplated ‘inter’ to ‘wedlock’, then refers to a fastening and enclosing pledge between people that are different from each other.
‘Inter-wedlock’ refers to a fastening and enclosing pledge between people that are different from each other. This assertion raises the question of human difference. Now human difference should be dealt with against the background of human sameness. Thus first a look shall be given at human sameness, after which human difference can be contemplated.
Human sameness can be understood as that which makes a human human. It is that which all humans exclusively share with each other, that which makes all humans exclusively the same. The word ‘exclusively’ is used deliberately. For there are aspects in humans which are the same among them, but which are not exclusively human. It can be induced that all humans have a brain. But it is not exclusive for a human to have a brain. An animal has a brain too. So to have a brain may be an aspect of human-animalistic sameness, but not of human sameness. What is it then that makes a human exclusively human? The answer to that question is as much meaningful as it is simple. The answer is ‘humaneness’. It is exclusive for humans to be humane. If a being is not humane, then this being cannot be considered to be human. Here it is not possible to contemplate humaneness intensively, and a deeper understanding of its meaning shall therefore be left to the contemplator’s own humaneness. After all is it only humaneness which can understand humaneness.
Humaneness is human sameness. It is in humaneness that human differences can be overcome and that human sameness can become the focus of attention. But this human sameness is not always the focus of attention. Quite often is it the human difference that catches attention. And the differences between humans are innumerous. The most striking of these is probably the sexual difference. At times it seems to cleave humanity in two as an impassable abyss.12 No matter what other differences may cut humanity, within the differentiated parts of humanity the sexual difference is always there. Another such a difference is the racial one. Humanity consists of a colorful spectrum of black, red, white and yellow races, who within themselves again differ on a less noticeable level. This differentiation goes on up to the individual level. For every human being is a unique being. But the differences are not confined to humanity’s physiology. Human beings do not only differ biologically, but also psychologically and sociologically. Every individual human is endowed with a unique character. And every society, large and small, has its own culture.
It cannot be said that these physiological and non-physiological differences match one on one, but history has proven that a correlation is there. African, Asian and European cultures and mentalities differ from each other with the same clarity as do their physiologies. Now the saying that no man is an island is applicable also here. These different races and individuals with their different cultures and mentalities are not isolated from each other. This goes especially for contemporary days. In the past the encounter of human difference took place generally (though not exclusively) on a local scale. In contemporary days however have technical and other advancements enabled people to be confronted with human difference on a global scale. Mass migration and mass media (such as television and internet) have even made it almost impossible for people to escape from being confronted with human difference on a global scale. And the differences are greater globally than locally. A Bengali differs physiologically and culturally more from a Scott than does a Welshman. So in contemporary times are people confronted with a greater extend of human difference.
Human difference has been present as long as humanity has. Throughout history have humans been confronted with human difference. And this difference has been approached, from the most ancient to the most contemporary times, and from the most local to the most global scale, either with rejection or with acceptance.
The English word ‘rejection’ refers to a refusal of accepting (something offered),13 and is thus set opposite to ‘acceptance’. It stems from the Latin ‘rejicēre’14 (also ‘rēicere’ or ‘rēisiō’), which is compound of ‘re’ and ‘iacio’.15 The prefix ‘re’ refers to a movement back,16 and ‘iacio’ (or ‘iaciō’) means ‘to throw’.17 Thus is in a rejection something (offered) thrown back. ‘Acceptance’ is in the English language set opposed to ‘rejection’ as we have seen. As a derivative from the verb ‘accept’ does ‘acceptance’ stem from the Latin ‘acceptāre’ or ‘accipēre’, which carries the general meaning of ‘receiving what is offered’.18 So both rejection and acceptance can be seen as a reaction to an offering. In rejection the offer is thrown back and in acceptance the offer is taken.
Now a reaction is a re-action, thus an action, and actions change situations. And this is also what rejections and acceptances do. It can be said that rejections pluralize while acceptances unify. When for instance in a liver transplant the liver is accepted by its new host body, then a unification takes place of the liver and the body. Here acceptance has acted unifying. A rejection would have kept the plural state of body and liver. And with an autoimmune disorder does a body reject certain of its own body cells, leading to a pluralization of the body and certain body cells. Here rejection has acted pluralizing.
It was attested that both rejection and acceptance can be held as a reaction to an offering. In rejection the offer is thrown back and in acceptance the offer is taken. Now when two humans meet there is always a mutual offering taking place, even if not deliberate. For what those humans offer to each other is their own characteristics. One may be dark skinned and the other may be light skinned, but the character of their complexion is offered to each other through the sense of sight. One may be male and another may be female, but the character of the their pheromones is offered to each other through the sense of smell. One may greet with ‘hello’ and another may greet with ‘namaste’, but the character of their tongue of speech is offered to each other through the sense of hearing. And these undeliberate offerings (or perhaps quasi-undeliberate offerings in the latter case) then may be taken or thrown back. These offerings may be accepted or rejected.
Whether another’s characteristics are accepted or rejected depends on whether the attention is focused on difference or on sameness. A focus of attention on difference will result in rejection, whereas a focus of attention on sameness will result in acceptance. People will find it generally more easy to accept others with similar characteristics. When these differ however it becomes more difficult to keep the focus of attention on sameness, and then it will become more difficult to accept others.
It may be objected that the above sketch is not applicable to the human sexual difference. It may be objected that it is exactly the sexual difference that leads to a sexual unification. Indeed is it true that only differences can attract each other. For attraction presupposes a plurality. When only a unity is the case then no space is left for attraction. However attraction presupposes also a primal unity or a sameness. No attraction between two givens can exist if these givens share no sameness with each other.19 So where unifications of men and women are concerned a sense of sameness is always dominantly in play. If this is not the case then couples often break up, explaining their divorce by saying that they are too different from each other. But as long as they voluntarily stay together it can be attested that their focus on their sameness dominates. And in this way can inter-wedlock be taken as a touchstone for acceptance. When two people with different characteristics engage in an inter-wedlock, then a focus on human sameness, a humaneness and an acceptance are present.
However the balance between acceptance and rejection is never static. As said do couples sometimes break up because they find they are too different to stay together. They started out with sameness being their dominant focus of attention, but their attention during the relationship shifted towards difference. Perhaps they discovered some characteristics in their partner that are so different from their own, that they feel that such a difference cannot be overcome. Perhaps their partner has changed certain characteristics by which a differentiation took place. Or perhaps one’s own perspective and focus of attention shifted from sameness towards difference. All this can happen in wedlock because the balance between acceptance and rejection isn’t static but dynamic.
The opposite can, and does, of course also happen. Engaging in an inter-wedlock may make a couple closely and intimately acquainted with each other’s sameness. Inter-wedlock may then be seen as a field of exploration where humaneness is the treasure to be found. This treasure however will often not be found without effort. Staying both within one’s own well known comfort-zone will not lead to growth in humaneness. But if the effort is taken, whether the inter-wedlock will last until death does part or ends earlier, if the effort is taken to keep the attention focused on human sameness, then indeed is inter-wedlock a path to acceptance.
In the previous paragraph was inter-wedlock uncontextual thematized. Here a few words shall be given on inter-wedlock’s context. For this we shall turn towards an individual’s characteristics. For as individual as one’s set of characteristics may be, these characteristics do not stand on themselves. Characteristics are inherited. Many characteristics are genetically passed on from parents to children, after which cultural settings mould and form the individual further. And those who wish to look beyond may even see characteristics to be inherited from previous incarnations or to be god-gifted. In this contemplation we shall confine ourselves to the more general accepted inheritances.
Mostly does an individual identify himself with his inherited features. He identifies himself with his parental race (being black, red, white or yellow), his nationality, his cultural upbringing, his family, etcetera. It is clear that in such an identification the focus is laid on characteristics that differ from those of many other individuals. In this way does identification lead to pluralization. And the narrower one identifies, the greater will the pluralization be. Unification then is benefited with a wider identification. And this, among other situations, happens when the characteristics of those from which identification is derived are plural in nature. Plural parents, plural family members, plural nationalities, plural cultural upbringing, etcetera, widens identification, diminishes one’s focus on difference and benefits humaneness. Thus does inter-wedlock not only work unifying for the regarded partners, but also for their possible offspring. Inter-wedlock as a path to acceptance is a path that transgresses generations.
It is however not only the offspring that is influenced by an inter-wedlock. The family of the regarded couple is influenced as well. This goes especially for those individuals in inter-wedlock with close family ties. There are cultures for instance where parents still have a deciding vote in choosing their children’s spouse. And if they agree with their child’s wish to have an inter-wedlock then such an agreement is a true touchstone of their acceptance. This goes the other way around as well of course with a disagreement. And once individuals (with or without consent from their parents) have engaged in an inter-wedlock, then the challenge is there also for the parents and the family of the engaged couple to work towards acceptance. Thus does inter-wedlock stretch its influence beyond the engaged individuals into their families, their friends and their further social surroundings and settings. And thus may inter-wedlock be considered to be a fine touchstone for and an excellent path to acceptance.