exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity
17: Constructive Assent
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Kairissi. Oh, Ellus, you know what I really want on this trip? I’m hoping,
somehow, some way, we can tell each other “I love you”.
Elenchus. Dearest… that might be difficult.
K. I know, but I have a plan about those peak experiences. I’m wondering
if I might leverage them into an “I love you.”
K. My plan is like a Trojan Horse. I think I can slip my truest feelings in
under the radar. See, I’m the one who awakens first, and if I can share
my joy with you, and get through to you, so that you feel something of
what I feel, then the happiness we share in those moments will become
a kind of promise of love to each other.
E. That’s interesting – an implied contract. Very clever, Counselor.
E. Let’s look at this promise. Do we have an enforceable contract? Those
kids don’t actually say, “I agree,” that is, “I love you and want to be with
you,” so we need to look at their actions to tell us what they’re thinking.
K. Believe what people do more than what they say?
E. Their actions become “constructive assent.”
K. Nice term. So, what are they actually doing to indicate assent?
E. During those peak moments, they’re enjoying each other to the max.
And he’s saying, if not in words, at least subliminally, “This is the happiest
time of my whole life,” and “when I’m with this annoying girl, somehow
I’m the happiest ever.”
K. He’s a little too honest in his subliminal thoughts, wouldn’t you say?
E. Not at all. The girl-next-door is actually a bit worse than that.
K. Uh-huh. What would you say they’re really agreeing to?
E. First, the promise is future-oriented. They won’t get most of the good
stuff until much later.
K. So, we have performance in the future.
E. With obligations now.
E. They’re enjoying each other so much that, in effect, they’re saying
to each other, “I want to live this way all the time, and I know you have
something to do with my super-charged good feelings – because I’ve
never felt this way with anyone else.”
K. A dead give-away.
E. Highly suggestive.
K. And that’s what they’re bargaining for, trying to achieve, isn’t it? – the
receipt of supreme joy, the meaning of Life.
E. I would argue to that end.
K. What else do we need for a valid contract?
E. It’s called consideration – like putting a few dollars down as a security
deposit, just to show you’re serious. You have to give something up,
create some detriment, so you don’t “walk away.” If a contract doesn’t
have that, it’s classified as mere gift, without obligation of performance.
K. Ok then, for those two, they need to give up something to show good faith. (small smile) Don’t they call that having “skin in the game.”
E. I like your choice of words, Counselor, and quite appropriate, but only in a metaphorical sense. Unfortunately, for those two, lots of luck to them
with literal application of “skin.” I’ll be lucky just to dance with you one
time in the gym.
K. But, if they’re not ripe enough for other versions of “skin in the game,”
where will the consideration come from?
E. We’ll need to look elsewhere.
K. Does the consideration have to be something material?
E. No, it could be an intangible asset, like relinquishing a right, for
K. Ok… now let me think about this. If, in effect, they’re making an eternal
promise of love to each other, isn’t that promise, in itself, tantamount to a setting aside of certain rights?
E. Yesss… I think you’re on to something. Please continue, Counselor.
K. And when they make their promise, aren’t they saying, “I will love only
you, and will forfeit any right to seek for another”?
E. We’ll try to construe their actions to effect this meaning.
K. Each side gives up a right, and the two promises become the
consideration to make the contract binding.
E. I think we can make that stick. Quid pro quo; something for something;
a promise for a promise. And it doesn’t matter if this is happening only on
a subliminal level; because, an honest heart will yet, and later, manifest
itself in the world of form.
K. So, what do we have here? We have a binding agreement, entered
into by two parties who offer assent, a meeting-of-the-minds, if only on
a subliminal level; the consideration for which is the abandoning of rights
to all others as they pledge themselves to love each other exclusively.
Nothing is written down, of course. And how do we know that this is really
what the parties are agreeing to? The answer is – by what they do, led
by what they’re experiencing. Each will be so emotionally moved by this
event that they will acknowledge – maybe not immediately, but later,
after reflection – acknowledge each other as the source of the greatest
joy ever experienced. As such, in terms of their higher selves, they
willingly and mutually, in effect, promise exclusive love to each other.
E. Pretty good, Counselor. But, as I listened to your recap, it strikes me
that there’s need for a little fine tuning. I think our “constructive assent”
is missing something.
K. What’s the flaw in my argument?
E. Let me talk this out. Their hearts proclaim that this is an enforceable
eternal contract, with standing in the courts of heaven, if you see my
K. Yes – the intensity of feeling indicates that what they have together
is something that will endure and cannot be replicated with just any
E. Right. But, I’d like to see their constructive assent to be more than just
admitting, “I want to live this way all the time,” which is wonderful, but, if
you think about it, this is merely a statement of desire, what lawyers call
“puffing in the marketplace,” and mere desire alone won’t necessarily
make it happen.
K. Go on.
E. I want them to “put up or shut up.” I want them to show they really
mean it. Granted, that’s difficult here as the whole event, especially for
the “comatose” young boy, is conducted on that dubious subliminal level.
K. Whether, in fact, he actually had a pulse at the "signing" will be a matter of debate for her, for years to come; however, it sounds like more consideration is needed, not just a clarification of the constructive assent.
E. I think you’re right. Ancient law says that consideration need not be
plentiful, only adequate. I guess maybe now I’m feeling that their
promises to each other, which constitute a foregoing of rights, need to
be buttressed with something else.
K. To make the consideration “adequate,” not just “more”?
E. I believe so. The consideration needs to be more valuable. And I’m thinking of something Day Star said about the coming betrayal incident – we’ll each get a turn at feeling unjustly treated. This would suggest that each of us takes a risk and makes oneself vulnerable, which likely means that secret feelings will be revealed.
K. Rejection at that point could seem very unjust and cause much
embarrassment and even humiliation.
E. Could be devastating.
K. Ok, maybe I’m seeing your point now. It is more than desire.
By taking a big chance to reveal secret love, each risks his or her dignity
– which is putting a lot on the line. It will take great courage to do that,
and great sincerity.
E. And that “great sincerity,” that risk to personal dignity, shows the authenticity, the adequacy, of the assent. Each is willing to suffer for the other – and that means something. If you're willing to suffer, it's pretty real to you.
K. It’s offering something “valuable.” That’s the consideration we’re
looking for to bind this contract.
E. On that future day of utter forthcomingness, each in his or her own turn, deep feelings will prompt them to effectively make nonverbal, or even verbal, promises of love...
K. Carole King said this best with a song lyric, "tonight, with words unspoken, you say that I'm the only one."
E. That is a beautiful line by Carole.
K. (small smile) There's another line in that song, your little joke: "the magic of her size."
E. Ok, stop distracting me now, and let me continue: each in his or her own turn, each to the other, makes nonverbal, or otherwise, promises of love. On the surface of life, these offerings will be rejected, and counted as “betrayal” by the offended party – but that doesn’t change the underlying process. In the proffered love, delivered with total honesty and utmost sincerity of heart, each is seen to “put up or shut up,” that is, to submit oneself to pain and suffering for the other.
K. The consideration is now adequate, not just more.
E. Further, in this disjointed concatenation, it's as if they “sign the contract” at different times; but this out-of-phase “signing” doesn’t void the contract. The final reality becomes: she gives her promise to him, and he gives his to her.
K. The contract is not rendered void because it’s a bona fide meeting-of-the-minds, it's all exactly as their truest hearts really want it to be; and that’s what’s important here – with the “out of phase” element as irrelevant feature.
E. It seems to me that the authenticity of assent is now substantiated –
and with this in place, everything else flows naturally. In other words,
if they demonstrate, by their actions, that they are willing to make
themselves vulnerable to each other, willing to suffer for each other, willing to put personal dignity on the line, then, we should believe them when they make their de facto promises of love – even, as Carole sang, if those promises are unspoken, or even subliminal.
K. I’m seeing why they’re willing to suffer. It’s the love they feel.
It’s the joy, that indescribable joy, to be received only in the presence of
the sacred beloved. Once they’re allowed a taste of heaven, there’ll be no rest until they find a way back to it.
E. Being hit by “the joy” is the defining moment in one’s eternal life;
we’re never the same after that.
K. It’s very clear now – experiencing “the joy” prompts, and becomes, “the signing”! They have no place to go after that. There are no other possible “contracts”; no other viable “offers” will be coming in; there are no "other fish in the sea"; meaning, they can’t get that joy from anyone else.
E. I think your view is correct.
K. It all makes sense; but, Dear, let me take a step back… do you really think my Trojan-Horse plan can actually work? – or is it just a legal fiction?
E. I think it can work; in fact, I think it’s the only thing that ever does
K. Say more on this.
E. I think “the joy” is how Mother-Father God brings all destined couples
together. It's like a "homing device," and the joy leads us home.
K. I like that -- "the joy leads us home."
E. Remember Day Star speaking of the “captured territory” in the
“battle for awareness,” that it’s never given up? I believe that’s what’s
happening here. Once each of them consciously experiences “the sacred
joy,” they can never go back to not knowing.
K. But that “humiliated and embarrassed” teen girl shrugs off “the joy.”
E. Only for a while; she can repress for a time, but not expunge; and a day will come when “cloaking devices,” or flights into repression, will no longer protect her from the pain she's fleeing.
K. She’ll try to give up “the captured territory” but it will not allow itself
to be surrendered.
E. It’s staying – she can’t go back to not knowing. But let me say more
about your term “legal fiction.” Let’s remind ourselves that the essence
of contract law is a “meeting of the minds.” That’s what makes a contract.
It’s not the words, per se, nor the signed papers that matter. People
can bind a contract with a wink of an eye or a smile or the tapping of a
K. Or a surrendering to “the joy.”
E. Yes… all of these gestures can represent agreement, if subsumed by
a “meeting of the minds.”
K. This is a super-great insight, Ellus! And that’s why experiencing “the joy” leads to, or constitutes, the “signing of the contract.”
E. Absolutely. People get confused when the word “contract” is used -- they think it’s a signed piece of paper. But that’s wrong. The paper is just external evidence suggesting that a contract exists. But, if there's no meeting-of-the-minds, the signatures won't mean a damn.
K. The essence of the real contract is something intangible, existing only in the agreeing minds of the participants; even if the agreement is subliminal, even if the assent is constructive. This means that those two kids have a real contract; and if the contract is real, then it's enforceable.
E. Well stated.
K. Sweetheart… I’d like to officially set aside my earlier skepticism about whether the “peak experiences” can effect real consent. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the truth of what we’re saying here. Those who experience “the joy” – in a very real way – are being given affirmation, not just from each other, but from Heaven, that they’re "contracted to each other," are soul-pledged and already married, in the truest sense of the term.
E. We've been speaking of signing and entering an eternal contract of love, but Dear, your recap just now suggests that it's not so much about agreeing to or creating a contract but coming to realize that, for true lovers, a contract, a marital union, has always existed; that, they've always enjoyed an eternal bond, have always been soul-pledged, even from their joint-creation.
K. I think this is an important clarification. And I believe you are correct to say that this is how Mother-Father God brings all destined couples together. The joy leads them home, and that "home" is their mutual warm embrace. The overwhelming joy of being together, the joy of simply sharing life together, informs authentic romantics that what they have is real.
E. “The joy” -- not fleeting infatuation -- is the great teacher in our forever-lives. It reveals more about the mind of Mother-Father God, about ultimate reality, than anything else; and when two discover that they, together, experience this “extreme delight,” then they will also learn something about their "secret identities," who they are to each other -- because "the joy" can't happen by accident or with just anyone.
K. (small smile) Will even a comatose teen boy learn this lesson?
E. Even the “American Pie” boy, with his detached loner ways, will
finally acknowledge what she means to him. However, as attorney for the hapless young boy with "no eyes in his head," allow me to remind us that the temporarily more-sophisticated teen girl will also have her opportunity to disappoint, and to "betray," him.
K. Darling Dear, despite all the chaos during their growing-up time - let me say it again - those two kids have a real, enforceable contract. In subsequent angry years, the fallout of "betrayal," with great protestation, they will deny that they ever agreed to anything. But, in this bluster, as Shakespeare said, they "protesteth too much."
E. Yes, they will work hard to believe their own propaganda. And consider this, if I may extend the analogy: Their enforceable contract is also a negotiable instrument. And a day will come, later in life, when, finally, with "eyes in his head," he will take that negotiable instrument "to the bank," so to speak, at last speaking plainly to her, insisting that he, only he, has a right to cash it. He will have followed, all the way back to source, the memory traces of "the joy." In spite of his anger, a day will come when he will be forced to acknowledge her as wellspring of all that's precious to him. Bad feelings will make it hard for him to say he wants her back in his life; his lingering sense of ancient "betrayal" will instruct that "love is not a victory march but a cold and broken hallelujah." Nevertheless, head supplanting heart, armed with the jarring revelation of her sacred identity, he will confront her, remind her, that she, with him, long ago, "signed the contract" - and there is no statute of limitations to disenfranchise the affective domain. And now he's coming for what's his, that for which he duly negotiated and to which was mutually agreed. And, in that day, finally, living authentically, admitting to himself who she is to him, he will absolutely not allow himself to be defrauded; not again - I know something of his unyielding mind and intent here; trust me on this.
K. For a long time, egoism and petulance will keep them apart; will cause them to question whether they ever had anything authentic together -- but they will find out just how real their contract is; yes, they will find out. Later in life, after being forced to live without each other; when they've suffered the loss of each other for decades; when they begin to miss each other unto death; when undimming remembrance of "the joy" haunts and terrorizes at 3 AM... then, they will know what's real... Initial assent for their young selves may have been subliminal and constructive, but -- mark my words on this, Ellus -- latter-day searing lament will issue as unmistakable sharp-edged reality... yes, they will find out just how real their contract is.
E. Congratulations, Counselor. I think you've succeeded in leveraging the joy of two half-baked kids into an "I love you"; in fact, an "I love you forever."
K. I believe we'd finished our “constructive assent” discussion, but, if you don’t mind, I think I have something to add, from a new angle.
E. Please, Kriss – some of our best insights have come later as a “postscript.”
K. Thank you. To begin, allow me to offer an inset-box that the author has used in other contexts. It’s about Anne of Green Gables…
'nothing was of any value without him'
Anne Of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery (1985)
“Oh, the black years of emptiness stretching before her!”
"There is a book of Revelation in every one's life, as there is in the Bible… She loved Gilbert -- had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her… If she had not been so blind -- so foolish -- she would have had the right to go to him now. But he would never know that she loved him -- he would go away from this life thinking that she did not care. Oh, the black years of emptiness stretching before her! She could not live through them -- she could not! … Nothing was of any value without him. She belonged to him and he to her. In her hour of supreme agony she had no doubt of that… Oh, what a fool she had been not to realize what the bond was that had held her to Gilbert... And now she must pay for her folly as for a crime.”
E. I like Anne… and I think part of the reason is that she sort of looks like you… and she’s smart, talented, and spirited like you.
K. And she gets mad like me.
E. That makes it even harder to tell you apart.
E. It didn’t stop Gilbert from falling for her, though. But, I shouldn’t interrupt. Please continue with your insight.
she would have had the right to go to him now
K. It's something Lucy Maud Montgomery mused upon; that, there’s an unspoken set of rules, a hidden propriety, between lovers, even ones who’ve not yet overtly declared themselves for love.
E. This is starting to sound interesting. Keep going.
K. Because true love is the ultimate reality, then, in a real sense, it creates its own morality.
E. Say more on this.
K. Let me construct the scene that Anne was facing. Gilbert was dying; scarlet fever or some such. She wanted to go to him, to at least tell him before he left this world how much she had always loved him. But, she’d been so unkind, so uncivil, that – now – she felt she had no right to even approach him, though death might soon take him.
E. Let’s extract the antithetical corollary. If she had been civil…
K. … if she had expressed even the smallest particle of affection for him…
E. … “she would have had the right to go to him now.”
E. Now, some might say, why not just go to him anyway? Just tell him.
K. Well, that could work; but, it’s not so likely to turn out well. Here’s the problem: He could easily reject her with, “What’s going on here? You were always so mean to me! And now you say you love me? What’s wrong with you? I don’t even know you! I don’t trust you. Don’t come to me with hearts-and-flowers after all that you did!”
E. In other words, he'd be saying, "You don't have the right to come to me!"
K. His position would be, "You didn't show me the smallest affection when I was healthy, you weren't willing to put up with the tiniest inconvenience when I was too stupid to treat you in a good way."
E. "But now, suddenly, you love me?"
K. It's a hard sell, not many buyers. And Anne knew that she hadn't earned the right.
E. Give me your best thoughts, Kriss. What does this really mean in terms of “constructive assent”?
K. “Constructive assent” means there are subtle, unspoken ways to communicate love, to say “yes.” Montgomery’s use of the term “the right” speaks to the hidden ways of love.
E. “Right” suggests legal privilege.
K. It is a legal privilege, of the soul - but nothing that would be honored in the courts of this world. But, remember in our earlier discussion? We said we wanted the two lovers to “put up or shut up,” to express commitment, even subtly via, if necessary, a willingness to suffer for the beloved.
E. We’re getting into some heavy stuff now.
K. If Anne had “suffered” for Gilbert early on… if she'd been willing to take a slighting, or a small prank, or some other form of immature “attention getting”; if she’d been willing to set aside her pride in favor of what her womanly sensibilities would have, or could have, made her realize that a young boy, totally right for her in potentia, was inartfully attempting to make contact with her...
K. ... she could have smoothed this over, or even just waited a little while for him to grow up, and catch up, to her precocious girlhood; in the meantime, just talk to him, no flirting, just be ordinary to him, don't make him feel like a criminal; if she had done that, then – she would have earned the right to approach him, to go to him, to be open and frank to him, to say everything… at the right time.
E. A day would have come when, with better "eyes in his head," he would have perceived her quiet graciousness, would have realized that she'd been "leading their parade from behind" all along. But... she didn't do that.
K. And now she’s "paying for her folly as for a crime," staring into an existential void of the future’s blackness… without him... Tell me, Elenchus… what do you think?
E. I think… we all get a turn at staring into the existential void, that bleak and blackest future without the beloved. We all have egos to deal with, and, in our immature years, we do things that, sometimes, we'll regret for many years, even, the rest of our lives. However, the good news is that this is not the final world. And when we “sin against holy romance,” the ensuing suffering also prepares us for a better frame of mind in coming days.
K. I know you are correct; it’s just that, those "coming days" can be far away. Life can teach some very hard lessons. Anne got lucky. Gilbert didn’t die. And then he came to her and finally told her everything. It all worked out for them, life allowed them to be together and make things right.
E. Novels are convenient that way.
K. But… as we know, in this world… the girl often loses, without recourse, the boy who loved her all along… and she can't get him back... In our foolishness, we cavalierly engage in a cheap luxury of flash-anger and retaliation, but then endure a protracted leisure of repenting for sins against holy romance... for the rest of our lives...
E. In fact, according to the story, this is what happened to Anne's foster-mother fifty years prior.
K. That's right... and the endless nightmare, those mind-numbing “black years” stretching before us, can be very long, indeed - until a distant Summerland, finally, reboots the entire system - for what's left of us at that point. Yes, we can start again, and, mercifully, God has provided "second chances", and, if love is authentic, we can regain everything we lost; in this recovery, however... there will be no jubilant "victory march," no "flag planted on the marble arch"... only silence-and-weeping in each other's arms.