Do I applaud or vomit?
That Hamlet-like question twists my mind when I read about our postmodern culture's mental struggles.
Most recently, it happened when I read about "relationship contracts."
They're documents signed by people who have decided they're going to start having a lot of sex but want something more substantive than "just having a good time."
There are hundreds of sample forms online. Some couples even hire lawyers to help, ahem, bang out the terms.
I guess they cover all sorts of things. One couple (the Collinses) drafted a relationship contract with 62 sections spread over nine articles (or, in their terms, "62 questions" addressed in nine "chapters").
What counts as cheating?
What about flirting?
What about porn?
How do we initiate sex?
Will we have children?
What if one of us turns out to be infertile?
Modernity's Break with Tradition
What the heck is going on?
I think the answer is found here:
"The Collinses think that as society strays further from tradition, contracts like theirs will soon be the norm."
Deep Tradition tells us that sexual relations belong in a sacrament.
Recent Tradition tells us they're part of a covenant.
Modern Tradition (the most poignant of all oxymorons) tells us sexual relations belong in the backseat of a car, on the back walls of bars, and in shower stalls.
And now people are backtracking, trying to get back a little real Tradition.
By putting sex into a contract.
Sex Contracts Yesterday and Today
We've always had sex contracts. We just used colloquial phrases for them: "He went to a cathouse" and "He banged a whore."
Reduced to writing, these contracts look something like this:
Vamp and John, intending to enter into a contract for sexual relations, hereby agree as follows:
Vamp agrees to do the following: _______________.
In consideration for the services described in Section 1, John agrees to pay Vamp $____________.
If John fails to pay, he agrees to get severely beaten by Mack Daddy.
If a person wants to categorize the Collinses' contract on the Tradition spectrum, where would he put it?
I think we can safely rule out "Deep Tradition." A relationship contract resembles a sacrament less than my 1976 Mattel electronic car race game resembles the Indy 500.
"Recent Tradition" also doesn't fit. I have a hard time envisioning Puritan John Winthrop reducing his betrothed to a contract, and Winthrop was a lawyer.
But it's more traditional than the "Modern Tradition" found in that shower stall.
So relationship contracts are less traditional than covenants and more traditional than the modern sexual free-for-all.
That's why I puke and applaud at the same time.
Relationship Contracts are Thoroughly Postmodern
It's why I puke and applaud at most things that are "postmodern."
The Collinses are postmodernists, trying to salvage a semblance of normalcy from the "Modern Tradition" of destroying all traditions.
It's too bad they don't embrace a healthy alternative, like premodernism. Those are folks who reject the Modern Tradition and look for something better in the days before modernity. You can supposedly find these folks in lower Manhattan . . . or in monasteries.
Unfortunately, most postmodernists don't have that mindset.
Instead, they reject everything modern and try to start from scratch. Those are the deconstructionist French degenerates like Foucault and Derrida. They were correct to reject everything modern but they were foolish to think they'd start over and construct something better.
A Good Contract Rarely Starts from Nothing
I'm a contract lawyer. I read and write contracts every day. I've drafted and parsed thousands.
But one thing I rarely do with contracts is draft them from scratch.
I almost always work from a form. I pay thousands of dollars annually to have over 100,000 contract forms available to me. When I have a new contract to draft, I pull a good one from the digital shelf to get started.
All contract lawyers do the same. If they didn't, they'd rarely get the contract right.
The postmodernist philosophers, on the other hand, drafted everything from scratch.
And they rarely got anything right.
The Collinses Today
Mr. and Mrs. Collins progressed past their relationship contract and got married. They've joined Elon Musk in the "pro-natalist" movement, which is good. They're pro-life, in their own way.
I'm guessing they still don't have tradition.
They have three children, which is great.
But they named their second one "Octavia."
That means "five," as in "the fifth child."
To know and appreciate that, you need to know and appreciate Latin.