Amanda posted yesterday an excerpt from a book entitled A Discourse of the Married and Single Life: Wherein by Discovering the Misery of One, is Plainly Declared the Felicity of the Other . This made me think back twenty-six years to my wedding reception.

My wife and I and our families and the groomsmen and maids-of-honor were waiting to enter the reception hall and be introduced to the guests. My older brother William was my best man and was to give the toast, and he hadn’t thought of anything witty to spice up his remarks. My father stepped in to help, and offered these words from Samuel Johnson: “Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.”

It got a big laugh, but afterwards a physics colleague of mine (now a professor at a prestigious university) came up to me with a confused look his face, and said, “I don’t understand the joke your brother told. What does celibacy have to do with it?” It suddenly dawned on me what his problem was: The idea that an unmarried person would be celibate was so foreign to his way of thinking, that Dr. Johnson’s statement seemed like a pure non sequitur to him.

Articles by Stephen M. Barr

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