Can you do it?

March 22nd, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 21 comments

On March 3, 2018, Sir Roger Bannister died. As news of his death at the age of 88 hit the airwaves some might remember that this was the second time his death was publicly announced. 64 years earlier the young medical student became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. As he crossed the finish line in three minutes and 59.4 seconds on that momentous occasion on May 6, 1954, he fell exhausted to the ground. One Pathé newsreel report declared that he had died in his attempt to break the four-minutes-mile just as doctors had warned would happen to anyone who tried to do the impossible. The reporter quickly reversed himself when Roger Bannister triumphantly stood up.

One particularly amazing fact about the aspiring neurologist’s accomplishment was that his record was broken only 46 days later. In the following year, six more people broke the world record and today many college athletes run the mile in less than four minutes. Clearly, the human body is capable of doing so which begs the question as to why young Bannister was the first. He didn’t even have any particularly special training! Yet, his name is famous while the names of those who surpassed his record within only a few weeks and months have faded into oblivion.

The answer is simple: Until Roger Bannister ran the mile in under 4 minutes, nobody believed that it could be done.

I have heard my husband relate Roger Bannister’s story and the subsequent question many times. It is a powerful life lesson that if we human beings don’t believe we can do something we won’t be able to do it. We often need to work first on changing our minds and hearts in order to bring our goals to fruition.   

While my husband usually draws implications for business from this lesson, I want to apply it to another arena. Fewer and fewer people today believe that it is possible to create a joyous marriage that lasts for many decades. In large part this is due to fewer people having first-hand experiences of such marriages. Not only are we surrounded by divorced friends and relatives, or divorced ourselves, but many couples opt out of marriage in the first place. As Americans and those in many other countries marry later in life, a delighted couple in their fifties may have only been married for fifteen years or so and don’t present a road map for a young man and woman in their twenties who are contemplating marriage.

Even if there are long-term happily married couples in our orbit, the likelihood is great that both husband and wife are working outside the home. Neighborhood backyard get togethers, leisurely cups of coffee and relaxed evenings with friends are fewer and farther between. As large extended families are more rare and spread out over a greater geographical range, many teenagers and those in their twenties and thirties don’t have close relationships with members of other generations. It is easy to grow up without ever having a close look at a traditional, thriving, joyful marriage.

In what has devastating impact, we allow the press to fool us into thinking a celebrity couple are soul mates.  A few years later we watch them go through a bitter divorce. Marital affairs of prominent people grab the headlines while faithful couples go unnoticed. Today, increasing numbers of women and men get married or decide not to get married without ever having had personal exposure to a successful and sunny marital relationship.

Paradoxically, in our social media age, a huge number of us pay tear-jerking, almost desperate attention to accounts of elderly couples who share or shared decades of loving togetherness. While it is notoriously difficult for a young person to picture him or herself as elderly, videos such as this one, which has garnered over 7 million views, or stories like this exert a strong pull. Does anyone actually not want someone as devoted to him or her for as long a time as the couples in these stories?

Unfortunately, the message of these sentimental tales is overwhelmed by the noisy media, academia and entertainment driven culture telling us the opposite. Along with the hubris of youth, cultural messaging and personal experience tells young people to reject or delay marriage and to treat the covenant lightly. The bottom line is that many doubt that they could actually have such a marriage. It is worth taking time to internalize the message of Roger Bannister and his record shattering under four-minutes-mile. Believing in and treasuring the idea of traditional marriage is often a prerequisite to achieving one.

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21 comments

Ruth Maruca says:

We have been married 56 mostly happy years. I used to feel like a fake and didn’t want to celebrate our big anniversaries. I have changed my mind as I realise all marriages have their ups and downs. Sometimes it is about holding on and not giving up. The younger members of our family need to see us celebrate, so we do more heartily these days.

Susan Lapin says:

Absolutely, Ruth. It is so important to see a real marriage, with ups and downs, but where at the end of the day sticking through the tough parts grants a blessing that isn’t available to all.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Ruth–
Sounds like you discovered the secret that even when you’re in disagreement and even when challenges mount, one can still be happy. When you’re in the ups it’s easy to be happy. But when you’re in the downs, it’s harder but not impossible to still be happy. One can be highly irritated at a spouse and still look at the overall picture and feel happiness at being married even if at that particular moment, you are pretty sure you married someone who knows less about where he’s going than a Bedouin in a sandstorm.
Cordially
RDL

Monica says:

This is very inspiring and grounded in truth! I have been raised in an environment where marriage is not a lasting (nor desirable) journey, and I have decided to aspire for the uncommon. You and Rabbi Lapin are a great inspiration for a new normal. God bless your family and your ministry!!

Susan Lapin says:

Good for you, Monica! Stay strong.

Doug says:

Our fast-paced lives in the USA have been orchestrated by a devouring National Budget. Tax policy took a major shift in the 1960’s when the Government realized that some women wanted to work outside the home. New tax policies encouraged this, increased tax revenues, and has led to more single parent households. Has anyone ever heard of the marriage tax penalty? It is extremely rare for all but the most financially diligent couples to keep one parent home raising the children. All of this caused by greedy politicians and bureaucrats. This, I feel, is the primary cause of the disillusion of the nuclear family. We are prayerfully grateful for being able to have sufficient income to actually raise our children.

Susan Lapin says:

Doug, I agree that our government has been one of the biggest anti-marriage proponents both from tax policy and by “helping” women have children on their own.

Kirsten says:

My great grandparents were married for seventy years and I loved them dearly. I was blessed to receive their fiftieth wedding anniversary gift of a soup tourine and four bowls. When I look at this lovely set I cannot help but love my husband more. Our soup bowls overflow!!

Thank you Mrs. Lapin for sharing this heart warming and inspirational musing.

Susan Lapin says:

Oh, you are resonating with me, Kirsten. Both sets of my grandparents celebrated 50th anniversaries (one set had a 60th) and I felt very fortunate to be at those events and to know them.

Andrew says:

The media have a lot to answer for of course, but then while money keeps heading their way, they won’t be quick to change. One of the many things I have learned and very much appreciate from you both is to think about the connections I not just make for myself but also my children. I sent my children to a private school, not because I thought they’d get a better education, but because of the friends they would make there and influence works both ways.
I truly hope that people who do reach milestones in marriage celebrate in a noticeable way for people to see it can still be done. I have far too many discussions with people who think that any connection is only temporary at best.

Susan Lapin says:

Andrew, I have heard people say that the reason to go to schools like Harvard or Yale is for the connections, not for the education. There is an element of truth in that.

William Brower says:

Miss Susan, We are indeed blessed. You and I were raised to expect that our oath, ” Till death us do part” meant something. I have shared my Susan and my story . I pray it again becomes the norm and not the exception.
Bill Brower

Ian says:

Dear Susan,

The sad situation as far as marriage is concerned was perhaps foretold in, William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity ….

Things, truly have fallen apart, especially with regards to marriage and family. And indeed you are right, If we would only remember the story of Roger Bannister and the 4 minute mile, we would perhaps commit to the required effort to maintain relationships within families and especially with children.

We should also remember Henry Ford who said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. He also said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”. Quotations from business, but perhaps they should also be used for marriage.

Susan, it is rare that I wholeheartedly agree with one of your “musings”. This is one of those occasions.
Kindest regards.
Ian

Susan Lapin says:

What an amazing way of putting it, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity”. Ian, I appreciate your commenting whether you agree or disagree, in part or in whole.

Rich M says:

Roger Bannister’s legend does seem to fly in the face of the individual who says: “If you tell me I can’t do it, I will do it just to prove you wrong!” It seems odd that there was not a miler before Roger that just wanted to prove others were wrong.

However, the Henry Ford’s statement: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right” seems more likely to relate to marriage. If we grow up with expectations as to how a marriage “realllllly works” from watching adults around us, then those are much harder to visualize differently. As an example, it does seem that many wives make statements that demean their spouse. It is easy to conclude that during the courting stage, the girl was very careful to only say uplifting things, but once married, this was no longer necessary and therefore, it is just the way things are that married women tend to not show respect to their husband.

As you state: “The bottom line is that many doubt that they could actually have such a (joyous) marriage.”

Susan Lapin says:

Rich, I don’t think women have a monopoly on disparaging statements but I agree that this is one of the most important marriage tips we give young couples. Sarcasm and “wit” along with disapproval and put-downs are a quick way to destroy a relationship.

Stephy R says:

You are right Susan, it is not just the wife that can damage a marriage by disrespecting her husband. Rabbi Lapin’s “Madam, I’m Adam” CD has wonderful insight into the need of a wife to be cherished and a husband’s need for respect. You can rarely have one without the other! I highly recommend both happy and unhappy couples listen to this to gain insight into their own marital role!

I agree that every effort should be made to stay in a marriage, however, let’s not judge those that have put in the valiant effort only to find their is no resolution to the toxic environment they find themselves in. Sometimes staying in an unhealthy relationship could potentially cause more damage to the next generation’s opinion of marriage than by moving on. I say this but still believe these desperate situations are not as common as today’s divorce rate would indicate. I agree that most couples today do not go the “extra mile” to work on their marriage. Our society definitely gives up on marriage way too easily! Thank you Susan – you always make me think!

Jim says:

Tomorrow my wife and I celebrate 42 years together. My parents married in their mid-20’s and died in their mid-80’s, still married. My wife’s parents are now in their 80’s and have been married for 63 years. All we can do is model what we preach and hope it takes.

Susan Lapin says:

What a wonderful family heritage. We need to make sure we model and share this with as large a group as possible.

Vince says:

45 yrs. and we’re both 63. Boyfriend & girlfriend all through H.S. It can be done, put G-d first.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Well done, Vince!
And your succinct advice is an excellent start
Cordially
RDL

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