I often hear single friends lament the state of dating and marriage--how good, old-fashioned courtship has been replaced with noncommital 'hanging out,' how old-fashioned dating has become so 'old-fashioned,' and how good manners and civility are being replaced with technological communication where no real manners are required.
While there is some truth to all of these problems, I learned today that we still have much to be grateful for in this world of human relationships.
Brandon, a representative of the Bean Museum at Brigham Young University, came to our cub scout group today and shared a fun and interesting presentation about the world of reptiles. The boys (and their willing leaders) were able to touch a python, a green iguana, and an African Spurred Tortoise. The presentation was thrilling for the thirteen nine and ten year-old boys, but the tid-bit that fascinated me the most had to do with tortoise mating rituals.
In an effort to win over a female, the male tortoises try to eliminate the competition by flipping them. That may sound charming, like a little arm wrestle between posturing males, until you learn that once a tortoise has been flipped, he's in a bit of a bind. On his back, the heavy body of the tortoise weighs down on his lungs, slowly and painfully killing the tortoise. Only in very rare instances is the tortoise able to flip himself back over, so being flipped is almost always a death sentence. This raises the stakes significantly. The tortoise had better make sure the object of his affection is worth the risk!
So in the tortoise world, successful courting is a matter of life and death. In the human world, there are only rare and scandalous examples of such cold-hearted "all's fair in love and war" behavior. As a man attempts to woo his bride, killing the competition doesn't usually come to mind.
So the next time we lament the failings of our method of courting, we need only look at the African spurred tortoise to renew our faith in the civility of humankind.