Here hills and vales, the woodland and the plain,
Here earth and water seem to strive again,
Not chaos-like together crush’d and bruis’d,
But, as the world, harmoniously confus’d:
Where order in variety we see,
And where, though all things differ, all agree.
(Alexander Pope)

THAT THERE IS A MAGNIFICENT VARIETY IN NATURE IS OBVIOUS TO ANYONE WHO HAS EVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT SERIOUSLY. Indeed, the very beauty we appreciate in the world around us is largely the result of nature’s being “harmoniously confus’d.”

The word “variety” is related to words like “varied,” “various,” and “variegated,” which all come from a root having to do with difference. Things only “vary” when they are different in some way, and “variety” simply describes a situation in which there is some unlikeness or diversity. At the grocery store, I always buy the “variety pack” of donuts because in that box there are different kinds of donuts.

Now variety is not always good. Its goodness depends on several factors: whether the individual things are good in themselves, whether their differences are blended in a peaceful way, and so forth. But when the conditions are right, variety can be a very positive characteristic. In fact, it can be one of the most wonderful things in the world.

Not only does variety contribute to beauty and enjoyment (it’s the “spice of life”), but it also adds strength. In regard to nations, for example, Francis Galton said, “The moral and intellectual wealth of a nation largely consists in the multifarious variety of the gifts of the men who compose it, and it would be the very reverse of improvement to make all its members assimilate to a common type.”

In our personal relationships, we ought to see the value of variety, and this is certainly true in marriage. If you are married (or even in a romantic relationship that is leading to marriage), you should give the gift of healthy variety to the relationship — and be prayerfully grateful for the variety your beloved brings to the relationship also.

As you are woman, so be lovely:
As you are lovely, so be various,
Merciful as constant, constant as various,
So be mine, as I yours for ever.
(Robert Ranke Graves)

Gary Henry — +

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