Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hans vs. Severus

Saturday evening, I officiated Sharon and Tim’s wedding ceremony at the Trophy Club Country Club, in Trophy Club, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

 
One of the most iconic movie villains in the history of American Cinema is the villain in Die Hard, a man named Hans, who arguably had the best last name a movie villain could have. That's right, Gruber. Hans is up against the hero of the film, played by Bruce Willis, a New York City cop.

One of the reasons that this movie was so popular and remains iconic today, even though it has not aged well, and is barely watchable, is that it is SO American, and not in a good sense. It portrays a battle between good and evil, as one between two quintessentially flat male characters, full of bluster and bravado. Good is absolute, evil is absolute. All other characters are mere props.


And, so, naturally, even though the whole plot rests on the fact that the hero and his wife are estranged, largely due to the hero's behavior, all he has to do is vanquish her captors, and she, the prize, falls into his arms.

It is almost poetic that later in life the same man, who played my erstwhile and flat cinematic relative in that forgettable film, played one of the most complex figures in modern popular literature, Severus Snape. And the world Severus Snape inhabits is as rich, as Die Hard's world is flat. Perhaps that is why Alan Rickman said, "When I am 80 years old, and sitting in my rocking chair, I'll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, 'After all this time?’ And, I will say, ‘Always.’"

Now, if you know Sharon, you know that she could have uttered those very same words. That is why Tim proposed to her at, that's right, Nakatomi Plaza... No, not really. He proposed to her at Harry Potter World.

I, like, Sharon, and so many others across languages, cultures and borders, love this world, because of its complexity, its depth, and its characters' struggles. This makes so much of what happens in that world much more realistic than the world of Die Hard, and certainly more applicable to our lives.

Harry, and his friends, are introduced to us and to each other through a world of magic. You might not know this, but Sharon and Tim were introduced to each other through magic too. After all, as Arthur C Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." You have to admit that the complex array of electrons and algorithms that brings people like Sharon and Tim together in our world is hardly distinguishable from the Sorting Hat, that brings people together, in a slightly different way, in Harry's world.

What makes that world so easy to identify with, though, is the realism of the internal lives and interpersonal relationships of the characters. Few can see themselves in John McClain from Die Hard, but magic aside, we can see ourselves in Harry, Ron, Hermione or Ginny. And the friendships and romantic relationships in that world are very very real, with all of the messiness and beauty that comes with them.

And so, we know that Hermione and Ron could truly identify with how Sharon describes her relationship with Tim, "He is my best friend and there is no one that I'd rather share all of life's experiences with." And, as we see the closing scene in that magnificent series, in just the body language, we know that Harry and Ginny could identify with how Tim describes his relationship with Sharon, "We are a team, which is one of the things I love most about her. Together we are unstoppable!"

Unlike the characters in that closing scene, we don't get to see where life will take us. And, even in that scene, the lesson is that the future is not predetermined. However, interact even a little with Sharon and Tim, and I believe you can see them in that scene, years ahead from now. You know that Tim can see that, when he says, "Sharon is the love of my life. I want to spend the rest of my life and grow old with her." And you know that Sharon can see that too, when she says, "Ultimately, Tim is everything I could want in a life partner, and my life is better with him in it."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Amazing

Saturday evening, I officiated Ashley and Erez’s wedding ceremony at the Blue Sky Ranch, in Wanship, Utah. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay. When reading Ashley's essay, I noticed a word repeating itself: Amazing. 

 
Ashley tells us that her brothers are amazing, that they married two amazing women, and that together they are raising amazing children. Ashley tells us that Erez's sons are amazing. And, finally, Ashley says, "We... want to grow our family and having the commitment of marriage is part of that amazing journey." Can you sense a theme here?
 
So, how does a couple end up with amazing children? Put a little differently, and this is the way I like to think about child rearing in my own life, how do I ensure my children will only need a minimal amount of therapy... Seriously, though, how do we, as parents, raise a child that ends up describing his youth like Erez does, "I always had a good head on my shoulders, treated people with respect and tried to enjoy life."
 
The answer isn't really that complicated, the entire industry of child rearing books notwithstanding. Part of it, like anything in life, is luck. Another part, and this is easier said than done, is treating your kids like you would others, when they do things differently than you. Erez says, "I have a tremendous respect for people and their choices, so I don't judge." And, he is consistent, in that he practices what he preaches with regard to his kids. 
 
The most important prerequisite for ending up with amazing children, though, is unconditional love. Ashley says about her parents, "I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am today, if it wasn’t for all of the continuous love and support they have provided me throughout my life." 
 
Now, by this point you might wonder, are we at a wedding of two individuals or a parenting seminar. Well, neither. As I mentioned earlier in the ceremony, this day celebrates Ashley, Erez, and Erez's sons becoming one family. 
 
That said, if you think about it, the ingredients I mentioned for raising great kids are, not surprisingly, great ingredients for a successful marriage. You need a little bit of luck, say like joining the right workplace soft ball team, and playing positions on the field that are fairly close to each other. 
 
You need to respect the fact that people are different, and will do things a little differently, say, and this is just a random example, that that person may be a fairly secular Jew, while you are more of a traditionally minded Catholic or vice versa. 
 
And, you need unconditional mutual love. This kind of love might cause you to repeat that word we started with. You might say, as Erez does, that, "Ashley is an amazing woman. She's fun, smart and makes me feel like a better man." This kind of love, if you were Ashley, might cause you to say, "I’ve always dreamt about my wedding day and who would be my husband. I’ve found him. We’ve been together for over 4 years and I’m ready to wake up everyday to call Erez my husband."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Live Our Path Together

Saturday evening, I officiated Sam and Beau’s wedding ceremony at the Pine Creek Cookhouse in Aspen, Colorado. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
I always ask every person I officiate for to write their life story. Most do not get into the details of their birth. Interestingly, both of these individuals did. Listen to Beau, first: "I was six weeks premature and needed to be in an incubator. The same day I was born, a nurse walked by my incubator and realized I was not breathing. She resuscitated me and I remained strong from that point on. Because I was so premature, a nurse who had worked with me from the day I was born, took me to live at her home with her husband as a foster child so that she could make sure I was well taken care of, and had the direct attention of a health professional. The nurse fell in love with me, and fought to become my mother."
 
Now Sam's birth, while less medically perilous was no less, shall we say, interesting: "Having put my parents through three fake labors, I finally came into this world upside down and backwards. It was definitely a dramatic night, and a sign for the future."
 
Sam ties this to her path in life, when she says, "Thus began my journey… of unfolding and discovering my truths, choosing and creating my fate, connecting to my higher Self." And, Beau too has embraced the perfection and imperfections that life has lead him through, to arrive here today. Together, as a couple, as well as each of them individually, they have embraced a simple sentence that guides their lives, "We each have our own journey."
 
And, what a journey each of them has had, and they, as a couple, have had together. Their stories are fascinating and inspiring, specifically, because it has NOT been one long uninterrupted fairy tale. They have led interesting and complicated lives, and have taken the time to reflect on and learn from their experiences.
 
And these led them to that wonderful, elusive, messy thing – love. Listen to Beau, reflecting on a difficult yet pivotal point in his life, and in what brought him back to hope in and for the future: "I came across a drawing... It was Guanyin, the Tibetan goddess of love and compassion. At that point, I deeply lacked love and compassion for myself, and therefore had nothing to spare for those around me. I realized that this was a sign... and had the drawing of Guanyin tattooed on my left arm to remind me that I along with everyone in the world need and deserve love and compassion no matter their story or situation..."
 
And, Sam speaks of an evolution towards love and compassion in a very similar way: "I slowly left the dogma of structured religion and focused more on my own personal connection to a higher power and life lived fully in right action and attitude. My heart exploded with love and compassion and desire for adventure and new experiences."
 
And, Sam sums up beautifully how this love for everyone and each other guides their next steps together, in a few short words that Beau could have written too: "So, through my... messy journey of heartache, perseverance, strength, will, love, and gratitude... my personal and spiritual journeys define big parts of who I am and who I strive to be. They have not only gotten me where I am, but they have lead me to Beau and allow me to fully experience and live our path together."

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Meant to Be…

Saturday evening, I officiated Lizzy and Aaryn’s wedding ceremony at Ten Mile Station, in Breckenridge, Colorado. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:


As I sat down to write these remarks, I had a sudden revelation. This was all meant to be. What do I mean? Well, here is the interesting thing about Lizzy's name. Elizabeth or Elisheva shows up once and only once in all the Hebrew Scriptures. Guess who she marries? That's right, the first high priest of Israel, the brother of Moses, Aaron.

Fittingly, when Lizzy describes her Aaryn, he seems to possess some of the characteristics of that original Aaron. Listen to what she says: "Aaryn is the best companion. He consistently listens attentively, offers the best advice, demonstrates his love and support for me, and makes breakfast whenever I want it. He is confident, caring, perceptive, loyal, and – very important when you deal with me on a regular basis – level-headed."

Pretty cool, huh? But why do I say he has some of the original Aaron in him? Well, here is how the Rabbinic tradition describes Aaron: "Loved peace, pursued peace, loved his fellow man..." And the ancient rabbis expound on this with various legends in which they extol Aaron's character, telling us how, to paraphrase Lizzy, he was caring, supportive, loyal and yes, level-headed.

Now, Lizzy, in a self-critical manner, seems to think that level-headedness is key, when you deal with her. This tells me that one of her best qualities is that she is passionate about what she believes in, and is not afraid to not only express this, but act on it too.

The ancient rabbis see the same in the original Elizabeth, Elisheva, Aaron's wife. You may remember that Pharaoh orders the midwives of the Hebrews to help him with his genocidal plots against the Hebrews. Guess who the rabbis tell us one of the midwives was? That's right, Elisheva. These two women do what nobody else dares to do in that story. They disobey Pharaoh's orders. Elisheva refuses to go along just to get along. Sounds a lot like Lizzy...

Now, not only is Lizzy passionate; she is much much more. In fact, Aaryn describes Lizzy in a similar fashion to how she describes him. He tells us that Lizzy, "is beautiful, adorable, smart, friendly, caring, genuine, sweet, loving."

And he ends with what you sense could be a mutual statement, "I am ready to care, love, partner, parent and more with Lizzy for the rest of my life." Like I said at the beginning, Lizzy and Aaryn - they were meant to be...

Monday, September 4, 2017

Beyond Anything I Can Compare

Sunday evening, I officiated Sivan and Kevin’s wedding ceremony at the Vouv, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

In Texas, being fully honest with others is something of a challenge for many of us. Hence, those oh so Texas sayings, "It is what it is," "Well, there you go," or (my favorite), "Bless your heart!" Each of these really means, "I think you are full of crap, but I won't tell you that, because we don't do that here."
 

Now, the great thing about Israelis, and I can say this because I am one, is that we don't talk like that. We are like New Yorkers on steroids. We say what we mean, and we mean what we say. The sabras, or native born Israelis, like Sivan, really stand out in that respect. I can say that, because I am married to one. You always know where you stand with a sabra.

If you know Kevin, you know that description fits him too. You might be called an honorary sabra. He met Sivan through her coming to speak to a club he belonged to. Meant to be, you might say? Here is how Kevin describes it: "Though there is no evidence for fate or determinism, I will admit circumstance did align." Poetry it ain't, but isn’t it honest?!

And what was Sivan thinking as she waited to speak, and saw Kevin in the audience? "I couldn’t look away. He was beautiful. After the panel he came to introduce himself; he was so nervous. He was too great. So naturally, I assumed he’s gay. I legit tried to set him up with my gay best friend as the night went on and he was incredibly confused." Hey, I told you she was honest!

Now, being honest with others is one thing, but being honest with yourself, can be a challenge regardless of where you come from. This is an area where Sivan and Kevin really stand out. They have asked uncomfortable questions, and they have not shied away from the answers they have found, regardless of where these answers took them, and what others might think. In fact, it is not often you meet two individuals, who have thought so long and hard about their places in the world, their life journeys so far, and where they wish to go from here.

When you are honest with others and with yourself, you have a shot at true self-actualization as individuals and as a couple. Listen to Kevin: "My desire and love for Sivan is beyond anything I can compare. She is really a great person to be around. Being myself, being THAT person (I am) when I am around her is amazing... With Sivan the best things come out... I just want to spend as much time as I can with her doing everything. It is strange that one person can make one so happy. (Even) going out to Costco is an adventure with her. Who knew that was possible?"

And Sivan adds, "I want to be with Kevin for the rest of my life... We’ve been through a lot together, in a very short amount of time... If we were able to overcome so much together, I know this is the right time for us to claim our love in front of everyone we love."

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Love So Powerful

Friday evening, Rev. Chuck Sisneros, of LoveNotes, and I co-officiated Brittany and Martin’s wedding ceremony at the Northeast Chapel in Hurst, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

You can't beat Martin's vivid description of the first time he saw Brittany. They had decided to go to a Sherlock Holmes movie: "As I entered the movie theatre and looked around, up came a stunning woman in a black leather coat, with long hair, large bright eyes, and a huge smile on her face that lit up the room." Sounds like this "Sherlock" found what he was looking for! (#dadjoke)

So, naturally, after the movie was over, he did what any smitten guy would do to show a girl a good time. This is how Brittany describes it: "Afterwards we went to Walmart. Martin needed to buy some sandwich items so he could have lunch ready for work. He now says that he wanted to spend more time with me but he could not think of anywhere else and he really did need sandwich bread."
 

Interestingly, as their relationship progressed, Martin discovered that it was not sandwich bread that was missing. It was something else. Eventually, he says he discovered that it was Brittany. He says that he came to realize, that "She fills the void of everything that was missing..." And so, looking back, Martin says something fascinating, "I... believe this is where my... apathetic life ended, and my happiness began anew."

Why do I say that is fascinating? Because it implies that (unlike with the sandwich bread) before his relationship with Brittany, he didn't feel like anything was missing. It is only upon meeting her, and their relationship progressing, that he made that discovery. Once he did, his whole perspective on life, not just as Brittany's partner, but as an individual, changed.

This is reminiscent of the second creation story in Genesis: "And the Lord God said: 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.'” Now, pay attention to the words; it's not Adam that says this. He's fine, or rather thinks he's fine. However, once she is created, what does Adam say, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." Now, he knows what he had been missing all along; he knows the void, and what or rather who has filled it.

In the Jewish tradition, we bless the bride and groom that they find happiness like that of the first couple. What do we mean, specifically? We pray that the love of the couple be so powerful, that it seem to her, that he is the only man in the world, as Adam was to Eve, and that it seems to him, that she is the only woman in the world, as Eve was to Adam. Brittany says something very similar about why she wants to marry Martin, "I want to get married to Martin because I love him with all my heart and I don’t see myself with anyone else."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

I Always Believed in Love

Midday Sunday, I officiated Kate and Jim’s wedding ceremony at their home, in Frisco, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

The story of how Kate and Jim became a couple, once they met, is like out of a romance novel. (Ladies, you can explain to your guy friends what those are later.) It truly was one of those stories of love at first sight, or more accurately, first interaction. Their initial date, per the laws of online dating, was only supposed to be a brief "meet and greet". The chemistry was so incredible, though, that it turned into dinner and a long deep discussion into the night.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to Jim: "Our first date was magical and as close to love at first sight as it can get." Kate is - I'm sure this will shock you - more verbose: "I felt a surge and connection immediately upon looking into Jim’s eyes! Our first plan was to just have a drink, but we both agreed that we had a very special chemistry and decided to spend the whole evening together. We shared our life stories, and found ourselves immediately moving closer physically and emotionally that evening. It was a freezing cold evening, but my heart was glowing warmth. When Jim walked me to my car that night, and we kissed goodbye, I knew I was falling fast!" Is that beautiful or what?
There is great beauty in the story of two lovers, say in their mid-twenties, who come together in the bond of marriage, and so what I will say next should not be misconstrued as diminishing that at all. However, there is a unique and unmatched beauty in the love story of two seasoned (don't call us old; we are not) individuals like Kate and Jim, who have found such hope and loving friendship together.

Love stories like Kate and Jim's inspire me. Why? Because it is so very human. The fate of humanity, is to experience loss. That is the nature of our species, and every other species. However, what sets us humans apart is that we need not surrender to fate.

We have a choice. Regardless of what the universe throws at us, we still can choose how to react to that situation. It's not easy, but we can choose what to do next. Kate and Jim each made a choice. Kate, again, shockingly, is more descriptive. (I'm really happy she is coming out of her shell!) "I always believed in love and became hopeful that I could love and trust again. I started dating..."

That choice to look fate in the eye, and choose your destiny, is what brings us here today. As Jim says, "I want to marry Kate now because I love her, and we both want to take our relationship to the next stage... to bind and bond our relationship to each other." And as Kate says, "Once we fell in love, we both felt that life is too short and unpredictable to wait to take our love to the next level."