Can there be a more majestic setting for a wedding ceremony than the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside? Sunday evening I officiated the wedding of a very special German couple, Hana and Daniel. Guests arrived from a number of different countries in Europe and beyond, and the ambience was just unbelievable. Here are my remarks from their ceremony:
Now sitting down to write these remarks, I was able to reflect not only on my long discussions with Hana and Daniel. I could actually IMDB a bride and groom. That was a first! When you talk to Hana and Daniel you find out that these are two of the deepest, most thoughtful and empathetic individuals you will ever meet, with a fascinating, multidimensional and inspiring love story, like few others. These two really make you stop what you are doing, and think and reflect about what you heard, think and reflect about your own life and your own experiences too.
Not surprisingly, they bring this depth, empathy, and complexity to their work. On the website of the Berlinale Talent Campus, every individual is supposed to sum up his or her philosophy in one line. Hana says, “I love observing: people, places – life and I am fascinated by those things that aren’t necessarily visible to the naked eye.” Wow! Isn’t that how we all should live our lives, carefully observe people and places, with lovingly observe life, and allow ourselves to be fascinated by things that might not be visible to the naked eye?
When you watch Daniel’s film, Monolight, there is again so much depth! So much is said by both individuals about their longings, their passions, their unrequited love, through just their facial expressions and body language. It takes only a few minutes to watch, but it really makes you think for long after that. You are left with a deep sense of empathy for the characters. You are left wanting to learn more about them. You are left, once again “fascinated by those things that aren’t necessarily visible to the naked eye.”
What is it that has allowed Hana and Daniel to be so open, so insightful, so empathetic? There is one particular fascinating core experience that they share, that I feel can really help answer that question. Hana and Daniel are both of layered cultural backgrounds, as a Japanese-German and a Jewish-German, respectively. They treasure and embrace these complex backgrounds, through which they share a feeling of being German, but being something else too, through which they share a feeling of always being just a little bit out of place, through which they share a feeling of fitting in, but not really.
I believe that it is through this shared experience, as individuals and as a couple, that they were able to become as deep and thoughtful and contemplative as they are. Through this shared experience they became so much more open to the world around them. Through this shared experience they developed a strong sense of empathy towards others, and especially towards “the other” in society.
So, Hana and Daniel, we owe you a debt of gratitude. Thank you for providing us, with real and rich meaning. Thank you for providing us, with some real thought provoking sustenance. Thank you for helping us learn and think and carefully reflect about our cultural identities, about our place in the world, and about how we too can and should become more open, understanding and empathetic.