Saturday, November 21, 2020

Go the Distance

Saturday evening (11/7), I officiated Jayme and Jordan’s wedding ceremony at The Harlow in Kansas City, Missouri. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

“I went to Kansas City on a Friday, by Saturday I learned a thing or two, but up 'till then I didn't have an idea of what the mod'rn world was comin' to.”

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself; I’ve always wanted to begin personal remarks at a wedding, with those words. For those of you who don’t recognize those words, well, shame on you. They are from Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City, part of one of the greatest stage shows, Oklahoma, by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Now, everyone can and should appreciate Rodgers and Hammerstein, regardless of where they live and what generation they are from. It is, however, fascinating to reflect on the fact that for many years for many people, Kansas City was the height of culture and technology.

And some of us, like Jayme and Jordan and me, got to first experience American adulthood and become truly independent in Kansas City, many years after Kansas City was overtaken in prominence by other cities.

We don’t always stop to think about how the place we live, the place we fall in love, or the place we get married is a character in our story, but it is, and this is true no less in real life than it is in a stage show. This can be true, even when your story starts about forty miles away, like it did for this couple.

The beauty of Jayme and Jordan’s Kansas City story is that in Jayme’s words. “It just kind of naturally happened.” In fact, and I have had a few other couples who this happened to, they moved in together, first, along with Jessie, just to save on rent.

Then, Jordan says, “The dynamic of the household… changed a bit. After a few years, Jayme and I still had feelings for each other and decided to do things over again, really giving it our all. Our love for each other would grow and blossom over time. Eventually, Jessie would accept a job in another state making the townhouse just Jayme and I’s…”

Jayme feels like this natural evolution is key to their getting here today, “I think something that made our relationship so strong was that we were friends first… We have built a good foundation… It is built to last.” This is why they both felt that, in Jordan’s words, “Our love is strong, and it only felt right to start talking about the next steps.”

The strength of that love and its character, having evolved naturally, is reflected in both of them speaking of the other as their best friend. And this is where their future diverges from Rodgers and Hammerstein. They have certainly not, “gone about as fer as they can go.” This relationship will go the distance.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Sunday evening, I officiated Heather and Aaron’s wedding ceremony at The Springs Event Venue - the Ranch, in Aubrey, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Heather and Aaron chose to have this quote from Rumi read today; they feel it speaks to their relationship. “The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind I was. Lovers don't finally meet somewhere; they're in each other all along.” I’m not sure how you say déjà vu in 13th Century Persian, but it sounds like Rumi is saying just that.

I find that very appropriate. Yogi Berra might even say about what we are doing here today that it is déjà vu all over again. That is because the last time Heather, Aaron, their parents, and his sister got together, it was back in May, for an even more intimate wedding ceremony at Frisco Commons Park.

I want to go back a little further, though. I ask every person I marry to write an essay about themselves and their partners. Heather and Aaron wrote their essays on the same day we had our second wedding ceremony planning meeting, March 13th. In a sense, these essays could be treated as time capsules of a world long gone.

Now, I ask every couple not to read each other’s essays before our meeting. Heather and Aaron abided by this, which makes the following fact really interesting. In these time capsules, they both independently highlighted the same fact about each other. They said that one of the reasons they so loved each other is that they found the other to be selfless.

Little did they know how important that word, that idea, that concept would become in the new world we live in. They could hardly have imagined that folks across the world, in the profession Heather works in and Aaron spent many years in, would be called on to meet the moment with selflessness. And none of us could have imagined that each of us in our daily lives would be asked to continue to this very day to act selflessly. 

I joke with couples I have married or have begun to work with since March, that I don’t envy their future children. They will not be able to complain about anything. “Oh, you’re having a hard time with cleaning your room/mowing the lawn/doing your homework, are you? Try living through a global pandemic. Now that was hard!”

In all seriousness, though, I believe that Heather and Aaron’s children, specifically, have the potential to be a little kinder, a little more patient, a little more understanding. I believe this not only because of the hardship their parents will have experienced, but because they had a head start on that idea, we have all learned the importance of, selflessness.   

A Hebrew Speaking Dog, an Austrian Psychoanalyst, and a German Philosopher

Saturday afternoon, I officiated Lily and Matt’s wedding ceremony at Sage Lodge in Pray Montana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

A Hebrew speaking dog, an Austrian psychoanalyst, and a German philosopher. No, they didn’t walk into a bar. I was just reminded of each of them, when talking to Lily and Matt. Allow me to explain.

Both Lily and Matt made an interesting choice. Many folks dream of moving out to California. Their approach was little different. Their dream was to move from California to God’s country.

You might think a Jew would find it ironic to refer to Montana as God’s country, because, you know, being His chosen people and all that, so few of us, Lily being one of only 1,395, live here. Not true. Montana more than makes up for this having had perhaps the most famous Hebrew speaking dog in America, Miky.

Courtesy of Dylan Brown/Helena Independent Record

No, he didn’t really speak Hebrew, but, like me, he did serve in the Israel Defense Force, and then, again, like me, he moved to the US. The IDF gave him to the Helena Police Department, and they had to find a rabbi to help them learn commands in proper Israeli accented Hebrew, because, unlike me, he didn’t understand a word of English. True story.

Now, let’s get serious. When I was speaking with Lily and Matt about their life journeys one concept came up again and again, meaning or purpose. Matt, discussing his evolving thinking, says, “If human beings have purpose… it stands to reason someone or something is behind those… a creator or simply nature itself.” And, Lily, who was a fan of Matt’s before she even met him says, “He sparks an intense sense of purpose within me.”

This approach reminded me of one of the most profound books I ever read, first at the age of 17, in Hebrew, and then in my 40s in English, Man’s Search for Meaning. In this book, the Austrian psychoanalyst, Viktor Frankl, combines biography with an explanation of his therapeutic method. Though scientifically grounded, this method was inspired by Nietzsche’s philosophical outlook that, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

This approach calls upon each of us to do the hard work Lily and Matt have each done, individually, to discover our purpose, to find true meaning in our lives. Indeed, Frankl contends, that it is incumbent upon each of us to search for and find our own meaning.

When this type of hard work is done not only as individuals but as a couple, it makes us better individuals too. As Matt says, it helps one arrive at, “a level of honesty… that I’ve never known previously.” And, in Lily’s words, has the potential to make one want to become “the best version of” oneself and, “follow through in that pursuit.”

It is through this hard work, that Lily and Matt have been able to discover within each other and within their relationship, the truth of another profound statement, this time from C.S. Lewis, “Love is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God." We should all be so lucky.