Sunday, August 26, 2012

Security in Spreading Their Wings

Last Sunday I officiated Brooke and Eric's wedding in Arlington, Texas. I referred to a reading I read before my remarks. Here is the reading from the writings of Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility, it is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible in life, as in love, is in growth, in fluidity, in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia; nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. For relationships, too, must be like islands. One must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits. Islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, are continually visited and abandoned by the tides. One must accept the security of the winged life, of the ebb and flow, of intermittency.

Here are my remarks:

I use a wonderful book to help couples choose reading for their ceremony, "Celebrating Interfaith Marriages" by Rabbi Devon Lerner. It has a whole chapter with about thirty five modern poetry and prose readings. Brooke and Eric are the first to choose this reading. When they did in one of our meetings, I made a mental note of that as an interesting fact.

Then I sat down to write this ceremony, and I read this reading in depth. I was struck by how deep, realistic, and multi-layered it was. What really hit me was how much this reading fit with the couple that chose it, how much "Brooke and Eric" there was here.

You see, many people in our middle class society have their life charted out in a fairly predictable fashion. They look for and find security in the familiar, the regular, the close to home. In the process, they clip their own wings, settle for something less than what they dreamt of, and learning and curiosity lie dormant in them.

Not Brooke and Eric, though. Listen again to the final words of the reading: "One must accept the security of the winged life, of the ebb and flow, of intermittency." Both Brooke and Eric have managed not to succumb to the deadening security that comes from just settling. They find security in spreading their wings as individuals and as a couple. They find security in learning, in trying new things, in visiting new places. They find security in the question, not the answer; in the intermittent, not the constant; in the journey, not the destination.

Brooke and Eric, thank you for this wonderful insight. May you indeed always remember that, "The only continuity possible in life, as in love, is in growth, in fluidity, in freedom."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Through Love We Transcend Ourselves

This last Saturday I co-officiated Veronica and Chris' wedding in Lubbock, Texas with Pastor Don Kinder. Here are the remarks I shared with them:

I ask each person I marry to write an essay about him or herself. This enables me to get to know the person a little better, and say something really meaningful at this point. Veronica opened her essay with a fascinating story. She tells how as a teen she suffered a loss of faith, and then regained it. Here is how (listen to this; this is gold):

"I was in temple for my confirmation class, it was the last meeting, and our Rabbi asked us to just sit in the synagogue and reflect on what we have learned. There are no words to explain what happened. All I can tell you is that this feeling of comfort and security came over me... And in my heart, it was as if God was telling me everything was going to be okay. It was from that point on that my spiritual and religious connection to God came back."

Across cultures and generations, across religions, and even amongst non-theists, people have related similar experiences. So much so, that the great French sociologist, Emille Durkheim, called our species, Homo Duplex. He said that we each have two levels of experience, the day to day level of the profane, and those moments, where we experience the sacred, those moments, that we call spiritual experiences, be they of a theistic nature or a non-theistic nature.

I was introduced me to this idea in a podcast of lecture I saw given by Jonathan Haidt, a sociologist of religion. Haidt says that invariably, when we experience the sacred, when we transcend the ordinary, we transcend ourselves, and feel part of something greater. I feel that the most basic unit of that something greater is a couple truly and deeply in love. You hear this in how Veronica describes her first encounters with Chris, "The moment our hands touched I knew he was the one." Then after eight months, "We ended up talking for hours. I felt like I have known him my whole life." Chris elaborates on this concept too. He says that he was looking for that woman, with whom he could have a deeper connection, and that that is what he found in Veronica. So much so that, whenever he was not around Veronica he says he, "came back to the feeling of emptiness... Then when we would be back together I felt whole."

Veronica and Chris, you illuminate a great truth here. Through love we can transcend ourselves, through unity with a loved one we can rise above the ordinary, and touch the sacred. May you continue to experience this today, tomorrow and always.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Taco Salad Day

This last Saturday I co-officiated Leah and Joey's wedding with Pastor J.C. Lane in Montgomery, Alabama. Pastor Lane is Leah's grandfather, so this wedding was extra special. Here are my remarks:

Is there anything more intimidating than delivering meaningful personal remarks, standing beside the bride's grandfather, who raised her since the age of fourteen? I think not! So, if speaking at 150 weddings has taught me anything, when in doubt, resort to humor!

That brings us, of course, to "Taco Salad Day". First impressions are very important, so ideally, you want your first interaction with the beautiful upperclassman girl to go exactly like this did for Joey. Here is his description, "It was taco salad day and Leah and I sat at tables that were right beside one another. I was using hand gestures to tell a story to my buddies (Have I mentioned he's Jewish...) and before I knew it, I had taco salad all over me and in my lap!"

Now, you may think I am joking, and, well, I am. However, I am serious too. Just listen to Leah's description of what her reaction was, "I laughed and you could tell he was embarrassed, but I loved how well he played it off so nonchalantly. There was something about him that definitely caught my eye, and it wasn’t the taco salad that was covering his lap."

You see, people talk about many important components to a relationship, but many times I think that one of the most important is a sense of humor, being able to laugh. But there is something still deeper going on here. Humor is important, but perhaps the most important ingredient in a relationship is not taking YOURSELF too seriously. That is essential! Clearly what most impressed Leah was that Joey could laugh the whole thing off. She herself showed that she had the same approach about herself, when she asked him out moments later to a dance.

Leah and Joey, what is it we all wish you. Keep going back to that well, where you met. Keep smiling, keep enjoying life, and never stop laughing together.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Address at the Vigil at the Sikh Temple of North Texas

Wednesday evening (8/8)I attended a Vigil at the Sikh Temple of North Texas, and addressed the assembled. Here is what I said:

My name is Rabbi David Gruber. I wish to extend to you, the Sikh community, my deepest condolences.

How can one actually address such a terrible tragedy? Am I adequate to even try to do so? I don't know. So allow me to talk about how I dealt with a personal tragedy. Hopefully, my words will be edifying in the context of this more public tragedy.

14 years ago today, my wife and I had a child, who spent a third of his very short life in the hospital, and died less than nine months later. The most natural thing to do when one experiences such a tragedy is to ask why? Why did this happen? Why me? Here is the problem, though. There is no good answer to that question, and believe me, I have heard them all. And though you never really stop asking that question, you realize that if you are to continue on, you can't get stuck on that question. Since you cannot control events that happen to you, trying to answer that question will get you nowhere.

There is one thing, though, over which we have absolute control, and that is our choice of how to react to what happened to us. No one can take that away. So, I realized that though I could never answer the why question, there was a much more important question I could answer. That question was and is what now? Now, that I have experienced tragedy, what can I do? What call to action can I find in this tragedy? What can I do to give this tragedy meaning? To that question there can be an answer. In fact, each one of us is called upon to find his or her answer to that very question.

My answer was to love and to teach. I resolved that I would do the little bit I could to make sure there was a little more love in the world, and a little more knowledge. This drives choices I have made in my life. This is how I have found and continue to find meaning in my personal tragedy.

So let us all resolve tonight, each one of us to ask ourselves what call to action we will accept. If each one of us will heed that call, imagine, just imagine, what a wonderful society we can create!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Absolutely Passionate

This last Saturday I co-officiated a wedding once again with Deacon Ed Scarbrough at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Coppell, Texas. This time the couple was Rachel and Ben. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

When I sat down to write about Rachel and Ben, I was struck by the fascinating combination of a journalist and a restaurateur, a reporter and a sommelier. There are some very interesting commonalities between these professions, and no, I am not referring the fact that many of the best writers were alcoholics!

These professions demand long hours and hard work. If you knew nothing about these professions, you would know that is true from observing Rachel and Ben's work ethic. At the same time, few get filthy rich in either of these industries. What does the combination of these two facts mean? Well, it means that to make it, you have to be absolutely passionate about what you are doing. And again, can there be a better example of this important workplace trait than this couple?

Now, one fringe benefit of developing these characteristics is that you transfer them to your personal life, and they can enhance your relationship. After all, a successful marriage too demands hard work, and does always offer immediate remuneration. You have to be passionate about each other and about the enterprise of the marital relationship itself, but if you have just that, the sky is the limit. And once again, anyone who has seen Rachel and Ben together can tell you that this is what they are all about as a couple.

Rachel and Ben, what is it we wish for you? That you continue to work hard at your relationship, that you continue to invest in this priceless endeavor we call marriage, and that your passion continues to keep the engine of your love humming.