Thursday, November 5, 2020

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.

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