Raise the pulse, get bright-eyed, blush and go dancing. Get into arguments and deadly serious disagreements, shout at each other and burst into tears. Storm off in a tizzy, go to friends and allies for consolation and camaraderie, Go to sleep miserable, wake up worse. Mope around with hurt pride, wander through a depressed shadow world of unremarkable regeneration and boredom. Assess your own failings in the matter, assign fault and judgment. Make vows. Raise the pulse, get bright-eyed. Start trouble, be dangerous, blush and go dancing. Raise hell. Romance.
Eighteenth-century philosopher and writer Denis Diderot tells the fable of a knife arguing with a sheath, each upset about broken promises of loyalty which both had failed to keep. They are scolded by an unnamed third party for committing the folly of promising not to change. If a knife was meant for just one sheath, it is observed, and if a sheath was meant for just one knife, why should the shape of each accommodate so many others?
The fable may not be moral, but it is merry.
So sayeth a mariner officiating a union:
“This vessel is not meant to capsize, not meant to scuttle, but to be buoyant and seaworthy from stem to stern in hail storms and perfect weather alike. But even a sturdy mast may snap. For your own sake, trim the sails in a hurricane. There are rocks stored down below in the hold. They are so much ballast to be shifted when the vessel behaves erratically, should it become too heavily weighed down, when spiritless in the doldrums or wallowing in the troughs, make lively and haul some rocks up and toss them overboard into the deep blue sea. At these times one must be careful not to leap over with them. Amen.”
This is all to the point that a thing so mysterious as love should be approached only sideways, with eyes averted if one wishes not to startle it and see it bolt.
To believe in such a thing requires that it shouldn’t be forced to undergo an appraisal. If treated like a commodity, love dies.
Place that which is precious in this life high up and at such a distance where it can’t help but be improved upon by a hopeful gaze. Rather that than have love brought low and described in low words.
In every wise tradition love is presented in dramatically colored fabrics, bathed in enticing oils and perfumes and presented in a warm, dusky light. Received thus, falling-wise, love can draw tight like a snare set for a rabbit. And it may happen that the one caught may not want to get free.
For those that have not found their match, will not find their match or cannot celebrate their match openly, every celebration of happy union must turn like a corkscrew in the heart. Afflicted with the divine insult of loneliness, the injured party can only watch from within the wedding party or from without while the worst takes its course.
Don’t I deserve to be happy? Why should I be alone? Why should I celebrate someone else’s good luck when I suffer?
These words are so familiar that there might as well only be one sufferer in the world with a thousand voices.
This then is a cautionary tale against the admiration of individuality. It alienates each from the other, Joys and sorrows which previously were shared are now rendered separately.
There is not someone for everyone, sorry to say..
Share in the collective experience of hope and delusion. Be oblivious of the discarded trash scattered thick around experience. A celebration should be a grand gesture. Forget the corkscrew in the heart (one’s own and others’) for the duration, and congregate.
The wedding celebration resembles the act of slowing down to examine a car crash, provided the people inside the wrecked automobile are un-mangled and in the prime of their lives. They have defeated the odds and are smiling.
The celebration is not for the vain creatures in the center of it all, Youth has no idea what’s coming. Without the community as audience, the performance of a marriage resembles kissing oneself in a mirror.
The community knows exactly what they’re watching. The middle-aged, bogged down with bills and children, having sipped from differing measures of success and setback, know how the awful revisions after each experience can sap the colors of a sunset.
The tree grows from a sapling. It flowers for the first time, bears fruit for a number of seasons, and then dies.
Cut it down, chop it up, and throw it into the fire. Lost out under the stars, this is how humanity keeps warm.
Just as in a play, so as not to ruin the show the audience suspends disbelief. The youngest, drawn in by the pageant to consider their own possibilities and to choose from the archetypes they resemble, are impressed by the seriousness of the situation. The oldest count the hordes, potentially, that have issued from their own loins and recall the ghosts of their own lives. Ghost weddings. Ghost lovers. Ghost dreams. Between the young and old manifests the unbroken chain of the living back to the bright soul who divided first. Or who was cut in half and multiplied and set off this chain reaction of endlessly contesting lives.
So enters the song of superstition. Where are the priests? They’re on their way.
Remember, everything could go wrong. There is bad luck to contend with.
Vigilant, misshapen, a vulture pursues happiness, following from above. There are ways to get around this.
Wear a veil. Get the blessing of the man with the elephant head. Avoid weddings on Wednesdays. Pay attention to the calendar. Avoid the moon in Scorpio.
There are seven vortices of energy starting at the tailbone and ending at the crown of the skull.
Build a hot fire to ward off evil. Apply slaked lime and turmeric, Walk around the fire seven times.
Engage in seven days of expiation followed by seven days of celebration. Seven prayers offered on the seventh day by the seventh son. Seven questions answered.
Congregate before the day is done. Arrive on a horse. Shower the bride with flower petals. Arrive on an elephant. Shower the bride with coins. Offer rice to the fire. And begin.
Four posts. Four witnesses. Take off your shoes when approaching the divine. The couple gets married under a Mandap. The couple gets married under a Chupa. The couple gets married underneath an arbor. And there you have it again.
The couple’s souls have been joined like two pieces of fabric. Muslin gauze intertwined with linen. The time was auspicious to exchange the rings. To drink the wine. To smash plates. To sing songs. And to dance!
But what about the religious officials? They are beating on the door demanding to be let in. The noisy pills in the punch haven’t been consulted. They who have made the union and judgment of souls their business haven’t given their blessing. Here they come with contracts and consecrated prayers, with liturgies and acclamations and the potential, if left to their own devices, to stir up repudiation and damnation. They who prohibit and issue stern warnings like angry freelancing fathers.
Keep the doors closed against them. Let them pray where no-one can hear them and kneel where no one can see. The birds sing our psalms and the earth is ours while we’re on it and maybe even after. Let the vows be reinvented by the lovers. Let the arms of the women go bare, and their hair go uncovered if they so wish it. The water laughs from riverbeds to see it. The sun approves.
Open the doors. They can be forgiven. They must be thirsty after the lecture circuit of the desert. Let them turn water into wine if they can, If more likely they can’t, let them share what there is to be shared and be satisfied in the service of commemorating love.
Let them come in and be welcomed as wedding guests. No more, no less.
But if it all gets to be too much, if the audience won’t stay in their seats, if disbelief goes unsuspended, if the priests insist on sermons mandated by the First Council of Nicaea, if it’s all corkscrews and no hearts, all salt crystals and no sapphires, set the stage, cue the band, uncork the wine, and elope.