Monday, February 11, 2008
A Beautiful Wedding: Why Did I--and 200 Others--Cry?
Having just returned from the wedding of a young woman who--and I can't believe this--I've known since she was born, I am once again touched, just in time for Valentine's Day, with the significance of love. Sounds corny, but I'm not alone--at crucial moments in the proceedings, I observed, through wet distortion, faces twisted in sentimentality, and tears glistening on revelers cheeks. The groom, when approaching his bride, wept; the bride then became lachrymose, and the entire assembly, perhaps the bride's macho brother excluded, broke into a unison of sobs and sniffles.
What were we all crying about? Could we even verbalize it? Is there something profound we tap into when we are choked-up? Is it the same sentiment that I feel when viewing a sappy phone company commercial as when watching this young woman, who I observed growing and developing, become the magnificent bride I cheered last Thursday night? Both experiences are an indescribable welling-up of emotion that overcomes me and removes me from speech and logic.
There is something deeply visceral in the loss/gain/profundity of two people committing their lives to each other, to shared goals, moving the time spiral another increment, passing human momentum from one generation on to the next. In these two people facing each other, with unspeakable emotion, we are infused with an awe of possibility, exaltation of continuity and, I believe, awareness of the transcendent.
I can't quite remember the Jewish source where I read it, but this idea stuck with me: tears are the filament that connect the spiritual with the physical worlds. They are the physical manifestation of a non-physical reality.
Can an atheist cry at weddings? Perhaps Christopher Hitchens (actually a darn good writer) would say yes, because he's touched by the love and connection shared by these people, by the significance of their shared destiny. But what is "touched"? What, for Christopher Hitchens, is "spiritual?" He might say these thoughts come from highly-evolved neurons in the brain that when visually stimulated, chemically provide an illusory perception.
Hmm, is an illusory perception "reality?" Aren't these tears that feel wet, taste salty, reflect the light embarrassingly in the sanctuary, and blur my vision, the result of something actual? Something I didn't choose to have descend upon me when decked out in mascara and eye-liner?
I, for one, don't like feeling out of control. But viewing the bride's lithe white vision of tulle and anticipation removed my cool and replaced it with the same outpouring of feeling that enveloped two hundred others in that suddenly-sweltering room. And as for its source--I doubt Christopher Hitchens or any biochemist really have a clue.
Mazel tov, Ruthie and Asher...