Featured Post


If you're a student looking for syllabi, click the "Academic Home Page" link on your right, and start there.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lucky 13

Marriage is the perfection of what love aimed at, ignorant of what it sought.--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today, August 13, 2006, is Melissa's and my thirteenth anniversary. As I've mentioned before, we were married on a Friday the 13th, and ever since have considered such to be our lucky days. Too bad today isn't a Friday! That would have made it perfect.

Emerson's comment is, like so many of his tossed-off quotables, deeply insightful while also being opaque. Marriage is a condition--we talk about "being married"--and not, except in various technical legal or social senses, a static state. So is he talking the ceremony of marriage as that which "perfects" what love is seeking, or that marriage is the "perfecting process" by which what loves aims at is made clear, or both, or something else entirely? Who knows. It's a great quote though, and still, to this day, a true one. So long as the modern world does not revert to seeing weddings as pre-romantic, property arrangements, or leap (or stumble) forward into a world where relationships are utterly individualized in terms of duration and expectations, then this creaky institution called "marriage" will remain the preferred (and best) way to move almost all people into a way of living where otherwise rather flakey notions like "love" can receive some real purpose and permanence. Living with someone you've locked yourself to teaches you a lot; perhaps most of all, it teaches you that whatever you thought you loved this person for--the way I thought I loved Melissa thirteen years ago--weren't so much wrong as just seen through a glass darkly: they are shadows, mere glimpses, of your real reasons for loving that person, reasons which in my case have been greatly perfected over the past thirteen years...and yet still have, I'm sure, so much more perfecting in store.

Describing our wedding day three years ago, on our tenth anniversary, I wrote this:

"It was bright, windy and warm day (hot, really, but the breeze took the bite off). Not everything went perfectly according to plan, but most things did. It was a good beginning to our life together. I'm not sure how well I understood it at the time, and I'm not sure how well I understand it now, but I think that perhaps the most important reason it was a good beginning was the fact that we were both ready to begin. We were in love, yes; we had our families behind us, true; we had some good plans and goals and some sense of how to achieve them, absolutely. But I think, most crucially, we were settled on what we were doing. Forget about this single life stuff. A pox on the dating scene. To hell with being at loose ends....We wanted to be committed, stuck together, sealed, put on the path and pushed out the door. And we were. Ten years on, I can't even imagine what might otherwise have been, or what may have been missed or what perhaps could have been better. Fortunately (thank you God), I find I'm really not even interested in wondering."

Happy anniversary, Melissa. I wouldn't be here without you.