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Filtering by Tag: marriage

Loving the Expanse

Daniel Bowman, Jr.

14 spring

The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky. . . . For the more we are, the richer everything we experience is. And those who want to have a deep love in their lives must collect and save for it, and gather honey.

  — Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet

On New Year’s Eve I had the privilege of attending the wedding of two of my dearest friends in cold, lovely Georgetown, Ontario (bonus: I had set them up). I pulled double-duty as a groomsman and reader. The passage I read—shown above—surprised me when I first saw it. I had read Rilke’s famous book of advice when I was young, but I’m sure I arrogantly passed over some of the language about an “expanse” between us, and the “impossibility” of merging. I was twenty and in love and those words didn’t account for how I felt! But here was this wonderful couple on December 31st, 2013—in their late twenties, well-read, self-aware—who had chosen a passage focusing on the distance between them to be read at the very event that would bind them together.

I read the passage in the ceremony. And I’ve contemplated it many times since. I’ve been meditating on the facts that “even between the closest people infinite distances exist,” and that if people can accept such a truth, “ . . . then a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

2014 will mark, to my eternal gratefulness, my sixteenth wedding anniversary with the woman I love. I’ve begun to wonder how many of the problems Beth and I have lived through over the years can be traced to my failure to honor, much less love, the expanse between us. Instead, at my worst, I try to change her, to transform her into something much less that the fullness of who she is. That robs her—robs us both, really—of our “freedom and development.”

And that robbery is, frankly, nothing short of evil.

So I think back to New Year’s Eve when I celebrated two dear friends pledging vows. One of those vows was a profound determination to love the expanse between them. As I look toward spring, I’m thankful that this long winter will be over. I think of the increasing warmth of the sun, and the return of living, growing things. Yet I can see that true renaissance—rebirth—will only come into my life if I, too, vow to see Beth each day “as a whole and before an immense sky,” and to love the expanse between us.

Let us go forth and gather honey.

"Her," and Me, and Us

Alissa Wilkinson

8 Her-1-1024x576

I saw the film Her twice: first because I hadn't seen it, and second because I desperately wanted to sit alongside my husband in the theater as he saw it for the first time.

In the movie, set in near-future Los Angeles, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is heartbroken and lonely, having separated from his wife nearly a year earlier. He finds intimacy in his relationship with Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), an OS—think a very smart, very advanced Siri—and they begin a romance that changes both of them.

When we got married seven and a half years ago, I'd barely been out of college a year. We’d known each other a year, and had both just started our careers, and were both living away from our parents' homes and financial support for the first time. We had no idea what we were doing.

In the years since then, we've changed careers a combined total of six times and lived in four apartments. These days we often talk about how different we are from who we were then: we like different music, different movies, different weekend pursuits; we have different friends; our families have even changed shape tremendously due to death and divorce. Neither of us really had any idea who we were when we got married.

Together, we started to grow up.

Theodore tells Samantha that he misses his wife because they grew up together, too. One thing he loves about Samantha is her fresh, childlike, wonder-filled outlook on the world. Since his wife left, he's spent most of his time alone, stagnant, not changing. But through their relationship (and Samantha's coding), both Theodore and Samantha grow and change. Their relationship pushes them to become wiser, better versions of themselves.

There's another important relationship in the film: Theodore's friendship with Amy (Amy Adams), whom he's known since college. They dated briefly in college but have now grown into true friends, who help each other along, interpreting life for one another. Love is part of their life—not romance, but true, deep friendship love. And it turns out that relationship is as vital for Theodore’s growth as his love for Samantha.

In the days since I saw the film the second time and noted how the film lingers, at the end, on a shot of Theodore and Amy, I've thought about whom, exactly, the titular Her is. Maybe it's purposely left ambiguous.

But it's made me think about how if we’re doing it right, if we’re really living, we're always growing up, our whole lives. The me of one year ago never could have imagined everything I've thought and felt and experienced in the past twelve months. These are things I've gone through not alone, but with others. Sometimes I think I'm becoming more foolish with age, but becoming more foolish can be a form of growing up, I think. And growing up, Her says, is something we can only do alongside others.

In the last few years, I've gained and lost people. Many of my relationships have changed form. I have learned a great deal about friendship. But most of what I know about me today comes from those who I've known the longest, who've lived life beside me faithfully and consistently. I realized recently that my greatest ambition is to have the same close friends a decade from now that I do now—because I want to become wiser, or maybe more foolish.