A Wedding Message


 An ancient tale by Ovid in his Metamorphoses features a married couple whose names were Baucus and Philemon.

 It’s a tale rarely noticed because there’s no great drama to it. The usual     attention getters are frenzied stories of great passions that blazed and then blazed out. Like shooting stars that flash by and are gone. 

 But here's a story on another level - a quieter tale.

 It’s like the discovery of a faint star, from which a subtle light is emitted - suggestive of another kind of reality - another kind of love. (adapted from Jacob Needleman’s The Wisdom of Love.)

 It's what I'd like my son, Patrick, and my dear Eleni, to hear about on their wedding day - a less sensationalistic story about another kind of reality - another kind of love.

 A story about lasting love. A story that answers the question - what enables love to endure?

 Speaking of which, let’s see… I’ve been married 41 years. Pat is 33. Leap ahead by ten’s - 43, 53, 63, 73.

 When Pat’s been married for 41 years, he’ll be 74. And I’ll be - calculate - (quietly) 74, 84, 94… I’ll be a century old, plus a little - 104.

 And I’d like to hold on till then because I want to present Patrick and Eleni on their 41st Anniversary, a dark chocolate raspberry cake.

 At 104: “Here’s the cake.” And then keel over.

 Is there some mysterious secret that makes love last?

 No. Like all best things, it is simple.

 The simple thing that made the marriage of Baucus and Philemon work was the quality of attention they gave to each other.

 They listened to each other and grew old.

 Just how wild and crazy is that?

 What they did for each other may be the greatest gift that can be given - which is truly to listen - really to hear!

 For when someone truly listens to you - when someone gives you his undistracted, undivided attention - when he is fully and palpably present - you feel loved.

 This level of listening is interpreted as love.

 It’s the greatest thing ever! Actually to listen. And then to listen some more.

 To listen so well that you hear in her what she has not even heard in herself!

 You catch her by surprise with how well you hear her, and how clearly you see her.

 Now, this quality of listening has been described in many different ways, but I like in particular the way Yeats described the nature of deep listening.

 Yeats called it - listening for your loved one’s pilgrim soul.

 Yeats wanted the love of his life to remember when she was old, grey and sitting by the fire that, in contrast to the many who had recognized only her surface charms - "her glad graces," that he in contrast had seen her pilgrim soul - her searching, yearning soul - her uniqueness and her depth.

 He knew the genie in her that made her want to leap with joy!

 Now, this quality of listening creates two things. It creates, for one, a power that breaks through hard crusts - what Professor Needleman calls “crusts of worldliness.”

 For as he says, “it is a worldly crust that snuffs out the light of the self. A hard, worldly crust stultifies your life and prevents your inner being from growing.”

 And so, the hard work of listening has to do with breaking through each other’s worldly crusts so that the light can shine through.

 Think of a triangle. Eleni is at its base on one side. Pat, on the other.

 By listening to each other’s pilgrim souls, each other’s worldly crusts are dislodged and your spirits are set free! Thus inspired, you each rise up towards the peak of the triangle - towards a transcendent reference point.

 The triangle’s peak is the eternal realm of truth, beauty and goodness.

 A love worth its salt inspires a shared yearning for that infinite realm.

 And a great love - a true love - actually takes you into that dimension.

 The second result of the shared search for each other’s pilgrims souls is the growing ability to distinguish between the real and the unreal - between temporal values and spiritual ones. 

 What Baucus and Philemon did for each other was to heighten each other’s discriminating powers, so that, as the story goes, when the gods, Jupiter and Mercury came to visit their village, Baucus and Philemon recognized them and received them with open hearts and embracing arms.

 The quality of their long term love enabled them to recognize the presence of the Divine - a contrast to the rest of the outwardly turned and inwardly impoverished villagers, who failed to recognize the gods and blindly turned them away.

 And now, the rest of the story...


 “Having received the gods, Jupiter and Mercury, in their tiny cottage, Baucus and Philemon, were asked to leave their poor house to climb a steep mountain, guided by the gods.

 The two old people both did as they were told and, leaning on their sticks, struggled up the long slope.

 From their vantage point, at the top of the mountain they looked down to see.

 They noticed that in the town everything had become desolate. No buildings any longer existed but one!

 The only structure remaining was their house, where they had lived, truly serving each other.

 They then watched astonished as their poor hut was transformed into a temple of the gods.

 Marble columns took the place of wooden support, the thatch grew yellow, till the roof seemed to be made of gold.

 The door appeared magnificently adorned with carvings and marble paving the earthen floor.”

 The message here is that their long, slow, unnoticed work of creating an enduring love had resulted in transfiguration.

 That is my prayer for you, Patrick and Eleni, - my prayer that, through your close attention to each other - through your deep listening for each other’s pilgrims souls - that you will cultivate a quality of love that will totally transfigure you.

 My prayer is that you will be a 21st century re-creation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

 Metamorphosed because of the depth of love you share.

* For my youngest son, Patrick, and Eleni, who were married on Saturday, March 18th, 2017, in Canmore, Alberta


Gabriell’s Oboe, 2016 Edition, Ennio Morricone