One more family member has bit the dust. Another Gordian knot has been tied. The Beer Barrel Polka has blasted out of speakers for the enjoyment of the young and old. The steady stream of weddings that has annoyed me for nearly two years continues, a couple per annum, with the next ready to ring in the new year in a few months. But my mind is on the most recent celebration. There, after the garter had been thrown, I settled in for a questionable night.
The service, being nondenominational, was a short 15 minutes. As always, I found the ceremony absolutely hilarious. There’s just something about a couple of Joe Six-Packs using the lofty language of eternal vows that hits me right in the heart. My laughter is usually so strong it must be forcibly contained, lest it disturb those around me. I wasn’t sure if tonight would be any different, but when the music started, I had that smile on my face and a gleam in my eye. Just hearing Pachelbel’s Canon, under the right circumstances, is enough to put me in hysterics. Couple that with the funny dresses and tuxedos, the dressed-up audience that just might know the wedding couple, and you’ve got something that would be a perfect satire, if it were not so deadly serious.
Drink helped me through the beginning of the reception, but by the time the tables were rolled out of the room and the dance floor was getting ripped up by middle-age wives doing the twist, I was far too sober to engage in any more than an obligatory romp around the floor. The bar was very far away, both physically and mentally. I thus saw no choice but to take on my default observer role. I had proven the theory that alcohol does indeed make family events more tolerable, but it was now the time to take a good look at this crazy little thing called love, which was arguably the reason we were all gathered.
The past two years or so have included many weddings for me, far more than I had experienced in the 15 years beforehand. With the exception of one extremely crazy friend — whose wedding I blame for floods, pestilence and my shell-shocked state — all those who have been married are cousins. The birthing patterns of my mother’s extremely large Catholic family resulted in a miniature baby boom of sorts, and I am at the tail end. The group is now of marrying age, and it will not be too long before people start asking me when I plan on getting married. There are a few ahead of me yet, but the count goes down one by one with startling regularity.
On the flip side was the previous generation, my mother and her siblings. Most of the Sery kids were attending to celebrate the nuptials of a niece, but the states of their own unions were questionable. Of the five Sery sisters at the wedding, four were without escorts because of failed marriages or by circumstance, and the fifth danced the hokey-pokey alone while her husband sat outside and smoked. To me, something seemed significant about that, or at least strange enough to bear looking into.
Ah, yes. Love has bothered, cursed, pleased and annoyed people for ages. It can be a sticky topic to get into, but given the alternatives, I didn’t think I had much choice. Certainly, there were more pressing issues in the world that I could turn my scrutiny toward. But they grow tiresome: hearing a Southern President saying “Now, we will not send American boys eight or nine thousand miles around the world to do something that Kosovar boys should be doing themselves,” is a bit too much to handle. We have gone down that road once before, and as it was happening again, I chose to stay away from it. Office shootings, the Dow Jones, football, the governor traveling around Japan … why deal with this nonsense? Time to look at the predecessor to all of this contemporary garbage.
So why not start with weddings and love? They have certainly been around for a long time. Even though such modern-day add-ons as the Macarena and the Dollar Dance have started to drown out the primary messages, there is no reason not to look at the underlying philosophies that molded the rituals in the first place. There once was a method to all of this madness; it is simply a matter of getting to the bottom of it.
A full frontal assault on marriage and love, however, is bound to fail. After all, poets, philosophers and song writers have spent centuries trying to capture the significance of love in words or music. They have not succeeded, simply because the method they chose was wrong. Nobody is going to be able to subjugate such subjects with a clever turn of words or a chord progression. I have nothing to add when it comes to the obvious about love, sex, marriage and what makes the world go ’round. Instead, if there is to be any possibility of new insight on such subjects, they have to be attacked using a circuitous route. Blaze a trail.
It is at this point that I can swing my philosophy over to compare. I call myself a Romantic Idealist, which is a label I invented myself. A better term might be Naive Moron, but I shall get to that shortly. I believe that to be happy is to love someone or something, try to do it well and give fully of yourself without regard for being repaid. The moron part is obvious: When a person comes along and sees that I am going to give all of myself to him or her, it isn’t hard to take advantage of me.
All this came to me as I drifted down Larpenteur Avenue, trying to avoid a fit of pique. My life wasn’t running smoothly, leaving me surrounded and frustrated. I was finding flaws everywhere I looked: school, work, politics, people, you name it. Although I was giving my all, I still wasn’t happy. My all wasn’t being accepted. Does the world need to be a willing accomplice in the struggle?
Love cannot be something that you give because you expect something in return. I have no choice but to give it my all, because that is how you add love to the world. Yet it is getting siphoned off before my efforts can do any good: siphoned off by job nonsense, by school nonsense, by political nonsense — siphoned off by those who are looking for a way to take the credit for creating quality. This is not the way it is supposed to be, but what can be done? They are asking me to compromise, and I refuse. My only recourse is to keep on giving, knowing that this is the only way to make existence better, hoping that my essence will not totally get sucked into the vacuum. A fool; that is what I am.
A fool who laughs at weddings. My existence is a testament to the vows that were exchanged during the ceremony: “Loving somebody completely is the most difficult thing in the world.” If caring were easy, the world would be filled with quality. A look around will show that it is not. There are so many pitfalls to avoid, so many traps into which people fall. Caring is tough, but everything that has value is difficult to come by. The struggle is what makes it valuable. Knowing that you are a fool for struggling is the first step. Laughing is the second, and from there you just love.
Nathan Hunstad’s column appears on alternate Fridays. He welcomes comments at [email protected]