Wendell Berry and marriage

Although I have promised not to turn this blog into a journal of my comings and goings, or my varied and sundry opinions, I must tell of the past weekend in Grand Rapids. A dear friend of the family, the second son of our best friends, stood before a gathered community from across North America–the bride’s family hail from Western Canada—and across past decades. We saw folks we had not had good conversations with since the late 70’s, and enjoyed the young couple’s zany friends. College professors and farmers, a couple of authors, lots of fellow book-lovers and some old peacenik rabble rousers from our old days, Christian friends and friends of friends gathered at a weekend of celebration that seemed to be of near-Biblical proportions. Suffice it to say it was the best wedding ceremony we’ve ever been a part of (with music from Sigor Ros, no less) and one of the better times away we’ve had in recent memory. Thanks to those who made it so, and those who prayed for our fam while on the road. Imagine, driving the van without it being full of boxes of books!
And here is just one example of why this was so heart-breakingly wonderful: at the wedding, the father of the groom read from Wendell Berry. Ken said, jokingly, “…and for those following along…” and he put on his teacherly glasses, took up the Berry chapter with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat and his heart on his sleeve.

Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone. They must finally turn from their gaze at one another back toward the community. If they had only themselves to consider, lovers would not need to marry, but they must think of others and of other things. They say their vows to the community as much as to one another, and the community gathers around them to hear and to wish them well, on their behalf and its own. It gathers around them because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is. These lovers, pledging themselves to one another “until death,” are giving themselves away, and they are joined by this as no law or contract could join them. Lovers, then, “die” into their union with one another as a soul “dies” into its union with God. And so here, at the very heart of community life, we find not something to sell as in the public market but this momentous giving. If the community cannot protect this giving, it can protect nothing…

I suspect that some of us will watch others of us make wedding vows this Spring. I hope we entertain what it might mean for us all, to be vulnerable and accountable. To be community.
Surely, this fine work of Mr. Berry’s would be a good place to start.
Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community Wendell Berry (Pantheon) $12.95

2 thoughts on “Wendell Berry and marriage

  1. Oh, this was just lovely…an apt quote from Berry at such a beautiful occasion. Nearly brought me to tears. I’m glad you guys had such a wonderful time and were able to connect with folks you hadn’t seen in a while.Have a great week,Michele

  2. Thanks so much for this! I’m getting married in a couple of weeks, and while I’ve got a copy of this book by Berry, I hadn’t recalled the passage. As we plan the ceremony, there are lots of great love poems–Neruda, Gibran, Song of Soloman–but they’re all so couple-focused. That’s important, of course, but this puts it in wonderful context.Glad I stumbled on your blog.

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