Thursday, June 09, 2011

Gift

Yesterday our very first wedding gift arrived!

All over the world, gifts are the glue that hold societies together. Gifts are given to create new relationships, and strengthen existing ones, and sometimes — as with an engagement ring — to mark a change in the kind of relationship. Somehow, the arrival of this first wonderful gift makes our wedding seem even more real. After all, a wedding is about the union of families, the binding of community, as much as it is about two individuals.

The word gift comes from Proto Indo European ghabh, "to exchange", which descended into Proto Germanic as giftiz and Old Norse as gift or gipt; the Norse used it to mean both "gift" and "good luck". In Old English, giftiz became gift as well, but only referred to a dowry (bride-price); but in Middle English the Norse meaning was borrowed. Among the Germanic tribes, kings were chiefly esteemed by their gift-giving: the more wonderful gifts they could bestow on their followers, the greater their honor and prestige. It was the same with their gods: Odin, for example, had a magic ring called Draupnir, "dripper", which dropped eight golden rings every ninth night. This gift-giving was a custom similar to that of the potlatch of the tribes of the American Northwest.

Spiritually, gift is such an essential concept that the sound 'g' is associated with gift-giving. The word gift specifically indicates an offering which is raised up, held poised, and then released, free to follow its own path.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Why

An ancient word, from Proto Indo European quei, literally "at whom?" Related to what, who, and where. In Proto Germanic it became khwi, and in Old English hwi, the instrumental case of hwaet ("what"). Hwi could be used to mean "why" or "how", but as how became more popular, why came to mean only "for what reason"? Spiritually, the word indicates a willful energy initiating thought, mind, art.



I was poking around on a forum the other day, and someone asked for feedback on why a man would get married in 2011. After all, a man no longer has to actually get married to get many of the traditional benefits of marriage: a loving partner, children, solid family life... For that matter, the same is true for women. At least, this was the argument put forward.

I feel like the answer is obvious. I’m getting married for two reasons: (1) because I'm committed to Alison, and I want to codify and set that commitment in a way that goes beyond simple words, beyond easy promises -- I want ritual, and oath, to show my devotion and loyalty. And (2) because a marriage is not just a private contract between two people, but a social act — one that involves the recognition and support of the entire community. When we marry, we will perform a ritual of commitment that is witnessed by our families and friends, and that means a lot to us. We’re literally asking you to share our joy with us, and to recognize that we consider each other to be family.