Thirty five years ago, on November 4th, my wife Karen and I were married. This morning I have not only been reflecting on our life together but I have been thinking about marriage, in general. After all, the latest statistics demonstrate a growing trend in this country that more and more people are not getting married any longer; and for those that do, the chances of their marriage surviving long-term are only about 50%.
I actually believe that being married for all these many years has taught me something about how to live a fully"human life." It has been my spiritual path.
Jesus taught that you will never truly find your self unless you lose your self (lose your self-centered ego). The Buddha taught that the idea of a separated isolated individual self is a delusion. All being flows together in the stream of life - everyone IS a holy communion - and when you experience this holy communion, you then achieve "enlightenment."
They say there is a window from one heart to another,
but how can there be a window where no walls remain?
This morning as I think about my marriage, the image of "no windows and no walls" wonderfully characterizes what "being married" has meant to me over these 35 years.
My years of marriage have been the path for helping me surrender my bloated, self-serving "ego" - a path to find my "self." My marriage has been the way for my enlightenment - the doorway into holy communion.
And so, I have great trepidation over what the decline in marriage indicates about our "me-first," "rugged individualist" culture in his 21st century.
As I have thought about it, one of the problems with the "institution of marriage" nowadays is that many people who get married do not actually enter into a "marriage." They think of their married relationship as an agreed upon "contract." However, marriage is not a contract, it is a "covenant."
In a contract, two parties agree to certain "conditions" that they must both honor for the contract to be valid and maintained. When many people get married, they think they are entering into some sort of a business deal, a way to get the most out of life. After all, married people can pool resources, have constant companionship, raise children, etc., and when one or both parties are no longer holding up their end of the bargain, the deal is off.
Many people also think that marriage is a "50-50," "give-and-take" proposition: "I meet your needs, you meet my needs." If one of the parries in the contract thinks they are doing more than the other, the deal is off.
The fact is that a "marital" relationship is a sacrificial covenant and not a give-and-take contract. In a covenant there are no conditions, no "if-then" clauses. In a covenant, people pledge their lives together "in good times and in bad times, in sickness and health, for richer and for poorer, as long as they both shall live." And while there may obviously be some situations in which people might need to walk away from a marriage for one another's good; for the most part in a marriage, no one walks away without trying really, really hard to keep it together.
Interestingly enough, some new research about married life indicates that marriage is also not a "50-50" proposition. When both people in a marriage commit to giving to the other 100% of the time, the marriage works. The two become one, the two find their true "self" in unselfish, non-egoic, sacrificial concern for the welfare of the other- just exactly as Jesus taught, just exactly what the Buddha has said.
There is another one of Rumi's Sufi verses:
By day I sang with you,
and at night we slept together -
night or day, I was not sure.
I thought I knew who I was,
but I was you!
Happy Anniversary, Karen!
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