Divining the Secret Self of the Other

Our nephew is getting married this weekend in the Smoky Mountains and we  couldn't be more excited to be a part of the celebration.  As summer is the most popular time of the year to get married, I’m guessing that some of you have or will be attending a wedding this summer as well.  I  love going to weddings as they always remind me of what is most sacred in life, love. The traditions around weddings have changed tremendously over the last several decades.  Wedding ceremonies themselves have become as different as the locations where the ceremonies take place.  While many things have changed about weddings, some things have remained the same.  Most importantly, the central focus of all wedding ceremonies continues to be the exchange of vows by the couple. Each person gives their word, pledges their fidelity to honor, love, and cherish their partner through times of abundance and through times of challenge.

As couples prepare for their wedding day they often search for historical readings and wisdom texts that they might wish to include in their ceremony.  A new resource used by many brides and grooms is a book published last year, The Marriage Book: Centuries of Advice, Inspiration, and Cautionary Tales from Adam and Eve to Zoloft.  This 557 page book, written by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler, contains a vast amount of wisdom, readings, and advice on every aspect of marital life.

Grunwald was interviewed after the publication of her book and was asked to share her favorite piece of wisdom from the book, no small task given its length.  What she chose to share was a quote from the poet William Butler Yeats, written in his journal in 1904, when he was 44.

“In wise love, each divines the high secret self of the other and, refusing to believe in the mere daily self, creates a mirror where the lover or the beloved sees an image to copy in daily life.”


This reading by Yeats contains two connected pieces of wisdom.  First, that all people, our spouses and our selves,  have a daily self and a higher self, meaning that we are all a mixture of selfishness and selflessness, of self-centered pettiness and self-giving love.  The second piece of wisdom is his advice then, is to vow to reflect back to one's partner the image of their higher best self, to help them see that higher version of themselves, even when they are having trouble seeing it themselves.  To put it more simply, Yeats is advising spouses to look past the sometimes challenging daily behaviors of one’s partner and instead focus on  the transcendent worth of their higher self.  What greater gift could we give each other  than to reflect back to each other our transcendent goodness?

While wedding ceremonies have changed a great deal over the years, they continue to be celebrations of the higher, transcendent aspects of love and life, not just for the couple getting married, but for all who are honored to be in attendance.  They serve as a reminder to us that in the midst of the daily routines and challenges of life and love there is a higher love, a higher spiritual self that we are called to both reflect and express to one another.

We all have more than enough reminders of the pettiness of what Yeats refers to as our daily selves.  We are grateful for the opportunity to be attending our nephew's wedding this weekend, where we all will once again be inspired to celebrate the transcendent nature of our higher selves, and of the people we love most in our lives.