So I was fortunate enough to be asked by two former students and friends to perform their ceremony. As both atheists themselves they wanted someone who would give a more humanist ceremony. They are both steeped in science and both educators so I wanted to create something that was both expressed my heart and incorporated why I knew about them. I am thankful it was well received. I will leave out their last names so that there is at least some anonymity that is preserved. 🙂
Today we are gathered to celebrate the love between Matthew —– and Christina —–. For their union to last love must be shown to be more than just an abstract idea. They are in love, but how do we know love exists? If we present the hypothesis that love is real, how do we go about proving such a thing? The answer is research. As with any good research, we must first conduct a literature review and see what previous studies about love have found.
Many words about love have been written. We can find metaphors such as Voltaire’s words “Love is a canvass furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.” But words like these often leave us with more questions than answers. Love inspires imaginative gestures such as Alfred Tennyson’s words “If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk through my garden forever.” However, such words are often intangible, since they paint pictures of unrealistic situations that do not touch our actual lives.
We also find in literature many who question whether love can be effectively described at all. The genius physicist and co-inventor of the first laser Ali Javan said “Love can sometimes be magic. But magic sometimes can just be an illusion.” The 17th century French Writer Francois de la Rochefoucauld supported this idea when he said “True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about, but few have seen.” From this we may at least glean that true love is rare and that we can call into question whether written words of love come from a source that has truly experienced what they claim knowledge about.
When it comes to words, many doubt that they are even useful in matters of love. Shakespeare recognized that “One may as soon go kindle fire with snow, as to seek to quench the fire of love with words”. Additionally, 16th century French writer Francois Rabelais said “Gestures, in love, are incomparably more attractive, effective and valuable than words.” Finally, American writer Zelda Fitzgerald points to the difficulty of our quest when she says “Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold”.
Love becomes easier to understand when we define it in terms of our actions. Van Gogh said “The way to know life is to love many things.” This is echoed by Mother Theresa who said “Love begins at home and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action.” We can connect further to this idea of love when we consider how love exists even in those actions that seem routine. Marilyn Monroe said “The real lover is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead, or smiling into your eyes, or staring into space”.
But even as we feel inspired and positive about love, listening to what great minds of the past had to say, what tangible evidence do we have for its existence? Experimentation is the next step and thus we must decide on what methodology will help us demonstrate how real love is. For love is not just a concept in our mind, or a feeling in our heart. Love has no value if only kept, it must be shared. And if it is shared than we can observe it.
In matters of love our best way of observing is through our 5 senses. How do we see love? How does it taste? Does love have a smell? What does love sound like? And finally how can we truly feel love? These questions we must try to answer in the next section.
Data and Analysis
Visual evidence of love can be seen in many places. It could be the sight of an object that you built for your loved one to compliment the home, or in a gift prominently displayed demonstrating its importance and appreciation. It may simply be the sight of the table set and dinner ready after coming home from a long day. It is the sight of the other person looking especially beautiful or handsome as they put in extra time to make themselves look nice for a night out.
As we turn to taste, we can find evidence when eating at a familiar restaurant where the menu holds some of your favorite foods, and with each bite you are reminded of past memories with each other. It can be in the taste of a good wine on a romantic evening. Or, more simply, it can be found in the taste of each other’s lips in a passionate kiss; a flavor that is unique and unlike any other.
Often overlooked is the sense of smell, but it is the one most closely linked to memory. Love may be found in the smell of breakfast cooking in the morning as you wake up; the aroma of coffee drifting into the bedroom. It can be in the fragrance of a shampoo in the hair, perfume on the wrist or cologne on a piece of clothing. But even these things are not required, for just like the unique taste we have, we also have a unique smell that permeates those things that we interact with most closely. Often it is the quickest way to bring to the fore the memories of the one you love when they’re away…causing you to miss and love them all the more.
Love delights in sounds, for when you are together, sound is what fills the air. It is in the sound of the voice when sharing feelings and thoughts you would only ever express to each other; knowing that while it makes you vulnerable their love for you is greater. It is in the familiar sound of sarcasm as you mock republicans together, and it is in the sound of laughter as you both experience good times and joy. It is the sound of new music that is played for you because the other person knows your tastes so well they instinctively know what you will enjoy. And sometimes it is in the sound of words “I love you”. And though we have shown that words are not all, there is never harm in such an expression.
Touch is last because touch is the unique sense that can be experienced by both simultaneously. And though making love might be an obvious one here, over the course of a lifetime it tends to be the part of touch that gets missed the least. What we feel when we embrace or hold hands often means so much more. Or that half asleep warm feeling we get when our partner, coming home late after an exhausting day, or maybe a night of carousing, wraps their arms around us as they slip into bed. It may be in the feel of a comforting caress on the cheek when we are sick, sad, or hurting.
We must remember that grand gestures of love such as this wedding are but a day in the life you have pledged to share through marriage. Love is experiential, and iterative, and here we have recounted some of the many ways that we can find love in our day to day lives. Though these days seem ordinary, with careful observation, we can see how filled with love they actually are. And over a lifetime these simple things grow into something even stronger. This is emphasized by American author Lawrence Durrell, who said: “The richest love is that which submits to the arbitration of time”.
The evidence you can collect about love in your life is plentiful and thus we can safely conclude that love is real. And no conclusion would be complete without a look to the future. As you grow older, so your love grows as well. Let that love move you to actions not only for each other, but spread that love outward always. Nineteenth century women’s rights activist Lydia Child said “The cure for all the ills and wrongs, the cares, the sorrows, and the crimes of humanity, all lie in the one word ‘love’. It is the divine vitality that everywhere produces and restores life.”
Our research is complete, and now as you say the vows you have written for each other, reflect on how those words translate into experience.
Matt and Christina, I’m honored to pronounce you husband and wife.
Christina, you may now kiss the groom.
Finally, no research would complete without peer review. Those that have come today, do so out of that love which we have worked to define. Therefore I ask everybody here today to applaud in approval of that love which our research has shown to exist for the happy couple.
Ladies and gentleman I am pleased to present to you for the first time as a married couple Mr. Matthew —- and Mrs. Christina —-!!!!!!!!!!!