Wednesday, May 24, 2006

On Being a Twin and the Idea of Union

A rare personal post at Light Reading: on Saturday, May 20, 2006, at the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia, my brother Michael Colin Davidson married the lovely Jessica Zenquis. The legal vehicle of the occasion was a Quaker marriage license, in which the witnessing of the group renders the marriage legal, so I was not technically the officiant although I conducted the ceremony; what follow below are my remarks for the occasion.

Out of many true things about Mike and Jessi--including the facts that (a) she is just the kind of person you want for a sister-in-law and (b) I have never seen him so happy as he has been in the last year since they started going out--the relevant one here is that they are both identical twins. Here's the family group (from left to right, Jean Zenquis, Jennifer Zenquis, Jon Davidson, Jenny Davidson, Michael Davidson and Jessica Zenquis Davidson):






On Being a Twin and the Idea of Union

Can there be any better preparation for marriage than being a twin?

Think of the intimacy of twinship, the remarkable combination of sympathy and obligation and love and complementarity in difference that defines the relationship between a pair of twins.

Of course there are also many differences between twinship and marriage. Identical twins come about because of an act of splitting, the division of one into two and the subsequent unfolding or flowering of two quite separate individuals who share a great deal but whose uniqueness we also affirm. Marriage depends in contrast on the idea of union, a coming-together of two into one, the joining of a pair into a new unity that's exactly what we've come here today to celebrate.

Plato's Symposium includes a lovely speech by Aristophanes that resonates so deeply with our ideas about love that it's taken on a kind of life of its own: you don't need to read Plato to feel the truth of these observations. Aristophanes tells a fable about human nature in which the original nature of humans was quite different from what we're like now. "The primeval man," says Aristophanes, "was round, his back and sides forming a circle; he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike. . . . He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air." But after these four-legged four-footed men with faces on both sides of their heads made an attack on the gods, Zeus decided to punish them by cutting them in two. "After the division," Aristophanes continues, "the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one": "when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, . . . the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment." This is our idea of the soul-mate: Aristophanes refers to "this meeting and melting into one another, this becoming one instead of two," and calls that desire to become one the expression of man's "ancient need."

We're here in honor of that impulse: to witness and affirm the joining of Michael and Jessica, each bringing to this union a rich and complex web of love and obligation that has been a kind of training for marriage but that will also continue to support them in their new life together. I welcome a new twin to the Davidson family, then, but I also welcome a new kind of twinship: the union of body and soul we call marriage. And finally I want to borrow some words that will be familiar to everyone who's a child of the 1970s and say that today's show has been brought to you by the letters J and M and the number two.







(Here are some more photos.)

8 comments:

  1. That's such a nice way to get married! Too bad every state isn't so Quaker. Congratulations to your brother and sister-in-law.

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  2. Fascinating post-- but, above all -- is that you?!?!?! That blonde woman? I had not imagined you looking like that, I had thought dark and intense -- but you are really absolutely beautiful!

    Nice to see a comment from Kermitthefrog, I saw one once in my early blogging days and have not bumped into him/her since.

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  3. You are too kind, Maxine! (Current hair color owes more to hairdresser than to nature, that's the color it was naturally when I was sixteen or so but not any more...)

    It is indeed nice to see Kermit here; on the basis of her blog I would say she's been having internet access problems and also stringent grad-school deadlines, though I expect she's visited now & again despite that....

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  4. Thanks folks -- I did indeed have a rather harried spring semester, but I'm back on track now. And I have indeed been visiting! In fact, one of the first books I read to decompress was His Majesty's Dragon, which you'd recommended a while back -- I liked it a lot, although for me it's not up there with Patrick O'B. himself. And one of the next books was rereading Diana Wynne Jones' Archer's Goon, which I found at a local used bookstore during a post-semester fun-book-buying mood. DWJ is up there in the pantheon for sure.

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  5. I definitely enjoyed this 'personal' interlude! Looks and sounds the way a wedding should be - including your lovely remarks.

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  6. Right on to hairdressers, I say! (A fellow-beneficiary)

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  7. BTW have you noted that Mapletree7 over at Book of the Day has just re-read and reviewed the complete works (or most) of DWJ?

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