Last summer, organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote a guest essay in the New York Times about the concept of “collective effervescence,” which he describes as “the sense of energy and harmony people feel when they come together in a group around a shared purpose.” That’s a rather dry definition of a wonderful experience (the essay in its entirety is not dry at all, link here to read).
During the long pandemic lockdown, the contagious joy of Collective Effervescence was in short supply—and now, some of us, with deep gratitude, are getting infected.
I was lucky to get myself a big dose of CE at a niece’s wedding in Washington, D.C. last weekend. My big (84 and counting) family hasn’t had a family wedding since January 2020, so there was a lot of bottled-up need for connection and celebration that found just the right venue.
What could be more wondrous to celebrate than a couple in love? Lovers committing to each other is nothing new or unusual, but somehow in these tenuous and violent times, that professed commitment feels more hopeful and more beautiful than ever. On a lovely spring afternoon, Christine and Zac beamed with happiness, and Poem Elf marked the occasion in typical fashion.
Unbeknownst to the bride as she got her make-up done, I snuck a little poem by Rumi onto the garment bag holding her wedding dress. (This wedding dress, by the way, has special lineage: the bride’s grandmother sewed it, the bride’s mother wore it, and the bride refashioned it and wore it again—three generations of women in one dress.)
The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
When Christine and Zac met for the first time, they talked for hours and hours. That’s a sign of two people finding home in each other. Maybe that’s what the mystical Rumi is getting at in this poem—finding home, the beginning of every great love story, is another way of saying They’re in each other all along.
This Rabindranath Tagore poem, “She Is Near to My Heart” is a beauty, just right for a man deeply in love with his soon-to-be-wife.
She Is Near to My Heart
by Rabindranath Tagore
She is near to my heart as the meadow-flower to the earth;
she is sweet to me as sleep is to tired limbs.
My love for her is my life flowing in its fullness,
like a river in autumn flood, running with serene abandonment.
My songs are one with my love, like the murmur
of a stream, that sings with all its waves and current.
I had never met Zac before I knocked on his hotel room door and handed him this poem. He was a good sport, to say the least—agreeing, all in the space of 20 seconds, to greet me with a hug, pose with the poem for the picture, and to read it at some point in the future.
On a bolster pillow of the—what to call it?—the bridal bed?—I left Ben Kopel’s “What Is True.” A sweet riddle of a poem. I’m just realizing now that an aunt nosing around their bed might creep out some newlyweds.
What Is True
by Ben Kopel
one must be one
to ever be two
and if you
were a day
I’d find a way
After I took this picture, Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “Syntax” ended up tucked in a missel at church. Who knows if anyone will ever find it?
by Carol Ann Duffy
I want to call you thou, the sound
of the shape of the start
of a kiss — like this — thou –
and to say, after, I love,
thou, I love, thou I love, not
I love you.
Because I so do ―
as we say now — I want to say
thee, I adore, I adore thee
and to know in my lips
the syntax of love resides,
and to gaze in thine eyes.
Love’s language starts, stops, starts;
the right words flowing or clotting in the heart.
I’ve always loved the old-timey Quaker use of thee and thou (also heard on television shows set in the north of England, even as recently as the 70’s). Imagine if we thought of everyone we meet as a thee and a thou! It’s respectful, it’s reverent. And in Duffy’s poem, it’s dang sexy.
Congratulations to Christine and Zac!