The radical value of time

I just got back from an awesome weekend — my girlfriend’s sister, whose family is Catholic, married her now-husband, whose family is Hindu. A full Hindu ceremony was followed by a full nondenominational Christian one. It was an incredible weekend, and proof that progressive religion can do what neo-nationalism and global capitalism can’t: give people the space to define their identities in an authentic, meaningful, and inclusive way.

As a Jew, I don’t pretend to know that much about either Christian or Hindu marriage ceremonies. And I definitely know that this wedding — like all weddings? — was hectic, involving lots of coordination, compromising, and improvising. But I also know that every person at the three-day-long ceremony felt their identity and humanity affirmed. It didn’t take a flag or an army. It took meaningful rituals. In the nondenominational ceremony, that meant walking down the aisle, reading literary and God-centered quotes, and mentioning those who couldn’t be at the wedding. In the Hindu ceremony, it meant 14 religious rituals, mostly in Sanskrit, that honored the connection between the two people getting married, and honored their relationship to the natural world.

Perhaps most of all, celebrating this newly married couple took one precious resource: time. There was the infinite time that the bride, groom, and their immediate families made to plan, which I didn’t see. And there was the time that all involved made to honor traditions that are not their own, which I did.

I often think about Abraham Joshua Heschel’s argument, in “The Sabbath” and elsewhere, that Judaism is a religion not of space, but of time. Perhaps Heschel was merely picking up on the Jewish idiom of a truth present in all religions. Nationalism, championed by adherents of Hinduism, Christianity, and Judaism, argues that space — the space of a state — should exclude certain groups. Capitalism, present in all three as well, argues that all spaces need to be transformed into “open” “markets”. Understanding the value of time could help us participate in a society that is more inclusive, more meaningful, and more full of love.

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