I went to a gay wedding at a castle in Scotland recently.
The thing that struck me most was the ceremony.
They didn’t go through the usual “Do you take this man to love, honour, and obey…” which no one ever listens to or remembers.
Instead, each of them read out ten reasons why they loved the other person and wanted to spend their life with them.
Ten things they found about this person that made them unique.
That really struck me.
How many heterosexual couples have you heard put that much thought into why they’re getting married?
How many married couples could even do that?
And yet, when we make that commitment, we’re planning to spend our entire lives with that person.
After the ceremony I was talking to the Humanist minister.
She said she preferred same-sex weddings because people put more thought into them.
There wasn’t an established routine they could slot into, so they had to really think about the purpose of what they were doing and why.
They couldn’t go on autopilot, like everyone else.
And it reminded me of a quote from Pablo Casals.
“Every moment is a new and unique experience that will never come again. And what do we teach our children?
That two and two makes four, and Paris is the capitol of France.”
We aspire to live on autopilot.
To find a formula and stick to it.
To defend it.
As if we were frightened of being alive.
There’s a true Zen story that takes place two hundred years ago in Japan.
It was raining as the two leading Zen masters met to debate their different styles of teaching.
The first Zen master was seated drinking tea.
The second master entered and sat opposite him.
The first master said, “On which side of your shoes did you leave your umbrella?”
The second master paused, and realised he didn’t know.
He immediately gave up being a master and became a pupil of the first Zen master.
By not knowing something as simple as that, he realised he had been thinking about the debate instead of actually being alive.
You see, the only time you can actually be alive is now.
And now is a very tiny point in time.
That’s why we live most of our lives in the future or the past.
We worry about the future, and we regret the past.
But, of course, the future and the past don’t actually exist.
Except as concepts in our mind.
So we live our lives, not out in the world, but in our minds.
That’s what the Zen master realised he was doing.
Thinking about something else.
And while he was doing that he wasn’t really alive.
So he went back to start learning to actually be alive, all over again.
Not to live in the future or the past.
To live in now.
But, in the real world, how many of us can live like that?
I only ever knew one person: John Webster.
In the morning he’d pick up a bunch of scripts and go through them as if he’d never seen them before.
He’d laugh out loud with surprise at a joke he’d written the day before.
John had no memory of what happened yesterday.
That freshness gave him an ability to see things the rest of us couldn’t see.
He was living, and working, in the here and now.
So everything was always new and surprising.
The rest of us would get tired after a few days working on something.
John was always fresh as a daisy.
Every time he saw an idea was the first time he’d seen it.
So nothing was ever boring.
He was the advertising version of an absent-minded professor.
Graham Rose used to call him “a blithering genius”.
His whole world consisted of whatever he was working on right now, and he was oblivious to any distractions.
He didn’t waste his energy worrying about the past or future.
He spent all his energy on the now.
And I guess that’s what real creativity is.
And if we can be alive, here now, in this moment, there’s opportunity, and surprise, and fun.
There’s none of that if we’re stuck in our mind, all there is worrying about the future or the past.
And all that does is sap our energy.