Recently, LWers Will Ryan and Divia Melwani (now Will and Divia Eden) were married, with Eliezer Yudkowsky officiating.
I've been to 40+ weddings in my lifetime, and this was my favorite ceremony yet. Here is the video, and below is the transcript of Eliezer's... what's it called? "Blessing"?
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here upon this day, to bear witness to William Ryan and Divia Melwani, as they bind themselves together in marriage, becoming William and Divia Eden, from this day endeavoring to live their lives as one. If any person can show just cause why these two should not be joined, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace.
The institution of marriage is as old as Homo sapiens. Donald Brown lists it among the human universals, the parts of culture which are found in almost every tribe that has been studied by anthropologists, alongside such other universals as dancing, storytelling, jealousy, or language. Though we give it a single name, marriage takes many forms.
In some tribes a man may wed more than one woman. In 0.5% of hunter-gatherer tribes studied, a woman may wed more than one man. In civilized parts of the modern world, men may marry men, or women marry women. A hundred years ago, in what was then considered civilization, marriage was a cruel necessity if you wanted to have a public relationship with anyone. There was only one approved option for anyone who didn't want to live alone - marry a single person of the opposite sex and stay together for 70 years or until one of you died.
But in this day, and within this community, marriage necessarily takes on a different meaning. 'Until death do you part' is a different concept if you suspect that indefinite lifespan extension may be invented sometime in the next few decades. Once, getting married at age 20 meant you were probably a quarter of the way through your life. In this day, and in this community, you know that you might actually be getting married at zero point zero zero zero and some more zeroes one percent of the way through your life. Our community contains many people in long-term relationships who are not married and are not waiting around to get married.
Even among those who marry, not every marriage has the same meaning. Some may not be planning to stay together until the stars go out - just enjoy the marriage for however long it lasts. And though marriage is no longer mandatory, the government of this country, in its finite wisdom, has decreed legal benefits for marriage which some of us may not wish to deny ourselves, even if we haven't yet found a perfect romance out of storybooks, even if we might not want a perfect romance out of storybooks.
Marriage is no longer something that everyone has to do, and there isn’t just one kind of marriage, or one meaning of marriage. But at least so far as I can tell from the outside, Will and Divia seem to have a perfect romance, pretty much. And while romances like that exist, the ancient institution of marriage will continue into the future, I think.
There are stars in the sky above us, even now. Even on a cloudless day you can't see them with your naked eyes, but the right camera would capture them. There is light shining upon this ceremony which is far older than eight and a half minutes. Standing as we do in the light of eternity, it may seem impossible to swear any true promise upon the future, when there are no perfect blessings called down upon a marriage to ensure its success, but only the mortal wills of human beings to guard it.
And yet there are still some people who are just so adorable together that you look at them and say, "Yeah, they should go for it." I can think of at least three couples like that, though, aside from Will and Divia, I'm not going to name any names. Elizabeth Moon once wrote that courage is inherent in all living things; it is the quality that keeps them alive; it is courage that splits the acorn and sends the rootlet down into soil to search for sustenance. This is not literally true. Acorns don't have brains so they can't experience courage. But I would still praise the idea of courage as a quality that powers all of human life - the daring to do things that you don't know for certain will work, acting under conditions of uncertainty. Even in an unstable world, not knowing how society might change, how you yourself might change, whether life as we know it will still exist at all in 30 years - even though nobody can foresee a thousand years into the future, even if everything goes right - even so, two or more people can still have sufficient confidence, and hope and courage, to try and build something greater out of the union of their lives. Because why not? If someone is already fortunate enough to have a relationship that once would have been called a marriage blessed by Heaven, why should they receive any less joy, or receive it any later, than they would have had in bygone times? How sad would it be to delay a hundred years and then find out that it would have worked after all?
And one element of marriage which has not changed is the endeavor to raise children. Not every marriage may desire children, but among those who do desire children, a marriage promises those children a stable home, a lasting family, and at least two people who jointly accept full responsibility for every child. For myself - seeing the meaning of this wedding through my own eyes - I would affirm and support above all else the wholehearted decision of Will and Divia to forge a more lasting bond because they both wished to bring a new child into the world. That responsibility is owed to any endeavor of creating a new sentient life. That meaning of marriage has not changed.
A final question is what marriage now means to the community that bears witness. William and Divia have chosen to bind their lives together. As it is not our place to deny that, neither is it within our power to permit it. There is no higher authority whose blessings must be sought, and we can't wish them good luck because there's no such thing in the universe as luck. We could say, "We wish you happy lives as the result of your own decisions!", but wishing doesn't make anything happen. And yet for as long as marriage has existed among the human species, it has been a ceremony performed within sight of the tribe. For tens of thousands of years before humans imagined that the heavens had authority, the tribe has borne witness to marriages. Of you all, then, I will ask that you promise to respect this marriage, and not come between Will and Divia in any way, should you find that possibility within your power; and those of you present who bear them other friendships may vow such other support as lies within your hearts. And let it be known to all the world that what is begun here today, is done brightly, and without shame.
It would be nice to have a transcript of the vows as well, some of them were really good.
This was my favourite:
Here's the best I could do from the video. Feel free to correct anything.
William and Divia, do you enter this agreement, and do you vow to undertake this endeavor freely, with your whole hearts, and without reservation.
Do you vow that you will together create and maintain your shared picture of the world, sharing your discoveries and insights, hiding nothing that the other would wish to know.
Do you vow to reveal all your concerns about your relationship—as they appear to you—despite all embarrassment and fear; so that if the other stays silent you may trust that there is nothing to be said.
Do you vow to share your dreams, your goals, your needs, your desires, and your aspirations, and work toward them together.
Do you vow to recognize and honor all the complexity and parts of the other, to support their growth and be supported, that you may wield your love to become your best potential selves.
Do you vow both singly and together that you will accept, love, and appreciate yourselves as you pursue joy and fulfillment.
Do you vow both singly and together to accept full responsibility for the children you will bring into the world.
I pledge to you my heart, my devotion, an
Wow, that's a rather significant vow if taken literally.
If they're good decision theorists, they will just not wish to know anything that their wishing to know would cause problems like that.
You could also assume that all guns are toy replicas. Assuming things like this is not well known for actually changing how the world works, however, so it's usually best to deal with reality as it actually is instead.
This is really nice, congratulations to the newlyweds!
I must say though, unfortunately, taking the outside view, seeing Yudkowsky officiate a marriage sets off my PHYG-detector like crazy.
Not if you take time dilation into account. If you do, the light is exactly zero minutes old.
Totally thought of that, totally decided not to include an "in our space of simultaneity" in the ceremony.
Pleasantly surprised to see Eliezer hasn't jumped on single-parenting-is-just-as-good-as-double-parenting bandwagon. Also surprised to see that he's okay with rationalists reproducing. Isn't that a distraction from fighting existential risk?
Why stop at double?
Poly groups tend to be well-educated well-paid white people; the proper comparison of poly instability rates to monogamous divorce rates is not to 'the general population' but to the comparable demographic group. My understanding was that divorce rates in that comparable group are relatively low...
It's quicker to recruit existing people and turn them into rationalists than to create new people from scratch. This approach will eventually exhaust the gene pool, but not for hundreds of generations.
But far less fun!
Not related to the ceremony (which reads beautifully, if overly poetically for my tastes), but would it not be a rational thing to give some upfront thought to how to detangle the two lives if and when they drift apart, despite their best effort? After all, the odds are barely 50/50 even for a natural lifespan, let alone this potential infinity. The courage to "to try and build something greater out of the union of their lives" is all fine and dandy, but having a backup plan seems only reasonable. Presumably something other than the standard legal prenup. I wonder if this particular couple gave some thought to this, and whether they would be willing to share it.
Probably better if they're educated, white or Asian, not pregnant, and not super young. I don't know their demographics.
Before marrying, my husband and I discussed the circumstances in which we thought divorce was acceptable for us (abuse was one). As far as including that in the ceremony, I don't see a need.
Great stuff! My wife and I married at the St. Louis Science Center in the middle of the day in a 30 second ceremony. We were in front of a wall painted with e = m * c^2 . Afterward we went to see a dinosaur exhibit.
I would call it a benediction.
First, best wishes to the newly-married couple!
From a purely aesthetic point of view, I liked the relatively respectful and traditional mood effected by the Wagner wedding march, the adherence to the customs of bridesmaids and groomsmen and the giving away of the bride. I also liked the subtle subversive effect achieved by the bare feet. I read it as acknowledging established tradition, taking advantage of its strong momentum, while firmly taking charge of it and adapting it as required. Nicely done.
I chuckled at this.
Was the "or" a slip of the tongue? I've never heard about traditional marriage "expiring", no matter how much it lasted, as long as both spouses stayed alive. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_the_longest_marriages#Longest_marriages_ever_.28.E2.89.A580_years.29
Here is some info about the Robert Lecnik - Peter McCluskey wedding, also officiated by Eliezer.
Wow! Amazing! Even Eliezer can write an incredibly, stupefyingly boring piece of text!
Seriously, haha, oh wow.
(VALIS bless them, btw.)
P.S. Did they at least wear rationalist shoes?
It reads a lot better when you hear it spoken (several sections look like they are meant to be read in this grim, somber tone when you read the transcript, but are actually more blatantly joking/conversational when read aloud.)
YMMV, of course. Also the quality of the video isn't that great.