“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” – William Blake, 1793
This past Sunday, New York City stood wet, dripping lightly in summer rain, a little like a baptism had washed away the dirt and grout mold of our industrial might. I like cities in the rain. I realized this when I was a child and thought the splashes of heavy Caribbean rain on the pavement were really disguised tiny frogs. The particular creation rite of how creatures could morph from water, hundreds at a time, only to disappear a second later seemed to me some kind of mystical puzzle. I sat in front of our front door for long whiles trying to catch a single one of those miniature amphibians transforming itself from rainwater to animal to nothingness, to air.
Stepping out from the subway into midtown Manhattan this Sunday, I recognized a familiar – almost déjà vu – feeling washing over me calmly, evenly, just like water. A quiet happiness settled with the rain and its aftermath. The city’s skyscrapers seemed all the more poignant drenched in rain, somehow made both smaller and bigger by being touched by “the elements,” simultaneously becoming darker from the stain of water and brighter from the reflections of unabsorbed and dripping droplets. They were beautiful, for lack of a less clichéd word, and somber, and somehow wet just the same.
That day, I was entertaining visitors this weekend and they wanted to see the 6-floor Tiffany & Co. on 5th Avenue. Regrettably for me, we went indoors to dry shelter. We perused each flood somewhat aimlessly since none of us could afford those diamonds, and found ourselves in the Engagement Rings floor. I should mention that we arrived there by choice, not by the coincidental fortuitous pull some twenty-something women claim begins to pull them towards shinier and smaller objects.
And suddenly, my feeling was unfamiliar, but just as happy as it had been outside. In the middle of money being paid, jaw-dropped tourists, and the poshness of flawless diamonds, here were people making each other happy, giddy to be on the verge of changing their lives. Without qualifying their happiness from my (very) limited vantage point, couples were celebrating, laughing, hugging, crying. And despite this joy being very clearly tied (at least in part) to materialistic needs, it made me happy to see them happy.
Engagements (and consequentially, marriages) seem to me monumental, but they are different because they are big changes we undertake ourselves. They are active decisions that change our own status quo, but unlike the typical big shifts around the bend, these are (or the most part) in our control. They do not floor us with surprise or limit our options for escape in the same way a lot of life’s less giddy surprises tend to (think diagnoses, or layoffs, or sudden car failure). In addition to how happy joining our lives with another person may make us, maybe there is also a rush of power, control, and freedom in being able to change something so drastically by our own choice.