“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”
This section of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet is popular for wedding vows and, despite not being married, I often quote it when describing my relationship with Jo.
There’s a lot that I could write about my partner but one of the things that I relish about her is her intelligence. There is “a moving sea between the shores” of our souls and it’s one that frequently surprises me with new depths. What emerges are insights from uncharted waters and a sense of being swept beyond the waves where I tread water.
When I first met Jo I was a bit shocked by her views. She challenged my thoughts in many areas and for a long time I resisted her charms. I thought my way into a kind of fortress with battlements of ideology. Then, after a night dancing, we retreated to my bed and I remember touching the smooth skin of her arm and feeling a kind of electric shock. It was then that I had that fairy tale moment of knowing she was ‘the one’.
What followed was a different kind of ideological battle. For a while I received messages like “I’m here for a good time, not a long time” that were defences against my romantic overtures. Over time we began to plan a journey through life together and I remember one Easter where we settled on the idea of having children.
After she fell pregnant I proposed marriage and was surprised by the cool response that she’d consider it. A day or so later Jo told me that she wouldn’t be my wife. She explained that it felt like a betrayal of her values and that marriage was a kind of outdated property exchange. It really set the tone for our relationship as she values independent thought and mutual support, while not conforming to the values of a Western Christian society like Australia.
In many ways I don’t question the status quo of society and accept the dreams that are marketed to us. It’s taken a few experiences to realise that notions like working to create a career don’t offer a fulfilling life. At first I was surprised at the way Jo thought work was a kind of slavery and the way she’d structured her life to avoid it. These days I know that my relationship with her is one of the most satisfying that I have. She’s challenged me but also helped me see the activities that nourish and enrich my life.
In many ways I’m grateful to have a partner like Jo for 14 years or so now. The video above is one I made soon after we moved into the house we bought four years ago. These days the garden contains many more plants, particularly wattles that screen our yard from neighbours and the semi-industrial suburb beyond. It seems a metaphor for what we’ve created and the life that grows within it.
In other ways the video is unrepresentative as it was a time when Jo was growing her hair, rather than wearing her usual mohawk. And an interesting postscript is that she reckons Khalil Gibran is “the most cliched shit” to describe relationships. I argue that a cliche contains a kernel of truth (which is a cliche in itself) but this also seems a nice demonstration of our differences because I think The Prophet is romantic.