I’ve been thinking about the rings I wear. I have worn a wedding ring for over 32 years. What does it symbolize? Why can’t I, shouldn’t I take it off; is it possible to take it off without calling into question the commitment it represents? Marriage is complicated by every revelation, every intention, every act. Acts of faith and acts of passion, acts of love and acts of desire, known acts and hidden acts. Then there are moments of grace, moments of anger righteous and otherwise, prejudice and overlooking offense. The breadth of any relationship is extremely broad, and mostly unfathomable.
An old Jewish proverb curses by saying, “May you live in interesting times.” Marriage is clearly one of the most interesting times. As a man, I have one woman, and she is a fabulous complexity that though known, is almost entirely beyond comprehension. Human freedom accounts for most of this, but there is a matter of nature and limits, and genetics, and everything that limits freedom. Little cruelties don’t go unnoticed. Slights and offenses build up. Unintentional misfires of language set the stage for explosive anger and hunger for reattachment, forgiveness and a pledge to do better next time. We are together because we want to be and because we need to be. More than anything else the ring is evidence of that, but not its means.
It is the endearing and enduring quality of hope that makes living together the luxury that we can’t do without. And, occasionally we grow through the trials of our relationship into better people than we were before.
I have worn a few rings besides my wedding ring. The first that was important to me was my high school ring. East Aurora High was a place of profound change for me. I got a ring (I can’t remember whether I paid for it or my parents), you know, with a blue glass jewel and an EAHS inscription around it, standard fare for the 18 year old.
I was proud of it and wore it all the time, until I almost lost my finger to it hanging from it on the back of a stage prop in a play. I can’t tell you how scared I was or how grateful I was that I didn’t lose my finger. But I lost the ring after that.
The next ring I wore was my wedding ring. I was 27 years old and happier than I could have imagined. I told that story. I have never been threatened by my wedding ring like I was by the EAHS ring.
I felt I wanted another ring, and I didn’t want just any old ring. Why should I be happy with a ring that fit if it didn’t represent what I thought it should?
When our family traveled out west to explore and see the sights, we stopped off at an old voleano caldera and in the gift shop I found a silver ring. I found out later that it was a Hopi story ring. It had figures on its surface that told of Hopi life. I thought I would wear it in solidarity with Native American (even though they call themselves Indian) rights. I wore it on my right-hand ring finger. In a couple years I lost it while I washed my car. I replaced it with a silver spoon handle ring that didn’t represent anything.
The next ring I bought was also on our western trip. It was also a Hopi story ring but smaller and I wore it on my right pinky finger. I lost it about a year earlier than I lost the other Hopi ring, also at a car wash. But I went back and found it on the ground. Yea!
When my family and I went to Britain to celebrate me finishing my doctorate in philosophy, my wife and girls bought me a celtic ring. I took off the silver spoon handle ring and put the celtic on my right ring finger. I decided after that to remove my Hopi ring, since I really didn’t need or want to represent Native American rights any more. So Now I am wearing my wedding ring and my philosophy ring. But I went through a time after our Britain trip that I couldn’t wear my philosophy ring. So I didn’t I just had my wedding ring.
Through thick and thin, my wedding ring has stayed on my finger. Later, I don’t quite know the moment, but I felt as if I had both earned my doctorate, and that I had become the philosopher, and I could again wear my celtic ring. So I wear the two as symbols of the enduring relations I have in my world, my wedding ring and my philosophy ring. But my wedding ring, has endured all changes and is preeminent over all the others in importance and time.