Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sense of Wonder

Right now, today, two young people are on a wedding journey around the world that has captivated my imagination. I am not alone. Many imaginations have been captivated by Cheetah Platt and Rhiann Woodyard’s enchanting worldwide trek as they marry over and over again in different locations.

They left on Feb. 8 to get married in 11 countries, 38 times, over the course of 83 days. They have been posting photographs on Facebook of their various weddings in places like the Colombian Rainforest, by the great pyramids of Egypt, at the Boleykarrigeen Stones in Ireland, in the Ajanta Caves in India, at a Maasai Mara Village in Kenya, and at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, to name a few. Cheetah and Rhiann were both ordained in the Church of Spiritual Humanism before they left the U.S. so they could “self-marry.” The couple met through their profession as aerial, pole, and acrobat artists. They have been showcasing their acrobatic talent in the photographs of themselves at their wedding locations. They have also been teaching acrobatics to others along their wedding route. Their story has gone viral, appearing in many online media outlets, and today they are doing an interview for CNN.

Full disclosure:  I have known Cheetah since he was seven years old. He and his siblings grew up with my children. Summer camp. School performances and events. Gymnastics classes. Our families remain friendly. Like my children, the Platt children enjoyed a childhood in the wilds of the Mendocino countryside with limited access to TV and abundant access to the great outdoors. It’s a recipe for a wide imagination and an abiding ability to delight in the gifts life brings.

There are many things to love about Cheetah and Rhiann’s wedding adventure. The media focuses on the romance of it, linking to photos (taken with a timer by the couple) of the weddings in picturesque places. Of course it’s romantic, but the thing I love the most about these two young people and their journey is their tremendous sense of wonder at the limitless magnificence of creation. They visit sacred sites and take advantage of their wedding celebration to discover people, landscapes, animals, and the natural world. One of my favorite photographs they have posted is the two of them showing a group of Maasai in Kenya how high they can jump. The Maasai told them that in their culture they value the ability to jump high, and as acrobats Cheetah and Rhiann obviously could not pass up the opportunity to demonstrate their jumping. For me, the jumping is more meaningful than the weddings. Look at how excited they are to jump! Their delight at kissing a giraffe, viewing waterfalls in Colombia, shaking hands with an elephant, watching a lightning storm at night from their hotel window, and teaching acrobatics to children in Mumbai goes beyond the weddings.

Photo by Cheetah Platt taken at the Maasai Mara Village in Kenya.

We live in a time when wonder has been draining out of the world. Our outlook for survival on Earth as a species does not appear to be so great and the inhumanity of governments and powermongers around the globe is made manifest in media images without respite. If I did not limit my exposure to the news, I fear I would spend my entire day weeping for the many traumatized, marginalized, murdered, and suffering souls; and for the poisoning of the planet. By contrast, the incredible journey of Cheetah and Rhiann is magic. It reminds me and others who are following their world-tour to stay positive and to appreciate the beauty and the joy that continues to surround us, and that will surround us even unto the very last breath of the very last human on the planet. There remains much to celebrate in the world. The splendor of a purple flower in the field lifts from me the mantle of grief and loss that threatens to weigh me down to the bottom of the ocean. May I always remember to look for that flower.

The wedding trek of this young couple reminds me that there are still young people setting out in life with love in their heart, joy in their smile, and happy curiosity. Cheetah and Rhiann’s rolling celebration of love and discovery rekindles my hope that we, all of us, of all ages, in many circumstances, can remain positive. May the delight and breathtaking beauty of the world in which we live continue to amaze us and move us to tears. May we always, always retain our sense of wonder.

Online stories about their journey are popping up all over the place, including People Magazine online, ABC News, and Yahoo Travel. Click here to read an article in the HuffingtonPost.

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