Another PBS mini-series has captured my attention. This time it is called "Last Tango in Halifax." No, it is not Canadian, it is from the UK. I have watched three episodes of the program and find it interesting and funny and a bit weird, all traits that make for good watching and thought provoking entertainment. The program is about an older man and woman who loved each other 50 years before but married other people. They had children by the others and now are widow and widower. They each live with their grown married children and grandchildren, one in a town and the other out in the country in Yorkshire. They meet again thanks to Facebook and trade many messages and finally decide to meet in person. After their initial meeting, they discover that they are still in love and decide to get married. Their grown children balk at the idea at first but soon realize that they are serious so gradually accept the idea. Both grown daughters are involved in dysfunctional relationships of their own, one with a husband who is having a fling and the other with a much younger man than she is. Grandchildren are involved in the mix and gradually the viewer learns there are many family dynamics at work in the social setting.
Last night the older couple decided they would drive into the city (Halifax I assume) in their new Lexus convertible they decided to buy together rather than get an engagement ring to visit the vicar in the local church because they thought they wanted a church wedding. They sat in the choir area talking quietly about their lives and religion and politics. Their views on many issues were very opposite but they decided they could live together and not agree on everything. They discussed church music and she liked the traditional kind and he said he was open to what she called the "happy clappy" music. The church wedding was far more important to her than him. He said he was not sure he believed in God any longer. She said she would come down the aisle to the song, "Entrance of the Queen of Sheba" and he remarked that would be very appropriate. They had a good laugh; they discussed politics and disagreed on most of it. They they went in to see the vicar.
The vicar (a woman, much to their distress) asked when they had last been in church and the older man said, "Christmas.....about 1977". The woman said that was about the last time for her too. Then, the vicar looked at them both and asked, "Why do you want to be married in the church and have the blessings of God on your marriage when you have not been attending church?" The viewers did not hear their reply because the next scene showed them in their Lexus driving away after calling the vicar a name with the word "bloody" attached to it.
My reaction to this portion of the program was mixed. I have asked that question of persons who came to me wanting a wedding in the church but tried to discuss it with the couple until we could find common ground and have the wedding they wanted in the church. I found the vicar to be a bit judgmental and cold, the caretaker of the church, but not as interested in caring for the souls of those who came to her for assistance. Of course, since England does not have separation of church and state as we do in the US, then going to an Anglican Church to have a wedding is just as much a civil matter as it is a religious one. Persons who are citizens of the UK pay taxes to support the church and deserve services from the church for the taxes they pay. Weddings and funerals are part of the package, along with baptisms---all part of what it means to be Anglican or British.
Against this snapshot of an older couple who has renewed their love and want to begin again are the awful vignettes of their grown children's lives falling apart around them. Each is striving for something they cannot have and doing things they have regretted. Their own children suffer because of their wrong direction in life. With each episode, we are drawn in a bit closer and closer into their daily lives and struggles and we wonder if and when they will ever get their acts together. The older couple seems to have found renewal in the new life they are planning together while their grown children's lives are gradually coming loose at the seams.
It has been said that life is like a stream that takes all of us along with it in its course. We move with it and in it and our struggles bring grief and pain into our lives. It is only when we yield to a power higher than ourselves that we begin to give up the struggle and go with the flow.
What does it mean to be truly happy? How do we achieve happiness in our lives? Perhaps it is in finding something beyond ourselves that we locate the meaning of life.