'All Hale, Ed!'
Ed Hale, the iconic singer of the rock group Transcendence, never known for doing things ‘ordinary,’ definitely did it his way in what may be the ‘interfaith wedding of the year!’
On February 13, Hale’s last Triple A radio hit single, 'I Walk Alone,' no longer applied to him as he and the beautiful Nahal Mishel-Ghashghai, began their life together in a style that crosses all cultural barriers.
At a church on the corner of Park Avenue in New York City, they were joined in a formally Islamic fashion in a traditional Persian wedding, followed immediately by a traditional Christian wedding.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ed Hale about all this, and first wondered, being that he just married his soul-mate (congratulations!) in a Multi-Interfaith, one-of-a-kind wedding, if he could kindly explain this a little more. "Thank you for the congrats. Nahal and I knew that if we were going to have a wedding that it needed to be special. Something that was bigger than just the binding of the two of us as one. If we wanted to do that, we could have just eloped off alone the two of us and done it privately. But we felt a responsibility to our friends and fans and family... we wanted to share it."
"Many people already knew our story. How long we had been together. How in love we were. Always the iconoclast, I wasn't too knowledgable about weddings per se, but I knew that if I was going to get married in public that it had to be about more than just the two of us. So we really worked hard at this idea of ‘celebrating love,’ in all its shapes and forms... rather than just making it about us."
"So from everything from the matches, that said “Celebrate Love” with the date, to the napkins that said “Live Love Laugh” to the banners that hung on the wall... Enjoy! Peace! Unity! Celebrate! Love! Remember! We tried to make it bigger than just “us.” Because I make a living from working with many other cultures around the world, and Nahal is originally from Iran, but has lived in many other countries as well, we wanted it also to be more multi-cultural. Yes I wanted it to be in a Christian church, my church, that I was a member of. That was important to me. But so was tying in the Persian element that is so vital to her family’s heritage."
"And of course we also wanted to include Tibetan Buddhist traditions as well since we both resonate so strongly with and live by Tibetan Buddhist philosophies. In solidarity with all of our African American brothers and sisters in the States I also wanted to “jump the broom” which is the way that African American slaves used to get married in the US before the Civil War. Just as a sign that though times have changed and we’ve made great progress in that direction, we still remember our history. Pretty soon we realized that we were going to end up with a very large elaborate and beautiful wedding that was not just going to tie the two of us together as husband and wife, but would also act as a giant sort of multi-cultural love fest if you will. From that point on, we decided that “if it feels good, if it feels like truth, that anything and everything was up for grabs as long as we felt that we could pull it off."
"We had white doves there, who eventually flew out of a heart shaped cage, out into the air to freedom. There was an ancient Persian Sufi Healing Music Trio there playing these instruments which were thousands of years old... The coolest part was probably the beginning of the reception. Instead of the usual ‘bride and groom first dance’ which we felt has already been done enough, we wanted to do something bigger, more aimed at the world at large, rather than just the two of us. So we had given every single person who attended the wedding, about two-hundred people, a satin bag that contained a Moroccan Tea Glass filled with salt at the bottom and a votive candle and a book of matches."
"When we entered the reception hall, we had everyone take their candles out and light them, we then turned off all the lights, and the whole room was dark and just illuminated by all these hundreds of candles. The string quartet played “Imagine” by John Lennon and we had a moment of silence for world peace. It was an amazing feeling. It was visceral. You could feel the emotion all over the room. Not a bad way to start your life together.”
What made you choose the church on the corner of Park Avenue in New York City to be joined in a formally Islamic fashion in a traditional Persian wedding - followed immediately by a traditional Christian wedding? "The church decision was easy. That’s the church that I am a member of and attend myself. In Manhattan. Most recording artists and entertainers don’t regularly practice a religion. And if they do, they don't make it public. I've never advertised it, but I've also never kept it a secret. I came to practice Christianity from a very honest place. Not from indoctrination from childhood, like with people who just grew up in the church and never question it and just keep going throughout their whole life. I had been praying and meditating for years to find my place spiritually."
"And despite my best efforts to be a Sufi or a Krishna devotee, or what have you, I felt called toward Christianity and especially to this one church that sits on the corner of Park Avenue and 60th street in New York City. It’s weird. But it’s beautiful. Quite a place. With an amazing group of people. Just the fact that they allowed us to have a traditional Persian Wedding Ceremony at this Christian church is a real testament to how intelligent and open minded they are there. The name of the church is Christ Church United Methodist. And no, I was not raised Methodist. It was something I came to later in life."
"We also wanted and needed really, for legal reasons, to get married in an Islamic Ceremony. Not only out of respect for Nahal and her family, but also to be recognized as husband and wife by the Middle Eastern countries and especially her home country of Iran, which she still travels to every year. The church made it very easy for us. They understood our needs and desires, to honor both of our family traditions, and they bent over backwards to make it happen for us. We are very grateful to them for that."
"And for many people who attended the ceremonies, forget about it. It was a very eye opening and cultural experience we heard. For us too. How often do Americans get to see this four-thousand year old Persian Wedding Ceremony? It was a stellar experience for many people, including ourselves."
You proposed to Nahal Mishel-Ghashghai on a boat in Central Park - very romantic. But as there were often 3,500 miles that kept you both apart from one another, just how did you make it work? "Yep. Very romantic indeed. Man I had been envisioning something like that for years. Every now and then imagining what my proposal to my future wife would be like... The Boat House in Central Park was a very special place to us, as friends and as a couple. So that made sense. And doing it in a rowboat, on a lake. In front of all those other people rowing around. It was awesome. Traveling back and forth between New York and Seattle in a long distance relationship on the other hand I would not describe as awesome."
"In fact it’s downright miserable. The flight is seven hours. In the freaking air. Add on the hour before the flight that you need to be at the airport by, the hour it takes to get to the airport, the hour back home, layovers, flight delays... and all that in between recording sessions and live shows. No, it was not the optimal situation in terms of “practical.” But... here’s the real crux of it: When we are together it was like we were complete. It was a feeling of being high, yes. Of not being alone, yes. Of having someone envelope you with love and attention and affection and approval... all that was there."
"And on top of it we had this intuitive feeling inside that there was more to our story than just this happiness from being in love. Something akin to that if we got together, and really committed, we could have a much bigger impact on our own personal lives and the lives of others than if we just stayed friends or even lovers. This idea was something we could feel. It was there. In our space. Surrounded us. We knew it was true."
"So despite the thousands of miles that separated us and all the other obstacles of “being practical” that we faced, we just kept getting together whenever we could and brainstorming one by one how we could meld our two very different lives together into one cohesive life. We realized that old adage is true, real love can conquer anything."
Having earned the nickname 'Ambassador' due to your untiring efforts with Habitat for Humanity, is it an officially handed down title or simply one created by friends and co-workers out of love? "Man, the Ambassador nickname is a tough one, Russell. 'Cause let’s face it, it’s fun. And funny. Originally it came from this part time day job I had back in college when I was still a struggling musician. My manager started calling me that based on the fact that I would not start work until I went around the whole room and shook hands or high-fived everyone and said hello. She made this off-handed comment like “You're such the ambassador Ed Hale. Now go get to work!” Everyone started calling me that as a tease."
"Then I started becoming obsessed with world music and learning foreign languages and immersing myself in other cultures but through music and so the nickname took on a more serious undertone. It started to feel like it had some substance to it. And then of course as I got older and started discovering the joys of service to others the name seemed even more applicable. Now when people ask me jokingly “what are you the ambassador of?” I respond “The Transcendence Embassy” as a joke. Referring to my band. But in a deeper way, you know, it’s not a bad thing to be known by."
Finally, being that you have also been chosen as a Civilian Diplomat for the United States around the world, just what does that job title mean - and what work load comes with it? ?"Civilian Diplomacy is something that one can look more into on Wikipedia or google it and you’d be surprised by how much information is out there about it. I didn’t even know the term existed until late 2008, when I was asked to go to Iran on a Civilian Diplomacy mission."
"I was fascinated by how much research has gone into diplomacy. They have it all broken down into different methods. Track One, Track Two, etc. Essentially the idea of Civilian Diplomacy is that there may be times in crisis between two countries or two or more regions where governmental diplomatic attempts at negotiating breaks down. This is the case between the United States and Iran. Neither country speaks to the other directly. This is diplomacy at its worst. We do not have an ambassador to Iran. We do not have diplomatic relations with them. Nor North Korea."
"We pretend they do not exist and they do likewise, because our respective governments cannot even reach a point where they can agree to disagree. Like with China. We all agree that we disagree with their fascist brand of communism and how they treat their people. But due to economic benefit we do our best to have diplomatic relations with them. Civilian Diplomacy comes into play when formal governmental Diplomacy doesn’t exist."
"The idea being that at the very least we can all be human and not hurt civilians. So there is a trust factor there. Civilian Diplomats can meet with world leaders and gain information that we can then go back to our own countries and share with our own government and with our own people with the goal to start dialogues."
"This is what happened with Iran. Eight months later we met with their president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations to discuss peace between our countries. This came from years of very hard work and effort on the part of a handful of Civilian Diplomats who had created enough trust that allowed this to happen. It was not a debate, nor a contest, or shouting match about who is right or wrong or who is demanding what of whom. But more like just a conversation between humans who have very different fundamental values but at our core still recognized that we were all human in that room that day and in the end no one wants anyone to get hurt."
"More than anything else, I've learned from the job that if you can lay down your agenda for a moment and just listen to another person, no matter how crazy or different what they are saying to you sounds, it is still possible to find common ground with them because at our core we are still human beings. And in that core there is hope. We are all really Civilian Diplomats."
"Each and every one of us. Every time we travel to a foreign country. Every time we leave our own neighborhood or leave our house. We have that opportunity to create more peace through finding common ground among us. Hope this helps."
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
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