During his last visit, my friend Jorge weaseled out a confession from me. Jorge mentioned that he regretted throwing out all his old love letters. My friend had come across the idea that he wanted to write a book or at least some short stories. The letters could have provided inspiration for at least a few best sellers.
Jorge paused and looked into my eyes and asked if I had ever wanted to do the same thing. Did I bother to keep any of the old letters from my former lovers?
I mentioned that I had given a passing thought to writing a story or two for someone’s anthology, but I don’t feel confident enough to author an entire book. I cautioned that was not fishing for encouragement, either.
Jorge flashed a smile and asked, “But did you keep any of the letters?”
A few moments later, I told him I have every single one of them.
“Do you ever read them?”
I said, “A few years ago I could only get through a dozen or so of them before I stashed them away again.”
The cat was out of the bag. I’m more of a romantic than I’d previously let on. It was time to discuss past loves and lovers. What about romance?
Our culture is obsessed with romance. Romance is a mixed bundle. There are entire industries based upon romance. There are publishing houses that distribute nothing but romance novels and collections. Film and television thrive on romance stories. Most of popular music regards falling in love or breaking up. Florists, confectioners, and restaurants derive much of their income by way of romantic design. You can probably think of other examples of how romance is encouraged.
However, some “experts” aren’t so enthusiastic about romance. We’re told that romantic love is superficial and can lead to heartache. Romance is attachment. Romance can lead to fear of loss. Romance is based on pleasure. We’re told that romance is not “real” love.
It’s good to have a communication about love and romance with a friend like Jorge. A good friendship is based on love, but is not mawkish and sentimental. Romance is maudlin, emotional and totally subjective. Friends can objectively examine topics like romance without worrying that subjectivity will ruin the discussion. In fact, personal experience can be used during the give and take.
Romance leaves us vulnerable. We can yearn for the beauty of romance of new-found lovers. We often reminince about past loves. Sometimes we want more romance in a current relationship. This strong desire leaves us vulnerable to crass commercialism, too. We open ourselves to marketing of commodities for weddings, Valentines Day, and other commercial “events” like national romance month.
It’s easy to become cynical about romance if one is not currently involved in a romance or during the aftermath of a breakup.
Romantic love is nothing to sneeze at. Romantic love stems from a deep, biological drive. It’s a drive that social institutions have attempted to regulate and sublimate, to some success, albeit temporarily. Many of us believe that society can control expression of biological drives through legislation or religious fiat. The enforcement of such rules has caused a great deal of suffering and persecution. Such implied and overt rules have created social categories based on ideas and idiology.
It’s important to remember how much we take for granted that human relationships are based upon ideas. Can a relationship really be based upon an idea? Do we use ideas to enforce other social ideas about categories? How does the emotional drive towards romance reinforce the mental concept of social relationship?
Can we have romance without demands, ownership, and possession of another person? Deep down, inside, can we really pigeonhole human, biological drives? Volumes of religious and political laws, dogma, and studies have been written about each of these singular questions. None of these are likely to be fully resolved anytime soon.
Anyone who has fallen in love knows the power of romantic love. We can use reason and logic to observe it so we can describe it for literature or scientific research. However, if a person is in the throes of romance, reason and logic are weak tools to use in our efforts to control or halt the strong drive. It is extremely difficult to escape the incredible emotional influence of romantic love.
To be torn away from a romance is one of the most insufferable experiences a human can endure. The arts bear witness to the depth of feeling and suffering from heartache following the end of a romance. Many people who are “burned” in this manner have become gun-shy and reluctant to persue another love affair. Other people thrive on the thrilling emotional rollercoaster of falling in and out of love.
Romance is at the heart of the great historical tragedies and wars. Among the most famous, is that of Helen of Troy and Paris. Romance is also the spark that ignites the enduring love that matures into our family lives. In one way or another, romance serves as the fire that drives our civilization.
Jorge said that “true love” is not attachment nor detachment. Love isn’t fear nor pleasure. Romance does encompass all four of these aspects. Romance can be a means to find love or it can merely become a means to its own end. In quiet contemplation, a person needs to sort out the various ideas, concepts, and emotions. What remains, in the end, is love.
The ancient sages discovered that there is beauty in love; there is understanding in love; and there is freedom in love.
If you have never experienced love, there is no wisdom in hunting for love. Love is elusive. We cannot judge. We can only observe. Patient, mindful waiting is required. Love cannot be willed, it can only be revealed.
Romance may or may not be part of “true” love. This is only a question that can be resolved by being true to oneself and your partner.
Jorge said the question of romance may be why I keep my ex-lovers’ letters and my reluctance to re-read them. He said that the same question caused him to burn those from his ex.
We both realized we’d touched some nerves during our visit. The romance question will have to be pondered further alone.
It was time for us to go to the gym for a physical workout to let off some emotional steam.