Monday, January 13, 2014

Here's the thing: Enthrall me with a Love Story

At 35, I can confidently say that I’ve done my lifetime’s share of reading.  I treasure the mantle, “bibliophile,” and will add to my ever-expanding library until my time on earth has passed, even if I have to create pathways through my stacks to make my home livable.  It is telling that I am both giddy and comforted at the thought of that many books lingering in my home.   I’ve also watched my share of movies.  I majored in film for a few semesters as an undergrad, and still hoard the good ones as greedily as the books I love.  I get to both the local and national theater as often as I can.  I’m a card-carrying, lifetime thespian; though prefer now to watch others tread the boards more deftly than I ever could.  And as every aspiring novelist, I strive for publication, daily (ish) disciplining myself to take the pictures in my head and paint them on the paper with the words tucked in my heart. 

               Suffice it to say: I’m a big fan of a good story.

But there is a troubling theme rampant throughout all these mediums.  One that has put me off more books than I care to count or more movies than I am want to mention, and has kept me out of more theaters than I would like.   Sadly, this theme has to do with love.

It has become the prevailing notion that love is only exiting when it is new.  Very Romeo and Juliet, albeit; but it has been taken to an even more ridiculous extreme in contemporary art.  It has come to the point where love, when seemingly dulled by time and familiarity, flickers out.  And afterward, the only hope for the individual is to find new and fresh love again.  Elsewhere.

And while it feels exciting, with troupes of butterflies storming our insides, might I suggest that elsewhere is exactly the opposite of what beautiful love looks like?  That elsewhere is, in reality, the lazy, self-indulgent, narcissistic mockery of genuine love.  And quite frankly, it is this theme that should be routed from our art for the lie that it is. 

I have come to learn, with almost no help from the stories I’ve read and seen, that it is the journey that makes the love story enchanting.  Not the beginning.  And it is the end – the sweet, old couple all wrinkled and hunched, sitting together, hand-in-hand, stealing a peck in the I-know-you silence between them – that we are all striving for. 

                Because, honestly, have you ever heard of anyone who wants to die alone?  
                              Or with someone they just met?

Yes, marriage is hard.  Damn hard.  Which is likely why we are so entertained by the idea of abandoning it altogether.  But more than that, it is beautiful.  And joyful.  And full of struggle.  And sacrificial.  And defining.  And refining as well. 

But the messages we're getting through society and art is that most of the things above are “bad.”  

We shouldn’t be defined by another person.  We shouldn’t have to sacrifice parts of ourselves or our dreams for the sake of someone else.  Our relationships shouldn’t change us.  And we shouldn’t have to struggle.  Ever.  But let me tell you: society lies.  Art lies.    

The truth is that the very action of love is to sacrifice for the good of another person.  Sometimes it’s big – giving up your life for one you love.  Sometimes it’s small – getting up every morning and making coffee before the one you love wakes.  But sacrifice is the existential expression of what love is. 

And yes, to define ourselves by another person is also what love does.  I am still me.  You are still you.  But there is a new and overriding entity called US that takes precedent.  And yes, we slowly become more US than you or me.  Because that’s what happens when you meld two lives into one.  I start thinking about your needs over my own, and then consider our needs over mine.  And you do the same for me.  So the US that is who we are jointly becoming is more important than you or me.  That is how it was designed to be.     

We all change.  Throughout our lives, we morph into different version of ourselves based on our experiences up to that point.  So it is within marriage.  The beauty here is that there is another person helping refine us, rubbing off the sharp edges of self to reveal the soft truth of who we were meant to be.     

And struggle.  Well, that is just a part of life on this fallen rock.  There is no life apart from it.  Until the dawn of eternity, each person given even one heartbeat here will struggle.  And when you merge two lives into one, this truth holds for the new US as well. 

Mignon MacLaughlin said, 
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”  

I would amend this quote.  Not only a successful marriage, but a happy and thriving and beautiful one.  Love is an on-going, ever adapting, constant.  And it is the foundation that marriage should be built on.  So that we don’t crave elsewhere, either in reality or in our entertainment. 

A final note
As for the crass and ridiculous assault on marital intimacy in contemporary media, I have two answers: 

Experiential: Fourteen years and a twice post-baby/post-breast-feeding, now peri-menopausal, body later, and I am more delighted with the intimate moments in my marriage than I ever was as a new, perky, peak of physical perfection bride discovering her groom.  Truly, I can only imagine it gets even better from here. 

From Scripture: King Solomon, the man whom Hugh Hefner could only fantasize of being, penned a number of proverbs and, eventually, the book of Ecclesiastes.  Bearing in mind that the Song of Solomon, the most erotic and beautiful poetry in the sixty-six books of scripture, is also attributed to his pen, Solomon admonished his reader to “rejoice in the wife of your youth,” and “enjoy life with your wife, whom you love.”[1]    

Fellow sojourners, I urge you to cast off the lies that love is only about beginnings; that love is only beautiful in youth and newness.  Do not buy into the lie that one love can overtake another, if the first has grown still.  The second, dear one, is not love.  It is a vicious pirate and unabashed charlatan.  Do not stand for this theme in your entertainment.  Look for stories of love that are genuine, stories that honor the journey.  Beginnings are exciting.  But it is the endings that matter most.   For while art may mimic life, artist also have to eat.  And if you don't buy what they're selling, they might just explore new topics.  

Strain for that golden-aged park bench, with two lovers covered in the lines of their shared histories, fingers entwined and spirits at rest with the ease of the other’s nearness. 

For the best love story Disney every told was that of 
Carl & Ellie.      

Found this delightful fanart at Norke's deviantart site.  I get teary just looking at it.  Go here to see more. 


[1]Proverbs 5:18 and Ecclesiastes 9:9  |   These admonitions are easily applicable to wives as well, now that women have the power to seek divorce with the same ease as men.  Whereas when these words of wisdom were written, women were not permitted to seek divorce; thus there was no need to admonish women against leaving the husband of her youth.                 

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