Some years ago, to learn how to use Windows Movie Maker, I borrowed movie clips and music that I cobbled together for some sort of makeshift music video. Stripped of other scenes and selected for their relevance to the music I chose to pair them with, the videos crystallized the themes of love and romance. Then a funny thing happened as I was watching my finished pieces. I realized I was a sucker for romance. I never thought so before.
My tastes for films trend towards the depressing, the foreign, the unusual and the cerebral, at least as attested to by Netflix recommendations. But I admit that a simple love story can leave me warm and fuzzy. Unsentimental, unvarnished and in which sexy scenes, when used, are not gratuitous. Unfortunately, such love stories are rare in films. If any comes close, it’s likely to be a period piece from England.
As a culture, we tend to be uneasy about romantic love. Sex, yes, of course. Always a draw. But emotions communicated in longing aching gestures are too subtle for most of us. We label them as romantic, giving ourselves permission to dismiss them. We prefer the tingling of heaving bodies. I like heaving bodies as much as the next person and I believe there can be romance in sex. Still, many other western cultures don’t seem as queasy as we are about desire trapped in sighs of yearning or smoldering eyes. As much as we need sex for pleasure and procreation, romance is, I think, even more essential. It makes us happier, more humane.
Romance can mean different things to different people. But whatever meaning you give it, romance is transcendent, a quality that sets it apart. Here’s one online dictionary defining romance: love idealized for its purity or beauty; a mysterious, exciting, sentimental, or nostalgic quality; a spirit of adventure, excitement, or mystery. Don’t these words speak to the best traits in ourselves? Positive traits we all can draw upon.
We value many things that nourish our souls: art and music, or religion and philosophy, for instance. We embrace these things more openly; so, why not resurrect romance? Why are we uneasy?
Here is what Nathaniel Branden, a therapist and former lover of writer Ayn Rand, says in book:
Romantic love can be terrifying. We experience another human being as enormously important to us. So there is surrender—not a surrender to the other person so much as to our feeling for the other person. What is the obstacle? The possibility of loss. Need creates a vulnerability that can be frightening and enraging. Romantic love is not for children. Ten-year-olds can’t have romantic love and neither can a 35-year-old whose view of his self-interest is fit for a 10-year-old.
I would say, neither is it for the birds. Like language, it separates us from all other living things. But our fear of loss is quite strong. We not only fear losing the other but also losing control, a scarier prospect for many.
Still, letting go and making a mess of things, while only human, can be exciting, mysterious, adventurous; in other words, romantic. So, why not resurrect romance?