05 December 2006

Essence of Romance

One of the reasons I've always felt under-qualified to write fiction is my lack of experience in the most essential points of life. My life has been primarily academic: I eat, sleep, and breathe knowledge, school, and the like. There's not a whole lot of plot you can draw from that. As interesting as a novel full of intellectuals would be (I did think about writing one once), what a book really needs is life, life in all its myriad forms. There must be variation in experience and character.

All right, let me stop dancing around the issue: I never felt comfortable writing about love. There, I said it. I've never been the sort of person who was big about finding someone to crush on or flirt with. That's just never been part of my style. Other than a few dark periods, one of which revived this blog, I was okay with being that way. Romance wasn't something I felt a strong need for.

Frankly, I just didn't understand it at all. Love didn't seem all that desirable. I figured sometime it would just happen and then I would understand it, but I was in no rush to get to such a position. For some reason I had this idea in my head that having some sort of romantic experience would suddenly illuminate my understanding. The principle of experience seems to hold for everything else--it's difficult to understand everyday activities like sports or cooking unless you have practical experience. The same with academics--experience reading literary criticism yields better ability to understand further literary criticism.

How wrong I was.

Looking from this end of things, love still isn't very desireable, and that worries me a bit. I'd say romantic love is another one of those spherical chickens I so adore: quite easy and obvious to deal with if you gloss over the reality of it, but in any particular application, impossible to predict or explain. The best side to understand love from is the outside. Once you embroil yourself in it, extrication and even feigned objectivity are impossible. It's so ridiculously painful and impossible: any logical person would throw it away, like Plato says in the Phaedrus. And yet, we keep sticking around for it, writing songs about it, making millions off the royalties.

And I must disagree with Oscar Wilde: the very essence of romance is certainty, certainty that something can go on forever, despite all evidence that it doesn't. Or maybe Oscar Wilde was right, and the uncertainty inherent in romance is why I reject it. What I want is not any sort of thrill; I want the sort of romance you only see in couples who have been married for 40 years. A quiet knowledge, a day-to-day dependability, a soft completeness. Can't I just skip over the first bit?

Update: Ooh! Multimedia extension of my thoughts: the three most recent Megatokyo comics.


bawb said...

And yet, we keep sticking around for it, writing songs about it, making millions off the royalties.

That was really funny.

Joni said...

I so agree with you on most of this post (sorry, catching up on my blog reading! This is a little late). I think one of the reasons why I detest dating so much is because although I love romance as the movies play it out in *theory*, in reality it just makes me sick. All the stupid name calling and have to touch each other all the time business kind of makes me want to vomit. Give each other some room! Gah. I definately want to skip over the first part of dating/engagement/marriage and go strait to several years later. I *like* intelligent conversation.