True Romance: We Are What We Read?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

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I hadn't planned on writing to you today, dear blogosphere, but something came up, and it's something I want to share.  Today, on this most commercialized day of celebrating romance, a wonderful thing happened to me.  My darling Mr. V dedicated a quote to me, and this quote got me thinking.  Now, I'm not going to share our most intimate moments with you all, but since this transaction took place on facebook, I feel comfortable posting it here.  These are the beautiful words he gave to me, written by one of my most favorite authors on the subject:

“A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soulmate is the one who makes life come to life. ” - Richard Bach

Why am I sharing this with you, you ask?  Surely it's not to gush about my budding romance or gloat about how lucky I am.  No.  Of course, it's not.  

As I said, the quote got me thinking, bringing with it a memory of how I first came to know Mr. Bach and how his works affected my view on relationships at a young age.

When I was fourteen, my dear grandmother and godmother and general spiritual advisor handed me a book called The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach.  I believe I've spoken of this book before.  At first, I was dubious.  It seemed to be a love story, not the usual fare Grandma typically fed me, who was much more into Arthurian legends and mysteries and Louis L'Amour than--ugh--romance.  I myself was reading The Lord of the Rings and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and didn't want anything to do with what I considered to be the cheesiest, most low brow of literary genres. 

"Trust me," she said.  "Just read it."

And I did trust her.  So I swallowed my misgivings and opened the first page onto the tale of a philosopher pilot soaring across the stratosphere, sleeping in haystacks in wheat fields, and searching for the meaning of it all.  And does he find love?  Oh yes.  But, of course, not just any love, but the love.  His soul mate. 

What I had in my hands was a philosophy on romance, on love and relationships.  This was no cheap thrill written to entertain 30-something housewives by titillating their wildest, most impossible fantasies.  This was about two people connecting--two equals who felt such mutual respect and adoration for one another that their life together became a grand adventure.  Two people who, in essence, gave each other the freedom to be truly who they were . . . who made each other feel safe. 

At the age of fourteen, just when it mattered most (my grandmother was very wise, you see), I was forming my beliefs about love and partnership based largely on this book.

Now I have a teenager of my own, and while he is more interested in manga and dragons than books on romance, I know that other kids his age . . . yes, primarily girls . . . are being fed large spoonfuls of the Twilight series and 50 Shades of Grey.

And this makes me sad.  Because I can look back and see that what you feed your imagination is what you come to believe in.  When your heroes and heroines are strong, when they believe in trust and respect and support in their romances, this is what you come to expect from your own.  But, what happens when your heroines believe in swallowing the pain so they can make their lovers happy?  When your heroes are angry and jealous and believe their mates aren't strong enough to make decisions for themselves?  What if the prevailing literature of the age somehow loses sight of the adage, "If you love something, set it free."  And what if that literature is being devoured by a large portion of your young, sexually developing population? 

Some would say these are just books.  It's just pop culture, and pop culture has been shocking the previous generations since time immemorial.  Look at Wuthering Heights, for crying out loud.  Theirs was hardly a "healthy" relationship.  And this, I would say, is all true.  I am not going to say that this new generation is the most depraved or the most misguided of all generations.  I don't believe that's true.  But I will say this: be careful what you feed your children's minds, and be careful what you feed your own.  If these romances entertain you, by all means read about your sparkly vampires and your controlling, dominant lovers.  But find a balance.  And know that true love isn't based on control.  It is based on freedom and trust and respect.  It is based on finding someone with whom you can be yourself, someone who feels their life is better for having you in it, and for whom you feel the same.  The Bach books are a fantastic place to start, and to come back to.  They are good food for the soul.  Because you need to know, deep down in your core, that if your love does not make you stronger, if it doesn't inspire you and make you feel truly happy to be alive--to be who you are--then it isn't love.

I might've forgotten that for a time.  Life will do that to you.  But, I'm very glad I had the visions of Bach and other writers like him lurking in my psyche to help me remember. 

2 comments:

Sarah Franz-Wichlacz said...

YES!!!!!!!!!!

Lauren said...

Very true, although the ideas (expectations) presented in such books are hardly new. They're yesteryear's lessons being reintroduced to a new generation. Put a pretty face on the monster and call it new. Our culture hasn't changed much in the last 1000 years.

Lauren

Totally off the topic, but you said once that you were interested in my "home grown" fairy tales. Three of them are up on Amazon and Smashwords, if you're still interested. (Under the name "The Storyteller")