28 March 2012

A Divine Madness

Someday, someone will walk into your life and make you realize why it never worked out with anyone else. - Anon

Someday. Maybe that someday has already happened, maybe it's happening now, perhaps it has not yet arrived but will. On that someday, by all conventional views, you will FALL IN LOVE.

Fall: a verb. 1. to drop or descend under the force of gravity, as to a lower place through loss or lack of support. 2. to come or drop down suddenly to a lower position,especially to leave a standing or erect position suddenly,whether voluntarily or not: to fall on one's knees. 3. to become less or lower; become of a lower level, degree,amount, quality, value, number, etc.; decline 4. to subside or abate.

Not a very positive word to describe the birth of such a powerful and positive emotion. It really should come as no surprise though since many people look at that early period of falling in love, the passion, the romance, as a kind of insanity. That view is even backed up by science which has shown the presence of neurochemicals in the brains of those in love that also tend to be present in the brains of those with psychological disorders and addictions.

Ah, madness...

“Love is a kind of dementia with very precise and oft-repeated clinical symptoms. You blush in each other's presence, you both hover in places where you expect the other to pass, you are both a little tongue-tied, you both laugh inexplicably and too long, you become quite nauseatingly girlish, and he becomes quite ridiculously gallant. You have also grown a little stupid.”  - Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli's Mandolin

My wife writes romance novels for a living. Romance novels are hands down the highest selling category of books. Highest selling over ALL books. They are also the most disrespected. Many, MANY people like to read about love and romance and many, MANY others like to put it down. One of the biggest criticisms always seems to be that the books aren't realistic, they're fantasy and they set up unrealistic and unattainable expectations. Personally, I could not disagree more. I strongly believe that our expectations should be high. Not that we should be holding out for a fictional superhero who doesn't exist but that we, ALL of us - men AND women - should hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard of behavior especially towards the person we claim to love. This post is not intended to be a defense of romance novels (I'll save that for another time) but I want to make this point. Romance novels are not unrealistic because they are not about the hero and heroine's entire life together. They are about the courtship phase of a relationship. The beginning. The falling in love part. The time when society calls us mad! After that point in a relationship - after the happy ending of our courtship story - we "come to our senses". We "come back to reality". Life intrudes. When that happens so many people lose that feeling, the passion, they had at the beginning. The don't remember what it felt like and can't find the way back and they long for it or they become indifferent, or worse, cynical. I think this is a large reason so many people both embrace and malign romance novels and the subject of romance in general.

What if there was a different way of looking at romantic relationships. What if...the conventional view is backwards. In this excerpt from her blog post The Romantic Mysteries spiritual author and lecturer Marianne Williamson explains:

The common wisdom goes like this: that the myth of "some enchanted evening," when all is awash with the thrill of connection and the aliveness of new romance, is actually a delusion... a hormonally manufactured lie. That soon enough, reality will set in and lovers will awaken from their mutual projections, discover the psychological work involved in two people trying to reach across the chasm of real life separateness, and come to terms at last with the mundane sorrows of human existence and intimate love.
In this case, the common wisdom is a lie.
From a spiritual perspective, the scenario above is upside down. From a spiritual perspective, the original high of a romantic connection is thrilling because it is true. It is in fact the opposite of delusion. For in a quick moment, a gift from the gods, we are likely to suspend our judgment of the other, not because we are temporarily insane but because we are temporarily sane. We are having what you might call a mini-enlightenment experience. Enlightenment is not unreal; enlightenment - or pure love -- is all that is real. Enlightenment is when we see not as through a glass darkly, but truly face to face.
What is unreal is what comes after the initial high, when the personality self reasserts itself and the wounds and triggers of our human ego form a veil across the face of love. The initial romantic high is not something to outgrow, so much as something to earn admittance back into - this time not as an unearned gift of Cupid's arrows, but as a consequence of the real work of the psychological and spiritual journey. The romantic relationship is a spiritual assignment, presenting an opportunity for lovers and would-be lovers to burn through our own issues and forgive the other theirs, so together we can gain reentrance to the joyful realms of our initial contact that turn out to have been real love after all.

A very interesting concept that is definitely worth pondering. Is the passionate, romantic beginning of a relationship just a crazy hormone-induced dream that fades away when you awake to real life? Or, is the falling in love phase the real deal? An brief unfiltered, unrestrained glimpse of what we could have if we could push aside the crazy curtain of life and wade through the baggage and storage boxes stacked in our way by the psychological hoarder in our heads.

Enlightenment or madness? I'm not sure what I think. I do know that I believe in love, and in romance, and in passion. And I believe that if it is madness, it's a divine madness.