The dangers of romance are obvious:
- the feelings don’t last
- the experience is often accompanied by self deception
- It can be an excuse for all kinds of harmful behavior
But lest in avoiding one evil we commit ourselves to a greater one, romance should be given its proper place. The calculation of self-interest is more deadly to the soul than impetuous behavior. Both can certainly lead to hell, but calculation is further removed from love, even while it draws forth a deeper and more deadly consent from within.
Romantic or erotic love has often been the pivot around which conversion has occurred. Dante, Augustine, etc. Even the calculating and aptly named ‘Angelo’ of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure may have been saved by eros. For without eros, which causes his fall from pride, Angelo would have remained in his deep rooted and spiteful superbia.
This is not to advocate for lust (sexual or romantic) by any means. Rather, it is simply to say that lust has a more natural counterpart in the divine.
Neither romance nor eros are by definition lust. They are the experience and desire for the other. Lust is that desire which must end in the destruction or devouring of the beloved. Lust seeks to possess where eros seeks to behold. Romance and eros seek to uphold and honor the object/person of desire. As C.S. Lewis shows, eros alone cannot keep itself healthy. I am simply stating that it provides a safer beginning than the calculative mindset of self-provision.
Romance is so vast a term that it needs be narrowed. I will not write further of eros because of its more philosophic connotations. Romance may refer to:
- the experience of being carried away
- love in general
- a kind of artwork or genre
- a period of history
- a certain type of ‘court’-ship
The most pernicious form is that of the first. This is often depicted in movies in either its saccharine or insane form. The saccharine is captured in films like Fools Rush In, the Notebook or Dirty Dancing; while the insane form might be depicted in True Romance or Natural Born Killers. A film like Benny and Joon or Say Anything strides both both genres.
There is a form of romance which preserves the heartfelt, and yes, foolish pursuit of the other, and yet recoils from the crossing of those boundaries which make romance so blind and dangerous. This kind of romance is has elements of Jane Austen, Aristotle, is chivalrous, chaste, sacrificial, and biblical.
And this is the kind of romantic love I will talk about in the final post on on picking a spouse.