Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Thought on Romeo and Juliet

I think that one of the problems with our society is that we have this intense focus on romance. We have thousands and thousands of books and movies and songs all about romance, its ups and downs and inspirations and shortcomings. It doesn’t help that we’re barraged with the Romeo and Juliet story—or allusions to it—every which direction we turn, in our English classes and in the movies and by approximately half of all Taylor Swift’s songs and in books about vampires and their pedophilic, forbidden love with human girls.

This single-mindedness when it comes to romantic love, however, causes us to lose sight of any other sort of love that is out there. Love has many faces. There is not only one type of love, one highest type, one most fulfilling type. And the longer we continue to look at only the once face of love, the more we allow the others to slip away from us.

And so it is that the loss of a romantic love is considered and felt to be such a tragedy. If you have boiled your entire love experience down into only this one type of love, then of course it feels like a tragedy; you have not allowed yourself to become familiar with any other face of love.

The real tragedy with Romeo and Juliet is not that they couldn’t be together, or that their love was forbidden, or even that they died. No, the real tragedy is that they willingly closed their eyes to anything but each other. Romeo mistook Juliet’s face as the face of love—as if love couldn’t look like or be anything else. And Juliet did the same of Romeo—as if love could only come from him and from nowhere else.

This isn’t sweet or heart-melting, and it certainly isn’t a good example of what love can and should be.

Rather, this intense focus on romance is much more harmful than anything else. We feel unfulfilled if a romantic love is not in our life or in our present circumstances, because it is the only type of love that we fully accept, the only type that we choose to let in, to make us feel satisfied. And so we don’t allow ourselves to see or to feel all of the other loves that are out there, pressing in on us. We feel as though we are no longer loved once our boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse leaves us or dies or disappears or betrays us, even though there are a great many other faces of love ready to show us how important we are, and how much of a light we bring into the darkness of the world. Surely all love is a light, a sun. But we only allow ourselves to see the small flicker that is romantic love.

Please, forget about Romeo and Juliet. Their tragedy is their own; it does not need to be yours and mine.

Know that you are loved. Every moment of every day you are surrounded by love. Of course it might not always be romance. But it is love, of one sort or another, and it is enough. At least, it should be—we are the ones who choose to not let it be enough.


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