Thursday, February 08, 2007

Are God and passion then at strife?

Brian Schwartz headshot by Brian Schwartz

I grew up in a household that believed that, apart for certain liberal decisions of the United States Supreme Court, nothing worth happening had happened after 1900. I grew up with books. I grew up in another world. A world of dreams and fossils, a world long dead when I was born.

And in that world, love reigned supreme. People fought for love. Duels with sword and sabre. Just look at great Mycenae, ruined for love. People died for love. People pined away, wasted away into nothing, for want of love's desire. Love moves the sun and other stars, sang Dante. Love inspired him to greatness. That wasn't thought unusual.

And of course by love, I don't mean love of country, or love of friends, or love of Mom and cherry pie. No, I mean romantic love. It was considered the grandest of passions, and what a passion it was. People in love were capable of anything, totally possessed, in the grip of folly — and anything they did was excused, as you would excuse the silly, hapless actions of a prophet, or a fool. Love was painful, inconvenient, and as rational as a raging fire. But not only was it tolerated, it was sought after, treasured, worshipped. Poets sang it, artists sought its inspiration. It was the highest goal to which a man could aspire. Man at his finest — man transported to Heaven and allowed to drink from the cup of the gods.

We live in more rational times. Love like that is considered abusive, irrational, insane, or at best a personality disorder. Something to be treated if not cured. Its course is charted like a disease. It's a ball you juggle along with work and the kids, and though there's a holiday for it, Valentines Day, the modern man springs for a store-bought card with prefabricated sentiment and maybe a cheap box of chocolate.

In the fastness of the deep Sahara, the blue-robed Tuareg still hold courts of love, and lovers still count those blazing stars. Somewhere amidst those stars might perhaps be found beings of intelligence vastly greater than ours. But can their passion equal ours? And can our passion equal that of those desert nomads, who fight and dream and die for love?

No comments: