Monday, July 17, 2006

Love, Dreams, and Movies

July 17

I’ve written recently about movies and dreams, so it’s time I wrote about love. I know all about it, and I’m sure my readers are interested.

Much of what we know of love we learned from movies and dreams. You can quote me on that.

However, I know about all three, or at least I have experienced all three on a visceral as well as an ephemeral level (sometimes all at the same time -- wait, that's not quite possible. It just seems like it is). Romantic love, spiritual love, platonic love; romantic movies, action movies, suspenseful movies spiritual movies, laughable movies, lovable movies; romantic dreams, waking dreams, nightmares, memory dreams, wishful dreams, action dreams. There is something about them all that is the same. Love, dreams and movies.

For one thing, they all engage us in another reality, something out of the ordinary. They require a leap of faith. With dreams, it is easy. The mind does it for us. In love, we are challenged to do it ourselves. And in movies, the studio does it to us, with lighting, sound tracks, special effects, and larger than life angels, as Colin McGinn calls them in The Power of Movies – the actors – to look at.

Here’s something I wrote about love several years ago:

Love is a word that has baffled those of us whose mother tongue is English ever since there was such a language. For one word to encompass all the meanings of love is probably as limiting to the emotion itself as it is to the attempt to define it. This impoverished vocabulary may have contributed to the emotional restraint of the English. Mother love, romantic love, love from a grandchild, love of life, love of God – are these things the same?

Love is not necessarily an emotion. It is more likely the substance of the heart, the source, the sustenance of the spirit, the food behind all that is positive in human existence. It is unquestioning sacrifice, unrequited mercy, unsolicited grace.

Pretty good, as far as it goes. It will have to suffice for today as I’ve got things to do, and it’s hard to do much when you’re in love – or even thinking about it.

1 comment:

Benedict S. said...

My philosophical namesake, Benedict de Spinoza, would say that love is and emotion. In fact, he did say it. "Love is an emotion of joy accompanied by the idea of some eternal object that we imagine as the cause of our joy."

That may be a bit too prosaic for the romantic who wrote those lovely lines in your blog, but Spinoza's definition works very well for me. We love what we associate with joy. This has the effect of removing love as a quality of things, and centering it where it actually occurs: in the lover.

It also helps to remove some of the confusion that arises between some parents and some of their children. If we love only those things that give us joy, then what do those parents feel for those of their children who give them sorrow? Obviously, those parents feel something, perhaps a sense of duty and fulfilling that duty is, in itself, a source of a kind of joy. But that would mean that the parents have simply misnamed the emotion they associate with their baneful children. They call it "love" and then wind up in the sort of semantical labyrinth that was, perhaps, at the center of your wondering about all those varieties of love.

None of this means that love is an illusion. Joy is real. The objects we associate with our joy are real. If there is anything unreal in what we feel for those we love I have been unable to identify it.

To pretend that love is some sort of philosophical or psychological creature -- and I know only one or two truly pitiful souls who do so -- is to miss the point entirely of what my main man was talking about. All the things and people who love are the source of love. It exists nowhere but inside themselves and and no way but as an experience made possible by whatever it is nature has produced that we call "human."

God is good.