Friday, March 5, 2010

Love Stories

A couple weeks ago, the lovely Biljana posted about love over at Let the Words Flow (a fab stopping point for any writer, by the way--it's a blog that feels like a cozy coffee shop full of fellow writers. Grab a latte, sit down, start talking words) . Not just romance, mind you, but the love that's threaded through any good story, underlying the motivations and driving the action. She challenged readers to find a work of fiction that was devoid of love. I couldn't do it--from the other comments, it looks like no one else could, either.

One of my favorite works by C.S. Lewis is The Four Loves, which of course, being by C.S. Lewis, explores the concept of love from a Christian perspective. But it also makes the point that love is not an emotion defined by romance--love can also be familial, camaraderie, and the elusive God-like charity of giving without bounds. And of course, our own lives inform us of this, too--we know by experience that love is not merely romance and lust. Our first loves, after all, were our parents, our siblings, even our pets.

So I approached Biljana's post and tried to think of a book that didn't have love in it, love driving the characters to act and pursuing their thoughts. I mentioned All Quiet on the Western Front, one of my favorite books, and the fact that, though there really isn't any romance in it, it's a story of brotherly love and camaraderie. The Picture of Dorian Gray--narcisistic self-love gone horribly awry. And others--The Life of Pi--that beautiful illusion is created out of love, isn't it? The Little House books--even before Almanzo, Laura's life is driven by the love she has for her family. And so it could go on and on.

And I think I know the reason why. This is where I know I go a bit off the grid, but here it is: Every life is a love story. I decided this, strangely enough, at my grandfather's funeral. Before the mass, there was a family-only visitation, to give us a reprieve from the hundreds of people at the open visitation the night before. And there had been hundreds. My grandfather was a professor and author, very active in his political and religious communities, and I suppose I had always defined his life that way. He wrote thirteen books, hundreds of articles, founded a university newspaper. There are Wikipedia entries that mention his work. He was successful.

But during that family-only visitation, I watched while my grandmother knelt by his casket in well-rehearsed Catholic posture, as she had in church every week beside him, and said her farewells. It struck me--my grandparents' life was a love story. People who I never would have thought of as the hero and heroine of their own love story were, in fact, the central characters in a romance. And so it is for everyone. Some peoples' love stories might veer toward the parental or to friendships or even to a life's work focused on helping others or academic progress. (Though I do maintain that wedged in everyone's life is a seed of romance that sprouted at some point. It may have grown slowly and beautifully over time as my grandparents' did, it may have bloomed brilliantly and flourished briefly, it may have been only a tiny seedling that never grew beyond a few leaves and that no one ever saw, but it was there.)

So, believeable fiction must imitate life and be motivated by the same things. So, if every life is a love story--not necessarily a romance, but a love story--so then, fiction follows.

What do you think--is every life a love story, or am I off my nut? Can you think of works of fiction that aren't threaded through with love of one kind or another?


Ax said...

I think you're right. Every life is a love story. We all love something, animals, our significant other(s), the divine, ourselves, something.

A wise friend of mine once said that love is always a tragedy. I thought he was off his nut. But the more you think about it, it is. For instance, I'm sure your grandmother, for all the years she spend with her husband, would say its a tragedy that she lost him so soon.

Love stories don't always mean romance, though that's often how we think about it. It's one of the basic needs, food, shelter, to be heard, to love and be loved.

That's pretty much all I got but its seems like you're on to something.

Happy Day :)

Lua said...

You know what- now that I think about it, I can’t think of works of fiction that aren't threaded through with love of one kind or another! :)
But I look at love from a wider perspective; love for your family, friends, job, hobbies, your partner or even love towards your pet…
I don’t think you can subtract “love” from “life” and that’s why it will always find it’s way to fiction…:)

Rowenna said...

Thanks ladies, for your insights. You're right, Axie, that love is perhaps always a tragedy--the thing is, if it weren't, wouldn't that be even greater tragedy? If when we lost what we loved we said, ah well, no matter?

I like that way of putting it, Lua--can't subtract love from life.

missbluestocking said...

YES!! I love this post!!! You are share my same belief: Every life is a love story. I might go even further to say every life is a work of art. People, all around us, are walking books of classic love stories.

I read a bit of C.S. Lewis Four Loves--my dad is a Christian theology professor so he has all these random Christian books lying around our house. So I skimmed through this book and totally agree. There isn't only the love based on romance and lust. I'll give you an insider scoop, but the love story I based TRC on wasn't on my feelings for some guy, but rather, the love for my parents and my constant struggle to love God. (It's so difficult to love someone you cannot see). That's why I sometimes loathe to call TRC a historical romance. Maybe it is a romance. But the story wasn't based off romantic feelings...

Sorry for ranting. Your article was just so thought provoking.

Rowenna said...

Oh, June, that's a lovely thought, too--that life is a work of art. That falls in rather nicely with Christian belief in a Creator God, too, doesn't it? And it was very good :) Thanks for sharing your inspiration for TRC--great insight!