Tag Archives: love

Romance – Now More Than Ever

Dec 14, 2015
image courtesy of Christian Muñoz via Flickr

image courtesy of Christian Muñoz via Flickr

Every six months or so, the knives come out. Somewhere on the internet, someone will shake their fist and proclaim that Romance is a worthless genre, that romance writers are all hacks, and that no self-respecting reader out there should be caught dead reading such drivel. 

*ahem* 

Every six months or so, someone makes an idiot of themselves. 

Romance is the heart of humanity. Clearly it’s a hot-button issue, because every time the arguments begin to rage, defenders of romance rush forth to set the cynics straight. More than that, they remind the world that the romance genre is the top-selling genre out there, a six billion dollar a year industry. The fact that romance sells so well AND the fact that it is always attacked with such ferocity is proof that love, relationships, yearning, and intimacy are at the heart of who we are. 

I would like to propose that in today’s world, romance goes further than that. Right now, in a world that has been whipped up to epic levels of hysteria, in a world where loud-mouthed individuals and groups with a dark agenda can captivate billions and instill them with fear like never before, romance is essential. Now more than ever, the world needs romance novels. 

Because it’s scary out there right now, folks. Every time you turn on the news, you can’t help but cringe over something that someone said or about violence and injustice going on somewhere in the world. We sometimes forget that this isn’t the only time in our history that this sort of thing has happened. What I find interesting, though, is what happened last time the world found itself mired in senseless war, questionable conflict, and the strain of social injustice. 

I’m talking about the 60s, of course. The Vietnam War. The racial unrest. The uncertainty across the globe. But what else do we remember about the 60s and the Vietnam Era? We remember hippies, peaceniks, music, and The Summer of Love. 

HisPerfectBride_smallLove goes hand-in-hand with peace. We all want peace, but you could definitely make the argument that without love first, without the opening of our hearts, peace isn’t possible. And what are romance novels but deep, expressive examples of love? 

The whole point of a romance novel is to have a hero and heroine (or hero and hero, or heroine and heroine, or…you get the point) meet, have a spark between them, and overcome odds to be together. I was struck this summer when I heard Catherine Bybee speak at the Ind’Scribe Conference about how for her, romance novels were how she learned about monogamy and happily ever after in romantic relationships. She was so right. Too many of us don’t have those examples in our real lives. What we learn, we learn between the pages. 

I think it extends beyond relationships and happily ever afters. Romance novels go one step further to show us that it is not only possible to conquer demons (literal and figurative) it’s right. In today’s world, it is far too easy to give up and assume that the bad guys will win because they’re louder or more ruthless. Romance novels show us that that’s not the case. No matter how dastardly or clever the bad guy is, love saves the day. 

We need this sentiment in the world right now. We need to be reminded over and over that good will triumph over evil, that great acts of compassion are possible, that the future can be filled with peace and happiness. It may be hard to have those feelings when you turn on the news right now, but when you open the pages of a book, a romance novel, you see that it can be done. We may be skeptical, we may be tempted to join those detractors and think that it’s all just fiction, but I think that the more we immerse ourselves in those examples of love and happy endings, the more we can not only come to believe they are possible, the more we will work to make them possible. 

So turn off the news. Ignore the detractors. Let your soul breathe for a few hours. Pick up a romance novel and change the way you look at the world. Welcome in peace to a world that needs it, and learn to believe that we can all have our happily ever after.

What I Learned About Love From Bill Cosby

Aug 30, 2013

BillWhen you think of Bill Cosby, you might very well think of Jell-O Pudding Pops or Fat Albert or Temple University (if you’re from Philly) or even some of the most hysterical comedy routines of the last quarter of the 20th century. I’m sure you think about The Cosby Show. That’s certainly what comes to my mind. But along with that, indeed, because of The Cosby Show, when I think of Bill Cosby, I think of love.

About a month ago, I was out to dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. Kristine mentioned that she had never watched The Cosby Show. Stewart and I immediately launched into “Oh, you HAVE to watch it” and “It’s so good!” and “It’s the best tv show that has ever been produced”. We went on to relate our favorite Cosby moments to each other across the table: the time that Denise tried to make the shirt for Theo, Bill Cosby’s explanation to Theo, using Monopoly money, of how much life costs when you’re a young person living on your own, Sondra singing mopey songs when she broke up with Elvin, the episode guest-starring Danny Kaye. We remembered so much, even though we hadn’t watched the show in more than a decade.

Well, thanks to Amazon, that has changed. I’ve been watching The Cosby Show again from the beginning, and I tell you, my heart has grown about five sizes.

Bill Cosby was not only funny, he had (has) a unique kind of integrity that I don’t see on tv so much these days. The Cosby Show was firmly about family and for families. Lots of shows on the air today are about families, but Cosby was different. The kids could have attitude, yes, but they were not consistently rotten, nor were they smarter than the parents. Cliff and Clair Huxtable were not always right, but they were always the Mom and Dad, with capital letters. The show taught values in a way that I don’t see on tv now. It wasn’t preachy, it was so, so funny. But the humor didn’t come from wild or wacky situations, it came from the little things that we have all experienced in our own families and therefore identify with.

The Cosby Show was a great show, but for me the lesson of love goes much deeper than that. Continue reading

Great Romances – Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger

May 10, 2012

A couple of weeks ago one of my Facebook friends posted an article about the ten most disappointing or least inspiring sci-fi couples ever.  One of the couples on that list was Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley.  I wish I could find that article again (believe me, I’ve tried) but the gist of their argument was that there was no spark between the two.

Of course, the article even said that the problem was the lack of chemistry between the actors who portrayed the characters in the movie version and that if you read the book the Harry/Ginny romance is a lot more interesting.  I wholeheartedly agree with this.  In fact, I was going to write about that Harry/Ginny romance, but then I realized I would be missing the point if I did.  Because the truly great romance of the Harry Potter books is Ron and Hermione.

What makes Ron and Hermione such a great couple is the fact that they have known each other since they were kids.  They met on the Hogwart’s Express only moments after Harry and Ron met.  And of course neither was particularly impressed from the get-go.  But against the odds they became friends.

Another thing that makes Ron and Hermione such an awesome couple is that they kick butt together.  This is not a relationship where one is the hero and the other is the sidekick.  They are both sidekicks, which gives them a degree of equality that, frankly, you just don’t see in a lot of romances, even in our modern world.  They each brought something unique to the table in their efforts to help Harry defeat Voldemort.  Throughout the series they took turns being more or less prominent in Harry’s world, but as far as I can tell one never overpowered the other.  It is a partnership of equals.

And yet those equal things are not the same things.  Ron isn’t as smart as Hermione, but I personally think Hermione doesn’t have the heart that Ron has.  And to me it’s sort of brilliant that in this pairing it is the boy who is the heart and the girl who is the head.  How’s that for turning stereotypes on their heads?

They’re also brilliant as a couple because there is and has always been so much fire between them.  They bickered from the get-go.  And as everyone knows, bickering is a sign of something much deeper waiting to burst out.  Of course these two kids, with their confusing hormones popping and their unfamiliar new adult feelings wrapping them up in knots, would take out that energy on each other.  Rowling presented the budding romance like someone who understands adolescence all too well.

I also happen to think that Ron and Hermione are a perfect example of opposites attracting.  They have different approaches to life and problems.  And yet they end up in the same place eventually because in their deepest cores they are far more alike than unalike.  They are yin and yang.

For a second I thought they were going to go there!

I will concede that the relationship is much more vivid and alive in the books than it was in the movies.  Frankly, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson had some seriously good chemistry and if you’re just watching the films of course you’re going to want Harry and Hermione to get together.  But that has nothing to do with the characters and everything to do with the actors portraying them.  And as we all know, the movie is never as good as the book.  In the book it’s Ron and Hermione all the way.

So way what you will about Harry and Ginny, who I also happen to think are brilliant together, when it comes down to it, Ron and Hermione are the great lovers of the Harry Potter series.

P.S. Why are there so many bizarre HP pairings (and resultant porn) all over the internet???

What is the Highest Form of Love?

Apr 27, 2012

Last week I had the pleasure of reconnecting with my best friend from high school, Jess.  It was so rejuvenating to see Jess again, to hear about the twists and turns life has thrown at her, and to remember why we were best friends.  I owe her for introducing me to romance novels.  She was the first person who got that shifty look in her eyes and handed me a book with a cover I would never have shown my Mom and said, “Here, you’ve got to read this.”

One of the things we talked about was love.  More specifically, the way we were raised to see love.  Jess and I were both raised in a relatively small religious community.  We went to a church school where we had chapel every morning and religion classes as part of the curriculum.  The good news is that the early exposure to philosophy that that gave us taught me how to think about the bigger questions of existence.  The bad news is that some of the messages we were given about love have left me, and Jess, with life-long scars.  But ours is not the only religious or philosophical tradition that dictates this misinformation about love.

You see, we were raised to believe that the highest form of love is that between one man and one woman, the kind of love that produces a family.  In other words, marriage is the highest form of love.  Although I’m sure there are some people who would also argue that the love of a parent for their child is the highest form of love as an off-shoot of that.

Like I said, we weren’t the only ones raised this way.  In fact, a lot of current popular media pushes the same agenda.  The highest state of love you can attain is a spouse.  And yeah, marriage love is awesome, but is it really the highest form of love?  Is it something that everyone should aspire to and that people should be disappointed about if they don’t acquire it?  How many couples out there marry and then find out that they were sold a bill of goods?

There are other traditions out there that would tell you that devotion to God is the highest form of love.  These are people and cultures that do not laud marriage as the be all and end all.  The aim in these traditions is to rid yourself of all worldly attachments, including love of the flesh and love for other people above God.  In these cultures it is the guru or shaman or religious that has attained the highest form of love.  Marriage is considered an impediment.

So right there you have a tradition that directly contradicts what I was raised with.  That gets me to thinking.  If one culture espouses one set of values and another says something entirely different, then what really is the highest form of love?

Sometimes I feel like I get a lot of pressure or a lot of pity for being single.  Poor Merry, she isn’t able to attain the highest form of love.  Well, that’s just absurd.  I feel as though I am so full of love that it bursts out all over the place, on paper and in real life.  Just because I’m single doesn’t mean all that love inside of me has nowhere to go.  Quite the contrary.

Personally, I believe the definitive word on love comes from one lovely Bible verse:  “Greater love hath no man than this: than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”  There you go, folks.  The Bible puts it clearly and succinctly.  And you don’t have to be Christian to see the point it’s trying to make.

The highest form of love is whatever form it takes when you set aside your own wants and concerns to help or comfort or consider someone else.  It could be a life or death situation or it could be letting someone else have the last slice of pizza.  Sure, that could easily be the love between spouses.  But it’s not limited to marriage.  Yep, it can also be the love a parent has for their child, or vice versa, but it’s not exclusively that relationship either.  It is a form of love that every single person on this planet and any others can partake in to an equal degree, no matter what their status in life is.

The theologian Emanuel Swedenborg has another way of putting it that I love: “To feel another’s joy as joy in oneself: that is loving.”  I don’t know about you, but seeing someone I love, friend or family, burst with joy over an accomplishment or a milestone is absolutely the best feeling ever.  It’s love and pride and happiness all rolled into one gorgeous package.  It’s awesome.  And it’s not exclusive.  Anyone and everyone can feel that way.

So what is the highest form of love?  It is the love that brings you outside of yourself.  It is the love that urges you to be a better person.  It is the love that improves the world one person at a time as we stop to consider what would make our beloved, friend, spouse, or family happy regardless of what we want.

It is the love that everybody can participate in and everyone can benefit from, no matter what their state in life.

Incidentally, I also found this quote from a site of Bodhisattva Quotes while looking for pics for this post:  “Friendship is the purest love. It is the highest form of Love where nothing is asked for, no condition, where one simply enjoys giving.”