Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Power Of Myth-A Different View Of Love

Chapter seven of The Power of Myth was an interesting view of love.  According to Joseph Campbell, love as we know it, the joy in having a deep and usually passionate relationship with our other half, didn't exist in the early western culture.  For centuries there was the harmony of arranged marriages built on mutual needs, like having children with a spouse of equal social rank or needing a nother parent for their child when the spouse died, and there was the quick burning passion of a sexual relationship.  The idea of two souls melding to become one, or finding your other half, wasn't popular until the twelfth century when the nobility of an area in France started what I would call a "romance with love".  Why would I call it that?  Because it took centuries for love as we know it to be a reason for marriage.  The love that developed in France developed outside of marriage.   Marriage was designed by the parents or the head of the family but the new version of love was more infatuation than anything healthy.   Campbell said it was a meeting of the eyes across the room and an instant recognition of a great love.   This love was often something pursued while ignoring their spouse (which was common in the time of arranged marriages in society). It is from this time that the term "savage" became popular. Women were expected to make their suitors prove their love by some deed (supposedly a popular test was to have a man guard a bridge for a certain amount of time)before giving the man permission to "love" them. By the action of love, the woman could mean many things. It could be as simple as giving him permission to sneak a kiss every once in a while or as complete as welcoming him into her bed. Either way, a woman who asked too much of a test was "savage" as was a woman who asked no test of a man's love before granting him the permission he asked for.

Why do I tell you about the history of love? I'm not sure. I'm reviewing what was in this chapter and there wasn't much for a fiction writer to learn in this chapter. It was a fascinating history lesson with a number of stories or facts I plan to look up. It may be useful to know how love, an emotion needed for happiness but not survival, became so common. I'm sure that it is useful to learn different types of love so you can get the accompanying emotional story right. A lady struggling between choosing a man she shares a passionate sexual relationship with and a man she's been best friends with all her life due to the early understanding that they would marry would react differently to each and may not notice that her "other half" is really the neighbor helping her through the tough decision. In that case her emotional story could depend on how well you understand the various depths of love and how she would express the different levels or emotions. I'm a big fan of never knowing too much about your characters or setting, but reality is that this chapter had little to offer fiction writers, in my opinion.

I did find a few interesting facts. Apparently there is an idea that hell is really getting what we think we want throughout eternity. If you devoted your life to building wealth on earth, you'll be wealthy in hell. If you sought fame all your life, you'll have it in hell. The writers Campbell quoted say that to the angels who are used to living with God, it seems like eternal punishment. I think it would have more to do with the saying "too much of a good thing is a bad thing" and never being able to get a rest from "your greatest desire". Can you imagine maintaining a business empire through eternity and never going on vacation or meeting someone to come home to at night? What about never getting a break from the cameramen and scrutiny of fame? You may be famous but what if there are no fences or security guards in hell? That doesn't sound so fun any more.

The last thing I want to mention from this chapter is the idea that love is pain. It seems that the original idea of true love was the willingness to ignore society to have who you loved. I guess that the jealousy and insecurity that comes with finding your other half could be considered "the pain of love". I just don't think that love in today's day and age, when divorce or breakups are common, compares to the pain of loving someone already married to someone else, someone like a friend or family member, when there was no emotion in marriage but the only way out was complete shame or death.

Sorry to have reviewed a chapter with so little to offer fiction writers, but it was an interesting read from a history and psychology standpoint. Still a recommended read, just not if you expect a lot of insight to improve your craft of writing fiction.

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