Romanticism is a soul-destroying thing. To believe that there is one person out there who somehow compliments you perfectly is far fetched. To believe that this one person that is so right for you would then find you their perfect match seems ridiculous. To find them on a planet of 13 billion people might be pushing it. If I met 10 people almost every day of my life (14 to 60) I would meet only 168,000 people.

Of course that doesn’t stop me. We romantics can’t be stopped. But society isn’t helping us much. Society is trying to make people clones. I have a fundamental problem with our approach to the world and life. To use the example of my ever-lasting search for love:

Most women I meet have very similar minds. They could be described as a pretty house in a well-kept garden with a white picket fence, attractive flower boxes and a sun that shines down permanently on the house. A mind like this would be happy, serene, perfect and small. If that was all there was too it that would be fine, all it would mean is that the person wasn’t very smart. But they would be happy.

But that’s not all there is to it. But if you go into the garden the grass is astro-turf and the flowers are plastic. There is no warmth from the sun because it’s just a light and if you go up to the windows of the house you can’t see in. There are pictures painted on the outside so you can see the imagined interior but it isn’t real. There is no birdsong. It is sanitary. It is safe. And it’s a façade.

It’s what they have been told they want by everything in the world they trust: parents, teachers, friends, magazines and television. But it wasn’t what they wanted. They never got to work out what it was they wanted. It would be like trying to listen to birdsong in heavy traffic.

The door to this picturesque cottage is nailed shut but if you pry it open evil, black gunk spills out. Guilt, fear, unfulfilled fantasies, unanswered questions, dreams they did not have the courage to grab because they were ‘wrong’ or ‘unrealistic’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘insane’. Everything they could have been. Everything they wanted but suppressed because the world told them “no”.

The world is not an evil place. I can’t bring myself to believe that, but it is a frightened place. We have fear as part of our society. It’s a survival trait to fear the unknown and it is taught from very young: “Don’t talk to strangers”, “Beware of the boogeyman”, “You will burn in hell if you do that”, “You will go blind if you do that”. Fear keeps us in line. Fear makes people obey the rules.

And so we fear life, and we squash the dreams. We fit them into the acceptable boxes and sometimes we look at them in our minds, late at night, but we never walk toward them in real life. We choose safe and comfortable over happiness and joy because we know we can get safe and comfortable: it can be bought. Happiness and joy can’t.

Happiness and joy have to grabbed and hung on to with all your might. There are no guarantees. Sometimes your grip slips, you fall and it hurts. During those times you look at those who chose safe and comfortable and you envy them. Those who are safe and comfortable look at you with disdain and you almost cave in. You think: “maybe I was wrong.” You get to your feet and dust yourself off.

Then you look up and you can see the dream again and, if you have courage, you launch yourself after it, you grab it and you soar again. During those times you look down at ‘safe and comfortable’ and you feel a pity for them. They will never know.

I have, occasionally, met someone running for a dream. Who experiences the world and doesn’t hide from the fear. A woman I recently met allowed me the privilege of strolling down the alleyways and byways of her head. It was like a walk in a strange city. It was beautiful and dark, slightly gothic, lit by street-lamps designed to create shadows not eradicate them. Every nook and cranny had detail. There was atmosphere and charm and a lot of life. It was by no means perfect and by no means safe; with always a feeling of unpredictability, even uneasiness. Doorways opened gave way to new, interesting and often contradictory, confounding or dishonest surroundings or situations. Some doorways didn’t open. Sometimes all I was allowed was a glimpse through a window. It is so seldom I meet someone whose mind is such a joy to explore.

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