Sunday, 11 February 2001
I went to the coffee house this morning to read, after only a couple hours of sleep last night. Just couldn't get to sleep, which is very unusual for me. Early waking, that's normal, but not being able to even fall asleep is odd. Very tired right now. Anyway, at the coffee shop (Angel Falls) I picked up the Sunday New York Times Magazine and found a couple articles of high interest.

The cover story was about 'Giulianis's New York.' It really seems funny now when I bump into something about New York City. It isn't just a passing interest any longer now that I plan on moving to NYC for seminary. I'm actually getting a little excited about the prospect of living in NYC, even while I am still really hesitant about the whole post-seminary priest thing. I am finding that I am starting to disengage. Wonder how that is going to go?

I just called Paul for a proposal to buy my house. He has suggested to me since I bought my house that if I ever moved he wanted to buy it. He owns a number of rentals. I really don't want to sell my house, but I also don't want the financial burden and problems that come with owning a home so far away from where I will be living. Just an offer, nothing more right now.

Getting back to the NY Times Mag., Andrew Sullivan, whom I really like, has an essay that interested me. I have read a number of things by him -- both books and articles. I like his writing style and more importantly his insights into life and the living of life. His book, 'Love Undetectable' (I think that is the title -- someone has borrowed the book), was phenomenal. Anyway, I'm going to retype the article here. Hopefully, Sullivan and the New York Times will not have a problem.

Here goes:

The obsession with romantic love is not just the stuff of greeting-card pap. It's a curse.
By: Andrew Sullivan

"I know this isn't exactly the week to say it, but can we please ease up on our secular cult of romantic love? As almost any serious person before the 19th century would have told you, the concept is a crock. to paraphrase Aristotle, it's a benighted attempt to found friendship on beauty. To quote Montaigne, it is 'impetuous and fickle, a feverish flame.' Shakespeare got this, too. His transcendent celebration of love, 'Romeo and Juliet,' begins with Romeo's obsessive infatuation with a young woman he can barely let out of his sight. That woman is called Rosalind. Then Romeo meets Juliet, and Rosalind has about the longevity of an Internet start-up. Love is like that, Shakespeare seems to imply. It comes; it goes. if taken too seriously, it kills. Remember what happened to the star-crossed lovers? Compared with true friendship or patriotism or maternal love, romance is a joke of a feeling. yet this joke, our culture tells us, is now the secret to true and lasting happiness.

"for a while, there was reason to hope that we were recovering from this blight. The most innovative popular music of our time -- hip-hop -- has largely jettisoned the romantic premise of the bulk of the genre. The world learned a sobering lesson when the dreamy English princess turned into a bulimic neurotic before meeting an untimely death. Greater sex equality has helped discredit the idea that no woman is complete without a man. For good measure, our last president had a marriage that, whatever else it was founded on, had little to do with romance. But then the romance addiction returns. Britney clones go on dates in kindergarten. Boy pop groups parade as romantic fantasies for a new generation of screaming girls. The political quest for equal marriage rights for homosexuals merges into a cultural campaigning for gay romance. Ronald Reagan's love letters sell briskly. 'The Wedding Planner' does oddly well at the box office. As sex makes something of a comeback in the general culture -- 'Temptation Island,' anyone? -- it needs the fig leaf of romance as much as it ever did to maintain a legitimate air.

"But ever wonder why divorce rates are so high? [He makes a very good point with what follows!] The real culprit isn't some kind of moral collapse. It's excessive expectations, driven and fueled by the civic religion of romance. For a lucky few, infatuation sometimes does lead to lasting love, and love to family, and family to all the other virtues our preachers and politicians regularly celebrate. For the other 99 percent of us, relationships are, at best, useful economic bargains and, if we're lucky, successful sexual transactions -- better than the alternative, which has long been close to social death. But thanks to the civic religion of romance, we constantly expect more and quit what we have in search of more. [Very Good!] For the essence of romantic love is not the company of a lover but the pursuit. It's all promise with the delivery of the postal service.

"O.K., so maybe I just broke up with someone, and that's why this year I feel about Valentine's Day the way some people feel about Christmas. Its main effect is not to foster warm wonderful feelings in the minuscule number of people who happen to be in love this week but to engender abiding depression, jealousy and loneliness is the rest of us who aren't.

"That this cult should reach its most frenetic expression in modern democracies is no surprise. The elevation of romance into a soul-saving experience was devised by Rousseau. As Allan Bloom pointed out, Rousseau saw bourgeois love as a salve for the empty emotional center of restrained, law-bound societies. He wanted to substitute the passion of people for truth and honor and power with something just as absorbing but nowhere near as dangerous. Why not love? It flatters our narcissism. It diverts us with phony adrenaline, teases us with jealousy, hooks us with sex. It is the means by which our genes persuade our bodies to reproduce. It is so diverting that we tend to forget more pressing questions, like what to believe in or strive for. More important, in a culture in which sex is increasingly divorced from procreation, it gives copulation a new kind of purpose, apart from pleasure. It sacralized it, dignifies it, elevates it. Love, we're told, conquers all.

"The trouble is, of course, it doesn't. The love celebrated on Valentine's Day conquers nothing. It contains neither the friendship nor civility that makes marriage successful. It fulfills the way a drug fulfills -- requiring new infusions to sustain the high. It prettifies sex, but doesn't remove sex's danger or lust. And by elevating it to a personal and cultural panacea, we suffer the permanent disappointment of excessive expectations, with all of their doleful social consequences. Less -- affection, caring, friendship, the small favors of a husband for a wife after 30 years of marriage -- is far more. And by knocking romance off its Hallmark pedestal, we might go some small way to restoring the importance and dignity of these less glamorous but more fulfilling relationships. 'If love were all,' Noel Coward once wrote, 'I should be lonely.' But it isn't. And nobody else's Valentine card should persuade you that loneliness is the only alternative."

The last third of Sullivan's book 'Love Undetectable' concerns his ideas the loss of the art of friendship. The main idea (at least as I remember it) is that we have lost the art of friendship -- the deep, abiding, devoted kind of friendship that many Americans have replaced with ideas of 'love,' which has only gotten us into places of loneliness and false impressions of interpersonal relationships. The essay above stems from those ideas, I believe.

Okay, lunch with Russ and then who knows what. Oh, I've now seen, what, four or five episodes of Queer as Folk and Oz. Q.o.F. is getting better. The jury is still out. Oz, however, is just getting better and better. I was thinking of the arguments conservative Christians would use concerning the depravity of both shows. I remember reading an article by someone concerning the difference between what is appropriate for adults and what is appropriate for children. The author was saying that all the 'family' talk and Disneyification has blurred the distinction to the point that if a program/art/activity/place is not appropriate a family of all ages, it shouldn't be supported.

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