Why We Read, Why We Live


It’s no story if it’s not a love story…somewhere in there.

Any literature enthusiast would probably agree with me that romance seems present in almost every fiction story we read. Even with the most masculine-themed, secular, historical, or scientific stories out there, a splash of the human love element sneaks its way inside the pages of the story…it seems almost required for the audience to appear. Let’s be honest, many appreciate a good love story.

Before my guy readers began snickering at what seems to be only a womanly folly, we must consider that women authors have not enjoyed the prominence that their men counterparts have throughout history. Most of the works handed down to us are, therefore, children of the male brain and this brain seems equally preoccupied by the relationships of men and women.

Recent experiences made me wonder, “That which is true in fiction writing, is it also true in real life? Is love a requirement of life the way love seems to be a requirement of fiction?”

During one of my poetry practice sessions, I opened my British anthology and read an old poem by a poet named Robert Greene. With elegant metaphors, Greene lists the many different life purposes that people pursue. The speaker is “sitting by a river side” where he contemplates what men spend their lives chasing. The list includes money, honor, friendship, good health, and power. He asserts that none of these holds a candle to “true love.” Whatever that means.

Okay, so, before we get snarky here, let’s consider the cultural, no the human, tradition we’ve been handed down. I am sure that most of my readers can quote several poems, stories, and even contemporary songs that croons the same point. It is one of our oldest themes. As I read it, I immediately thought of the hugely popular Alicia Keys’ song from the last decade that claimed nothing at all mattered “If I Ain’t Got You.” If we can put the bombast of love literature aside, could we answer this question? Does life mean anything, does it interest us, challenge us, give us a reason to get up in the morning, if love is not a part of it?

Some time ago, I would’ve said that it could, it does. A confusing and fruitless affair leaves me unsure. After I decided to let go of a situation,  a promise of love, because I thought it was best for me, I felt a painful pang of emptiness and soft despair for months. I tried to fill my life with positive thinking and numerous, cherished hobbies, but every morning I had to fight to convince myself that my life was worth living.

The intellectual un me had to realize that even a bad relationship had sweet undercurrents of something that poetry or art or science or nature could not give me. Let’s say: an explosion of bright blue on a dull screen or a warm splash of curry on a bland dish. No, I don’t believe that love is all; I respect the individual human spirit and the arts and sciences too much for that blasphemy. And yes, my eyes will continue to roll at the onslaught of sentimentalist, gooey literature.

Still, I don’t know. Having love in your life does make it all seem worthwhile. As Montaigne would claim, this is not a blog that claims truths and spews statements and facts, it is an essay, an attempt to reason it all out.

What do you think? How does the issue figure into your life? And to my writers, how do you incorporate the inevitable romantic subplot in your work and what challenges does this bring?

In the meantime, find Robert Greene’s original poem “Philomelas’ Ode,” if only for another variation of our oldest theme.



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