A Cynic Speaks Up for Romance

By Diana Laurence

I was raised on the great musicals of the 50s and 60s, stories in which Maria ends up married to Captain Von Trapp, Laurie and Curly live happily ever after in Oklahoma, and Marian the Librarian wins the heart of the Music Man Harold Hill. I had lots of dreams as a little girl, including becoming a famous author, but pre-eminent among them was falling in love with the ideal leading man and sailing off into the sunset. At eighteen I was pretty much an incurable romantic.

Having lived to see Vietnam, AIDs, Rwanda, and 9/11, I have been cured of many of my idealistic opinions. Having found myself in a 15-year marriage to a gay man (a practicing gay man, mind you), I became more than a little disillusioned about romance. Happily ever after can happen in this world, but just as often does not. Heroes and heroines are few and far between, while villains are a dime a dozen. I'm about to turn 50, and you'd think with what I've seen by now, I would have told Rodgers and Hammerstein posthumously that life just doesn't work like their stories led me to believe.

On the contrary, I believe romance is alive and well, and always will be. Why would such a cynic hold that opinion? Not because I've deceived myself into thinking romance can thrive in real life (although take heart, my second marriage is definitely happily ever after), but for a totally different reason.

I believe in romance because you do. You, me, and billions of others on this planet. Anything that beloved and that important to humankind has got to be for real. But allow me to elaborate....

Anyone who writes fiction knows that things don't need to be literally "real" to have meaning and significance. Out of nothing but imagination, writers create characters who frequently are quite autonomous and write their own stories. These "non-existent" beings can sometimes move readers even more than flesh-and-blood people do.

As a Jungian, an adherent to the theories of Carl Jung, I credit this phenomenon for some very interesting spiritual stuff. I won't go into all that here; I wrote a whole book, Living Beyond Reality, about it. But suffice it to say, fiction and other forms of art are the media through which human beings express their ideals. Whether it is a painting of a perfect sunset, a photograph of a perfect nude, a symphony, a love song, or a novel, artists strive to feed human yearning for the ideal.

Romance is an emotional ideal for which that most humans yearn. We want to experience true love, find heroes to admire (and be protected and loved by), live happily ever after, feel that all is right with the world. It is this longing, these desires, that help make us spiritually alive. I believe that we are made to long for these things. And that's what makes romance "real." It inspires, motivates, enlivens, and drives us, and because of that fact, it is as legitimate a force as gravity or inertia.

So, I'm probably giving you the sense that I "believe in romance" strictly by faith, with nothing tangible to base that belief upon--no real object of that faith. But in fact that isn't true. As a Jungian I say that people cannot desire things that they do not lack or miss, and it's impossible to lack or miss something that doesn't exist. Some examples: you don't pine for the company of a friend you've never met, or long to hear a song on the radio that you've never heard in the past, or crave a food you've never tasted.

We long for romance because it is a missing part of our lives. A real missing part. People believe in romance, artists work to create it, and it is even possible to discover and experience it, no matter how flawed and fallen the world may be. The key to the whole mystery, as I alluded to earlier, is the imagination. I'm not saying romance is "make-believe." I'm saying it is otherworldly, and the way we experience that other world is via the imagination. It's completely real, you just have to get there the right way.

I can provide a perfect illustration, from (where else?) a Broadway musical, "Peter Pan." Remember the scene when Tinkerbell was dying, and her little light was going out? Peter asked the audience, "Do you believe in fairies? Clap if you believe in fairies!" And sure enough, the applause of the audience brought Tink's light back to life.

This little exercise in theater makes my point. Maybe there are no real fairies, but everyone in the audience wants to save Tinkerbell. The faith of the audience is very real--no one is clapping insincerely--and that is why Tinkerbell exists.

Like I said, I believe in romance because you do. You, me, and billions of others on this planet.

Anything that beloved and that important to humankind is most certainly very real.


Diana Laurence is the author of the award-winning and bestselling Soulful Sex anthologies, the novel Souls' Embrace, the how-to book Do-It-YourSelf Publishing (as Diane Lau), and the creator of "Diana's Deck" romance fortune telling cards, among other works. Visit her at www.dianalaurence.com.

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