Monday, February 28, 2011
In Which I Attempt To Convert The World To Romanticism (and SNOW!)
It snowed outside my house over the weeken. As a Southern Californian this is a big deal. You should have seen us all crowded around the door like characters in a Christmas special, grinning like idiots as the strange white powder landed on our lawn. When it snows up in Julian we sometimes make a day trip to get out and throw snow balls at each other for an hour or so but the last time it snowed right outside my door I couldn't have been more than ten. It was a bit like watching fragments of my childhood drift out of the sky. I feel slightly guilty that the storm that has been wreaking havoc on the rest of the country only gave us light sprinklings of feary dust that melted before noon but mostly I just enjoyed the feary dust.
But on to book related things.
Last week my friend L.T. Host blogged about Post Modernism. Partially inspired by her nod to a literary movement, and partially inspired by the mounds of romantic poetry I've been savoring in British Lit this semester, I would like to say a few words about Romanticism.
No one ever reads the romantics without looking at least a little into the lives of the poets themselves. This is perhaps partially true of all historical literature, especially poets, but even more so of the romantics because their lives were such an exiting and tragic expression of the ideas in their poetry. Incest, opium trips, political movements, free love, exile and, above all, early deaths.
Die young; never die. Its such an awful lot like rock and roll.
The rebellion of the younger generations is a theme that shows up a lot in the books I love most. There is something about the combination of naivety and defiance that fascinates me, the courage or desperation of clinging to an ideal long after it has been tattered to shreds, throwing wisdom to the wind in order to chase after futile sensations. Perhaps that is why I've always been so fascinated by the French Revolution, a time when great ideals and heroic intentions turned into abuse and blood-lust. Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy, a book that seriously altered the way I see the world when I was younger, is, looking back, romanticism incarnate. I think I've always had a hard time believing in Reason. As if that were the only reality that existed. As if a long life were the only testament of a happy one.
I sometimes have to remind myself that I am still young. The voices of experience in my head urge me to make safe, easy choices and I have to remind myself that I have years ahead of me to be wise and predictable. Right now I want to take risks and make ridiculous mistakes. I want to experience the sensations of life, the miserable ones along with the happy ones. Of all the things I fear about mortality I fear loosing the desire to live the most. I fear complacency and routine. I fear security. I fear pain and ecstasy making way for a dull, lifeless middle ground.
My Lit Professor tells the class that he plans to convert back to romanticism after he retires. I suppose he has a point. Taking long nature walks and waxing about the human condition doesn't really get one far in life. There are, after all, practical organic considerations like food and shelter that need taking care of. Still, I think Reason and Logic are overly emphasized by the world in general. They are tools for life not Life itself and I am glad that there were --and still are-- poets like the romantics to throw us off balance and direct our attention away from practicality for a little while.