(Note: I’d like to take a moment and welcome new readers of A Red State Mystic! Even though less sophomoric and more sophisticated, my previous post broke the page-view record set by the sassy post prior to it [Yes, forty readers!]. Thanks to y’all who linked on Facebook, tweeted it and shared it with your friends via carrier pigeon. I’m glad to have you here — feel free to comment!)
I do several things with my generation’s casual half-assédness, but love is not one of them. I do not love cutely with the nerdily awkward “uhhs”, “umms” and jumbled words; I do not stumble into love, as so often seen in romantic comedies. Since I seemingly have the soul of a nineteenth-century Romantic, I have a tendency to be mercurial, even Promethean, about love. I beat my chest, declare it to the heavens and write really, really bad poetry about it. Even when unrequited, love is always earth-shattering. Is it any wonder, then, why they flee?
Yes, I’ve been in love a few times. All of them ended in heartbreak, without exception. Of course, it was my own heart that was broken. Some of those were requited, but most unrequited. Some of them were just sad and make me shake my head at myself. But, some of my best writing came from these, too.
I write all of this to say that nothing about Valentine’s Day is familiar to me. Nothing. Candy hearts and prepackaged sentiments from greeting card companies may be nice for some, and, of course, the cacophonous chorus of “Awww’s!” will go up all over the nation when these trinkets are presented, but that doesn’t do it for me. No, Valentine’s Day is not for lovers or Romantics; as far as I can tell, Valentine’s Day is for school children and Capitalists.
On Saturday, a friend and I watched the final Opera of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Götterdämmerung, through The Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD Telecasts. Told over four Operas, the Ring Cycle is about greedy Norse gods and goddesses’ search for the ultimate power in the universe through a cursed ring. Fifteen hours later, the end is all about love.
SPOILER ALERT! Because of some trickery, Siegfried cheats on his lover, Brünnhilde. Discovering this, she conspires to have him killed and he is murdered (it is Opera, after all). Then, realizing that it was all just a foul plot to get the ring, she calls forth her horse and rides onto Siegfried’s burning funeral pyre, singing “You want the ring? Then, claim it from my ashes!” The Rhine overflows as Vallhalla catches fire, killing all of the gods and just about everybody else, cleansing the ring of the curse. HERE ENDETH THE SPOILERS.
But, what I love(d) most about Götterdämmerung is that love is cataclysmic and apocalyptic. It is earth-shattering and heaven-burning. It cleanses and purges. Love is totally destructive in a good way, as greed and scheming plans cannot withstand it. Love returns us to the source of life, for when the Opera ends, the Orchestra plays the love theme and all that remains is the Rhine. It leads to selfless action. It conquers all. Love is transcendent.
Unfortunately, I don’t see this anywhere else in our culture. Love, we often think, should have no psychological disturbances or that you should/can have sex with whomever you want without it changing you. The bastion of Truth, the Church, even seldom mentions that love should be destructive. Or, as Charles Williams once put it, that “salvation is a terrible thing — a frightening good.” And, we often erroneously think that Jesus did all the crucifying that needed to be done. As I’ve written before, I think we love far too weakly — myself, the weakest of all. But, the older I get, the more I believe that if love isn’t killing you, hurting you or inconveniencing you, the less I think it is love.
So, the first person that sends me a “I would totes ride my horse onto your burning funeral pyre” conversation heart will win my admiration and respect.
And, perhaps, a date. I can be your Wagnerian dream! Call me!