Around the end of the summer of 2016, my writing co-instructor and I realized we had differing philosophies on one writing topic – love. When I suggested that we do a class on it with the kids, he blanched, and we had to talk it out.
It’s not at all an uncommon response to love and writing. People easily say, “Oh, I hate romance stories,” or “I love that [x piece of media] didn’t include a love story.” Why?
The last time I checked on Instagram, the hashtag love is used over 1,029,064,268 times. That’s billion with a “B.” To put it in perspective, there are currently more than 40 billion photos on Instagram, and out of the 95 million that are posted every day, every 40 photos, someone is posting about love.
That’s not only more posts about love than death, life, the universe, college, sex, Donald Trump, Beyoncé, kids, religion, music, and travel combined (561,644,438) – it’s almost double. (For the purposes of this illustration, I even cheated a bit in favor of these other popular topics, like “Beyoncé” with and without an accent, or “Trump” and “Donald Trump.”, but added nothing to love’s count except the naked word “love.”)
By now, you get the point. Love, for even reasons that I don’t understand, is the topic of humanity, and always will be. I think it’s about time that writers stopped trying to fight that. The phrase, “Don’t reinvent the wheel” doesn’t exist for nothing.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that not only is love a significant undercurrent to literature, it is the foundation of it.
How do I know this? Because I know that one of literature’s chief aims is to accurately assess and describe the human condition, and I believe the human condition itself is about love.
I’ve never read a novel worth a damn that wasn’t about relationships. Even in man-vs-nature type narratives, it’s always about why you even want to survive, who you love, and what makes life worth living.
There’s no reason to think that romantic love doesn’t fit into that. Why should we roll our eyes when a story centers on a romance? Because it’s been done before? Well, that’s never stopped Jason Statham from running after people with guns or Michael Bay from making you terrified of your car.
Furthermore, what do human beings desire almost as much as they desire food, water, shelter, and safety? Love.
What can actually, literally, physically make the experience of a lack of food, water, shelter, or safety better? Love.
What is one of the only things worth risking losing access to food, water, shelter, or safety for? You guessed it.
In short, I think it’s possible that the reticence to prize romantic love is a manifestation of the same feelings that people have about love in real life. Even the prospect of it can bring out every insecurity you’ve ever had, every failure you’ve ever had, and every negative thought you’ve ever had about yourself, but it burns like fire and tastes like honey.
Are writers seriously telling other writers that emotions that powerful and meaningful, emotions that anyone reading this post feels with an acuity they might find unnerving to themselves, are not fit to print?
Love survives. Love is insane. Love heals.
If literature is meant to connect with others (and of course, I believe it is) we can’t tell people that love – something that will shock you like 10,000 volts and last longer than any drug, one of the most powerful things you will ever feel in your given years on this pale blue dot – is not fit for literature.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that love might be all we have left, or ever did.
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Photographer: Victor U