From the Archives – October 2012 “Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism”

That’s a quote from the Doctor. Doctor Who? Precisely.

Those who know me well know that I’m not a hippie, not a peace freak, because sadly, I know that the world we live in will not ever allow for peace. The world is populated with humans, and we are, by our very nature, self serving and prideful. Peace doesn’t go with those things. Yes, there are many fine people out there, there are some who are wonderfully generous, genuinely compassionate and beautifully gentle. However, as a whole, we generally screw things up due to our, well, humaness.

Anyway, when I watched the episode of Doctor Who in which this line was spoken, I hit the rewind button  a few times to hear it again. It struck a chord in me. It stuck out.  And I couldn’t figure out why at first. (As I mentioned above, my attraction to this phrase isn’t because I delude myself into the hope of a world with no violence. I love football – obviously I believe there is a time and a place for brute force.)  I kept thinking about it, it’s one of those things that just wouldn’t get out of my mind, but the words would play over and over. Finally, I took them completely out of the context of the show. Once I did that, I began to understand my attraction to them.

Growing up, I was most definitely what you would call a “hopeless romantic.”  Beautiful things and beautiful stories and beautiful music, these appealed to me. I was always drawn to the beauty in tragic stories, to the misunderstood characters, the woeful souls who, so often met with heartbreaking circumstances. Even though, in most cases, I recognized that the ones I was so drawn to had serious character flaws, I always felt their hurts and wanted to “get to the bottom of” their issues. As a pre-teen, I was obsessed with Gone With the Wind, with Scarlett O’Hara. Just the woman an adolescent girl should want to be like, right? Yes, she was self-centered. She was spoiled and stubborn and greedy and petty. (Let’s be blunt, she was, what we in the south would refer to as, “a hateful little you-know-what, bless her heart.”)  But she was also strong, and smart, even brave.  I was fairly enamored with Rhett Butler as well. He was a self-professed pirate, a scoundrel!  But his character was, to me, so dashing and so strong!  And, between the words on the page, I knew, just knew, that he truly loved Scarlett, loved her with the kind of love that would burn them both. Ferocious love – I wanted that! (Oh, the ravings of an adolescent female’s heart. Don’t judge me!)

A few years later, it was the Phantom. I was in love with Erik – the tragedy of a disfigurement that defined his entire life. It began with the original book The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, but it was sealed when I read Phantom, by Susan Kay, and cemented when I heard Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical interpretation of the story.  Erik’s character was full of beauty and envy and intelligence and hate and compassion and murder…all at the same time. There was no pinning him down to one definition, and I loved that. He loved even more fully than he hated, but again, he was burned by both.

I won’t even go into my fascination with Westley from The Princess Bride, or Robin Hood, but they were there as well, shaping my fantasies and my expectations.

So, I grew up a romantic at heart. But then, I grew up. Growing up is not something I recommend if you want to hold onto your romantic ideals.

Yes, there are wonderful things of beauty and beautiful moments of wonder in this life! Remember that!

But so often, so, so very often, they are overshadowed by the mundane and the ordinary and the dull. This happened to the grown up romantic and she forgot how to look for the beauty and the wonder. It wasn’t a conscious choice.  (It wasn’t that there was no romance – I married my high school sweetheart!  That’s made all the more romantic by the fact that, 16 years later, we are still married. It IS romantic, but it isn’t BECAUSE OF romance. It’s because of so much more, so much that goes far beyond romance. That’s another story!)

At some point though, between just the day to day of trying to make a living, pay the bills, have a little fun every now and then, the tough times, the heartbreaks that God chose to allow in my life, I allowed disappointment to define too much of my heart and I stopped looking for romance. You know what happened then? I became a pessimist. And I didn’t like it.

It was for my own protection of course. That’s how I justified the fact that I was becoming someone I didn’t like. As long as I let that defeatist attitude protect me though, I thought it would make disappointments hurt less.

It didn’t. It just kicked beauty and hope to the curb and made room for resentment and bitterness. Life is full of so MUCH. Beauty and pain and joy and hurt and triumph and heartbreak and hope and worry – these are all part of life and feeling them is all part of living.  My crunchy outer shell didn’t shield me from hurt, it just shielded me from caring. The problem though, is that it also puts a veil over the joys and happinesses of life. And you know what I finally realized?  Being numb is not a pleasant alternative.

Pessimism is the assurance that Murphy was correct and that anything that can go wrong in my life, will.  It’s an unwillingness to hope. It isn’t possible to be a pessimistic romantic.  And it isn’t wise to be a hopeless romantic. So, I’ve decided to aspire to being a Practical Romantic. (I thought about Pragmatic Romantic, but that’s just too much of a mouthful.)

Intellect may seem like a strange companion to romance. But it isn’t. To me, there is so much joy in using the living computer in my head. I love facts and trivia, but the key is using them, not just storing them – that’s intellect. Knowledge is good, but application and wisdom are satisfying.  Being hopeful, looking for romance, using intellect to shape our opinions and perspective – it all works together.

So, what is a Practical Romantic?  I think of it like this: the real world is rough, and there are times in our lives when it is difficult to remain hopeful.  There are other times which aren’t marked by sorrow or heartache, but we are simply so bogged down in the details of life, the to-do lists and the errands and the bills and the schedules, that we don’t think we have time to breathe, much less look around us for the beauty and the hope and the romance that is still there. But if we don’t force ourselves,  at those very times, to look around us, we’re going to miss out. We’re going to miss our children growing up. We’re going to miss those moments with parents who are likely to be gone from our lives someday. We’re going to miss that kiss from our lover. Every sunrise, every sunset, every thunder storm is unique, and we miss them!  A Practical Romantic strives to remember that beauty and hope are not just fairy tale ideas, but  part of reality – you just have to open your eyes and choose to see.

Eyes. Wide. Open.


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