Saying It Well...

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"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."— Mark Twain

Modern Muse

Modern Muse
Adriana Lima in Elle Magazine

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Remnants of Romanticism: Evidence of Romantics Today

Remnants of Romanticism: Evidence of Romantics Today

Western Civilization: Renaissance to the Present

Khrystine Kelsey

Romanticism was an artistic and literary movement of the nineteenth century. While the meaning has been lost to many, associating the word only with erotic love, elements of romanticism are still thriving today.

The reason the term romance has been adopted by lovers the world over, is that one can often fully appreciate the romantic sensibility when one is in love. Romantics emphasize the reality of feelings, passion, and intuition. All of these come into play when one is in love-there is an intuitive connection to the other person, feelings blind reason, and everything is felt and done more passionately. The true romantic advocates being in this world at all times. Anytime we see a Dionysian character, they are romantic. Modern examples of romantic/Dionysian characters can be seen in the T.V. show Bones, an FBI drama that is essentially a comparison of Dionysian and Apollonian characters. In one episode, Agent Sealy Booth, annoyed at an ice cream truck that has interrupted his phone call, whips out his Government Issue gun, and shoots the clown shaped speaker. While one can debate the various moralities and practicalities of such an act, it is a romantic gesture.

Science has recently found that when one is in love, the mind experiences the world similarly to the mind under the influence of certain drugs. Many artists throughout the ages have taken drugs to tap into creativity, which is considered somewhat of a supreme power for romantics. While not all romantics use or advocate the use of drugs, the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” lifestyle is thoroughly romantic. As one famous rock star said, “We’re all just a bunch of romantics born in the wrong time period.” * The stereotypical rock star, with their rule by passionate impulses such as “looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn't go on stage that night”**, is always in this romantic mode, and their fans are also usually romantic, fully accepting the genius and power of such artists. (e.g. “That concert was totally worth $X.” “It would have been worth it if they had just played Baba O’Riley and left.” “It would have been worth it if Townsend had come out, done the windmill and left.”***)

Romantics also have a fascination with the other, and usually glamorize it, whether it is the poor, the rich, gypsies, frontiersmen, prostitutes, and the list could go on and on. Director Baz Luhrman is a modern example of this, with such movies as Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, and Australia. As is the romantic way, all such things, even the dark, horrible, or strange, are beautiful and meaningful. These three movies are full of spectacle, and whether one enjoys them or not, they are in style and content some of the best examples of modern romanticism.

In the same vein, romantics are fascinated by the supernatural, whether it is religious, fantastical, or just plain weird. Any speculative fiction is most necessarily romantic, even if it proclaims not such romantic ideals. You simply cannot have a “naturalist” speculative fiction. Even stories written on the basis of more naturalist viewpoints, such as science fiction, end up turning out romantic in the end if only because they have a point. (Naturalists, as a response to romance, argue that nothing inherently has a point beyond science and what we say it does.) However, of course, this can be done convincingly or unconvincingly. Vampires seem to be a particularly timely example of this, as they have seen a resurgence of popularity due to Stephenie Myer’s Twilight series. Vampires are often portrayed a strangely beautiful, since the Romantic Movement society has never been able to go long without their stories. In this newest incarnation, as in virtually all others, the young maiden has a strange quasi-sexual desire to be consumed by a young strangely-virile-even-when-undead vampire. Religious subjects are usually more convincing, partly because religion also usually has an element of the supernatural in it.

Romantics are particularly interested in religion, even if many reject the organized kind. Most romantics believe in an “Absolute”, which could alternatively be called God, energy, nature, etc. It is not surprising that most romantics, if religious, follow traditions that are more mystic. Religions provide an opportunity for the romantic to more concretely visualize a perfect world.

Romanticism’s desire for idealized utopias gave rise to nationalism, in both positive and negative aspects. This broad term is the only real political one romantics agree upon, though they are also known for favoring revolutions, and some confused romantic support revolutions that eventually oppress the creativity and freedom they find so important (e.g. fascism, communism). Due to a romantic’s passionate nature, it is very easy for one to idealize nations, parties, or people. In the last administration, we have seen romantics viewing the war in Iraq as an opportunity to bring freedom to an oppressed people. We have also seen romantics who claim it is the signal for a new revolution in which the constitution is “actually upheld”. Both romantics, of course fiercely love America, and the same person based on new information or enlightenment on the issues at hand might hold both views. ****

Romantics also have a serious crush/love affair/worship (depending on the person) of nature, particularly as untamed. Nature represents the authenticity and unspoiled passions that romantics so earnestly search for. More humanistic romantics see man as a harmonious part of nature, others see us as highly detrimental to it, but both agree that humanity should check itself before making an impact on it. (An extreme view can be seen in Alan Weisman’s The World without Us.) All environmentalism is a romantic sentiment, and there has been a renewed interest in it lately as evidence for Global Warning is becoming harder to sweep under the rug. Even fashion magazines, wal-mart, and car companies, the triumvirate of consumerism have been advocating “green” practices lately. This nature also applies to people and society, especially in the case of urban romantics, whose numbers have grown throughout the last century. These romantics appreciate the universalism of a kid playing ball with a dog in the park, and see beauty in the street musician outside the theatre. Urban romantics, unheard of until the industrial revolution became widespread, have a need for nature as well. This often manifests in wanderlust, and even the most citified romantic needs time in a park now and then. As the ultimate city girl, but nonetheless romantic character Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City said, “City girls are just country girls in cuter outfits.”

One character has emerged from the romantic ideal as the romantic hero; he is sometimes called the anti-hero. This hero fights within themselves and society to be themselves. They can be moody, even obnoxious at times, and they are usually a loner. The apex of their heroism is to know themselves, rather than to conquer an outside enemy. Good examples of triumphant romantic heroes are Andre and Kyra in the book We the Living by Ayn Rand. Andre commits suicide after he realizes he is serving a corrupt state, and Kyra dies moments away from the border of the Soviet Union. Despite the tragic ends, this is a triumph romantically; both characters are free from society. A romantic tragedy would be 1984 by George Orwell, in which Winston, on the verge of being a revolutionary, is brainwashed by the state. A more recent romantic hero, who does affect society for the better (a plus but not a goal of romantic heroes), would be John Bender (played by Judd Nelson) in The Breakfast Club. While all the characters in this movie are heroes, Bender is the hero and the best example of a romantic one. Class is not important to romantic heroes; Bender is at the lowest end of the spectrum. He is the loner, and seriously offends every other character at least once. He is a revolutionary in the sense that he is completely against the administration of the school. He even has long unkempt hair, reminiscent of paintings of Byron. The school is the ultimate romantic villain-not an individual, but a body, who uses fear and trades on authority to abuse the students, who are not to be believed, even (or especially) by their parents.

Romanticism can cause many problems. Even to a self-proclaimed romantic like me, it is not always ideal. I am a humanist first, a romantic humanist, not a humanistic romantic. I see no point in contemplating a world without us, even if I do believe in creating sustainability. I am a city girl myself, which gives me authority to write on urban romantics. I believe, at least politically, that we should be tempered by reason. Nevertheless, as a romantic, I will never stop believing that people are at their best when given complete freedom to live their ideals. I will never be convinced that I am imagining things when my intuition is telling me what to do. I will always keep a healthy respect for the supernatural, not messing with what I do not understand. I am artistically of the romantic school, and even historically. I will assume people are and were noble until given evidence to the contrary. You will find me in any group of people determined to make the world as it should be, and not merely what it is. To quote another romantic, undoubtedly my biggest influence, “You will find me at the foot of every rainbow, searching for the vision seldom seen.” *****

*I do not remember who said this, which bothers me, as it is one of my favorite quotes.

**Wayne’s World 2.

***My friends and me after a Who concert.

****Also me.

*****Eli Benjamin Kelsey, a song that may or may not have a name.


Natalie said...

So interesting. You are a really, really good writer! I hope you know that. Thanks for posting this. I hadn't really thought of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" as being romantic. Hmm... lots of food for thought.

mudderbear said...

i really love our discussions about things like these. I hope you write down everything you've ever said someday.

Anonymous said...

Don't be brain washed by those who associate themselves as group when they not actually part of the group. Judge people by there ways and actions and by this you will know who is the wolf in the sheep's clothing. I am saying this because saying, "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" is a romantic lifestyle is like blasphemy to the Bible. It is a total lot of rubbish which is just trying to degrade the romantic movement as immoral when it truly is a religious movement apposing secularism and the enlightenment.

"sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" --- Is typical liberal movement that opposes moral order in society. Liberalism only cares for what people want instead of what people need. Their order is to throw away the essential needs in life and replace them with their wants. And we all know what kind of stupidity lies with such a thought. The "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" scene is also a hippy ideal which the hippy ideal is a liberal ideal even though they may oppose such a statement, but it is true. And if people are wise enough they will actually know the hippy ideal is a total degradation of society.

I have only recently discovered the Romantic National Movement in search of a true ideology to be followed, and i can say i have found it and i hope one day this form of society can arise again to form a better governing rule for the people.