Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm driven wild, longing for him


"Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be." ~Jose Ortega y Gasset (credit to Michael Yamin on his Legend & Wisdom Stories blog)
I'm writing a novel where two lovers meet briefly and are separated. They yearn for each other, striving to be together. The plot cycles on that theme, with emotional and physical desire building as the pair are briefly together, yet kept apart. Each time they interact, it's just enough to visualize their potential bliss beyond reach. Over hours, months, years, and decades they long for the other, imaging how wonderful life could be if together. Quests and perils of increasing magnitude block their path, yet they aren't deterred. After risking life and limb, in hopes of permanent union, the lovers must be satisfied with only a few moments of shared love. And they are. Even short meetings satiate, or more, leaving them breathless. All who come to know the characters, readers and authoress alike, root for the couple to remain together.


As I craft this theme, I consider why the cycle of meeting, separation, and longing is so compelling. Recently, I came across some quotes that helped supply my answer. Jose Gasset, from above, explained when our visions of personal futures collide with, or are shaped by, present time, the result is termed “life.” We begin with a mental vision, a prediction creating a goal, much like the longing of my lovers.


Similarly, while reading Jane Friedman's blog, “You are bad at making yourself happy,” I came upon the same idea. She quoted a review posted on Amazon by Malcolm Gladwell for a book entitled, Stumbling on Happiness. I list his quote again:

“What distinguishes us as human beings from other animals is our ability to predict the future–or rather, our interest in predicting the future. We spend a great deal of our waking life imagining what it would be like to be this way or that way, or to do this or that, or taste or buy or experience some state or feeling or thing. We do that for good reasons: it is what allows us to shape our life. And it is by trying to exert some control over our futures that we attempt to be happy. But by any objective measure, we are really bad at that predictive function. We’re terrible at knowing how we will feel a day or a month or year from now, and even worse at knowing what will and will not bring us that cherished happiness. Gilbert sets out to figure what that’s so: why we are so terrible at something that would seem to be so extraordinarily important?
In making his case, Gilbert walks us through a series of fascinating—and in some ways troubling—facts about the way our minds work. In particular, Gilbert is interested in delineating the shortcomings of imagination. We’re far too accepting of the conclusions of our imaginations. Our imaginations aren’t particularly imaginative. Our imaginations are really bad at telling us how we will think when the future finally comes. And our personal experiences aren’t nearly as good at correcting these errors as we might think.”
It seems we are captivated by our imaginations, and while convincing and believable, are largely unable to accurately predict the future. The thrill of the chase. It excites our senses, feeds our minds. Why wouldn't my separated lovers dream of bliss beyond their wildest dreams, if only they could be together. Aren't we all dreamers?

“ Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” ~Erica Jong, Fear of Flying
What do you think?  Is the journey more exciting or more important than the end?

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