“The ideal of Romance in the West, as an exclusive devotion, derives from Christian theology. Medieval Europeans learned of Eastern notions pertaining to amorous or erotic love from the cultural exchange that was an often overlooked side-effect of the so-called Crusades. The crusaders carved open a land route to the East – to Persia and India – and romantic possibilities, as well as silk and other trade goods, flowed back along it.
“But the good folks in the aristocratic courts of France framed these notions in a unique way that their church could accept.
“I refer to this form of Romance as Christian-Romantic: a woman devotes herself to one man as to Christ, a man devotes himself to one woman as to the Virgin. In the case of homosexual relations the gendering of roles can vary – a woman can be Christ, a man can be the Virgin – but the essence of the roles remains the same. The enlightened pursuit of happiness does not enter into it.”
“Nor do perfectly natural urges to share love with others. Just as only one God is permitted, so is only one romantic partner – and that relationship must be exalted and indeed worshiped far above all others. And although many in the West no longer actively identify themselves as Christian, Western social norms remain firmly embedded in a Christian framework.
“The rules governing emotional and relational behaviour were laid down nearly a millennium ago, and have changed little in the meantime – surviving religious reformations and counter-reformations, the promotion of science and various short-lived ideologies to the status of pseudo-religions, wars, genocides and all the other stuff of history.
“Nope, Christian-Romantic ideals carry on regardless. How our dear old friends the Ancient Greeks would’ve laughed…
“…and perhaps relieved their anxieties with recreational sex.”
“I suspect, although my knowledge in this area is admittedly sketchy, Hindu scholars would laugh too. And quite rightly!
“In a Christian-Romantic relationship, each partner is required to play the role of Almighty God, proclaiming their pure virtue whilst simultaneously begging forgiveness for their sins. This is an impossible role to play.”
Coughs. Sips water.
“Ask yourself this: why, so very often, does the end of a Christian-Romantic relationship result in bitterness, misery and recrimination? And these miserable conditions are often unresolved for the rest of the protagonists’ lives, although hopefully their intensity will dim with time. Are we really such bad people that the conclusion of intimacy must, so often, be hatred of self or another?
“No! No it must not! These horrible outcomes are not our fault as individuals. These instances are not caused directly by our own failings but by a philosophy that deliberately works against our nature. They are, however, our fault in that we accept this false philosophy and judge ourselves and each other by it. In other words, we set ourselves up to fail. Every! God-Damned! Time!”
“Of course, some protest that the ultimate objective of Christian-Romanticism is the raising of beloved children in a state of innocence and grace. That only through the unquestioning love of inseparable parents can children achieve full realisation in the eyes of God.
“Well, I would consider it uncontroversial to state that the love of parents is beneficial to the well-being of children. However, not all orphans are miserable. And not all broken marriages produce miserable offspring. Indeed the love of separated parents, where they each have a network who can also offer love to the child, can be more beneficial than the narrow, occasionally mean, love of unhappily married parents. And no parent loves their child more because they are married, nor less because they are in a relationship or relationships with others, or indeed in no romantic relationship at all.
“So I do not consider a Christian-Romantic relationship any better a basis for good parenting than other, more truly loving forms of relationship – whether of a romantic nature or not.”
“The Christian-Romantic demand for eternal exclusivity – the demand that upon each of our headstones shall ultimately be inscribed “and is joined in eternity by his or her beloved…” but not by friends nor kindred spirits, not by soul-mates, not by lovers – that demand paints our natural feelings with shame and imprisons us within our own guilt. It damages us, whether we are Christian or not, whether we are hetero-, homo- or bi-sexual, whether or not we are outwardly successful in meeting the demand. It damages us for the sake of an ideal of Romance rooted in imperialist and misogynist philosophy, a philosophy of hierarchy and unquestionable order, not of human happiness and growth.
“It is an unnatural philosophy.”
Pauses. Breathes deeply.
“It makes wrecks of good people. It calls love heretical with one breath, then with the next demands that love be shown. It is shaming and shameful. It is a God unfit for love. A God unfit for life. A God we must destroy.
“Then we can start talking about a philosophy of natural love that adapts to our many varied and personal takes on what exactly ‘love’ actually is. Thank you.”
Exits stage alone.
I get her number and confirm she’s in town next week. There are still several days of auditions ahead.