The Princess, the Hero, the Dragon – Romance? – or: Romantic Love as a Life-long Project

drawing of book with 3D image of castle inside
Fairy stories have them all: The ‘romantic’ types of love that come with a sudden realization, or a ‘meet cute’ as they call it in Hollywood or on TV, or the hero slaying the dragon to save the ‘lady in distress’.

They are sweet, sometimes the rendering in stories is wonderfully done.
Yet, they end with the smile of two, or more, protagonists: Curtain.

Real life begins after that.

The idea of romance can have at least two types, it seems to me:
One is the image made up of ideas that recur at least since the middle-ages, including a couple of different archetypes as C.G. Jung identified them. It causes people to ‘run around’ with stars in their eyes.

The other is romance that combines the longing for true closeness and passion by knowing oneself and the other – and better over time.

At this point I’d like to reference a fine book here that ‘has it all’ for anyone who cares to read:

Steve and Shaaron Biddulph: The Making Of Love, 1999 and later, Doubleday Australia / Wie die Liebe bleibt (German)

Steve and Shaaron Biddulph, Australian couple of psychotherapist and social worker published their first edition of this truly funny, smart and warm-hearted look on love and how to keep it during the 1990s. It’s been revised a couple of times since then and is still one of my favourites on the subject.

Quote: “Love starts out as a blessing, even a fluke, but it continues as an achievement!”

What we tend to overlook in view of all those glittering pictures is the fact that we spend a lot of time and energy on the romance in the beginning – and then feel: ‘Ok, this is done. Let’s get back to business.’

Love is an achievement, knowing yourself, knowing the other – and it needs time and energy in order to work.

Know yourself and what you expect from a relationship – and then find and keep your partner in life.

The Conquest in Passion – Hearsay and Reality

photo of unpeeled pomegrantes

Almost as long as patriarchal society exists hearsay about the male conquest of women exists as well.
‘Get her’, ‘make her’, ‘have her’, and similar, some far ruder expressions are used by a certain type of male: The ones who believe in fairy stories, the adult kind – that are actually based in so much swaggering.
The numbers of conquests some men pretend to have made. And the ways and means they purportedly use to reach the ‘goal’…

I’ve posted about similar aspects before – yet this seems so present all around me, in marketing, online messages, some movies, ‘social networks’ – especially hearsay and hidden misunderstandings, I feel like putting it here again.

There are those who ‘prove’ their ‘masculinity’ by taking photos and showing them around. In former times they might have collected them in albums like stamps… These days it’s probably mostly the smartphone.

Some even install devices to watch their next-door neighbours with telescopes or even more sophisticated tools these digital days.

Another breach of privacy, crude and cruel in some cases, too.

The Breach of Privacy

The strange thing about this is that the watchers and ‘collectors’ ignore ‘magnanimously’ that is not only a breach of privacy but is a crime by the Human Rights Declaration. There exist countries who have laws that punish this kind of behaviour if it becomes known.

The Damage to Mind and Body

Even sadder are the long-term effects of such behaviour: It damages mind and soul. Of the ‘actors’. Simply put.

The mistake is in the premise:
Ever since Charles Darwin published his theories about the evolution it seemed to be clear that human beings are not far from animals themselves. The consequence seemed to present itself smoothly: They therefore would or even should behave the same way.

People who believe it in these simple terms tend to overlook that human beings are in possession of complex feelings, basic emotions and a mind.
Such people also tend to believe the stories and images and movies that have existed ever so long as well, from Zeus to Don Juan, over Casanova to the average ‘erotic’ story.
These stories are make-believe of a society that creates them to ultimately ‘market an image’.

It’s been proven by this time that the ‘mindless banging’ will end in depression and often even drug-addiction, alcohol or worse.

Why?

Because anyone practising this, men or increasingly women too, will have to consciously detach their mind from their ‘heart’, the outer sign of (passionate) emotions.

This amounts to schizophrenic behaviour in the true sense of the word and just as the actual condition is a sickness of the mind, so is the effect of such ‘banging’ over the course of time.

King Henry VIII.

A very famous example of many is king Henry VIII. of England: Shortly after the love of his life was abandoned for reasons of family lineage (male prince and successor), partly by the advice of his counsellors at court, he started doing just that: He not only seduced as many women as he could get hold of; he also drank and smoked without restraint or real joy…

During the past 10 years or so in historical research the diaries his doctors and his servants kept were revealed: All the ailments – and there were quite a number! – are easily attributed by modern doctors to his lifestyle.
A BBC documentary summarizes these findings nicely.

What Women Do (Not) Admire…

There are cases, alas, among men, who are or will be lost to this kind of realization.

Because they have been raised that way. Because they are too much afraid to not belong – ‘belong’ to the apparently large number of ‘real men’.

One thing is true, too: Smart women will not take this kind of behaviour seriously into account. Ask them, if you will…

The Clowns’ Principle: Laughter With a Bleeding Heart

woman in Venetian carnival costume against the wall

The flower ‘bleeding heart’ is called after the human situation many know well: Feeling sad or facing tragic or difficult situations, the real emotion is hidden inside. The idea being that you may spare others the sad face…

Men, depending on the respective society, often are forced to behave that way, no matter what, to show they are ‘up to it’.

And there’s the type of people who resemble clowns in the circus: Whatever they feel, they will make jokes, the clown will behave clumsy on purpose and appear like the proverbial yokel, in order to make people laugh, make them happy, thus lightening the sometimes almost unbearable situation.

It is once more the principle of the kaleidoscope to me, the ‘as well as’ of all colours, side by side. Not negating, but accepting the inevitable, finding a positive outlook of:

“Laughter helps to relax and strengthen – now what do we do?”

Mark Twain – Adam’s Diary – ‘The Garden without Eve?’ – An Extract….

roses sunny landscape dusk

Mark Twain, US-American literature’s founder he is called by many: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are the most famous of his books, Huckleberry Finn indeed being considered the beginning of the ‘American voice’. He was a man of all trades for a long time, Mark Twain, his stage name and pseudonym, being taken from his, Samuel L. Clemens’, favourite trade he learned before turning to ‘newspapering’:

‘Ol Man River’ Mississippi’s ships’ pilots and their calls: The Mississippi is known for many shoals and sandbanks with very low water above them. A pilot on that river would traditionally know these places by heart, interpret every gleam and slight ripple of waves on its surface, and call water depths to the captain when lowering the sounding lead into the treacherous waters:
“Mark Twain” being the call for 2 fathoms (12 feet) of water below the ship’s keel and thus:
Safe going.

This is one of his wonderful quotes I’d like to put here, from Extracts from Adam’s Diary, for all men who doubt it, even at work… The Garden without Eve?

‘Tongue in cheek’ I post it here…

“TEN YEARS LATER.—They are boys; we found it out long ago. It was their coming in that small immature shape that puzzled us; we were not used to it. There are some girls now. Abel is a good boy, but if Cain had stayed a bear it would have improved him. After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her. At first I thought she talked too much; but now I should be sorry to have that voice fall silent and pass out of my life. Blessed be the chestnut that brought us near together and taught me to know the goodness of her heart and the sweetness of her spirit!”

Men, Women, Emancipation – Beyond the Image…

Greek god statues inside temple arcade

Women have been subdued in patriarchal society for generations, even thousands of years. It’s been discussed and now almost common knowledge, and high time too.
But what about the secret life of men?

Aren’t they being used too, in many situations?

Of course, one might argue, as the ‘reigning’ part, not to say sex, they have all the ‘fun’: they are considered superior, always prepared, always the last to leave a sinking ship, saving everybody else first…They make the rules and the laws, they vote (used to vote solely).

Women have fought for that privilege:
In the famous movie about Danish writer Karen Blixen’s life in Africa “Out of Africa”, a lieutenant when WW I is about to start, tells the main character that they, the soldiers have come to rescue women and children.
Her curt reply:
“Is that one category, Lieutenant, or two?”

It tells you something about the feeling a person has when constantly forced to a stature of obedience and inferiority. Many women also for generations believed actually that woman is inferior to man. Less smart, less capable of looking after business…less able to learn about science or technology.

In this day and age almost no one around here ‘dares’ to argue this anymore.
Yet, the sandbox and its castle of male ‘games’ are very much alive… To some extent, being superior and always cool, calm and collected has become part of men’s biological setup, so it seems: To feel as a man properly, certain situations and emotions are crucial. Some even have imbibed the spirit to the extent that they become furious in situations that question their stature.
It is a sad story, too, though.

Men are not allowed to feel sorrowful. They are supposed to provide for the family, protect everyone except themselves and be ‘successful’, which usually means some kind of wealth and the means to build a house, have a car – and pay for the children’s education.

They are not supposed to grumble about it. On the contrary, with cheerfulness – or at least something amounting to it, calm in dangerous situations – and smartness anytime and every time, they are expected to be wonderful, passionate lovers, gentle fathers, considerate brothers and sons.

They are allowed other kinds of emotions only in times when sports events become dramatic: Their favourite team in football, soccer or baseball losing – men suddenly are allowed to cry. But only then.
Not even the death of a dying relative is supposed to make them show a chink in the armour…

Armour seems to be the operative word: An armour created of steel and glamour and heroism – when in truth, men are just as vulnerable, proud and sad in their hearts – and sometimes would much better like to just ‘pack it in’ – and run….

I am a woman writing this, trying to understand. A little. My own life has been marked by this yearning: To understand. For real.
I have also been raised that way by a smart and kind mother and father, each in their own way: Do not believe the superficial. Don’t run with the crowd, just because it is large and loud…

I have read more books in the course of my life than I have met people. Italian, French, German, Austrian, Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Swiss, older and newer poets and novelists, Russian, British, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, US, Chinese, Japanese, African, Australian, Indian, South-American, Canadian, Middle-Eastern, you name it.

Yet, I have met heaps of people too.

One of my passions is to know about people – and know the truth. However painful it may become, at times.

The above about me is meant to show how I as a woman come to write this. I’d like to encourage men and women alike to not settle for half a life, for fear of being different.

The Kingfisher, the Nest and the Perspective – Keeping Busy?

two colourful birds on their perch

Commonly, at least in patriarchal society, rumour has it that men are apt, in long relationships, at least, to become more easily unfaithful than women.

For centuries, women were supposed to do everything they could to prevent that. Even were blamed if a divorce seemed inevitable, as a matter of course. To this day, even latently, women are afraid (some more than others, to be sure) they might lose him; feel compelled to ‘behave’ the way he needs it.

This also to some extent, alas, depends on the manner of independent means they possess: if they are dependent on the man for life support, the power balance is surely tilting to his side.

That is partly the reason why women started getting into ‘business’, taking up a profession: be of independent means so you do not have to ‘sell’ your soul and body to a husband.

Yet, over the centuries and to some extent to this day, it seemed more ‘natural’ for a man, looking at some species of animals too, to have more than one female companion/wife.

The kingfisher seems another of those examples that seem to ‘explain away’ why men are just unfaithful by nature, poor sods, and cannot help it, poor guys…

What if – we changed the perspective on this for a minute?
What if – women (female of the species) are far too busy once the young ones have arrived, with tending the nest and feeding them?
What if – being busy makes (independent) females often be more content with less than one male around?
What if – the male of the species just needs ‘to keep busy’, one way or another?
What if – you sat them plump down in the middle of the nest and let them take care of it?

What if – you take this to the human level – and see where it gets us? Try famous Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler’s story, called “Traumnovelle”.

Perspective is key, most of the time!
This means: there are facts, pure and sometimes simple – and their interpretation.
Very often facts bear interpretation in more direction than one – or two.

The Mirror Image Reversed – Focus on Strengths

theater masks

When Dorian Grey in the novel by Oscar Wilde looks into the mirror after having gone through a magical transfomation, he realizes that his painted picture ages. He does not, anymore.

After years of living the life many young men seem to dream about: racy, full of any kind of drunkenness by any kind of substance and any kind of ‘passion’, he still is a respected member of society, not to say upper class of the time in London. After some time people mildly wonder how he can stay young and fresh-faced, as if he was just twenty, but no one really cares to investigate.

At his death by murder, interestingly, he is found some day in the attic of his own house, in front of that omnious picture: only the story’s readers really know that the ugly, wrinkled, red-nosed, middle-aged drunk and libertine is Dorian Grey. After having died his body reveals all the ugliness of his soul: selfish and superficial.

The story is revealing in more senses than one. For me it is an essential ‘image’ of why and how human beings will some day be ‘visited’ with their own sins. By sins I do not mean what the Christian church called them who crudely threatened and especially in former centuries actually held their power over the majority of men and women that way; by making them afraid to ‘veer from the path of righteousness’ and by making out the church was the only hope of redemption, the ‘mass of men’ were held in dependence and fear.

It is the soul and what humans would find in life if they dare: not to go for the apparently big risks – but go for that which is the real path to love and happiness: live it, live peace, live care for others, neighbourly love and peaceful coexistence. And also know that none of us are angelic, while on earth, so have empathy, and remember that you need empathy and sympathy just as much. As human being.

The bible has another fine saying about this principle, yet: “Be as shrewd as snakes, and as innocent as doves.” Which means that you you should look out for yourself, but allow for any misinterpretations, and give yourself and others a chance. At real happiness.

What really makes the soul thrive and glow, is all the love you can find there, and live as much of it as possible.

Zeus, Casanova and Modern Medicine – or Why It Never Works as Expected

venetian-carnival-mask-with-sequins-wooden-desk

Zeus and Casanova have a lot in common – but they are myths. I’ve posted about this in different ways a couple of times.

The Starting Point

The mind of too many people is as in a cage. They have learned what is expected of them, what is considered ‘good’ and ‘bad’, what is expected behaviour.

They try to comply to the rules. At the same time, they have yearnings, or urges. Popular movies as well as a certain kind of science, at least the widely published one, seem to confirm certain beliefs that have become popular since patriarchy came into being, so basically, since the advent of the big religions whose main premise is:
there is only one god, and ‘he’ is male.

Male vs Female Lust?

Based on this premise, many ideas have become common knowledge, not to say understanding. And ever since the feminist movement has made clear that women are equal, even superior in some ways… the idea also was commonly and widely accepted: in passion or lust they on the one hand would be – or are – more energetic. On the other hand, they could just as men would, have a passionate relation without ‘love’ being involved – just as easily.

This little phrase, so quickly written and even said more quickly, is the damnedest misunderstanding, not to say falsehood, that ever came into being among mankind….

Thinking it Through

Why?

Well, again, as I like to do, I’d encourage anyone interested to really think it through:
Where does passion start? In the loins?

No!
That’s one of the most dreadful mistakes yet: it does start in the mind! In the brain. With human imagination!

How can that be? Isn’t it a bodily reaction? Do not all those researchers of medicine tell us – and have at least for decades – that it is ‘just’ our hormones reacting?

Hmmmm…. But, I say, as answer, if that was true, how could it be that people so often need more than just a little ‘helper’ to get excited?
How could it be that people so often seem to ‘feel something’ – but the day after is grey and full of a certain emptiness?

Because, our good and well-meaning scientists of the order of medicine themselves forget (at least until recently) to get ‘cause and effect’ into order!

Some, who know a little more about these matters, mostly psychotherapists and -analysts, have learned what is really at the heart of all of it: just that, namely, the heart!

The Steps Involved

The explanation I like to offer here in the form of steps taken, is as simple as possible and should convey the meaning:

  1. A person, man or woman, starts thinking nice and soulful thoughts about another.
  2. The other person is either in the room, and looks nice and soulful – or they are an image in the mind.
  3. The person who started thinking in the first place, begins to embellish thoughts and ideas with more images…
  4. Fireplaces may be involved, scarce clothing, dark hidden corners, secret places, sunny and almost deserted landscapes, etc.
  5. Now, what happens? Their heart starts beating, the breath begins to quicken, the eyes to shine…
  6. And this is the point where not much more would be needed except the object of desire to be present.

NOTE:
Whatever is involved as regards place, location or time of day: the person or persons imagined in it are usually just as excited as the (day)dreamer!

The Beating Hearts

And that is the core of the misunderstanding: people disregard this tiny and yet so crucial detail in their (day)dreams:
‘two hearts beating as one’!

That is why anything else tends to end in a kind of practice for gymnasts: something goes missing…

If this continues, and these imaginative people, who stop thinking too early, and constantly hunt for that ultimate experience believing in the idea I mentioned above, namely, that it’s ‘only the hormones’ – they will be disappointed over and over again.

Belief – or Truth?

Some will resign to their (imagined!) fate:
and live the rest of their life in the belief they had missed out on something, since it seemed to come true for others…?

Those others will feel more and more emptiness, need more and more stimulants, because they pretend to the world and to themselves that all is as it should be.

Be brave! Be true to yourself! Even if at first only in private! (So as not to have to admit to it….)
Unfortunately, in this day and age, especially men very often are even laughed at by those who seem to be the impersonation of the ancient mythical god Zeus, purportedly the first Casanova in European culture:
have any woman at a wink…
and live a passionate and fulfilled life. It may have worked for Zeus in the tales, because he was a god; but it will never work that way with human beings, because they are less – and more:

The Gods’ Envy

A famous fairy story is that of the gods who envy humans their ability to love. The two gods start to play a game, placing a wager, by using and setting up a man and a woman. The game fails, the wager between them comes to nothing, because: humans can love…

And: it didn’t even work for Casanova, really. The objects of his desire quickened his pulse every time – and, remember, ‘swaggering’ is an old, widely known and well-loved method of boasting; but it does not necessarily contain many truths….

So, again, I encourage you, whoever you may be, reading this, man or woman, be true to yourself, to your heart: and find the truth.

Herbert Grönemeyer – Song “Männer” – “Men” – English Version

I have posted before on the relationship between men and women, about patriarchy, images, perception and stereotypes…

One wonderful German song exists since the 80s, when the German pop culture had one of its highlight times: the “Neue Deutsche Welle” Famous representative among others is Herbert Groenemeyer, and his perhaps best known song, “Männer”. Sharp-witted and warm-hearted at the same time, he dismantles by hyperbole… Enjoy!

Surprising to me is the fact that there exists a well-crafted English version. Posted here for all of you guys I’ve met as good friends or colleagues – and my fellow female human beings, who’ve known a man or two, too.

Athena – the Goddess of Wisdom, War and Craftsmen in Greek Mythology

Athena, goddess of wisdom, war and crafts in Greek mythology, brought to life again…in a manner of speaking.

Why ‘real’ – or ‘true to life’, when talking about ‘mythology’? Which in the tradition of almost all peoples around the globe is a ‘myth’ to begin with, something like a ‘highbrow fairy story’?

Of Greek mythology it can be said particularly well that it was built, based on what was common in the society at the time:
life, love and war or parents and children, brothers and sisters. Kings, queens, gods and peasants, they figured in it, fought, won, lost, loved and hated just as human beings did – and do.

As a child I encountered the German retold stories of Greek mythology ‘en vogue’ then. I didn’t like the style. It seemed cramped and rather bent on trying to provide a sense of blind worship for the old traditions. Typical among those that seem to hold anything of ancient Greece in highest regard without checking twice – or real understanding and a broader view.

Still, recently I came across a documentary about the Greek myths that not only was colourful, consists of more than 20 parts – but also seems true to ‘life’.

The second time after reading Joachim Fernau, historian, of hotly debated, enlightened approach, who yet successfully made ancient history come to life in his books on Roman or Greek mythology and history.
Colourful, too, great fun to read, with real insight.

Athena, the Modern Woman?

Athena is particular to me because she seems to represent a figure as a woman I feel I can relate too:
not perfect, but well-liked, desired even, yet not easily taken in – or had. She fights only in order to make more peace.
She sprang from the head of her father Zeus, reigning god of Greek mythology,  at birth, also a striking way to come to life: a father’s thought or idea…

She failed once dreadfully when killing her sister in a sparring fight, where her father Zeus interfered at the last minute, blinded her sister momentarily to weaken her and thus makes Athena kill her sister accidentally.
A little background here makes it clearer:
‘Pallas’ had been her uncle Poseidon’s daughter in the tales, but both had been raised and felt like sisters. That Zeus would interfere at all, in the tales was due to an old rivalry between his brother Poseidon and himself.

That’s apparently why she is called ‘Pallas Athena’ on most statues or scrolls or in texts: she put the name of her beloved sister in front of her own to remind and be reminded for the rest of her life.

She is protective goddess of all crafts, close to arts and although I am not a craftswoman as such, I like many crafts very well, such as knitting, crocheting, or cooking.

Wisdom, last but not at all least of the main characteristics and responsibilities of her as a figure in the tales:
wisdom is dear to me and I try to attain more, as the years pass  by, always have held in it in high regard.

Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing by a long chalk. But experience and a kind heart, as well as knowledge are the best possible bases for wisdom to come – sometimes sooner, sometimes later.

Non-violently ‘fight’ for peace, be wise, do not let them fool you and look your fellow-man – literally and figuratively – squarely in the eye, yet remember also about love or passion, quality-wise, instead of quantity: that’s what this image means to me in a nutshell. Athena.