In this weekend’s New York Times Book Review, we read one author’s argument that yes, ’tis better to have loved and lost.
In [the] most provocative and interesting chapters [of A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-first Century], Nehring argues for the value of suffering, for the importance of failure. Our idea of a contented married ending is too cozy and tame for her. We yearn for what she calls “strenuously exhibitionistic happiness” — think of family photos on Facebook — but instead we should focus on the fullness and intensity of emotion. She writes of Margaret Fuller: “Fuller’s failures are several times more sumptuous than other folks’ successes. And perhaps that is something we need to admit about failure: It can well be more sumptuous than success. . . . Somewhere in our collective unconscious we know — even now — that to have failed is to have lived.”
Nehring sees in the grandeur of feeling a kind of heroism, even if the relationship doesn’t take conventional form or endure in the conventional way. For Nehring, one senses, true failure is to drift comfortably along in a dull relationship, to spend precious years of life in a marriage that is not exciting or satisfying, to live cautiously, responsibly. Is the strength of feeling redeemed in the blaze of passion even if it does not end happily? she asks. Is contentment too soft and modest a goal? /snip/
“With our cult of success,” Nehring writes, “we have all but obliterated the memory that in pain lies grandeur.” There is a romanticism here that could look, depending on where you stand, either pure or puerile, either bracing or silly, but it is, either way, an original view, one not generally taken and defended, one most of us could probably use a little more of. Nehring takes on our complaisance, our received ideas, our sloppy assumptions about our most important connections, and for that she deserves our admiration.
What do you think ?