The most presenting feature of the romantic life is risk—more or less risk, but there’s always risk. No risk, no adventure; no unknown, no romance. When I proposed marriage to Holly, her immediate question right back was, “Do you know what you’re getting into?” to which I answered “Probably not.” Satisfied that I had no clue what our future would hold, she said, “Well, ok then.” If I’d known what crossroads, twists, obstacles and views lie along our future married journey, where would the romance be? The romantic spirit nearly always follows the unpredictable—chooses the unknown over the known.
The last stanza of Robert Frost’s 1920 poem The Road Not Taken,
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I— I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Early American pioneers moved west looking for a way to make a life. While many lost their lives, it wasn’t out of ignorance. They were fully aware of the risks and dangers involved in such unpredictable circumstances, but they were willing to risk what they had for the larger life in order to really live a life.
“We most often go astray on a well trodden and much frequented road.” —Seneca
The romantic spirit risks what one has in the hope to experience something greater and more intimate. The romantic spirit expends oneself. It pays ahead it’s security, it’s hopes in return for uncertainty and risk but also adventure and romance. The more difficult task for the romantic is to remain in cloistered safety. It’s more difficult to hang on to what one knows that is secure than it is to risk it on an experience of life.
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare;
it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” —Seneca
The romantics of history changed our world, because they spent themselves. They weren’t interested in getting their piece of pie out of life. Their deepest desires were to give something to it. They found pleasure in the nuances of living, thrill in the risk of pain and loss and fulfillment in being needed by others. They didn’t hate life but loved it and lived it zealously.
The romantic spirit is committed to it’s ideals. I remember the great story of Naomi and Ruth in the Old Testament book of Ruth. Having moved to Moab to escape their own poverty, Naomi lost her husband and two sons. When she decided to move back to her homeland to her own people, her daughter-in-law, Ruth, a Moabite, though her husband was dead, asked to leave her own homeland to go with Naomi and risk the challenges of a foreign land and most certain poverty. Ruth’s famous exclamation of loyalty and courage is inspiring, “Your people are my people, and your God is my God.”
It’s the nature of risk to have no guarantees. However, Ruth’s rendezvous with risk produced some astounding results. Her foray into the unknown brought her a wealthy husband, Boaz, but even more amazing, she became the grandmother of one of the most famous kings in all of history—David, the king of Judah and ancestor of Jesus.
“Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply,
to enjoy simply, to think freely,
to risk life, to be needed.” —Storm Jameson
The romantic spirit risks love in complete absense of security. In the film, Music from Another Room, Anna, after a dramatic struggle with her own values and affections, acknowledged to herself her love for Danny and his wildness and free spirit. She followed him to the train station, and even without luggage, she announced that she was going with him. He said “You don’t even know where I’m going.” “I don’t care,” she replied.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” —Anais Nin
The romantic pursues the object of their love against the odds. In the film A Beautiful Mind, John Nash was a blessed man when he found a wife who could match his wits tit for tat and even embody reality in his deluded life. When her own life was endangered by his unpredictable behavior, she chose to risk her safety and stay with him and continue to love him and be his reality.
As John Nash accepted the Nobel Prize in Stockholm Sweden in December 1994, he had these words to say about his wife,
“I’ve always believed in numbers and in equations and logics that lead to reason. But after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask what truly is logic. Who decides reason? My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional and back. And I have made the most important discovery of my career; the most important discovery of my life. It is only in the mysterious equations of love, that any logical reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the reason that I am. You are all my reasons.”
Like John Nash, we’re flaw-ridden beings at best, even dangerous, yet through each of us rushes a river of possibility. Much of that possibility is already realized the moment we turn from playing it safe to the riskier choice of living romance. Whatever the reason one chooses to live a romantic life, one reason steps forward more grand than any other: To live life.
Yours along TheRomanticWay!