I'm obsessed by the universality of Love Story as an expereince every single one of us, regardless of time, place, socio-economic status, can relate to. It's one of the chief ways we experience the Divine. And it is universally, deliciously, confusedly, overwhelming.
Young, old, whomever you are– you've felt this.
And when it hits you, it's like the cliche calls it: Cupid's Arrow. A voltage force that restructures, re-ordering you from the inside out.
I believe you can find your self, find what matters most to your heart, by looking into your Love Story.
I'll share musings on Love Stories in a thousand other ways in myriad postings- and what I want to share with you here is one of my great teachers in how to think about and use love story– what I learned from Joseph Campbell.
One of my favorite books of all time is a Love Story Bible of Becoming in Joseph Campbell's Creative Mythologies Vol. IV, (I call it for short, CMV4).
It's intimidating– so let me share my take aways, at least on how you can use the myth Campbell interprets as a decoder to map your own love story.
Campbell helps us to re-imagine the mythic dimension of the love story we’re living out. His exquisite musings open up the relationship between the love stories that emerge in the medieval renaissance as inextricably connected to the Story of our Becoming.
Love Story as the Story of Our Becoming? Ok, what’s that all about? Here are my take-aways.
To get to this relationship we need Campbell’s key in the frame of a Nietzschean inspired ideal of “amor fati.” This is love of fate, the idea that we choose fate, in contrast to the Hellenic concept of fate as given and unchangeable. Fate as chosen and chosen in the incontrovertible experience of falling in love.
The Big Idea: Our Story Emerges from Within
The big idea is that our unfolding relationship with Love organizes our identity and shows us who we are in the choices that we make.
We find our story of becoming by witnessing how we behave in the face of the experience of falling in love. In this way our love story becomes our story of becoming. What we discover in this process shows us what is in our hearts vs. who we’ve been told to be. When we say “yes!” to what is in our hearts and live out of that truth we have “amor fati” vs. a fate given to us by the gods or society. Our story emerges from within rather than being forced upon us from without.
Love Is Never Just Love
Moving from the CMV4’s big idea to a key quote, try this: “Love is born of the eyes in the world of day, in a moment of aesthetic arrest, but opens within to a mystery of night” (186). This is Love Story in a nutshell.
We all know Act I of this story. It’s the experience we’ve all already had in our first crush, with butterflies in the belly and a racing heart beat the moment “She” walks into the room. Yet we over-focus on Act I, as if falling in love is the whole story, when it is merely the call to adventure. What happens next, says Campbell, is an opening “within to the mystery of night.”
So Love is never just Love.
Love is an experience of Love-Death and its consequences.
The question is: what does this mean?
Moving From Act I → To Act II
CMV4 helps us to unpack what this inextricable binding of Love/Death is all about.
The scene where Tristan and Isolde accidently drink a love potion embodies this idea, the moment when Act II begins. Before they were not in love. Now, Tristan and Isolde are. They will never be the same. Tristan and Isolde are become Tristan/Isolde.
In an instant they are reordered in relationship to one another, revolving around the axis of one-another. The shift is not just on the outside. It is at every level of their being and their biographies. Past, present, and future, re-organized. Now begins the Death part. The magical middle of Love Story.
This scene represents the world we knew before, shattered.
How to work with Tristan and Isolde as a Road-Map
Let us imagine ourselves in the experience of falling in love as Tristan and Isolde and begin to think about our relationship to the past as changed.
All of our assumptions about what’s true and real, are now up for debate.
What follows is a line of questioning: who am I going to be in light of this experience? What values am I going to live out of? What can I take responsibility for?
It is in this way that the two acts of love story, the Love-Death, reveal the character within us, first by fate and next by choice.
Campbell explains: “Love is born of the eyes and heart…it opens inward towards the mystery of character, destiny, and worth, and at the same time outward, toward the world and the wonder of beauty, where it sets the lover at odds, however, with the moral order” (187).
Applying These Frames to Our Love Story
Can we shift out of focusing on our origin stories of falling in love to ask ourselves about Act II?
Not just Love. But Love/Death?
Ask yourselves: What did we discover about who we are in the face of the experience of falling in love? What was shattered? And what truth emerged? How are we living out of this “noble heart?” I'd love to hear the stories you tell. Please share them in the comment section below.