Apparently Both Vanessa Carlton and the Proclaimers would walk exactly 1000 miles for love, although the Proclaimers would do it in two sets of 500. I wonder if any of them use a Fitbit, Apple watch or GPS to track their distance? And, what do they do when they reach 1000 miles and one step? Frankly I like Sara Barielles’ approach better “The earth that is the space between, I’d banish it from under me… to get to you.” Maybe not as easy as walking, but possibly quicker? Whether it is banishing the earth or walking 1000 miles the idea is that we would go to great lengths and expend much effort for love. Or will we? I want to examine what we do for love in our modern short attention span society compared to previous generations and eras.
If you’ve followed the earlier blogs to this point, you know that I have struggled with restlessness on the heels of breakups and divorce. I had always sought comfort for my hurting from a previous broken relationship in a subsequent new one. As a result, it was difficult for me to adequately assess the depths of my feelings for the new relationship because I hadn’t even completed emotionally unpacking the previous one. It’s like going on a trip with full bags, coming home with bags full of dirty clothes and then leaving on a new trip with those same bags full of dirty clothes. So, I had never even taken the opportunity in my past to truly measure what I would do and how far I would go for love.
Ok I need to stipulate a couple of things. First of all, I want to make it clear that the lengths I am talking about do not include deception of any kind. If a relationship is to have any value, and certainly be worthy of a quest, then authenticity is a requirement. In Something About Mary, every guy in the movie tried to pretend to be what they thought Mary wanted (see Relationship Chameleon Blog Post). They went to unbelievable lengths to try to get her, but they were all based on deception. Second, it is one thing to give up smoking, but an entirely different thing to give up something that defines you. For example, you are a musician, but your future potential love interest thinks music is a waste of time. Giving that kind of passion up is self deceptive and will end up in resentment. Trust me, I know this one well.
So with those stipulations out of the way. What are we willing to do? Go to hell and back? Slay a dragon? Die for someone? Or, if it just doesn’t feel like it is going to work out, move on? With everything in modern life hyperfocused on convenience and instant gratification, we have lost something essential for true contentment and satisfaction. That is our ability to wait. We are an impatient society with a lot of access and a lot of choices. So much so that even the process of dating has become passé among our youth, and they now “hang” or “hookup,” and physical intimacy is usually easily offered and received. The process of romance and discovery is now relegated to arcane ideals of generations past. But I don’t only think that is sad, I think it is dangerous.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard growing up, anything worth having is worth waiting for. That usually came as an admonition from one of my parents when I wanted them to buy me something I wanted immediately so that I could have it now rather than wait. I would have to work for it by saving up my meager allowance until, after an ungodly amount of time, I could eventually have it. Without question, every time I worked hard for a thing, I assigned value to it. The harder I worked and the longer I waited, the more value. So the converse must be that instant gratification devalues a thing. Here is the scary danger. If relationships are so quick to be had and lost, then what will we bind our future society with? If love loses its stickiness, how can we possibly hope to keep it all together?
Across 5 Aprils between 1861 and 1865 (or May or June depending), the Civil War took young men from both the North and South to march toward a good chance of death. Many of those young men would take with them a tintype photograph of their sweetheart, and for them, that picture would be the one thing that would keep them trudging on despite the horrors of war. The Civil War was brutal beyond all previous wars to that point due to advancements in modern weapons, and the carnage was incomprehensible. But the boys marched on. The power of just the idea of returning home to their cherished love would be fuel that gave them grit that few young people of today would understand. But the binding force was love, or the hope of it. You might say that many of those boys did go to hell and back for love.
In the epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings, we read or watch the movie and are drawn to the difficulty of this seemingly impossible quest. I know that many have wondered why the eagles just didn’t get the ring, fly it over to mount Doom, drop it in, and be done with it. But we certainly wouldn’t be captivated or even moved much by that story. It is the pain and danger of the journey that draws us in. It is the difficulty which gives the story and the characters their value. In this quest, we see love in action. It is the fuel that kept Sam with Frodo to the very end of it all. Interestingly, besides his deep love and commitment to Frodo, it is also Rosie back in the Shire that keeps Sam fueled. I imagined that he never stopped thinking of her.
So what am I willing to do? Admittedly, with so much access to people in a connected (disconnected in many ways) society, it would be easy to find a companion that would accept me and my bags of smelly clothes. And I would have to do precisely the same thing with her and her smelly clothes. We could go through the excitement of the newness of it all, and then rapidly experience the decline of that excitement much like we all did as children with toys on Christmas morning. Then we would be very disappointed because neither of us was on a true quest for love. We may not have even taken the time to try and learn about and romance one another and make the investment of time that would give it value and worth.
So here is not only what I am willing to do, but what I am going to do. First, I am going to take the time to get to know myself better than I ever have. I have always been so busy in the past trying to attract someone new or keep someone I’ve been with from leaving, that I never took the time to ask myself if I should, or really even wanted to. Next, there is one person for me in the universe that I truly belong with. Whether that person is figurative or actual isn’t relevant to my actions, because they will be the same. It will take a true quest of waiting with patience and self discovery to earn my place with them. Every day of my life that I spend not settling for an expedient love, and waiting for the ideal love imprinted on the tintype of my heart, is a day spent increasing the value of the love that I will eventually share with them. How long will I wait? Forever, if I have to.