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The Corruption of Romance

The troubadours gave us some of the most romantic poetry and music that I’ve heard. One of my favorites is a song, title, Chanterai Por Mon Corage, Song of my Courage. It’s a woman’s song, about her lover who has gone off to the Crusades. Her parents want her to marry someone else, because the young man may never return. She is adamant. She will wait for him, for he has pledged himself to her. In the meantime, she has saved his shirt. She will not wash it because if smells of him. That oder keeps her company at night.

Does it get any more romantic than that?

How did we get from such a song, about fidelity, to a world where people change relationships, constantly, and think sex is great sport?

Denis de Rougemont, a writer and cultural theorist, wrote one of the most profound books on modern love that I have ever read. The title is, Love in the Western World. If you are truly interested in what went wrong, read it.

De Rougemont thinks romance is a myth. It doesn’t exist, that it is nothing more than an excuse for a love affair. Marriages, he argues, built on romance, fail. Because romance isn’t real.

Much of what he writes I agree with. That romance is not a good basis for marriage. It is, after all, a new idea when you look back to the thousands of years of marriage. Nine hundred years ago, these troubadours brought emotion, and nothing but emotion, into the equation.

I disagree with De Rougemont when he says love become a thing of Eros. What de Rougemont failed to comprehend are the many facets of love, as we discussed in the second essay. The love of the Middle Ages was too steeped in the storge love. The Catholic stance on it was that women were the originators of man’s downfall, and therefore didn’t need passion to procreate. At the same time, virgin worship was a part of the equation, but in order to procreate, women could not be virgins. But they should not engage in passion. And then along comes the troubadours with their poetry that says women can engage in passion.

What de Rougemont disliked about the troubadours is that their stories were, usually, about a love that could not be fulfilled. He uses the story of Tristan and Iseult as his model of what is wrong with the troubadours’ theories on love. He is quite right when he points out that passionate love, in these stories, ends in sorrow and death. However, in the hands of Disney, many of the old stories have been revived into happy endings. Those stories end up being quite American in that there is a positive view of love and marriage. But that was then, and this is now. Now we are confronted with the reality of the predictions de Rougemont gave us: that marriages would fail, both in application and in fact. We do have a divorce rate that is way too high. We have way too many children born into single parent situations. We have one male fathering several children among two or more females. Obviously, too many individuals are not living happily ever after with a spouse.

Why is this happening?

My theory is this: we have an elite who no longer cares about that great mass of people out there. Whilst the elites do get married and have children, they look the other way when the masses do not. And yet, the elites suffer as well with the stupidity of the age. They too can be cancelled. They too must sit through endless talk of nonsense on theories that have nothing to do with reality. As it bites them more and more, perhaps then they will realize their responsibility? Which is said in this way: to those who have much, much is expected.

Like a bit of leadership. Like expecting people to take responsibility for their actions. Like encouraging others to elevate their personal conduct. When a man makes babies with three different women, the money for their food, clothing and a roof over their head needs to come out of that guys pocket, not the taxpayers. And it is the elite who need to voice this. And other traditional ideas that have made all civilizations function.

Marriage is the great, human anchor. It is not only for Christians, but for everyone. It can be promoted by talking about it as if it were a new idea. You know the drill, make old things new again. Say, that is my life’s work.

Reading suggestions: Denis de Rougemont: Love in the Western World