Sunday, December 18, 2005

The most dangerous idea of all...

I woke up with swollen sinuses and a strong desire to cocoon with books and movies. Good choice.

I love historical costume dramas, especially when they are based on actual events. One of my choices today was The Affair of the Necklace, otherwise known in Parisian papers as l'Affaire du Collier in the wake of the American Revolutionary War and the days that led to the end of the French monarchy for a time, ending with the beheading of Marie Antoinette and King Louis. Hilary Swank and Simon Baker paint an all too realistic portrait of the times and sensibilities that led to deception and intrigue. The villains were well played by Johnathan Pryce as Cardinal Rohan and Christopher Walken as Count Cagliostro. Definitely a movie to see.

My other choice was Dangerous Beauty about the age of Courtesans in that most decadent of cities, Venice, a movie that fit my mood and my writing today of all days, as did the previous movie.

The high cost of honest love.

I am amazed. At no time in history have we measured the cost of attaining our heart's desire in such mean and miserly terms. We know only what burns deepest in our hearts and souls. Like a raging fire, desire eats away at our resolve and fear until at last we risk all for its attainment.

But is a cool head and careful planning any less dangerous or less risky? Love is an intricate dance with an uncertain and unsteady beat on a thin wire above a pit of hungry snapping crocodiles. One misstep even at the attainment of our prize sends us plunging to a painful and prolonged death.

Marriage is a contract, an exchange of goods and services to profit -- hopefully -- both parties. In the time of chivalry's brightest flowering finally did love enter the yearning heart and spirit of the contract to make marriage and alliance a more painful business of endless torture. Were we any better off without love or by courting love in secret while we paraded our seemingly felicitous contracts in public, a shining example of hypocrisy and appearances for appearance's sake?

When marriage took on the trappings of religious cant and solemnity, making love a perquisite of the connubial state, romance the holy grail, untouched and untasted by all but the scorned and punished sinner who faced the darkest circle of hell for daring to love boldly and without regret.

There is honesty in love that is tarnished by the dishonesty of appearances for appearance's sake, hidden in a religious habit sanctified by man's dream God and bound in steel bonds by legality and social demands.

There can be marriage with love but all too quickly does love wear lust's mask to clarify and burn away the taint of sin in order to possess desire, the wolf wearing the sheep's curly wool in order to wander close to the heart of the herd, taking the old, the young, and the weak unawares, feasting with bloody relish, coming again and again to the innocent massacre under cover of darkness and in blackest shadow.

So is the courtesan and the rankest of whores more honest in falling willingly to so-called sin and openly bearing away the well and hard earned spoils of her trade, working harder and smarter than any bandit brandishing the sanctified ring of contractual vows. Why not love openly, putting the devil to shame and call a religious spade a spade?

Love need not be socially approved nor need it wear sheep's wool to cover its lustful desires. Desire and love are their own payment.

From the beginning of narrow-minded and societally accepted time has love borne the stigmata of envy's wrath, choosing to bear it openly in defiance of custom's blind folly. Maybe Lucifer had it right -- better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven, a cur at the feet of a jealous god of small and mean stature created by Man out of his fear and unslaked desire as he postpones his life in hopes of a promised brighter and happier future that may never materialize, but upon which all bank.

Unable to reach openly for what burns deepest, Man paints all in ebony enamel while furtively chipping away to find the brightness beneath that calls to his heart of hearts, tearing at his hair and rending his garments in the light while creeping silently from shadow to shadow dividing his body, mind and soul for the sake of lies and jealousy and the fear of standing alone for truth and, yes, even for love.

Will we never learn to put love and contractual obligations in their proper places? Will we never learn that joy and pleasure are their own reward and that when we bow to society's whims and religious cant we all lose what is most dear -- the freedom to love where and as we will?

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