Love Vs. Hate
I wrote my usual cheery post last night before I had watched the news and saw what happened in Paris. My heart goes out to all those people who have lost loved ones. It's tragic and horrible and shouldn't be happening in today's world. (In any world.)
Whenever these acts of hatred happen, we romance authors start questioning ourselves and our choice in career. From some angles, it might look like we're twiddling our thumbs, pushing fluff when we could be using our energy (and voices) to change the world.
I contend that we are, in our small way, not only changing the world, but comforting those who are disheartened by the agonizing one we occupy. Let me tell you why I believe this.
When my husband and I were in New York this summer, I had some commitments at conference so he went to the Guggenheim Museum without me. When we were catching up later that evening, he told me about Columbian artist Doris Salcedo's exhibit, which explores loss through violence. There were empty chairs to represent people who had disappeared and stacks of 'torture tables.' It disturbed him so much he had to walk away.
I was disturbed as he told me about it and I had yet another crisis of faith, questioning whether writing about love matters. Obviously Ms. Salcedo uses her creativity to communicate a profound message. Me? I write about people taking it off and getting it on. She is obviously of a calibre so high above me, I have no right to call myself an artist.
There. I've spared you the effort of judging what I do. I judge myself harshly enough for the both of us.
"But," I said to my husband in our New York hotel room, as I felt deeply inferior to the Ms. Salcedos of the world. "I can't help wondering how people lose their humanity to the point where they torture and kill others." Then, because I can be horribly flippant, I said something like, "Maybe those torturers just needed someone to love them."
It was facetious and tasteless and go ahead and judge me for that, too.
But the foundation of empathy is love. That's the truth. When you love someone, you feel their pain and want to spare them from it. The world needs more love.
Not everyone finds their soul mate. Not everyone feels loved. In the pages of a romance novel, however, they can feel love. They can experience connection and come away with the hope of finding it in their 'real' life.
How is that a bad thing?
We romance authors have a romantic view of the world. That's why our books are called 'romance' novels. We are revisionists who consistently take dark reality, like the kind reflected by Ms. Salcedo or experienced by the people of Paris, and push it into the past, showing characters triumphing over the painful adversity of life and moving into a world of healing and support and compassion and love.
Yes, our picture of the world is not real. Some would claim it's not even 'realistic,' that we shine an impossible, candy-colorer light toward something that will never exist.
Lots of things didn't exist until people believed it could. (Women's right to vote?)
So I'm going to keep believing in my world, where love triumphs over hate. I'm going to keep putting love into this world.