Saturday, September 25, 2004

I saw Moulin Rouge last night with Phoebe. It was good to see her again, and good to kind of catch her up on how things have been going in my life. Based on the number of people who IM me with "hey, I haven't talked to you in forever!" in their eyes, I've evidently become a hard person to contact. But Phoebe has an excuse, because she was away in Oxford when all the topics of gossipy interest went down. Anyway it was good to see Moulin Rouge again, and she was a good person to see it with.

I just got back from Pizza My Heart, where I indulged myself in their candied walnut-and-gorgonzola-and-chicken salad and a slice of pepperoni pizza liberally smothered in lemon pepper while reading Honor Harrington. Mmmm, so good. If only they had orange Slice and Mountain Dew in 24-ounce Dixie cups, that place would be the perfect non-automotive retreat. Of course that would probably invoke my roleplaying buddies in some sort of Dark Summoning ultimate straight out of the WarCraft III beta. Also, I'm listening to "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" from Mulan, which is one of my favorite songs to sing at the moment along with "Mine, Mine, Mine" from Pocahontas. Stick with me, I'm tying this all together in the next paragraph.

The way it all ties together is Moulin Rouge got me thinking about the nature of love as portrayed in movies again, and I realized afresh that I probably watch romantic movies in a somewhat odd way. Moulin Rouge proclaims itself to be about love overcoming all obstacles, and I think you'd be hard pressed to watch it without coming away with the sense that somehow, in a way you can't quite put your finger on, love did indeed overcome all obstacles. But one of the things that makes the movie great is that you also can't help but feel like somehow the Duke was right - that this is no more than a passionate infatuation. Because really, what is actually portrayed between Christian and Satine other than passion? Lots of passion, to be sure, and wildly naive and romantic Bohemian passion - but only passion. And passion is not love.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for passion. It is frequently the first aspect of love, and rightly so I think, because love is something that you have to want. But there is more to love than passion. There is discipline, and loyalty, and obedience, and reason, and ferocity. Passion will not let a love last forever, and love must last forever (why, you ask? Because it's love!). Forever requires discipline and hard work in introspection and communication, and honor and loyalty to the one you love, and the buttressing of reason when the world crashes down around your love and your passion can't find it anymore. It requires ferocity to defend it, and obedience so that it is left not in your hands but in God's (particularly true of those of us who are not yet married). And all these things must be wrapped up together with passion in a single glorious whole which overcomes all obstacles because it is superior to all obstacles. This is why I like this line from Euripides so much: ho d'eis to sophron ep' areten t' agon eros / zelotos anthropoisin, hon eien ego. There is a passion leading to virtue and self-possession / envied by men, one of whom I wish to be.

But in the movies all we ever really see is passion, and especially in Moulin Rouge. And I think at that point there's two ways you can look at a film. You can either conclude that it means what it shows, namely that if you want someone bad enough then you can have your love - or you can conclude that it means what it says, namely that love - not passion but love - overcomes all obstacles, and all you need is love. That's what Moulin Rouge means to me. It's what this song from Mulan means to me. It's what Honor Harrington means to me.

Especially Honor Harrington. All of my goddesses, with the exception of Alanna, show me what love is. But especially Honor, because her tale is so much longer and fuller. Which I suppose is why my honordates have become things almost sacred, and why the tradition has been resurrected from junior year. And why I wish, though I realize it's unlikely, that I could storytime Honor to somebody who would understand. Because above all things I believe in love.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Well, here I am at the end of my first week of law school. I have to say that AVP2 is only marginally less scary the second time around, and since the game has just deprived me of my security blanket (which happens to be shaped like a pulse rifle, and fire 10mm rounds) I have taken a break to blog. However, let the record show that a goodly amount of pulse rifling has been done first.

In a lot of ways law school is like middle school: I go to school pretty much in a contiguous block starting at 0850, I have a locker, I have ridiculously heavy books, and I will spend virtually the entire year with the same section of about two dozen students, with whom I will take the prescribed classes at the prescribed plan. That's all actually pretty cool by me, since it eliminates a lot of the inefficiency which is found in undergraduate schedules and makes it easier to work. Also, if not for the section system, I wouldn't have gotten to meet the Duelist, and I am very glad to have met him.

The other thing of course is that all that structure is designed to give people something to hang onto when they freak out about the fact that they're in law school (ooh, big scary noises). Which they will do, even though they're at Stanford, which is the most stress-relieving university I can think of. And I have to admit that even I am stressed, even though I don't exactly feel stressed. If I wasn't stressed I wouldn't be listening to music 24-7, I wouldn't be reading Honor Harrington every night, and I wouldn't be so relieved to go somewhere with Meilissa. I wouldn't have enjoyed Friday Night Waltz quite so much.

Don't get me wrong, though: law school is fun. I talked to The DM the other day and he wasn't apparently clear on the fact that I am going here because I expected it to be fun. He was worried, in fact, that I might have come here essentially for the money (which, he recognized, would principally have value to me as a means of supporting a family). Well, I have other reasons too, but make no mistake: I don't do things I don't enjoy just because they're useful. Over the summer I saw the recent Peter Pan, which had a line in it that just jerked the tears right out of me. Mrs. Darling (well played by Olivia Williams) tells her children this:

There are many different kinds of bravery. There's the bravery of thinking of others before one's self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor... nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.

Where did he put them?
asks Michael.

He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer... and he does. And that is why he is brave.

Now like I said, hearing that I just started to cry. Good man, I thought. Good man. Yes. Unquestionably. But that is not me, and if I have anything to say about it it never will be.

Now, I have put away dreams to come here; don't get me wrong. I put away the dream of ever becoming a professional writer. I put away the dream of ever seeing Phoenix Earth in any kind of print. And I put away other, more recent dreams as well. Well, every now and then I take one out and admire it, late at night. But for the most part they're gone, and the statue room is closed, and I'm content with that situation.

I'm content with it because there's a fundamental principle of dreams at work here, I think. I am, in essence, a romantic - which for me means I believe in the importance and reality of the dream. Let me give you an example. It's romantic and dreamy to just know what your romantic partner is thinking: to be able to say or do something which is exactly what she needed. It is also romantic and dreamy for that to happen immediately, without having to talk about it or anything.

Well, this is the real world, and I will live that romantic dream in the real world if I have to conquer half the world to do so. But in the real world I'm presented with a choice: either I can learn to live in my girlfriend's world or I can not go through the draining and frustrating work of getting to that point. Which is the higher dream? I say the first one, and that means the second dream must be done away with.

And that is what is going on here. For instance, sure, I could have tried to become a writer. But that would have certain consequences for my family which I didn't consider worth the sacrifice. And as a bonus, I will still be able to tell stories to the people who matter. And then too there is the God factor, which changes everything. As the song says, the dreams I dream for you ... As my desires are more and more replaced by God's, so too are my dreams. I can't very well expect to be happy if I'm not following my dreams. The catch is that my dreams are not fixed. Which means I'm here not only because it's practical, but because I want to be. I have to be.