Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Happy ever after (paca)

There was a discussion over at Romancing the Blog, which is a blog with contributions by romance authors, agents, and academics, about the Happily Ever After ending in romance novels. Can things ever really be happily ever after when the world is impermanent and all things end? This supposed ever after is no longer than an infinitely small moment in the great scheme of things, and so does it all become nothing?

I had a comment which I thought worth preserving, and so I've copied it here:
I can’t add much to the discussion of the structure of romance novels, but I did have immediate thoughts about the identification of permanence with being meaningful — along the lines of Charlene Teglia’s comment. Basically, who decided that only things without end are of value? If it is contingent, then it is nothing. Says who?

One answer is, as always in the Western tradition, Plato. Plato frequently identified permanence with meaning. But even he was not consistent on the matter, and he was always in “combat” with another tradition of his own culture, namely Herodotus who “never stepped in the same river twice”. However, Plato’s notion continues within us to this very day, and it can be seen in some Christian theology where only what is eternal has true worth. But even here, it isn’t exactly clear what eternal means. Does it mean going on and on in time forever? Or is immortality and immortal happiness (and God) somehow outside of time?

Most people know about the Japanese art of flower arranging, which is considered high art in Japan and not “merely” a craft. Part of the value of this art comes precisely from its impermanence. I also recently discovered another form of Japanese art which I do not know the name of. However, the artist had a sort of black picture frame with a backboard - like a thin tray or box. Inside it was a white powder that looked like sugar or salt. She then shaped the particles carefully with a file into mountains and rivers and people and all sorts of things. But one little bump and the art is gone. It’s just sugar on a piece of wood.

One reaction to this art might be: What a waste of time. She’s creating art that - until cameras - no one would ever see for very long. A wind comes through and all her time creating is wasted. She should be spending her time painting or doing sculpture that can last for a few hundred years. Another reaction might be: Wow! I was so amazingly lucky that I got to be here for this brief time with her and see this work she has created. Only a few will ever see it, but I had that chance.

Maybe romance HEA is more like the latter. One day the universe will either collapse or darken to a lifeless shell, but right now I got to be in love with him, and that is an experience that can never be taken away from me - ever.


writtenwyrdd said...

I like what you have to say, paca, but sadly the truth as to why I read romance for a happy ending is because I want a damned happy ending. I may not get it in my real life, but I by golly can read one. Of course, I can then choose to read the horror or thriller or literary novel where good people have bad things happen to them. Just depends on my mood and how I want to be entertained!

What do you do that you end up in Cambodia?

pacatrue said...

Hey, wyrrd.

That's my co-blogger, the llama, who's in Cambodia. He's been living in Bangkok for the last couple of years with an international development job and frequently travels around SE Asia.

I'm still sitting out here in the middle of the ocean myself.

writtenwyrdd said...

Duh, forgot to read the byline. I hope the dissertation topic is approved and all goes well on that front.