There are many things I wish to say, but I’m not quite sure how to express, to begin, or to articulate it in a coherent manner. The theme though is that of love as represented in the recent exquisitely tragic movies (both which were originally classic books) of Anna Karenina and the Great Gatsby.
What is it about tragic romances that capture our hearts… our souls? Is it because it so closely mirrors that of are own lives? The tragedy that is all around us and the happiness that always evades us?
Ironically we associate love with happiness… goodness… the apex of life… but all that it seems to bring is heartache, tears, and what may feel like the ruin of our hearts. But yet somehow… it is so hard to give up that dream so we grasp for anything that resembles it.
Love is intangible, but yet we reach towards the heavens, trying to defy gravity, ignoring the truth about how high we are and how far we have to go when we fall, trying to grasp the ungraspable with all that is within us. It is only when we fully cling on to that higher branch of the tree (that oddly feels tangible for something that should be intangible) so that it is the only thing that supports us that we realize it isn’t a branch at all, but a snake in disguise… making us fall until we catch ourselves or hit rock bottom….
In Anna Karenina, the love that fueled Anna and Alexis was that of carnal passion. There was an indescribable pull that brought these two people together… but was it “love” in the everlasting sense? If Anna hadn’t married her husband, and she met Alexis… would they have had a marriage that lasted? Their love not only destroyed their lives, but it destroyed their families and all those associated with them… but yet throughout the story you are hoping.. praying… that they would have been able to save their love.. their lives… each other. Why would we root for a couple whose love was nothing but destruction… surely within it there must have been hope… hope that it could have been true.
But then we get to the problem of “hope” in the Great Gatsby. Gatsby believed in nothing but his love for Daisy. It didn’t matter that the past was receding and he couldn’t grasp it, he still hoped with everything in him to rekindle the love they shared in the past. He hoped for love and his dream. And yet with that hope… it only ended in death… His love so pure… was not something that could lead to life… for his love lived in the past and could not thrive in the present.
So if carnal passion nor hope and belief in love can let love thrive… can it truly thrive? How are we to grasp the ungraspable? How are we to reach to the top of the tree without falling to our death? How are we to to see to the success of relationships that may only lead to destruction?
The answer I found was also in Anna Karenina, in the often overlooked side story of Kitty and Levin, which is one of the most underrated romantic stories in literature. It is not a story filled with a lot of carnal passion or extreme acts to show one’s affection but… one of innocence and purity in wanting to find one person to share their life with and give them their all.
I think that is the point of Kitty and Levin’s side story… it is to show the contrast. The carnal passion filled romance of Alexis and Anna brought only destruction, sorrow, and eventual death, but the love and romantic passion of Kitty and Levin created life.
Even when Levin thought all hope was lost and that Kitty did not love him… he continued on with his life. He did not fade away into the wind when his hope left him. He sought for understanding and reason. At points he may have stumbled and lost some hope, but he continued on… that is what is important… he brushed himself off and continued on walking through life… and when he was ready he was able to once again open the door… and his love, Kitty, came running to him.
At the end of the movie, he comes to understand that the whole time… he lived for love… and that is what kept him going… for the majority of time it was not for romantic love… but all the different forms that love can take: for his people, for his land, for his brother… and it is what gave him satisfaction in his life… it was not for reason that he lived… it was not for hope that he lived… it was not for carnal passion that he lived… but it was for love… in all its forms… for all of life.
In reference to romantic love though… Levin gives a small speech that made me completely love him:
An impure is not love to me. To admire another man’s wife is a pleasant thing but sensual desire indulged for its own sake is greed. And the misuse of something sacred was given to us so that we may choose the one person with whom to fulfill our humanness. Otherwise, we might as well be cattle.
He defines love as choosing “one person with whom to fulfill our humanness.”
Love is not all about that one person, or him, but it is an intangible decision to live your life out with another. Yet also love cannot be contained to one individual. That is how we fall… love must come from all aspects of life to support you if one branch breaks.
I’m not sure if I will ever find that love… I greatly hope for it… but I don’t want to limit my life by it like Gatsby… I want it to be something that adds on to my already good life… allows me to share my life and the wonders of the world I discover with someone else.
I also don’t want to be limited my life and love to only be about passion. Passion is of course important… but I have had my hand in a passion similar to Anna’s and I never want that it again… it only brought destruction.
Even though we can find redeeming qualities in both love stories… I want my love story to mirror that of Kitty and Levin…
I want to find a pure love like Kitty and Levine’s that creates only goodness and life.