The Sap Also Rises

Cupid's aim is true at Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.
Cupid’s aim is true at Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.

A few years ago I swore off romance.

Enough with the sappily ever after, pie-in-the-sky, “don’t worry baby” baloney.

I gave in to the Dark Side. And was startled to find it was standing room only. Turns out you can’t throw a brick, or even a volume of Game of Thrones, without hitting some gifted young author gleefully cranking out dystopian fiction in which none of the characters expect to live past the age of thirty.

Ah youth. Wasted on the young, etc.

When I was younger I had a lot of untested ideas about the way things should be. I had dreams about the way things could be. But I always imagined that books — the kind with paper pages that whisper when you turn them — would figure into the scheme of things. I’m no longer so sure about this. Yet neither am I convinced that the future will be programmed by and for robots, and/or zombies.

The other night I watched Network, the landmark satirical film from 1976, again. It’s kind of stunning how well it’s held up. In spite of all the technological and social progress humans have made in the last 40 years, our sheer blinding stupidity and careless cruelty remain daunting obstacles in the way of any sort of real progress as a species. It remains to be seen whether we will destroy the planet before we wipe out humanity.

The biggest difference between the fictional society of Network, with its classic talk show call to arms slogan, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” and the modern Twitter-mad world in which we live, is that now people are free to rant and vent without opening a window to shout. They simply open Windows for Cranks and let it rip without fear of consequences, without even changing out of their pajamas.

Well, perhaps this is therapeutic for some people. But it all seems a bit childish and pointless, not to mention counter-productive. Anyone who really wants to change the world must, at some point, step away from the keyboard and engage with reality. And that, of course, is a lot like work. Not my best thing.

Anyway, after careful consideration, I’m planning to return to writing romance. Not that I ever really stopped. Although I did try to be dark and edgy, my heart just wasn’t in it. I hate sad endings. In my view, reality provides more than enough of those. Millions of readers enjoy reading tragedies. Legions of readers thrive on a literary regimen of gore and terror.

But seriously, look around. Reality provides all the grim horror and senseless sorrow you could ever want. What there’s a shortage of is believable uplifting fiction about humans finding happiness together in spite of the everyday zombies and vampires intent on draining the life out of everything .

Walt Whitman once wrote: “I stand for the sunny point of view, the joyful conclusion.”

That’s my plan for 2015. More romance, more hope in the face of the great wheeling darkness that surrounds our little world. I’m going back to basics: When a man loves a woman, and she, in spite of everything, loves him back.

Sound sappy? You bet. Love with no limits, when the going gets rough, when the repartee gets crabby, when the midriff gets flabby. No matter.

Let’s face the music and dance.

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