A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I watched the movie La La Land. While I did not think it was as amazing as some rave reviews and awards would have it, it did leave me with an interesting image. (Spoiler alert here, for anyone who wants the ending to remain a secret.)
At the end, former lovers Mia and Seb, who met and parted as struggling young performers in LA, glimpse one another five years later across the proverbial crowded room. They’ve since achieved success in their respective fields, and in Mia’s case, acquired a husband and child, but that one look sets off a movie-musical dance sequence of an alternate scenario in which their love remains unbroken as they follow their dreams together. But it is not to be — when they come back to reality, they realize they have to separate once again, with only a smile to indicate that each is glad for the other’s achievements.
What this seems to me to signify is that the most essential, lasting thing about their relationship is not the pleasure and satisfaction they might derive from being in one another’s physical presence, but the joy each experiences in the other’s creative potential. The first is what we normally think of as romantic love, the excitement and heightened sensation we get from being with a person who makes us feel wonderful. The second is a more selfless love, a wish for what is best for the other person even if it results in a loss to ourselves. Though not unmixed with sadness for what might have been, it seemed to me that Mia and Seb’s final glance represented at least a glimpse of this second kind of love.
In a 1912 lecture called “Love and Its Meaning in the World,” Rudolf Steiner says that we gain nothing for ourselves from true deeds of love; we can only offer them as payment toward the creative forces to which we are indebted for our very existence. Striving for wisdom and power, even toward spiritual ends, can lead us to become tremendous egotists, unless we also understand and practice love in this sense.
Steiner identifies this impulse of love with the Christ impulse:
“Christ who came forth from the realms of spirit has united wisdom with love and this love will overcome egoism. Such is its aim. But it must be offered independently and freely from one being to the other. Hence the beginning of the era of love coincided with that of the era of egoism. The cosmos has its source and origin in love; egoism was the natural and inevitable offshoot of love. Yet with time the Christ Impulse, the impulse of love, will overcome the element of separation that has crept into the world, and man can gradually become a participant in this force of love. In monumental words of Christ we feel love pouring into the hearts of men: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ “
In other words, it’s natural and good for us to want to develop ourselves, as Mia and Seb rightly wish to express their talents; this is one expression of the creative force of love. But this development into separate ego-beings should not become an end in itself; it is meant to be crowned by the free offering of a love that asks nothing for itself, as this couple slowly, painfully learns. Even in the unlikely form of a Hollywood musical, witnessing such a truth can be both profound and moving.
What have you been reading, or viewing, or pondering this month that speaks to your spirit? If you wish, join us at Blogging the Spirit hosted by Laurie of Relevant Obscurity, to share your thoughts or link up your posts.
8 thoughts on “Blogging the Spirit: What is love?”
Superb and meaningful post.
There are indeed many kinds of love. I had an old psychology professor who explored the differences between some of the different forms. I thinking that Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd also did so in a thoughtful way.
I’ve been meaning to read that one, now that I’ve gotten back into Hardy.
I have yet to see this film. Have not been especially moved to, but your take on the “look” intrigues me and it may be worth to see it just for that. You have tied something very meaningful to it in Steiner’s quote.
When you break up with someone for whatever reason, letting go of the “I wonder what life would be like…” or “If only…” can be awfully hard. I have been in this situation where at some point I had to accept that decision and seeing how well their life turned out, knowing it would probably not with me, was really tough! But it was true. At some point you have to see through the eyes of God or Love or Grace, whatever you call it, to find the selflessness, because there is a higher principle at work.
The question of alternate paths in life is a fascinating one and can lead to some inner struggles. No matter how much we’d like to change the past, or guess about the future, we only have the present to work with. Even though I can sometimes learn something from those “what if” scenarios, I have to stop myself from spinning them on too long.
As for the movie, if you read the reviews some people adored it, some hated it with a passion, so I can’t say where you’ll fall. I liked it but thought it could have been better, especially if they had cast people who were terrific musicians and dancers instead of having to be taught to play and dance just for the film.
“Even though I can sometimes learn something from those “what if” scenarios, I have to stop myself from spinning them on too long.” Yes, I agree. I have to say as I have gotten older, in this particular case, the spinning has stopped and has truly been replaced by “good for them.”
I am not usually swayed by reviews of films one way or another, but I am always interested in the general consensus and boy this one sure ran the gamut!
It certainly did. I only read the rave reviews before I saw it, so I was slightly disappointed, but I didn’t think it was as bad as the negative ones painted it.
I agree with you – I liked the idea of the movie more than the actual rendition …
That seems to be a quite widespread feeling.