I watched the sparkly and dizzying 2004 film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" again the other day. It was a random occurrence, seemingly out of sequence with any other choice I made that day. I remember seeing the film and liking it when it first came out, but couldn't have told you much about it, and certainly didn't remember the last 10 minutes.
After this viewing, I would fancy to say that the last ten minutes of the film pose a question so fundamental that, in answering it, we may find out who we are in some key way.
If you have lived in the U.S. for the past decade, and likely even if you haven't, I imagine you've seen this movie. On the off-chance that you haven't and to preserve a tone of anticipation, I won't say much, but need to paint the scene a bit. In simple terms, we find ourselves in the middle of a love story that feels like it's just begun and also that it's already over. We come to find out that both are true, and that it ended in a way that was so painful that both parties have chosen to erase the memory of its ever having occurred in the first place.
And then they meet...again, and as if for the first time. In the blissful days of their apparently new relationship, they encounter recordings of themselves at the end of their relationship, saying terrible things about one another in pain-drenched regret and longing. In the dreamy early moments of new love, they come to know that they've been together before and that it ended badly.
So herein lies a fundamental question:
If you knew your relationship would end, in some great despair, in a couple of years, but you had no available memory of it, would you start again?
Staring into the eyes of the new beloved, with no sense of past, no sense of pain or sting; no imprint of a prior relationship, but with the extemporaneous and disorienting information that you've done it before, with some success, but that ended and that you were hurt...hurt badly enough to erase the memory, would you do it again?!!!
For the pain and the pleasure of it, with the chance that, maybe, this time, perhaps with the assistance of this information posted to your awareness from some unknown past, it could be better...Maybe this time it will work; maybe it won't have to end in pain.
And, even if it does, would you do it again?
When I was first thinking about this question, I thought that, in answering it, it could be determined whether a person was a romantic or not. (Clearly I fancy myself one, or likely wouldn't be posing the question in the first place.):)
But then I realized that my initial question was limited. That, in the deepest of ways we are all romantics and that our being so isn't determined by whether we would give the relationship another shot.
We are all romantics because we devote ourselves to life and to each other when we already know how it's going to end.
The inevitability of our own death and that of every person we love is the only thing that is promised to us by life. It is an extraordinary miracle that we do it all.
Certainly one could argue that we don't have a choice in the matter, and this is mostly true. The miracle, then, is not just that we make it, but that we do our best, day by day. We fail, certainly, and we're frightened, but we
step again nonetheless. Perhaps this is simply biology employing each us to do its bidding in the continuation of life. And, perhaps, or perhaps also, each of us is a tireless romantic, willing to do it again, in innocence and with our whole hearts, even though we already know how it's going to end.