Are you a romantic? Me too. I think there is a certain personality that is attuned to Romanticism, not in a kissy-kissy way (although that can be part of it), but in the literary/artistic definition. It’s a personality inclined toward individuality (not a joiner), solitary walks in nature (check), passionate feelings (yup), and a natural fascination with the mystical.
Although the romantic poet as mad genius or at least depressive visionary is a lingering cliché, I think there is something naturally melancholic about the romantic personality. For one thing, the desire to step outside of one’s society to indulge in inner thoughts is already considered an aberration of normal human behavior. Every school kid knows about the pressure to be part of the crowd and the torture that ensues when one steps outside its norms. Romantics suffer from their isolation, but they also gain strength from it. One criticism that is often hurled at the romantic is that they are selfish and self-indulgent. I’ve certainly heard that throughout my lifetime, but if I have to choose between the company volley-ball game and a solitary nature hike, I’ll take the nature hike every time.
Nature is the balm to a romantic’s wounds and an endless source of inspiration. I went to the shore a few weeks ago. I have been going to the same little hotel for years. It occupies the end of an island that borders on a nature preserve so that my view is nothing but the sea and endless wilderness (okay, there’s a parking lot too, but I’m looking beyond it). When I was awakened during the middle of the night to a raging sea storm, I thrilled to its sensation, threw open the windows, and breathed in the chaos from the safety of my room. For one mad moment, I considered dashing to the roof deck to really feel the storm, but sanity won out. Death by lightning might be a fitting end for a romantic, but I’m not quite ready for that. However, there is something about a storm that calms the romantic temper. I think it’s a reminder that nature is chaotic, and being part of nature, we are also chaotic at times; and that’s okay. Like a storm, the dark night of the soul will (hopefully) pass.
Being drawn towards the mystical is another hallmark of romantic inclination. The visionary genius of William Blake comes to mind, as does the quote: Great wits are sure to madness near allied, and thin partitions do their bounds divide. One could argue that the romantic poet Byron pushed it too far when he fell in love with his sister. That he died in exile from fever in the Greek isles added to his reputation, but in reality it probably really sucked. Society developed its rules and systems for a reason and woe to the individual who treads too far from its boundaries. Madness lurks just beyond the realm of the romantic’s disposition. Just one step off the cliff and….
I suppose romantics deserve a bit of the mud slung at them. There are very few Blakes out there, and yet the romantic selfishly insists on being themselves, much to the ire of their society who often find themselves picking up the slack (or the tab—romantics have a hard time holding down a job) of these self-indulgent, navel gazing brooders. Who gives a shit about your feelings anyway? I’ve often found myself hurling that criticism at myself and my fellow romantics. I vow to be more normal tomorrow, to start on a path towards mainstream success… but then, the woods beckon….