In a time before advertising, the term “romantic” implied action – rebels rising to the moment and embracing destiny; slaves freed by the power of their own hearts; artists placing mastery above the demands of a temporal world. A soul reaching out for eternity was the purest expression of love. In other words: pure romance. If Garry Marshall understood this kind of romance, men would not need blowjobs to endure his movies.

Today, classic ideas about romance have been co-opted and reduced to simple-minded marketing gimmicks (as if there were another kind). Fighting the good fight, living passionately, and rejecting the material world – the core values of human triumph – have been cooked on a spoon and injected into thirty-second ads selling fashion, cigarettes, and Dos Equis. Action is passé; mass consumerism and conformity is sexy.

The true romantic would be tragic to the point of absurdity. Imagine Don Quixote as The Bachelor. Right. This is why it is advisable to consider the fate of the lion-hearted in a world of kittens.

The New Rebel

Real rebels fight. They fight the system, oppression, and restraints of any kind placed upon the human spirit. Rebels live free and die hard. When it is time to fight, there is none more willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Romantic, sexy, worthy of lyrics in a rock song? Absolutely. Practical for maintaining a relationship? Probably not.

Madison Avenue has turned “rebel” into something that implies a mix of androgyny, skinny jeans, and hair gel. Rebels for this cause may not die alone, but they will certainly live with poor taste. In fairness, to be dubbed a rebel for what you wear is much easier than actually standing for something. After all, action requires balls, and there is no room for balls in skinny jeans.

So, if you are a true rebel, fight good fights to your heart’s content. But be warned, until your rebel ways are limited to trendy clothing, you can expect your “blaze of glory” moment to be Clyde sans Bonnie.

Passionate Mediocrity

Passion often breeds maniacal obsession, which we have to thank for perhaps all of the greatest innovations and works of art in human history. The David is not the work of an artist who tinkered around in the basement on weekends. Arguably, obsession is necessary for greatness. If this describes you, I wish you Godspeed.

But, before you set course for the stratosphere of timeless achievement, consider this: Socrates was alone, as was Michelangelo, and Brunelleschi. Dedication to their genius made them great, but their focus probably made them forget anniversaries, birthdays, and first names. Ever forget your lover’s name and get to see them naked again?

If love is in your plan, then your best bet is to settle for mediocrity. Don’t be a great architect – design plain government buildings and be on time for dinner. If you really need to feel committed to something, buy one of those Nike t-shirts that says, “Just Do It.” Then, put it on and go back to the couch.

Reject Materialism At Parties

How often have you heard “material things don’t matter” at a cocktail party? Sounds to me like fish denouncing water. Although, some are willing to act on the idea, acts we like to think of as romantic. “George gave up his job in banking to live in a cabin and write – how romantic!”

George’s wife, Audrey, felt differently. She stayed in the house, kept the espresso maker, and still drives the BMW. Now, Audrey lives with Jack, who agrees that throwing off the shackles of materialism is romantic, but only in principle. The difference being, Jack is still getting laid and living comfortably.

Altruism rarely survives adversity. If you think you have what it takes to go Walden in the new millennium, again I say, Godspeed. Just know that while you are writing the next great American novel, Jack is nailing your wife, driving your car, and drinking your espresso.

Catch 22

The Holy Grail of modern life is stability to the detriment of experience. And, so goes modern romance. Surprise your loved one with a pendant from Jared’s, not news that you will be joining “The Resistance” to protect her from a life of slavery. Under a sky of this color, Dilbert would be Casanova, and Cora would have told Nathanial in the Last of the Mohicans, “I’m sorry. I need a more stable life partner.”

The true romantics of the world deserve reverence. Humanity is short on greatness and long on conformity. The grit of classical romanticism is necessary if humanity is to ever experience another Renaissance. If this is you, keep fighting the good fight, living from your heart, and placing who you are over what you have. It might cost you modern love, but it will save your eternal soul.

In the words of a wise and worldly man: “Stay hungry, my friends.”

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