[FOUNTAIN]The substance and illusion of true loveThe 12th century French poet Bernart de Ventadorn sang, “Of grief do I die one hundred times a day, and of joy revive, again a hundred. My pain seems beautiful, this pain is worth more than any pleasure.”
Why do we care more about those we love than ourselves? It is impossible to understand the complicated feeling of love. Unlike the mating of a male and a female, love involves our mind and spirit. What we call love today is the romantic love born of romantic European literature from the Middle Ages to modern times.
The concept of love existed before the medieval period, but it did not refer to an emotion so intense that it disturbed one’s sense of existence, blurred one’s judgment and accompanied pain and trouble. The kind of love you risk your life for, as seen in “Romeo and Juliet” or “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” is a relatively new idea in the history of mankind.
Erich Fromm and other scholars claimed that romantic love was a product of Western capitalism, and thus an insubstantial illusion. Living in the materialistic world, people are pressured to advertise and sell themselves as products, and romantic love is nothing but an escape from daily life.
But the public does not care about dull, scientific analysis. Most recently, “Lovers in Paris,” a hit television series that ended Sunday with ratings hovering over 50 percent, showed that viewers are still fascinated by a cliche Cinderella story.
The modern world is living off unsatisfied desire. Industries constantly encourage customers to buy more new products, and films and television series produce yet another rich, handsome and kind Prince Charming. No matter how Japanese housewives crave the beloved “Yon-sama,” Bae Yong-jun cannot give them the romance of the “Winter Sonata.” No matter how much the fans of “Lovers in Paris” collect products featured in the series, they can never buy the love from the show. The disappointed public will anticipate yet another love story, but true satisfaction will be perpetually delayed.
It’s not that love is worthless, but the fashionable game of love can be harmful. Just as advertisements and commercial campaigns manipulate the tastes of consumers, delusional shows homogenize and degrade love. Love involves labor. Instead of being infatuated by the illusion on television, we should seek love in our own ways.
by Lee Young-ki
The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.