Monday, April 25, 2005

Soul Mates

Romantic stories come in all flavors these days. The ordinary guy/girl who wins the heart of the extraordinary woman/man (Notting Hill or Pretty in Pink), the quirky couple who meet, can't stand each other until they finally find they love each other (When Harry met Sally or You've got Mail), the best friends who can't see their love for each other until moments before the credits run (Some Kind of Wonderful or Pursuit of Happiness), the boy wins the girl after fighting for her (Karate Kid II or Tuff Turf) and even the the world is determined to keep us apart, but we will be together no matter what anyone says story (Say Anything).

Even going farther back in Hollywood's history these themes are played out ad naseum, and apparently that's a good thing, because the popularity of the overall genre never seems to fade.

But in a special category is the soul mate/destined to be together movie.

Being a rather cynical person, I am not normally mystic or romantic by nature, so I personally don't quite know what to do with the concept of the soulmate, that incredibly perfect person that Eharmony.com swears they can find for you. It is not to demean my marriage in any way that I say this, it is just if I am to believe Hollywood, there should have been some magical explosion, a flash of color, a moment of stunned amazement or something more tangible then a sense of attraction.

I recently discovered my local library has an ever growing DVD collection, and I have been bringing home many odd movies just to see what they are all about, movies I wouldn't have wanted to spend money on. Yes...I am that cheap.

I have watched several movies lately with destiny and soulmates as the main theme, it makes me pause to consider. Is there such a thing as that person, who with the first view or the merest touch of their hand brings a tangible shock of recognition?

So I went back and looked at a couple of off the wall varieties of this theme, as well as a couple of faithful standards.

Sleepless in Seattle: You might not consider this one a viable candidate, but when Sam is describing his meeting his recently deceased wife, he openly describes it as 'magic' and a sense of perfect completeness, a feeling he echoes when he first sees Annie in the airport...He is instantly and inexplicably compelled by her, even as he was the first time. It offers an interesting twist, that being that maybe there can be more the one soulmate.

Serendipity: One of the better entries. Jonathon and Sarah meet, and feel the connection to each despite both having other attachments. Coincidence is the central character here, as first coincidence brings them together at the department store, and then when they reluctantly part, it again reconnects them almost immediately. But Chance is fickle, as it then separates them for 7 years when they both have imminent marriages and find themselves battling the lingering sense of incompleteness, forcing them to begin a frantic 11th hour search for each other. After they independently try, then fail they each give up on finding the other and resolve to live their lives alone. Destiny again rears its head, and through more coincidence it leads them directly to each other. One interesting facet to this tale is the implication is that destiny makes its own timetable, and that they were always destined for each other-the timing was just wrong. The who was never in question, just the when.

Made in Heaven: One of the odder variations, in this one the couple meet in the afterlife, where he has died and she awaits her incarnation, a *new* soul. They fall in love in heaven, but she is born to her life on earth. Rather then await her return, he begs to follow her, and finds himself reborn as an unwanted pregnancy, an interesting twist. Both are separated, and miserable in love, literally incomplete, until the final moment when they find each other. This one not only brings into play a sense of predestination, but of also the incompleteness of soulmates separated.

Dream for an Insomniac: A girl, who is a chronic insomniac since the death of her parents in her childhood, desperately seeks the perfect man so she can finally sleep, believing that only when she finds love will her curse be lifted. She finds him, and its clear they are perfect for each other, but of course she is leaving the state in 3 days and he has a live in girlfriend. This was very much a predictable formula romantic movie, with one big twist. The beginning is filmed in black and white until our couples eyes meet for the first time, when she becomes lost in his blue eyes and the color from his eyes expands to colorize the world. I found that to be an interesting twist and presentation of that 'moment' when the souls collide. The end is a predictable conclusion, as they finally are together, and she sleeps in his arms.

What Dreams may Come: Another after life entry, on earth they meet, marry and have a family. Then tragedy strikes, killing their children leading her to a breakdown. He helps her recover but is then killed also, leaving her devastatingly alone to eventually commit suicide. The emotional depth here is heart wrenching as he literal goes to hell to save her from her self imposed exile of guilt, and when he fails, he chooses to remain with her there rather then leave her alone. In his sacrifice she is saved, and in turn she saves him. The DVD has an alternate ending, but in both endings they not only remain together through eternity, but return to earth to do it again. Despite the ending, the main theme of everlasting love and passion is immense.

Tossing all theological implications aside, these movies all share the basic premise that one person belongs to another, that only together will they find completion. That echoes a part of the biblical premise of marriage, that a man shall leave his mother and cleave only unto her, and two shall be as one. Truly a lofty aspiration, but is it real? Is it really that simple? And what if you in your despair determine your spouse is not your soulmate? Are you then justified in leaving that person to follow the dream of true love?

To me it seems too easy, and far too convenient. I have known people who claim to have met their soulmate.....Several times in one year in some cases. In that case which was false?

My cynical mind has to conclude that people create their own mystical predestined unity in their search for the perfect one. I think that sometimes as they are rushing to fall in love, they overlook the flaws that are there in front of them. Then later the flaws become more apparent, leading to unhappiness until a slightly more perfect person presents themself, and they instinctively seek the slightly better choice until the cycle repeats. The lesson I take from that is that there is often more attention paid to the perception of the person then to the actual person. Illusion fueled by desire overwhelms reality.

Granted I know people who are apparently perfect for each other, who compliment each other in ways that are hard to describe, so there is obviously some deeper element of compatibility at work in the world, maybe even an actual form of predestination, God having made some people to be compatible and complementary.

I think the real problem is that people want to find that "perfect" person, already pre-molded and comfortable, to magically appear. They want love to be easy, immediate and effortless.

Sadly it seldom is. Love takes time, and takes work. It takes effort and it takes commitment. And it takes compromise and understanding.

As Harris Telemacher (Steve Martin in LA Story) says: "There's someone out there for everyone - even if you need a pickaxe, a compass, and night goggles to find them"

So, are there soulmates? In the sense that sense that some people fit each other well, yes. In the sense that some people naturally complement each other, sure. In some magical "souls seeking other other over space in time' sense? My impulse is to say no.

But then again, I am a cynic.

"We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love." ~Author Unknown