When it was clear the direction To the Wonder was going to go, an intense love and a equally intense breakup, I said to my wife, "This one is going to break me." At the end, I said, "It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be." But secretly, I wanted it to be that bad. I wanted to be so caught up in the passions that I was in anguish. I was slightly disappointed.
Still, it is an amazing film. It follows a narrative arc better than many Malick films. And it follows the emotional tides of the characters well. It is a perfect romance, both between the characters and with the viewers.
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Love is a cycle, a process that includes hate or at least disinterest. Love isn’t all about passion and emotion. Love encompasses all life, the ups and downs, the strengths and weaknesses, the deaths and new lives. Love embraces it all, celebrating it all. But love isn’t only about celebration. It is about weeping, about comforting, about giving space, about ignoring, about fighting, about erring, about forgiving, about persevering and about collapsing. Love must meet all of our failures and all of our ignorance, all of our hatreds and all of our violence and say, “Yes.” “Yes, I see that, I feel that, I embrace that in order to make all love.”
Love is not all. Love is the transformation of all to benefit. Even that which is far short of love.
There is a pinnacle of love. A height it can reach, a point of tremendous joy and power in which, in seems, the entire world can be changed. It is the Wonder, the glory of human life: that which all beauty and awe points to. When we sit despairing and lonely, it is that which our hearts reach for, that which we seek. When we achieve it, we feel nothing can compare. And when it is completely absent from our lives, we know that life is no longer worth living.
But this is not love.
Love is not the pinnacle. The pinnacle is our reward for love, it is that which drives us when we are completely ignorant of love. The Wonder is sometimes the motor of love, which keeps us moving when nothing else will. But this is not where love is found.
Love is found when you pour out your heart and soul into another and they say, “That’s simply not good enough,” yet you pour yourself out again.
Love is there when you feed and care for one and they turn your back on you when you are hungry and ill, but you still pronounce your blessing on them.
Love is there when you surrender your heart for another and they reject you in little ways daily but you are still there for them.
Love is giving hope in the midst of despair.
Love is seeking the triumph in the midst of loss.
Love is being there, no matter what they have done to you.
Some claim that love is weakness. But love is stronger than hate, crushing apathy and can conquer death. It just does it quietly, as a child might play by herself, creating worlds no one else sees. It is a strength that transforms everything, but few can see it.
For this reason, love is difficult to share. When love is shared, at the same time, the pinnacle is reached. But true love is found when one experiences the love and the other is lost in death or despair or need. But how then can true love truly be shared? It happens when the love creates the transformation. When it takes the old and recreates it into something unimagined. Sometimes the transformation isn’t even recognized when it happens. It might take days or years when someone says, “Something happened. You aren’t the same person.”
Love happened. Don’t deny it, don’t mistake it. Because every single wonderful transformation happened only because of love. Changes happen for many reasons. But the best ones only happen through the love that perseveres through death.