Friday afternoon I was walking down Valencia hoping to find a good book and a chai to cozy up with at Muddy Waters. In rifling through the free bin outside Dog Eared Books, I found a copy of the deliriously silly teen softcore, Twilight. I have been actively avoiding Twilight for years but being that the book was free and I had some time, I figured this was my chance to find out what I had been mocking for so long.
First impression: This book is written for mostly illiterate 6th graders.
Second impression: It's almost 200 pages in and the plain girl with the bad attitude is just now figuring out that this mysterious, pale, super stud is a vampire? That's quite the verbose introduction, rife with some not-so-subtle foreshadowing. I think 6th graders should be given more credit.
Much like a thirsty vampire, I consumed the book in two short days and was left with no desire to read farther. Not only because the story never really became compelling but primarily because the relationship between the girl and the vampire was so unsettling. And not because I have anything against inter-species lovin' or am confused as to why such a hot guy would want a girl who was admittedly not cute and had no personality. You have to have at least one of those things, right?
What concerned me about this story was the sexy, romantic spin that it puts on tragic, bordering on abusive, co-dependent relationships. I remember being 12, watching Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes clandestinely make out and longing to feel that intensely about someone. A few years later I was in my first real relationship with a moody rockstar just as intense as me, convinced that we should definitely get married and get an apartment together in Seattle where he could play music and I could spend every waking moment thinking about him. Am I blaming Shakespeare and/or Baz Luhrmann? Maybe a little. But if I had been paying closer attention, I would've realized that R&J is a cautionary tale meant to warn us against all kinds of extremes (if only poor Juliet had a sassy gay friend...). Twilight, on the other hand, seems to encourage young women to make all kinds of crazy sacrifices and lose themselves completely in their relationships. What odd behaviors for a Mormon mother of three to promote.
This wouldn't be so worrisome to me if I hadn't been the teen girl who would've deeply internalized this story. To this day I am still trying to shake the desire for relationships that swallow me whole. As I feel more complete within myself it becomes less attractive to dissolve into someone else, but the idea of being swept away by big feelings is still thrilling. I don't know if it's my nature, or tragic Romeo & Juliet/Titanic love stories, but there is a part of me that craves intensity in my romance, as if it's not real unless that element is present.
In yoga, this desire to merge so completely with someone else is seen as a sort of superficial expression of our desire to merge with the One. Yoga means Union- the union of the self with the Self. There is a timeless part of ourselves that remembers the ecstasy of being a part of God- limitless, pure, infinite. God is expressed and vibrating in every part of our being, but being in this human body does limit how close we can be to Him. It is said that even the angels are envious of us because of the range of experiences available to us as humans, yet everyone seems to ache for this former union and seek it in their own way. We all want to go home.
If I were an Osho card, I would tell myself that the answer is to Turn In:
"Turning inwards is not a turning at all. Going inwards is not a going at all...All journeys are outward journeys, there is no inward journey. How can you journey inwards? You are already there...it is not a turning at all, it is simply not going out."
These enveloping romances are attractive because we long to be with the Beloved. We look around for someone that will help us feel that sense of peace and completion once more, forgetting that we are already complete. We are the Lover and the Beloved. There are certain experiences, like conception, that cannot be reality without a contribution from another, but we do have the ability to experience Union all on our own. Other people can help deliver Divine experiences for us, to elevate and remind us that God is alive and well, but those other people are just mirrors for us, reflecting our own Divinity.
If I could talk to my 12 year old self (or any young people reading Twilight), I would drill into my brain that everything I am looking for is already within, waiting for me to stop turning away and recognize it. Like most people, I am hoping to form a sweet little partnership to learn from and share this funny life with, but not one that will "complete" me. I was formed lovingly, perfectly, complete. There is nothing I need from the outside but regular challenge- helping to keep me honest, awake and inspired to my greatness.
We're all walking unique paths to the same destination, hopefully making contributions to the world that help remind each other how close we really are to God. If we have to seek outside fulfillment, let it be with people who help us to be at home in ourselves. If we want to be swept up by a big emotion, let it be by the ecstasy of being in that silent, still place where it's just you and God. Let's be good company as we go, together but separate, on this non-journey back to The Source.