Right Livelihood and Romance Novels

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Knickelbine 1 year ago.

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  • #40693
    Jennifer Hawkins
    Jennifer Hawkins

    Strange question, but:

    Do you think one could sell romance novels (being careful in how one portrays relationships and including many positive messages) and still adhere to aspects of “Right Livelihood” – considering that such novels have “inducing craving or desire” in others as a basic premise?

    In theory, the desire could be channeled by a reader into a healthy, non-harming relationship – or not – and while their own actions create their own kamma, you would have a hand in creating their original desire leading to those actions…?

  • #40697
    Michael Finley
    Michael Finley

    Interesting question, Jennifer. I guess one answer might be that romance novels (which I admit I’m mostly aquainted with from occational perusal of blubs on book covers) are usually just harmless ecapism, and in this world everyone but an arahant needs a bit of that. But I also think that the frame of mind the reader, or the writer, brings to the experience is critical. Can I read/ write a romance novel without actually attaching to the attitudes they seem to embrace? Are they really intended to be taken seriously? Can the heroines and heroes really be, in anyone’s imagination, role models? Same issues seem to be raised by other items of popular culture, such as violent TV shows.

    Seems to me that point of right livlihood, and for that matter, right companionship, is that the things you immerse yourself in are almost inescapablly going to affect your attitudes. Spend too much time watching Hawai 5-O, for example, and your’re apt to start believing the illegal interrogation techniques they routinely use are justified (as they always seem to be in the 5-O plots), and by extension that fear must trump compassion. But within limits, it’s possible to avoid the bad karma, the attitudes that too much exposure risks. The trick, I think, is avoiding the attachment to the harmful attitudes, the world view, that so many of the things — fact, fiction, entertaiment or reality — can induce. But the greater the exposure, the harder this is. I think.

    (For the record, I enjoyed the old Hawaii 5-O of the 1970’s, and welcomed the reboot at first. Now I can’t stomach it at all. My partner — who does not read romance novels — introduced me to the old movie version of Wuthering Heights, and I think it’s pretty good too).

    • #40707
      Jennifer Hawkins
      Jennifer Hawkins

      Thanks, Michael. That’s gives me more to think with. It was just a weird question.

  • #40715

    Mark Knickelbine

    Jen —
    Your question is just another version of “what do we do with desire?” Whether we’re reading something, or watching something, or flirting with someone, or writing something, how do we approach desire? Why is this a problem in the first place?

    My feeling is, desire arises: is it possible to approach it with awareness? Can we distinguish between our feeling of connectedness with another person and our urge to grasp at something we think will finally make us happy? Can we explore how desire might lead us to either compassion or grasping? I think a novel that explored these issues in romantic relationships would not only be Right Livelihood but would be a damn good read.

    Not all of us get to be monks or Doctors Without Borders. Each of us finds ourselves where we are. I really believe almost any profession can be an expression of Right Livelihood if we can approach it with awareness and compassion; if we can’t, then it’s not Right Livelihood, whether it’s slaughtering chickens or being a monk.

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