In reviewing this, I notice a connection that I hadn’t until now: both Japheth and Solomon fall in love with a woman when they hear that woman sing. I’m tempted to say that this parallel was intended all along, but it wasn’t. And it might reveal a flicker of how, to some extent, all fiction is autobiography, and aspects or moments of our own lives often sneak through the masks of our inventions.
Questions of what love is and what it means keep coming up in the book, as well as in many of our lives. I’ve heard it said that the truest form of love is to wish that the person that you have has a good, happy life, and to be willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
But what happens when fulfilling the dreams of the person that you love means separating yourself from that person, and even doing what it takes to facilitate that person’s love for another? This might be the most difficult form of love to embody.
Of course, people’s experiences and definitions of love vary widely. Some pursue it at all costs. Others claim that it does not exist at all. Solomon’s love for the Shulammite might strike some as the most romantic “love at first sight,” though others might dismiss it as a mere momentary infatuation. The difference between them, perhaps, lies in how long the love lasts after the first burst of passionate attraction. I wonder to what extent, in the aftermath to the story as told here, Solomon clung to the memory of this love, seeing the Shulammite as “the one that got away.” And I wonder what comfort he was able to take in the belief that he did the right thing, and whether he was able to take some joy in knowing of the joy of the person for which he might have held some love for the rest of their lives.
Do you believe in romantic love? Have you ever believed that the happiness of a particular other person was more important than your own? Have you had to make choices that you found emotionally painful to further the other person’s happiness? Are you, in the long run, happy that you did? What do you feel now in looking back on your choices and their results? If you faced the same situation today, would you make the same choices? If not, what would you do differently, and why?