It’s hard to get pumped up about a holiday that is bogusly named after a christian martyr and who had nothing to do with romance. For Valentine’s Day, love is most often valued in terms of gifts given. Not any meaningful sense of the word.
Crass commercialism will exploit this day as it does all of our holidays and to some degree the deepest expression of love will get lost in the objects we purchase and share as they are handed out in ritualistic style by many to insure the recipient that they are still thought of, at least to some degree and on this special day.
The apostle Paul called love the greatest of human traits. Without love he said we are essentially an empty shell. We can have great wealth, wisdom and generosity but without love they gain nothing for us. Do you suppose the free markets who capitalize on this holiday really reflect upon Paul’s ambitious sentiments of love?
During my college days as a student of the social sciences I once took an analytical approach to this emotion after having been both the hurt victim as well as the elated recipient of “love”, and asked my yet-to-be-wife, who had expressed her love for me during our brief courtship, what she thought that consisted of. What I was really looking for by asking such a question is what would it take for her to see me differently down the road where she might no longer feel so enamored. She of course fumbled with it and I realized, feeling foolish for asking it, that there is no succinct answer to such a question.
“To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao-Tzu
Neurological reactions where chemicals develop in the brain effect our amorous behavior. It’s a powerful reaction too that makes us feel invulnerable to anything the rest of the world can throw at us. It’s hard to believe that the high we experience being connected to an individual in ways that lift us past the mundane concerns of everyday existence is simply the result of increased levels of testosterone, dopamine and oxytocin triggering physiological responses that foster passionate love and long-term attachment. It’s possible that if this knowledge had been available to the poets and romantics of a bygone era that the great epics and lyrics we’ve come to know might never have ben penned, but I doubt it
The sensation of real love that creates that emotional attachment we develop with another gives us a powerful reason to live and lifts us at times when others in the world would abandon us or tear us down. And though this emotion is perhaps its strongest in our youth, its memory can carry some couples through for years, long after that emotional high wanes, which it will over time.
Even though, by the time we are twenty-something, we have usually been in and out of enough relationships to realize that we can be hurt if we give ourselves over to unrequited love or even love that is equally reciprocated, love’s pull on us never really fades. The drive to recoup love’s grandeur is never completely lost and in each succeeding relationship we hope we accomplish that something we felt in our first love.
The emotion of love comes from that wiring we are born with that drives us toward another individual. There is no guarantee that it can be sustained. Our survival depends on us linking up with others so we can prosper and grow. How we prosper and grow derives from our environment but it is the internal workings of humans that connects us.
In the final analysis, though I believe love is but a mere mechanism to perpetuate the species, it doesn’t mean it has to be viewed from a laboratory mentality. We should celebrate love in ways poetic and place it in the realm of something outside a defined biological equation. But romantic love by itself is really not enough “to make the world go ‘round”. There has to be more expression of plutonic love, what Paul called agape, that is part of our existence. Unless we extend our self-serving feelings of love beyond two people we will fail to develop an enriched atmosphere where it can truly prosper and grow
Without this wider concept, love will always be relegated to a level that can be exploited by those who have none themselves and seek to divide us for some personal agenda. Divisiveness begins when self-interests take hold of every other instinct we possess. A love that is understood and shared with other humans is an antidote to this susceptibility.
The believe in love, no matter who or what we see it derived from, is the glue that holds most of us together as it drives humans to accomplish extraordinary things that the other species don’t seem to be able to. This may not always be seen as a good thing. Our inability at times to see the development of some of our creations which can ultimately threaten our very existence may sadly prove to win out in the long run. But such a force is also capable of doing great and enduring things that can improve our world and allow future generations to celebrate love in the traditional way that has inspired great verse and music.
So, as crass and corny as it is, Valentine’s Day can still serve as a reminder to us all that without love, life just doesn’t have that much to offer.
“Loving can cost a lot but not loving always costs more, and those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness that robs the joy from life.” - Merle Shan