I am both happy for but a bit distressed about St. Valentine's Day. On the bright side, any reason at all for people to express more love for each other, to each other and even at each other, makes a better world for all. Whether those loves are romantic or filial, personal or collective, sexual or spiritual (though those two are best conjoined), those closest benefit the most, but the bouquet, their effervescent permeates the general atmosphere. It's a happy moment for us all actually, energetically and spiritually. We are uplifted by the very thought of more love pervading the field! Unfortunately,our society is lacks in its expression of love, much more heavily weighted in the expressions of the negative emotions of anger, jealousy, anxiety and rage, as we see in the commercial news, film and TV shows daily. Let's celebrate this wonderful excuse for change. The Egyptians have been celebrating now for days--holding hands and dancing in the streets. let's join the spirit of it on this day of love.
I am also happy about Valentine's Day because the themes and values of love, romance, affection, intimacy and even the exaltation of love-making get "a day in the sun" in a culture that is largely troubled by the open embrace of these values except when it comes to their exploitation for mercantile purposes such as selling cars, liquor and well just about anything else. Our society is virtually schizophrenic when it comes to love and sex, a subject for many-another-blog, but Valentine's is given special favor, free from Judgment Day, well, at least for a day. Maybe we should hold some demonstrations?
What if news items were more centered upon heroic acts of love, or even simple expressions of kindness and compassion? I don't mean simplistically as in Ozzie and Harriett but genuine, daily acts in which we all participate.
These kinds of impressions on our youth about how people can be and are with each other could be world-changing. As we see, monkey-see, monkey do. Modeling love and acts of kindness instead of rage and violent reactivity could change generations to come. We'd have copy-cat acts of love, contagions spreading across the country of young people helping their elderly neighbors bring the garbage can to the street for pick-up, or holding a door for someone walking into a store or building. And just being in love, reading Rumi to their families and lovers!
In my world-view, each of these are acts of kindness and in a way, truly an act of love. And I do believe that we can rather easily start a contagion around this that would not be contained. No doctor, no medicine no natural circumstance could curtail it -- it would spread like an unquenchable, unstoppable, raging fire! You could call it "an Act of God" but one we'd look forward to--funny, when we refer to Acts of God, it's always something rather terrifying. I wonder how God feels about that kind of sleight of mouth, that narrowed kind of imagery of the Almighty?
We would be setting a new tempo, actually a template for 'how to be' as a child, a teenager, and then adult. That's the power of love, the source of most of the world's literature, film, theater, music, dance art and poetry. It being connected with the sexual impulse that generates all of Nature, really helps to complete its primordial, central importance in all life.
I've always said that if I were mayor of my town, New York, or President of the U.S., I'd give radio and public talks to encourage people to be pro-actively kind to each other, to listen, learn, cooperate, coordinate fruitful actions. Or as the wonderful bumper sticker says, "perform random acts of kindness..." but not just randomly but routinely. I would change it to "perform regular and routine acts of kindness..." I would also ask that people pick up after themselves! Not to litter, to be courteous and respectful to others. Do you know how far that could take us as a populous? And if we interacted with other nations in this way instead of espionage and one form or another of war?
Ironic as it may sound, being the conservative-progressive that I am, it may be considered amusing that I'd cite former President George H. Bush here but I feel that one of the most important gift he gave us, really the world, was when through one of his speeches he popularized the phrase "...I want a kinder, gentler nation." This one phrase coming 'from the top' actually helped, I believe, a greater wish among not just Americans, but all people, that that could actually take place. Instead of fear being mongered later by his son, 'mongering kindness and gentleness' is a much smarter way to build good will and a nation.
Any excuse for love is just one of the only times an excuse is always acceptable. Valentine's Day, in my book, qualifies well. Oh of course it's commercialized, just as what's said to be the day of the birth of Jesus, but left to itself, it could just be a day of kindness and love expressed everywhere.
The origins of Valentine's Day are not so certain. It appears to have originated in pre-Roman days among the shepherds and was first known as the Festival of Lupercalia, the "Wolf Festival", a festival of 'sexual prosperity' (some say promiscuity), that is, it stood for fertility and assisting the 'barren' in getting pregnant; and those that were, for ease in childbirth. Noble youths and others would run through the streets naked and slap women, even of social distinction, with a 'shaggy thong' made of sacrificed goat, who would stick out their hands to be slapped, in the hope of pregnancy or easy childbirth. These were called "februa", in Latin meaning "purification", and became the basis of the month "February".
Another twist in the story is that February to the Romans, was also sacred to Juno Februata, the Goddess of Febris, or "fever", implying directly the fever of love.
Later, the Roman Catholic Church sought to remove the sexual character of the holiday, changed its date and re-named it after a Saint, martyred by the Church itself, St. Valentine. It was really Geoffrey Chaucer who gave us the more modern version of the holiday and removed it from the shag-bearing, sexual aliveness of its former incarnation during and before Roman times.
But it is said that during Roman times a small piece of paper with the names of teen-age boys and girls were put into a container, drawn and that coupling would join in "erotic games and feasts" throughout the city (www.thercg.org) That certainly sounds exciting and hormonally attuned.
What distresses me, the excitement of the day's history and current reality aside, is really only one thing: "Do we need a separate day to commemorate love?" I say absolutely not. If there were more love, in its beautiful expression of kindness, courtesy and respect, we'd have a greatly better world. It is the centerpiece.
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama always emphasizes that if nothing else, "be kind to one another", and that expression of kindness can take us to another level of love and relationship, to ourselves, to each other, to those thought of as 'enemies' and to the Earth Herself.
So if we take the joy of Valentine's Day, enjoy the romance of it but also spread the affection and love it breeds far and wide through our daily actions, on this day, but also every other one of the year. Infecting with affection. Shall we create a better world? This is surely one of the cornerstones of it.
Happy Valentine's Day to all!