by Benny Mattis
Are you in a romantic relationship with someone? Do you feel that caress of the transcendent, that pain of desire between the rapturous encounters to which your otherwise-unoccupied hours are inevitably dedicated? Is this beloved similarly enchanted by a divinized vision of your own otherwise-ordinary ways of being? If the reader does, in fact, partake of the ancient mystery that is wild Romance, I have only one request this Valentine's Day: Do not spend any time alone together on February 14th.
St. Valentine's Day is usually designated as a celebration of what C.S. Lewis called Eros, or romantic love (distinct from mere sexual appetite), in The Four Loves. But should not every day be a celebration of romance, between those who share it? Indeed, an avalanche of popular songs and screenplays make it nearly impossible not to see just how grand life might be with the right kind of person by your side. Valentine's Day, as it stands, resembles a spotlight set up to illuminate the Sun itself, functioning primarily in blinding those who remain earthbound (by telling singles that they are not as happy as they might be) and absurdly implying that the Sun needs artificial illumination in the first place (as if romance were actually enhanced by the reduction of its gifts, one day out of the year, to the status of mere custom). Valentine's day is missing something, namely, love itself.
This Valentine's Day, I suggest celebrating not Eros necessarily, but rather love, as such. There is more to love than the specific subtype Eros. There are also, most notably, friendship and charity; I think these loves ought to be considered just as important as Eros on the upcoming holiday. Thus, I suggest those enthralled by romance might best celebrate by taking a break and chilling with some old friends. For those who already spend their free time 'bro-ing out on the Xbox, Valentine's Day might be well-celebrated by making some extra time to help at a soup kitchen or the like. Finally, the champion of human solidarity may find rejuvenation in temporary shared secession (with friends or a romantic interest) from the active struggle for social justice.
"Blasphemy!" cries the stubborn romantic. Well, okay, maybe nobody will take me that seriously. In any case, have no fear: this suggestion is by no means an attempt to foist that dreaded "Puritanism" upon an unsuspecting readership. On the contrary, I hope that the passions excited by this experiment might strengthen the various manifestations of Eros on this campus into such that they will support and be supported by the other types of love. If you were overwhelmed by the passion of sharing yourself with a beloved, imagine how the sparks will fly when the two of you share that newfound energy, through friendship and charity, with the communities you find yourselves in! This goes for the Friends and champions of solidarity, too: How can you fully enjoy chilling with your 'bros (a term which has evolved into gender-neutrality in my own circles), if they don't allow you some away-time to pursue that person of interest in your Chemistry class? How can you truly love "humanity" if you treat the individual humans around you as mere means to an end (however well-intentioned that end may be)? Aristotle suggested that there was a "Unity of the Virtues": no given particular virtue can be attained without allowing the totality of the remaining virtues to develop as well. Maybe this Valentine's Day can be spent in recognition of the unity of the loves.