Thursday, February 14, 2008


At this time of year we are asked to think about Love.

Not agape, not philia, not storge not Xenia but Eros, the son of Aphrodite and Hermes, the God of lust and love. In Roman lore he is called Cupid, and is famous for sporting wings and wielding a bow and arrows.

By Eros, however, the marketing performance surrounding Saint Valentine’s day does not refer to carnal desire as such, as the prurient fear, but to romantic love, a largely modern invention, the Holy Grail of our emotional aspirations. The God of the age; well, alongside money.

Hoards abound sneering cynically at the commercialized monkey business of the St.Valentine’s Day Parade.

I need not add my voice. We know well enough already how the market thrives, all year round, on the propagation, should I say the implanting, of desires in the multitudes for the imitative and the vapid; for trinketry, for tacky plasticity, for whatever can synthetically, cheaply sentimentalise the communality we all share (that unity-as-humans that might possibly, if left to itself, be the basis for a happy, regenerated society).

So what’s so different about Valentine’s day?

I’d rather sidestep this whole debate. People must do as they please. Since I hardly ever have girlfriends, for reasons the ladies I've desired might like to enlighten you concerning, I’ve never had much cause to have strong opinions about the day. Though I did once think it would be funny to eat alone one Valentines at a mighty fine restaurant amidst couples pretending, or achieving, the appropriate displays of togetherness, without newspaper or book to distract me, opposite an enormous mirror; in an act to be construed, as you will, either as performance art, reflecting the growth of singledom in the modern age, or as merely grossly narcissistic self-pity.

It is a day celebrating Love. Be that love merely one of love’s many arms, be that celebration a commercialized contrivance of what might otherwise have become, as St. Valentine himself might have wished, a culturally instituted day of reflection on the real nature, real importance of love in all its dimensions, it is nonetheless a day focused on love. Love, which as we know, is the most important, most precious, most striven after thing in life; that which is most liable to drive us crazy, or else transform our lives into a richer splendour, however conditionally that might be.

So don’t expect Jeremiahan declamations against Valentine’s Day from me. Be it only spoken of badly, and tritely, it is nevertheless spoken of. That in-itself is good. Not for me the path of the Kuwaiti Religious authorities trying to get it banned here in their small, curious land of Starbucks and Oil.

Love gets a lot of press, a lot of praise. Much is said and written about love’s majesty; about the pains associated with its absence or withdrawal. Love is, however, taboo. Like Sex and God it’s not a topic for polite, conformist society. Well, unless treatments are mediated through other people’s loving, preferably expressed in some artform, in which love’s rhapsodies, banalities and desolations can be innocuously contained, ruffling no feathers, disturbing no power structures. Love in its own unruly vitality is liable at any moment to awkwardly challenge the rigid boundaries of what is controllable and predictable in the world.

Anyway, have a Happy Valentines Day, be you or be you not significantly other to another.

Love's oceans are not confined to romance.

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