Tag Archives: valentine’s day

valentine’s day, yes and no

man and woman embracingcontrary to some ideas that have been floating around that valentine’s day is an invention of hallmark’s, valentine’s day has been around for a long time.  valentine’s day is a day of fertility, of the first stirrings of spring rising up, the seeds waking up, ready to sprout with the first warmth of the sun. it’s fertility for humans, too – and what is that all about? this fertility and love get lumped together – and why? is that what love is all about? in my (sometimes) wise old age i can’t say anymore that love is about romantic love, or at least the official version of romantic love: alex meets chris, they spark, their bodies and hearts yearn for each other, and the cumulation of it is a french kiss under the moonlight.

(sidebar: there is a theory that romantic love is an invention of the western medieval world. i am not a social historian but i find that difficult to believe. perhaps the way the stories of romantic love are told is a relatively new invention but it seems ludicrous to me to assert that the stirring of hormones did not produce romance, or something like it, among couples the world over since time immemorial. just look at the bible, the gilgamesh epic or the bhagavad gita.)

so if we look beyond that, what do we find? one thing that valentine’s day as a fertility rite makes me think of is the attraction of opposites that brings forth new life.

there is the obvious of man and woman coming together to create a child.

what else is there?

a pair of opposites i’ve been musing about lately is “yes” and “no”. if we use traditional symbology, we could see “yes” as the female principle and “no” as the male.

what happens when yes and no come together?

for one thing, they balance each other out. “yes” only is without boundaries: the mother – all-loving but also devouring; all-allowing but also surrendering to the point of obliteration.

“no” only is hard, small and single-minded: the father – guiding but also all-demanding; all-protecting but also exclusively jealous. (and yes, i am aware how limited these descriptions are; there are many more layers.)

what else happens when “yes” and “no” come together? what child might they bring forth? the nodding, embracing, resplendently smiling “yes” coupling with the boundary setting, individuating, protecting “no”, embracing, entwining …

contemplating this, i see movement, the movement of the “yes”, bounded by the “no”. “yes” wants to expand forever, “no” says, wait a sec, let’s not go into the dangerous jungle, let’s stay on the road.

and then these ideas arise: indecision, doubt, uncertainty; the words “maybe” (which garfield suggested) and “perhaps”. are they the children of the union of “yes” and “no”?

if so, this young child has so many possibilities, as every child does. indecision could mean wishy-washiness, or it could mean the wisdom of not rushing into rash decisions. doubt could mean mistrust but it could also mean healthy, awake scepticism. uncertainty could mean unsteadiness and it could also mean a comfortable awareness of the fact that nothing in life is ever certain, that life is in, and is a constant flux.

my personal hope is that this is a child of love, that “yes” and “no” find each other with their eyes open and embrace each other not only in the heat of spring passion, but also by – saying “yes” to each other, by seeing, calling forth and enhancing the goodness that each offers.

what would you wish for this child?

what polar opposites would you like to come together?

image by nick thompson

chinese love poetry, again

sand imagevalentine’s day week … more love … and like every year, a chinese love poem. this time it’s contemporary, by eddie tay

cold wind

there is a cold wind
rising at 3 a.m.,
and here i am
on this furtive pavement of men,
haunting the night for you.

for months, the wine
spilled upon your thigh
was sweet against my tongue,
and i am now shaking
and shaking to learn
more of you.

i think i saw your feet
yesterday morning by the curb;
i know the curve of your heels,
but the sun was rising,
and i was a cold creature
shuffling by the road,
hiding among litters of leaves.

i was afraid
you would forget me,
like the words you forget
when you read,
or the clock you forget
when you glance at it
to check the time.

your face contains for me
an entire dream,
full of secrets of the sea
i long to drink.

among this assembly of crickets,
i think of the centuries
i’ve spent waiting for you
in the tropics, in bodies
of captains, sailors, pirates.

(here are last years’ chinese love poems: chinese love poetry, more chinese love poetry, chinese love peas)

image by jef_safi

love and timelessness

tojosan and his wife, dancing in lovesome notes on love from deepak chopra’s ageless body, timeless mind:

  • passion and commitment, love and dedication, self-worth and fulfillment – all are born in Being; they are qualities of the essential self that blossoms when you are free from narrow attachments
  • moments of nonattachment are characterized by perceiving the inner world as an open space with no boundaries; self-acceptance flows out into the environment. things “out there” seem intimate, an extension of self
  • this experience of unity is a good working definition of love
  • mostly, love appears as a feeling but the essence of love is not feeling – it is a state of being you need to find an outlet for your love. the more openly you experience love, the closer you will come to finding its essence
  • follow your bliss! bliss is the tingling rush of love in action
  • do not confuse immediate pleasure with love; love brings pleasure but in a profound way
  • love has depth after depth
  • love is the surest way back to Being
  • the force of love changes reality by changing the perceiver
  • harvard psychologist david mclelland looked at the physiology of love. physiologically measured love (rather than the thought of being “in love”) reveals “themes of dialogue, commitment, and harmony” rather than themes of “getting” something through love
  • when two people use their love for each other as a doorway into timeless love, the death of the loved one does not close the door to or deprive the other of the flow of love
  • use love as your mirror of the timeless; let it nurture your certainty that you are beyond change, beyond the memory of yesterday and the dream of tomorrow
  • come out of the circle of time and find yourself in the circle of love

image by my friend tojosan

a poem, with love

william bouguereau: maternal admirationwhatever you say
it’s alright
i take your word
i take it in
into my ears
into my heart
into my bones
i take your words into the cradle of my arms
choobeechoocheecha
rock them to sleep in their own sound
and let them rest and let them dream
deep in my soul

when they wake up
i’ll give them back to you
fresh, young, awake, ready to sing:
your words – so right, so lovely …

6 kinds of love

socratesvalentine’s day tomorrow. let’s talk about love.

but what kind of love?

we’re all familiar with eros – the heady, emotional high of romance, sexual love and infatuation. it makes the world go round; or, more specifically, it twirls the world in a spin.

agape (pron. ah-gah-pay) is another type of love people often talk about. it is unconditional love, the love god is said to have for people, or the brotherly/sisterly love i’ve observed so much among some homeless people: a deep caring for each other. it’s not spinny; it’s grounding.

philia is the love experienced in friendship.

in the book socrates in love: philosophy for a passionate heart, philosopher christopher phillips introduces us to these and more ideas on the rainbow that is our multi-layered, multi-faceted experience of love. here is a summary (with thanks to sarah boyes):

it’s interesting to note that philosophy itself contains the word love – it’s the love (philos) of wisdom (sophia).

phillips is the founder of the non-profit society for philosophical inquiry (which is not ‘anti-academic’ but ’embraces a type of vibrant and relevant philosophy’). an itinerant philosopher, he embraces coffee shop culture and holds ‘socrates cafés’ – a discussion group he sets up wherever he happens to be. similar maybe to our philosopher cafés here in vancouver (but perhaps a bit less pretentious intellectual)?

in his book, phillips discusses eros, storge (familial love), xenia (love of strangers), philia, agape and then ‘socratic love’.

boyes cites as interesting examples phillips’ investigation into

what it is to love a country in a time of political tumult: in a section on castro, phillips tells us, ‘my brother and i, too, have been blinded by ideology. it distorted the passionate idealism for which we risked our lives’

a section on post 9/11 america and hurricane katrina, exploring why we help strangers

the words of an american soldier posted in iraq that throw light on why people risk their lives for their countries

love between friends, sympathetic towards deep-rooted and meaningful relationships …

socratic love: ‘we should continually seek for new ways of being human that lead to greater human beings’.

(sidebar: amusingly, boyes, who doesn’t seem to be entirely convinced of the quality of the book (it looks like the type of ‘everyman’s philosophy’ that phillips espouses isn’t quite her thing) gives no indication that the term ‘socratic love’ used to be a bit of a euphemism for male homosexuality, especially the type of homoeroticism that, in times when it needed to be under cover, occurred under the guise or with the help of studying together.)

so … what do you think? do you think it’s useful to differentiate between different types of love (if you say no, you’re not a student of sanskrit – apparently sanskrit has 96 words for love)?