Season of Love

January 2004


Thoughts on Valentine's Day, sex and forgiveness.

The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally adhered to in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. It was just coincidence that the Saint's Day of St. Valentine fell on the same date.

The consideration that the human race should be susceptible to nature's rhythms is certainly a pagan concept. The pagans were great observers, particularly of natural events. Their peculiar explanations for natural events, contrived in ignorance of scientific principles, clouded their view of the human world. Of course, their view of what was humanly expedient also colored their view of nature.

Cultural squints are like that. They exert influence over everything. The feelings of sexual attraction and of the act of sex have not significantly altered since mankind consisted of a few hunter-gatherers on an African savanna, but our emotions about, and understanding of, those feelings has undergone many changes over time.

In today's global consumer economy, sex and lust are most commonly used as methods to get our attention and to create a desire to purchase. We differ from other animals in that we are susceptible to this kind of bait-and-switch. 4/5ths of advertising is sex, one way or another. Is it any wonder that we are preoccupied by sex much more than, say, the Edwardians? Of course, being at leisure is also a major factor in that. People who work to exhaustion at heavy manual labor day-in and day-out do not have as much time for idle sexual speculation.

We have an odd ethic where love is concerned. On the one hand, all's fair in love -- and on the other, love is all about trust and honesty. The single most damaging thing to most relationships is the insincerity or deceit of one or both of the partners. Evidently pirates are sexy, but once won, they are expected to settle down.

Love is also about forgiveness -- very especially forgiveness, for we are very flawed and quite often in dire need of forgiveness. No relationship can stand on the merits of the participants very long without a dash of forgiveness. If the fault is no more than the taking of the other person's merits for granted, then it is deserving of forgiveness. And forgiveness is an art. It takes practice to get it right.

That brings us right round to St. Valentine again, who forgave the unbelievers and was generous even to those who came to murder him. The forgiveness of an open heart heals all. It is the balm and and glue of families and of whole societies. To be generous of heart is to be generous of spirit. Generosity of spirit forgives naturally and sincerely. We prize the child-like love most, that forgives most easily.

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