critique of valentine’s day: why love is no longer a site for truth

No rose without a thorn. Yes, but many a thorn without rose. – Schopenhauer, A Few Parables

The lover would test the beloved, friend would test the friend; the testing no doubt is based on love, but this violently burning desire to test, this wishful craving to put love to the test, nevertheless testifies that the love itself in unconsciously insecure. – Kierkegaard, Works of Love

Sex without a condom now exists only in fiction. Only novels and films preserve the memory of free copulation, with no precautions – old, immoral practices which future generations will doubtless laugh at unrestrainedly. What will they make of these irresponsible images of entwined couples obeying the dictates of pleasure alone? But they will understand the eroticism of chastity belts even less. – Baudrillard, Cool Memories IV

Love: the most personal site for an event that would initiate the procedure to truth is opposed to Art, Politics, and Science. That truth can be established between two beings in the forum of love is now an almost utter impossibility; the encroachment of the economy (which is not a site for the event of truth) into the sphere of love turns the pursuit of truth into a game.

Who can say that they love the Other with the militant fidelity that the Truth requires? Very few, if any, I would say. We are reminded of the story of two lovers who are too impoverished to buy each other gifts; she sells her beautiful hair to buy him a diamond studded watch strap, he sells his platinum watch to buy her tortoise-shell combs. Sacrifice is the essence of this story, and sacrifice is precisely what is missing from the site of love today.

Love can no longer provide the site for the establishment of truth between two human beings; how many lies are there? how many proofs of love are necessary in order to either love or be loved? how many lovers are willing to sacrifice their beloved for “something / someone better?” No, for all the discourse containing love we may be sure it has disappeared entirely from our being; this is not unlike the Romantic vision of Nature: it could only be an object of reverence after it had been laid waste.

The commidification of love via Valentine’s Day is none other than this: a challenge to believe in love, a challenge to men to give tokens of their love, a challenge to women to accept their lovers’ gifts. If you really believe in love, you will “celebrate” Valentine’s Day! If you really are a man, you will shower your beloved with confections of all sorts, flowers with the scent of beauty, precious jewels mined by children. If you are really a woman, you will accept these gifts as your due (not unlike a prostitute – but at least the prostitute has the dignity of not being deluded into believing that she is loved).

So, why do so many “rise to the challenge” of love posed by Valentine’s Day? The need to “prove” that one loves can no longer be sustained by the simplicity of the sentence, “I love you.” Words are cheap, they are free. Anything that costs money is more a proof of love than a sonnet, or a villanelle, or a rondeau – and this is the sadness of our age of supposed “free love.”

To love should be a duty (‘Thou Shalt Love’), not an injunction (‘Thou Must Love’). We will take up love to display our militant fidelity to the beloved – whether we are loved or not. To put it in the words of the poet who never wrote a poem:

“But when it is a duty to love, there no test is needed and the insulting stupidity of wishing to test is superfluous; since love is higher than any proof, it has already more than met the test, in the same sense that faith “more than conquers.”

The reality is that we look upon love not as a duty, not as serving a cause, not as a limitation in which there is a certain kind of liberation (the kind of liberation writing a sonnet bestows: infinite capacity within a finite form). Today, “to love” is, at best, a tedious chore that one only goes through the motions of; a chore serving the principle of performance, not the cause of desire; a “freedom” that no one wants but knows not what to do with.


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