I wuv youDAVID WARREN
Valentine's Day is just the sleaziest little idea for a commemoration that anyone ever came up with.
You won't find it mentioned, even in the post-Vatican II Catholic prayer office. The original St Valentines seem to have been more than one in number, fused in legend from obscure, deep history. The use of the name "Valentine" to trademark the indulgence of romantic love, is an essentially neo-Pagan conceit.
Which is why I will run with it. My own parents were married on Valentine's Day (59 years ago—still alive, still madly in love), and the opportunity to exploit the day for mischief occurred to me, early and often in my own little life. I am an anti-romantic, by intellectual disposition, with a romantic sensibility. I was born that way, it cannot be helped.
And while I'm tempted to sneer at the cheap, and long-commercialized "girlishness" that has come to be associated with today, I am going to resist it. (Let girls be girls and boys be boys.) This is because romanticism has been so degraded over the last few generations, that it needs resuscitation and a bit of wiping off. That old-fashioned kind of romanticism that has persisted, century after century, in cultures very remote from one another—and you will find it celebrated in ancient Chinese folk songs—that specific romance between a man and a woman, joined by love in defiance of the practical dynastic considerations of their elders and betters—that raw, Romeo-and-Juliet fact of life—is something too beautiful ever to be forgotten.
Marriage is only abstract in the law books, in reality there is one man and one woman, and they must accommodate each other as they are. Things I have said in this column from time to time about the male and female "characteristics" and "roles" that we have foolishly suppressed, are true generally, I think, but not therefore true in the lives of individuals. I've seen more than one successful marriage between a rather masculine woman and a rather feminine man. And real mutual understanding, between two actual human beings, can be founded only in love.
Needless to add, love is not reducible to sexual compatibility or common interests or any formula. It begins somewhere, then spreads into everything. Or it does not. It has its own power, like any living thing, but it does require to be nurtured. It can be taken for granted, but not for long. It is mysterious: and love between a man and a woman will not flourish unless its mystery is appreciated. The mystery of the man to the woman, and of the woman to the man, is found in the reverence they will experience for each other. Eros is not something small.
I look around me at so many failed marriages, including my own, and begin to comprehend a surprising truth. It is that the old, essentially romantic sense, of "us against the world", is the only thing left that can hold a "conventional" marriage together, in this age of advanced decadence and moral disintegration. The "calculated" marriage will not stand up to postmodern challenges, that go beyond anything that can be wisely calculated. And to whom can we turn for recovery in the future, if not to the children of such marriages, raised with both feet on the ground of unqualified love.
While I distrust and even despise romanticism, when it becomes an end in itself, I think it something that must be harnessed as a force of nature. In older days, less was needed to hold a marriage together, because the whole society reinforced marriage vows. Today, it has to be "us against the world", whether or not a couple are blessed with children. They have to be able to look each other in the eye, without flinching. They cannot afford to talk by each other. They cannot put anything permanently ahead of their marriage: not jobs, not personal ambitions of any sort. "Personal fulfilment" is a false god. It is only for narcissists. And narcissists can only be in love with themselves.
The romanticism I have in mind today, embraces many things. Our lovers must be friends, too: old buddies. There must be sanity in their relation, and laughter. There must be simple affection, as between two animals. And they may go on writing this list for themselves. For from the beginning, God made them male and female, and nature designed them as a single survival unit.
David Warren. "I wuv you". Ottawa Citizen (February 14, 2007).
This article reprinted with permission from David Warren.
David Warren, once editor of the Idler Magazine, is widely travelled — especially in the Middle and Far East. He has been writing for the Ottawa Citizen since 1996. His commentaries on international affairs appear Wednesdays & Saturdays; on Sundays he writes a general essay on the editorial page. Read more from David Warren at David Warren Online.
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