When I was in elementary school, every February 14 (or on the nearest school day), I and my classmates would bring valentines for everyone as a sign of friendship, or at least of acquaintance. To this day, I’m not sure of the purpose, except maybe cultural training. Who knows, maybe the schools were paid off by card manufacturers and it was all a marketing ploy. (I know, I’m just a bit cynical.)
I do know this: if you did not get a card you felt hurt and if you did not bring cards you were on the outs. Strong cultural expectations and a very real hunger for connection demanded compliance.
Hunger for Connection
We all hunger for connection; this is the deeper truth behind the practice of giving cheesy valentines to elementary classmates. Whether romance, friendship, or otherwise, every human, unless deeply damaged, hungers for connection with other humans.
Society has developed multiple means to satisfy the hunger. Meat market expertise, Facebook friend count, and Twitter follower count are taken as evidence of connection. American culture is saturated with the search for love. Pop music, movies, television, and dating/relationship services have romance as their common theme. Social media continue to grow. Third place is a foundation for business. Family is continually redefined. Technology has made too easy to slip in to shallow relations.
Love is Difficult, but Basic
Real relationship is hard and often painful work, for it involves caring for someone who sometimes bugs the whats-it out of you. It involves unloading your stuff, not knowing whether the other will use it to hurt you. It involves hearing someone else’s stuff, when there is little you can to do about it. It means working through misunderstandings and disagreements when it really is easier to walk away.
But love is basic. It is not an optional activity that we do if we have the time or inclination. It is not a warm fuzzy feeling we put on and take off like a favorite sweater.
Despite the continual search, unencumbered, soul-to-soul love often remains elusive. The hunt continues, while pale imitations numb wounded souls.
This coming Sunday is Valentine’s Day. Many will enjoy the traditional activities of cards and candy, flowers and dinners. Others will be reminded of their loneliness.
Let us all make sure our love goes deeper than tradition and wider than affinity.