Blowin’ In: Love in the 21st Century
By Susan Mangan
I must admit, I am a romantic. Beeswax dripping down the length of crystal candlestick holders. Bourbon cocktails and charcuterie boards. Soft jazz playing on a vintage turntable. A crisp moon shining in the February sky. Yet another sporting event broadcasted on the oversized television. A jealous Springer Spaniel parading clothes from the laundry bin. Ahh, such is the stuff of romance.
Let’s face it, romance can never live up to our expectations. As a romantic realist, I have come to appreciate the small gestures and fleeting moments that define romance in the 21st century.
No one has the time or patience to listen to an in-house poetry recitation when Netflix shows are streaming, and Grub Hub is at the door with Valentine take-away. And so, I have a gentle suggestion for a Valentine’s Day that will please both the pragmatic and romantic lover.
Eros, Agape, Philia are three types of love more commonly known as romantic, unconditional, and brotherly love. Ancient Greek scholars sought to define and defend the mysterious feelings of the heart.
People, however, can sometimes come up short of our expectations. Reality may trump romance. There are those unrequited lovers who love, but whose feelings are not returned. Irish poet William Butler Yeats composed poignant lyrics filled with longing and unrequited love for Maud Gonne:
“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.”
Yeats’ verse begs the question, if our desires are met, does love eventually fade, or merely morph into a metaphor of comfort rather than passion? Then again, is passionate love all that the Hallmark Channel makes it out to be?
Some lovers may experience great romance but are then enmeshed in an even greater unraveling of seeming love. In the classic Arthurian tale, Tristan and Isolde mistakenly drink a love potion that leads to passionate love, betrayal, and ultimately death.
Romeo and Juliet defy all kinship to be together in love, only to die under mistaken circumstances in one another’s arms. Tread lightly lovers, romance is not all that it seems, especially when February winds chill our bones, and yet another St. Valentine’s Day arrives upon Winter’s wings.
Rather than lament the lack of a valentine or the limp bouquet of red carnations that your valentine sheepishly proffers, I suggest that one look toward philautos, or self-love. Please be cautioned that self-love does not mean selfish, narcissistic love, but rather the acceptance of ourselves that can lead not only to inner peace, but also allows others to see how wonderful our spirit is. The practice of self-love was put to verse in American poet Walt Whitman’s famous “Song of Myself”:
I celebrate myself, I sing of myself.
What I assume, you shall assume . . .
I am satisfied –
I see, dance,
It appears that those who possess love of self are engaged in the world because life is their lover. Each day may project challenges, but there is goodness to be learned and rewards to reap. Lovers of self are life-long learners, seekers of challenge, pleasure, serenity, and faith.
The 21st century touts the need for self-love and self-affirmation. Our world is so filled with worry, why not slow down this Valentine’s Day and focus on yourself? After a long walk in a snow-covered park, top your cocoa with extra cream. Pull down that dusty book of poetry and let your mind escape for a minute or an hour.
Give your pet an extra snuggle. Hold hands with your one true love. Unabashedly enjoy a night of binge series viewing, whilst tucking into that carton of take-away curry that St. Valentine delivers straight to your door.
Above all, learn to love oneself, admire one’s perfect imperfections, laugh at the quirks and foibles that make life truly interesting. As February looms and another Valentine’s Day dawns, Oscar Wilde reminds us that “to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Wise words for love in any century.
*Susan holds a Master of Arts in English from John Carroll University and a Master of Arts in Education from Baldwin-Wallace University. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Internet Source Consulted: Krznavic, Roman. “The Ancient Greeks’ 6 Words for Love.” Yes Magazine. December 27, 2013.