Amblin' Alameda: Valentine's Day

Amblin' Alameda: Valentine's Day

Morton Chalfy

I'm not sure that Valentine's Day isn't my favorite holiday, though I'm very conflicted about that. It's like admitting to a slightly shameful taste for fast food or bad taste in furnishings. Certainly I decry the blatant ads for jewelry and $100 bunches of roses, but I find the underlying sentiment to be totally in accord with my deepest nature. Celebrating romantic love is a good thing, I think, though focusing it all on one day is scarcely enough.

Romantic love is a relatively new addition to the human method of keeping the species alive. For tens of thousands of years, procreation was either haphazard or ordained by the elders of the tribe. The idea of being in love with one's spouse didn't arise in a meaningful way until Shakespeare made Romeo and Juliet the icons of romantic love. Of course they were fated to have an unhappy end, probably not to upset the conservatives of the day who would have seen their union, against the wishes of their families, as being unholy and just wrong.

Today the ideal is “love and marriage,” as opposed to “practicality, family permission, financial prospects and marriage,” and that's how it should be in my mind. Living with a person, having and raising children with a person, spending year after year in shared struggles with a person is all made much easier with the lubricant of love. Romance has a civilizing effect on life in my view, makes it less hidebound and brutal and opens space for tolerance and cooperation.

Another aspect of Valentine's Day I find dear and useful is the tradition of giving one's romantic object a love poem along with flowers and candies. For a young, impecunious poet such as I was in my late teens and early twenties being able to dash off a lyrical ode to my loved one's beauty was more effective than a pocketful of money at gaining my desire. One uses the tools one has and since “all's fair in love and war,” if one can write poetry that makes one look better than one's rivals, well poetry it is.

At the onset of the romantic era poets were rock stars. Today poets are like church mice hiding in the corners except for the one's who write poetry set to music and who then, sometimes, become rock stars. Between two lovers, I can attest to you, the effects of a good love poem are still as satisfying as any response Lord Byron could have wished for.

Love Conquers All and poetry inspires love.