CAPITALISM has made us focus on flowers, chocolates, and hotel promos on Valentine’s Day. These and other activities have commodified “love.” Like other non-tangible human values, love is a victim of what we may call “lost in translation.” People attempt to reify it only ending up betraying its real meaning.
It may not be uncommon knowledge, but still there is something interesting in the fact that the origin of Valentine’s Day was not romantic. Tradition has it that the name of the celebration came from Valentinus, a third century priest in Rome who was martyred under the reign of Claudius II.
Whether the story of Valentinus is apocryphal or not, there is a wisdom in linking the day of hearts to martyrdom. The one thing that people have forgotten is the very nature of love. The very end of love is martyrdom. Anyone or anybody who loves is naturally necessitated to feel pain and thus end in sacrifice. It was C.S. Lewis who reminded us that if you don’t want to get hurt don’t give your heart to anyone not even to an animal.
We are too influenced by popular psychology in our belief that love has something to do with feelings of attraction. Love in this sense is reduced to an emotion. Sadly, we are told that emotions are feelings, and feelings are fleeting. A review of classical (philosophical) psychology however would tell us that love more than just being an emotion “is an act of the will.” Meaning, it flows from our whole being. Love therefore is ultimately tied to human reason and not just a feeling or sensation.
Because love is a product of our will, it is a decision. Easy as this may sound however, love just like any other decision or choice is not easy to make. Like any “real” and “truthful” decision it cannot just develop overnight. It is and must be a product of a series of choices sustained through time. This necessarily involves the many existential contours that one has to go through. It would take time before one can truly say that one is “in love.” In fact, love will thrive only if it is reinforced, reaffirmed, and revalidated from time and again.
Precisely love needs commitment. It is not correct to say that commitment is a product of love. It is the other way around. Love survives and lives because it is something that is fueled by the lover, chosen and preferred by the lover. It makes sense to say then that it is an “act” of the will. As an “act” it is not passive rather it is a dynamic undertaking of the human agents, i.e. the lover and the beloved.
In his treatment of the topic “love”, St. Thomas Aquinas asked the question: “Whether love is the cause of all the lover does?” In this age, this may not be easy to understand. Apparently, this question may even sound meaningless for many. But what Aquinas simply argues in the question is: love unifies all our passions and actions. “Desire, sadness and pleasure, and consequently all the other passions of the soul, result from love. Wherefore every act proceeds from any passion, proceeds also from love.” Love is the first cause of everything that we feel but all the things that we feel and all that we will do as a consequence of our feelings will also find their completion, and thus come full circle in love.” Thus, even “hatred” according to St. Thomas “is a result of love.” Hence the saying “the more you hate the more you love.”
Because love synthesizes everything that the lover feels and does, then the lover cannot but at some point yield to martyrdom. For it is the nature of love to “give” rather than “receive.” Love being an “act of the will” involves decision. Interestingly the word decision in Latin means “to cut off.” It is for this reason that love is liberating but only because it involves sacrifice. Sadly, the best sacrifice in human history is either the “lover” or the “one being loved” or “love” itself.*