Before I begin the celebrations, though, I would like to take off my writer’s hat and offer a big bow to the wonderful writer Cat Valente, who recently wrote a blog about the importance of ritual in our lives. It was her generous, open heart that made mine flutter.
Why is it that a part of our humanity wishes to deny others the chance to love?
We do it by refusing to let gay couples marry. We do it when we become sanctimonious and moralizing and snigger at holidays like St. Valentine’s Day or Christmas or even St. Patrick’s Day — although you will generally never hear these same people criticizing Flag Day or the Fourth of July. I guess patriotism is above ridicule and well below any honest ritual.
That’s why this whole mass of inertia against gay marriage will not win in the end. (And isn’t that what damn Christianity is based on, Love and Forgiveness?)
Do we really think in our arrogance that we can deny people the chance to love?
Thing is, why do any of us have to agree to do what others do? Is it just so we can get along? But here lies the irony: we actually don’t get along with each other (look at wars, look at violent crimes, look at the blatant bigotry and racism that surrounds us in this bleak and awful and also wonderful world).
Okay, let’s consider Valentine’s Day. My wife and I celebrate this holiday with slices of neapolitan cake (ah, that marzipan and cake is like love’s “ever-fixed mark”). If someone else wants to get a Hallmark card, okay, do it, that’s their way of honouring the day. I don’t want to do that (it’s not me), but why should I stomp on their way?
Plus, that kind of ego-driven desire to squash another person, to make them feel like their choices in life are worthless and petty and risible, simply misses the whole point of ritual and celebration. The most important thing is that we celebrate the sacred that allows us to transcend the monotony of the every day. It’s our way to stay human and not become machines. And we also connect with the past and the future this way, and can for a brief time sense everything that has come before, making it special, making the past not dead, but alive, making it a living presence that was once full of people so much like us who lived and suffered, too.
If we deny rituals and holidays, we just cut off the past, which is a bad thing. We won’t even recognize the others who came before us also had great ideas, imagination, and invented and loved and married and celebrated and died.
Contrary to common belief: We are not the only century with the greatest inventions, the greatest stories to tell, the greatest achievements, the greatest visions, the greatest lifestyles, the greatest ad infinitum.
If the past tells us anything, it is to continually remind us to stay humble. Death is coming for me, I always hear the past whisper. I am not a monument. I am a life. And lives pass — which is our burden and our lightness of being. We inherit death from others. Why, then, do we think we can deny anyone anything? We cannot deny. Death teaches us this. Life, too, if we look at it with our doors of perception cleansed, as the great Poet Blake wisely tells us to do.
That is why it is so important for us to celebrate, to revel in the fleeting, mutable world that rushes on even though we try to keep it with us. Even at our most intimate moments (sex, sharing a meal together, and reading a book, being three), we are reminded that tempus fugit; and the world comes in like a giant with a bone to pick.
Do away with our celebratory nature and we might as well do away with our hearts. Pickle them in jars and hide them away all winter long and bring them out only in summer, when times are good, when there is harvest and bounty, and show them off to the world. But how will we know that summer is upon is if we refuse to celebrate?
Refusing to mark off time is like refusing to signpost a road. If we did that, then all roads would lead nowhere and all would be the same. It would be like saying we should all just exist as DNA, since this is what carries all our genetic make-up and makes us who we are. Great. But where would we be without a heart and a mind? And what room does that leave for the soul?
So go and buy the person you love a box of chocolates if it makes you feel alive, if it makes you feel like love is a living not dead emotion within you. Like the great poet Rilke has written: “To love is also good, for love is hard. Love between one person and another: that is perhaps the hardest thing it is laid on us to do, the utmost, the ultimate trial and test, the work for which all other work is just preparation.” I would add to celebrate is also hard, but it is needed if we hope to have any chance at leading tragic and comedic lives.
And if we want to romance the naysayers back into love with St. Valentine’s Day, let’s reinvigorate it. Let’s make it into a contemporary Lupercalia festival of fertility and purification with milk and blood and wool.
What full-blooded modern man or woman wouldn’t like to strip naked and spank each other with strips of goat flesh?