But it’s not just about a pagan derived Catholic holiday transformed into a Greeting Card holiday symbolized by a cartoon vulva, it’s about the entire stupidity of the Cult of Love that comes with it.
There are two kinds of holidays out there. The kind that give you a larger perspective on life as part of their celebration, Judaism and many religions are full of those, and the kind that are pure self-indulgence. Guess which kind Valentine’s Day is?
Love is an emotion and nothing says self-indulgence like a holiday that puts emotion on a grand throne and demands that everyone gather around to worship it.
But Valentine’s Day is just one of the worst cartoonish excesses in the pantheon of the Great Western Cult of Love. It’s not just the one day men take to reassure the women in their lives that they haven’t been ignoring them the other 364 days, when in fact they have. (See Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretaries Day, Yom Kippur and Black History Month for other examples of this phenomenon.) It’s the day that takes the most obnoxious qualities of the Cult of Love, to show even the dimmest person what a fraud the whole thing really is.
Love Uber Alles has all but destroyed marriage in the Western world. It turned formerly stable values into a child’s game of hopscotch. It kicked Reason out of its chair, and replaced it with Whim. Why? Because Love is nothing more than the supremacy of emotion, and making emotion supreme leads you to one place and one place alone, pathetic self-indulgence.
The Cult of Love insists that it is the ultimate sublime experience. Centuries of hack dramas from Shakespeare on down insist that love is worth dying for. What they don’t show you is that in real life after Romeo and Juliet got rushed to Mount Verona Hospital and had their stomachs pumped, twenty years later they were throwing things at each other, and Juliet was sleeping with Mercutio.
That’s what happens with love. It’s interesting dramatically only as long as everyone dies, or remains otherwise miserable. The great love stories of our time or any time end in death or deprivation. That’s because love dramatized is misery dramatized. Take the drama out of the equation, and the emotions fade away, leaving the challenges of married life that self-indulgent people aren’t prepared to handle.
And yes that stupidity has infected the Frum world leading to a much higher divorce rate. Marriage works when it’s a commitment by people who have shared values, and understand that they’re in a partnership, not some sort of undying thrilling emotional adventure that will never fade. Because like all emotion it does.
Love is only an emotion that cloaks a biological impulse. It’s why parents instinctively love their children, and men and women love each other. And love as biological drive isn’t just limited to humans.
Take another look at that red Cartoon heart you’ll be seeing everywhere around Valentine’s Day. It’s not a heart. It doesn’t look anything like an actual heart. It’s a cartoon vulva, an image for love that derives from pagan times when they were cruder, but marginally more honest about human nature.
That’s right, the sticker you’ve been putting up everywhere is nothing more than cartoon genitals. I’m not even going to try parsing what that means for the people wearing “I Heart New York” shirts, but that doesn’t make it any less funny and obscene.
Love is a biological impulse. It doesn’t always have to come down to the cartoon heart that isn’t actually a heart, but it’s always biology. Think about how even many modern love stories begin with the male taking a protective role with the woman, or the woman taking a nurturing role with the man. We may be more sophisticated than the average bear, but we don’t exist biologically apart from the rest of the natural world, and we have many of the same biological drives of your average bear, woodchuck or manatee. They just manage without selling cartoon genital greeting cards to celebrate the whole process.
Love is not some sort of grand mystery, it’s an emotion. It’s only mysterious because emotions are a psychological stew bubbling on top of a fleshy kettle.
When two people feel the same emotion for each other, they’re in love, or in hate, or in frustration. (These three by the way overlap a lot.) But that isn’t as big a deal as you might think. Emotions might be mutual but they aren’t transcendent. Which is why trying to build anything more permanent on them is a lot like trying to build the Taj Mahal out of sand by the seashore. Sure it’ll look pretty, but not for long.
Two people may feel the same species of emotion at the same time, but that isn’t actually an enduring bond, because they’re still individuals in the grip of an individual emotion. Which is why 6 months after they’re in love and happily married, one or the other can stop feeling the emotion for them, and start feeling it for someone else. The illusion of mutual love leads people down the garden path, but you can’t synchronize emotions, the way you can mutual trust.
And that’s how the divorce rate skyrocketed, as people began building a future based on the emotion they were feeling at a given moment. Stupid wasn’t it? The divorce rates tell the tale because you can’t build a marriage on emotion, you have to build it on far more solid ground than that. Yet the Cult of Love so prevalent in the West insists on just the opposite. “If you love them they will come.” They might come, but they probably won’t last.
Emotions are fragile things, and the bad ones endure longer than the good ones. Worse still emotion is fundamentally self-indulgent. There is no such thing as an unselfish emotion, only an outwardly unselfish emotion. Emotions are expressions of personal needs and desires. And without a rational base, relationships based on emotion will self-destruct when needs and desires evolve or change.
The Cult of Love has torn apart marriage replacing it with a cartoon female body part, which is exactly the way things are now, with one night stands, hookups, short term relationships, slightly longer term relationships in which men have sex with women, and women wait around to be asked to marry them, while wondering if this is what love is supposed to be about.
The Cult of Love panders to both men and women, while ultimately frustrating them both, and leaving them in a childlike state, with men in perpetual heat and women in perpetual need. And Valentine’s Day reconciles the two, exchanging flowers and chocolates for a night of faux romance. A fitting metaphor for the whole tawdry mess.
What sets us apart from the animals is not emotion, it’s reason. It’s being able to rationally evaluate a situation and make a pledge of loyalty and eternal commitment based on an honest view of the other individual, rather than the stew of hormones bubbling in the endocrine system.
Love is nothing more than a drug meant to accelerate a biological drive. Loyalty however is what truly counts when given by a rational actor to another rational actor.
So put away the cartoon genitals and start using your head. The frum world is not immune from the stupidity of the Cult of Love. We are Westerners. Yes even the Chassidim and the Haredim, though they may deny it until their ears bleed. The problems of society at large are our problems too.
Like all cults, the Cult of Love requires devoted gullible followers eager to believe that happiness and redemption are just around the corner. And like all cults, the Cult of Love frustrates its followers over and over again making for lots of exciting drama, and nothing else.
Pursuing happiness is the worst possible way to find it. Emotional experiences are based around highs and lows. Love is no different. That is why love stories end in tragedy. To find happiness you have to let go of emotion, and let it come to you from satisfaction in your accomplishments, not in the pursuit of another emotional\chemical high.
Happiness is not in your heart or your genitals anymore than it is in a drug vial. It is in your mind, as Judaism knew all along. Emotions are not the answer. Living a good life based on good enduring values is. Love is nothing more than a chemical steeplechase cloaking a biological drive that takes you up and down and leaves you miserable and wanting more. That’s what a drug does. And that’s what the Cult of Love really is.
Emotional addiction to love is drug addiction cloaked in an entire dramatic culture based around promoting its greatness. This Valentine’s Day, maybe it’s time to kick the habit.