Thursday, February 12th, 2009
February 14 is Valentine’s Day. Cards and flowers, chocolate and everything pink; love is in the Air! But what is Love, and what does it have to do with Heroism?
When I was in grade school, we made Valentine’s Cards for everyone in class so that nobody would feel left out. If you love everybody, do you really Love anyone?
The Greeks had five words for love – Eros – passionate, sensual love; Philia – love, respect, and brotherhood with your neighbors and family; Agape – having a close connection with everyone around you, the New Testament Biblical love; Storge – affection for your family; and Thelema – desire for status, possessions, or accomplishment.
Love, Lust, and Longing
“Love Ain’t Nothin’ But Sex Misspelled” – Harlan Ellison
Thelema was popularized by Aleister Crowley in the early 1900’s. Crowley translated Thelema as “Will” and made it the keystone of his system of Magic – “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Crowley was renowned for his dissipated lifestyle of sex and drugs. He believed in Lust, but not particularly in Love.
Still, Crowley made some good points. Much of the time, “I love you” translates as “I want to have sex with you”; or “Let’s go make love,” when there is already a sexual relationship. Much of the ritual of Valentine’s Day, and “courtship” in general, is about trying to establish or strengthen a sensual, sexual relationship. I’m not quite sure about the symbolic grade school orgies implied by kids giving cards to everyone else in the class; I guess it’s actually practice in overcoming shyness in approaching other people… or maybe camouflage for the real relationships that actually go on there. As a kid, I had no clue.
“Dating” has changed a lot over the years, at least the way I see it. “Asking someone out” has always had the sensual, Eros component, but it wasn’t necessarily strictly about sex. You did things together, had a nice meal, watched a movie, or went to the park together to establish a bond of connection and mutual affection, a strengthened Agape. In time, perhaps it would strengthen to Eros, but it was built first on friendship. Advice columns used to be full of questions such as, “Is it ok to kiss on the first date?” I think the usual advice was to wait until at least the third. For women in particular, the advice was to keep a man waiting and wanting more.
Today, dating is a lot different. The “friendship date” is almost non-existent; instead, young people generally go out with a group of friends to do fun activities. They build the same sort of bonds, but it’s with several people, not an exclusive “someone”. When a sensual connection with one person develops, most people skip the long “courtship” stage and move directly into a sexual relationship. “Susan and Dave are dating” usually means they’re sleeping together (or not getting much sleep!) these days.
This isn’t as new as we might think. If anything, the ideas of courtship and romantic love are fairly recent developments – basically, since the early Renaissance. In the Middle Ages, it was often a requirement that a woman “prove herself” by becoming pregnant before she could get married. Many marriages were arranged; sex and friendship were not necessarily thought to be related. The association of Saint Valentine with the idea of romantic love began with Geoffrey Chaucer and other romanticists in the 1300’s.
Hearts? Heroes? What’s Love Got to Do With It?
“What’s Love Got to Do With It?” – Tina Turner
This may all seem unrelated to the ideals of Heroism, but there is actually a strong connection. The romantic ideals of the 14th Century were closely tied to the burgeoning concepts of chivalry. Women were no longer to be treated as chattels (as they had been through most of “civilized” history), but honored, respected, and loved. Knights went to the field of battle carrying the favors (love tokens) of their Ladies and went on great quests to earn favor with fair maidens. While women still held no property in their own name, they had increasing privileges with regard to family possessions and estates.
To be a Hero means to respect men, women, and children of all races and religions. Courtesy and chivalry are part of it. Philia-style Love is another important part. Treating everyone as an individual, and relating to each person on his or her individual merits, is the Heroic way to relate to the people around you. A Hero does not make assumptions about someone just because of race, gender, nationality, or other “group affiliation.” Heroism is person-to-person, one at a time.
When it comes to romantic love, Heroes build relationships based on their partners’ needs first, on their own desires second. Fortunately, the nice thing about love is that the more you give, the more you receive in return. Read “The Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry, for an amusing and touching take on this. If you just try to “take”, you will very soon find your hands – and your arms – empty. Love is about giving, and so is Valentine’s Day.
Love – A Gift That Keeps On Giving
“Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.”
– Dorothy Parker
When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of gifts, but that’s where the resemblance to Christmas ends. A Valentine card or gift is a very personal present between people who really care about, and are close to each other. They could be lovers or friends looking for a closer friendship.
A Valentine gift is usually something small, but romantic. Flowers and chocolates are always popular. The gift might not be material – A handwritten “gift certificate” for hugs, massages, or (our favorite) D&D sessions can be more appreciated than any physical gift. Cadillacs work too. If you give a physical gift, make sure you include a card with a personal, handwritten message. The gift isn’t really the point; it’s the presentation, the effort you put into choosing it, and the romantic thought behind it that matter.
The point to a Valentine’s Day gift isn’t that it is a bribe to buy your friend’s favor. It is a freely-given present because you care about the other person and want to share something special with her or him. If you are “just friends,” sometimes a Valentine card suggests that you would like a closer relationship; just be careful not to read too much into it. If someone gives you a Cadillac, though, you can probably expect an invitation to the back seat soon after.
A Gift of Gaming?
If you and your loved one are gamers, why not share the gift of gaming? We usually spend our Valentine’s Day (or close enough to it) at DunDraCon, the longest-running role-playing game convention. We don’t actually see much of the convention (although we usually participate in some of the seminars), preferring to spend most of the weekend romantically in our hotel room… along with a half-dozen of our closest gaming friends.
Lori has run several “love-based” RP scenarios at these weekends. In one of them, we had to escort a young Prince to meet the Princess he was destined to marry. Keeping him alive through the journey was only half the problem. Once we got there, we could see that the two were not really meant for each other. The princess was already in love – with a frog (okay, so he was an enchanted frog). Fortunately, our prince fell in love with the princess’s sister, and the frog turned out to be yet another prince – so all’s well that end’s well and they all lived happily ever after. (Or would, if this were a fairy tale… but as a campaign world, well, who knows what will happen next?)
This weekend, we’re all set to do it again, and Valentine’s Day falls on Saturday. I guess that means we should have a Saturnalia. Or maybe just a Sauterne with supper. (Ok, I’m stretching; neither of us drinks… wine.) We’ve been a little too busy lately to think too much about what games we’ll be running, but it’s likely that love will lead the way. Of course, just being there is almost enough – Lori and I met over a D&D table at a convention, so that will always be part of our relationship.
As for sex and D&D, check out Phil Foglio’s What’s New comic strip, in which “Sex and D&D” was a frequent theme when it ran in Dragon Magazine, but it was never quite actually addressed. Eventually, even Phil and his wife Kaja got tired of all the teaser strips and came out with their own X-rated graphic novel series. We’ll leave finding that as an exercise for the adult reader.
Heart and Sole
This Saturday, do something special with the one you love. Go for a long walk together – It’s good for the heart, if a bit wearing on your soles. If you have no one to love right now, love yourself. Think about all the things that make you a valuable, lovable person and indulge yourself just for a day. Learning to love yourself is a vital part of learning to love others.
Get a balloon; visit a place (nearby or far away) where you’ve never been. See the world through new eyes. It’s ok to enjoy a little chocolate while you’re at it. Just don’t overindulge; save that for Easter. Smile a lot; it will make others happier and you’ll probably see a lot of smiles in return. Feel the love!
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you from Corey, Lori, Moira, Silvia, Lorenzo, Mombero, Master Dragon, Mrs. E. Gulch, and of course The Famous Adventurer!