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valentine’s day musings

I don’t know about you, but I feel life is so serious these days. It’s all so deep and distressing and we don’t know how to deal with the misery in the world: the general mess of humanity, the lack of true political leaders, earthquakes, melting icebergs, tigers roaming around Johannesburg, but more significantly for us South Africans in general, whether there is any more hope

Is it just me?

In the hope of getting back into a writing routine, I thought I’d write a little on love. It’s Valentine’s Day after all and even if it’s meaning is controversial – distorted by the non- capitalist cynics who baulk at the gifting of cards and buying of flowers – just the idea of this day feels good.

But even as I start writing, I can feel the edges of doubt hopping around my head, fluttering around my heart and moving into my hands as I type so that what you will read here is not how this writing flowed. I have backspaced, hesitated and deleted while I decide what it is I want to say, and how to write it.  

Because, really, let’s be honest, no-one really knows what to do about love. We think we know love but we don’t know what to do with it.

On Sunday I attended a half day silent yoga retreat. The theme, self- love. Just the thought of it felt a little cringey. I can’t explain why. Indulgent? Unnecessary? Like getting hair colour at the hairdresser when I usually do it myself.  Ja, you can probably detect that sometimes.

Part of it included some journalling and some questions. The meaning of ‘self’ and ‘love’ and how to define these terms. Truth be told, I struggled. I wrote something like ‘self’ = individual, unique, one of a kind and ‘love’ = empathy, forgiveness, kindness, no criticism.

How hilarious! I couldn’t even define the meaning of this common term for myself. Forgiveness? For what? For being me?   

Google just reminded me- an intense feeling of deep affection, like or enjoy very much.     

Oh well, there you go. Just the confirmation I needed! An intense feeling of deep affection for myself I do not have. Ja sure, there are parts of me I like (that was the second question in the journaling session and my answer was my feet and then my determination, curiosity) but in general, I don’t know how much I really love about myself. I mean come on!  Do you love yourself? And if you did and it showed, most people would say, geez she really loves herself!  

It’s a no- win situation, I think. But then, what do I know?

Yesterday I was reminded about a book I had been lent by a friend on my return from India towards the end of last year and picked it up to start browsing it again.  This time I was in the mood (that’s the thing about books). Fascinating read, entitled The Fall of the Human Intellect (Al Parthasarathy) and the basic premise that humanity has stopped thinking, reasoning and judging. That the loss of intellect (as opposed to intelligence, which is acquired from external sources, rendering one knowledgeable) has left humans with stress, depression and disease and a world infested with vandalism, militancy and terrorism. Humanity now faces an urgent need to rehabilitate, reconstruct the fallen intellect and now is the time to rise and regain its sovereign status.

But how I ask? What you mean, little old me must do this alone?

The chapter entitled ‘The mind wreaks havoc’ explains what has happened to the ungoverned intellect. In a nutshell, our indiscriminate preoccupation of likes and dislikes ( we like to indulge but dislike the results) our worry and anxiety, our desires but lack of really knowing what we want and our attachment to things is destroying our peace and harmony.

Attachment is actually the pollution of love. When love is vitiated by self- centredness, selfishness it turns into attachment.

Attachment – selfishness = love

Love + selfishness = attachment

The vital role of the intellect requires that we ascertain our state of it and strengthen it so that we are not at the mercy of our inadequate minds.  We need to evaluate everything around us and if possible, correct it but if not, we must learn to live with it otherwise we will remain disappointed and stressed.

Here’s a lovely story in the book about a true episode that took place in Chennai in India in 1939.

In a scorching hot and humid day, a teacher, noticing the discomfort of her pupils, instead of remaining inside, encouraged them outside to stand in the hot sun.

‘What a beautiful summer’ he exclaimed, much to the amazement of his pupils.

‘The beauty is the heat, just as the beauty of winter is the biting cold and the beauty of the monsoon the pouring rain. But you want summer to be cold and winter to be warm and the monsoon to be dry! The African’s beauty is his dark skin and the Englishman his fair skin but the African wants to be fair and the Englishman tanned.’

It’s this madness that happens. People wanting something other than what they have causing mental agitation, and stress.

The author advises thus:

Therefore you must learn and look at persons, beings and things, environments and situations as they are and not what you would like them to be. You would then be able to appreciate the beauty in everything, everybody, everywhere. At office, you will admire the foul temper in your boss and at home you will adore the nagging of your spouse!  

I’ve got a long way to go in implementing all of this. I wish I could get away from the blunder of love as distinguished from attachment. But it seems that what most people claim is personal, preferential attachment and perhaps I am no different.

But my challenge to you, this Valentine’s Day, is to join me in this task. Join me in starting the process of thinking and practice of observation and using our intellect to wake up and save the world with LOVE, pure LOVE!

In the meantime, look at my beautiful gift I received today! I will not get attached and will love it just as it is! Mainly because I am not very good with keeping plants alive (it may have to be saved) and the chocolate will be devoured pretty soon (not only by me!)

The dog I’m afraid, I’m pretty attached to. But love deeply and selfishly.

‘Til soon I hope with a not so serious blog. I wish I was as funny as I used to be. It’s been a while.

2 thoughts on “valentine’s day musings”

  1. Huh. Never thought about love that much. I don’t experience depression much, though I can be quite an angry guy at times, mostly because things are often out of my control. But even then, I keep this anger under control instead of lashing out.

    The final thing is that people have to be like me if they wish to analyze themselves and things going on around them. In my experience, not many people have the mental capacity for that.

  2. Thanks for engaging Tanish! I think humans in general have much to learn about how to love but agree that not many have the mental capacity ( interest?) to engage with it too much! The ‘out of control thing’ is also hard too…

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