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I suppose I should talk about love.

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It’s Valentine’s Day. I’ll save you the bitter rant about this being a holiday invented by Hallmark since you can probably find enough of that in every other blog on the Internet. All holidays are invented and promoted by someone working some angle, so more power to the florists, greeting card companies, and chocolate manufacturers who are raking it in today.

A friend commented last night that she was disappointed to see fellow critical thinkers getting worked up over the holiday. I’ve heard this sort of comment a lot lately — skeptics should be better than holidays/sex/religion/fart jokes/et cetera. People seem to have a Platonic vision of the Ideal Skeptic, and those who don’t live up to that ideal don’t get to wear the brand name. Religion seems to be the key point, as many argue that the Ideal Skeptic should not believe in fairy tales. Well, of course not. To me, the Ideal Skeptic shouldn’t believe in anything without evidence, and that includes invisible daddies in the clouds, listening to the prayers of a football team down six points at half-time while ignoring the screams of dying babies. It’s all bogus. So as a very wise Nick Cave once sang, I don’t believe in an interventionist god.

But does that mean I’m disappointed in the person who believes in weird things like religion? Does it mean that person can’t think critically about other things? I have a number of stupid things that I hold on to despite the fact that I know they’re stupid.

For instance, there’s the fact that, like Nick Cave (one day I’ll start quoting the classic philosophers just to throw you off), I believe in love. It’s kind of silly to say, really — I don’t make a habit of establishing that I believe in other feelings like happiness or boredom. I know that I’m completely controlled by my own hormones. I know that with just a tad less or more testosterone, I’d be an entirely different person (for an interesting look at this, find the testosterone episode of This American Life). But I don’t want to know about the chemical process of love, and I don’t want to know that it’s all in my head. I just want to enjoy feeling it.

Not very skeptical of me. After all, if I concentrated hard enough on the physiological root of “love,” maybe it would suck less when someone says he loves me but he needs to leave me. Maybe it would make it simpler to understand why I fall in love so easily, and to understand why I’ve fallen out of love so randomly. Maybe it would help me know why I currently love a dozen different people in a dozen different ways. But for now, I’m just content to let it be the indescribable phenomenon that makes me smile when I think of someone, that makes me get on buses and planes just to be near someone, that makes me cry more than I should.

So here’s to Saint Valentine, who may or may not have been some guy who refused to give up his stupid belief in an invisible cloud daddy just before having his head chopped off. May we all purposely forget that silliness in favor of naked winged Cupid babies shooting love arrows into the cold hearts of random strangers.

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5 Comments

  1. Great post. I have never gotten into Valentine’s day. I’m not big on most holidays and I guess I was never a romantic. But I do like Eve Ensler’s version of the holiday, V-day. I guess the V stands for vagina (Eve’s the author of The Vagina Monologues), or perhaps it stands for violence because the goal of V-day is to stop violence against women and children. Whether you get warm fuzzies, roses, or chocolates on Valentine’s day, or even if the whole idea hits you like a wet towel, V-day is a way to make the day less superficial and more meaningful.

    http://www.vday.org/main.html

  2. Whatever you decide to label something does not change the specific element itself. Calling the outcome of combining various chemicals "love", does not state that one doesn't understand what the source of the feeling is. Being Skeptical simply requires one to question the source and the nature of something, not to abandon all enjoyment of the thing itself.

  3. I wrote my senior thesis on the meaning/physiological basis of love. I learned what the different stages of physical love are, all the chemicals associated with them and how they make you feel. And then my boyfriend dumped me. Trust me, it didn’t make it any better.

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