I’ve never totally bought into Valentine’s Day with its expensive date-nights and emphasis on amorous couplings. There’s plenty to enjoy about the trappings of it; who doesn’t like chocolate and flowers and canoodling? And I definitely don’t want to undermine anyone’s celebration — if you’re in love with a special someone, then by all means go for it! It’s just always seemed a little silly to me to have so much hype around Love as an out-of-the-ordinary, once-a-year thing.
Maybe it’s being the son of a florist that ruined it, leaving me attuned to the fact that it’s the absolute worst time to buy long-stemmed red roses. And I’ve worked in enough restaurants to think twice about the value of the prix fixe menu on Feb 14. I’m perfectly fine with dinner out a few days after the fact, with discounted candies leftover from Walgreens, and flowers once they’ve gone back to fair market prices.
All that being said, I admit that most days of the year, I am an irrepressible romantic, a schmaltzy sentimentalist who wears his heart on his sleeve and croons love songs at the drop of a hat. So maybe I’ll let myself get a little mushy…
A few weeks ago, we stopped in this great bookstore in Truth or Consequences, Xochi’s. It’s one of those wonderfully cluttered shops that smells like old paper and moldering leather, with dust motes twinkling in sunbeams through small grimy windows, specializing in the odd amalgamation of westerns and esoterica that seems to typify rural New Mexico. We spent most of our time browsing the Occult-Spirituality-New Age section, quelle surprise. It was a weird collection, with some delightfully out-there stuff.
A book that I didn’t end up purchasing (because, honestly, it seemed pretty boring) nevertheless had the best title, which I’ve stolen for this week: God and Other Gods.
Written by Ethel Sabin Smith in 1973, the piece was sub-headed: “Essays and Perspectives on Persistent Religious Problems.” I didn’t dig too deep into it at the store, and my subsequent light research on the publication hasn’t uncovered much information at all. I’m sure it’s brilliant, and I probably should have splurged the $3.00.
Anyway, really it was just the title that grabbed me. I find it quite provocative. Because, for me, God and Other Gods isn’t so much a religious problem as it is a spiritual solution. It makes me think about multiplicity & diversity & difference as things that ultimately can connect us rather than divide us, if we let them.
It’s an invitation to “otherness,” welcoming into our hearts that which we are not. Isn’t that really the spirit of Valentine’s Day, the spirit of interpersonal, interbeing, love in general? I think it’s a darned good paradigm whether we’re talking about externalized deities to be worshipped or about our own holy selves, our soulful essences.
I mean, yeah, in one sense we can think of Divine Wholeness as an Absolute Singularity, Oneness. And we sometimes glimpse Unity through shared identity, belonging, sameness or similarity. But life isn’t static, and love isn’t a monolith (or necessarily a monotheism for that matter). Healthily complex relationships move together and apart, breathe in and out, ebb and flow. When I see the God in you, if all I’m seeing is a reflection of the very same God in me… does that really open up my heart a whole lot, or is it just spiritual narcissism? I can kiss the mirror all day long. But I know that the more dynamic, exciting, expansive relationships are those that call me head over heels into the heart of another, an other splendorous, an other divine.
One tradition that I do really like about this holiday is the exchanging of love notes. So we’re going to do that this Sunday, February 16. I hope you’ll all be my Valentines. The God in me recognizes and adores all the Other Gods in all of you. Sure, maybe we’ll all eventually merge into some unimaginable Oneness in the end, whatever. For now, it’s so much more fun to flirt and dance with each other, to bump and discover and grow with each other.
I can’t wait to be with you. You really are something else. Service at 10:00 at Maple Street Dance Space. XO, Drew
© 2020 Drew Groves