On Valentine's Day, we celebrate love: an experience of special closeness to another person. But love has meanings that extend beyond the personal.
Love is also a powerful force that changes people's lives. On this Valentine's Day, we might celebrate personal love while also committing to the love that calls us to reach beyond ourselves with compassion and care.
"Falling in love" brings one person to value another. What if we extend that valuing to those to whom we are not personally close?
Falling in love brings an individual to feel connected to another. Those in love find that their fates are intertwined. What if we experience that all are intertwined, that what happens to one person affects others too?
Falling in love brings me to want to do what's best for the person I love. What if we strive to do what is best for the whole of the human community?
The congregation I serve has committed itself to "30 Days of Love," a period beginning with the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who urged creation of what he called the "beloved community," a society based on a foundation of justice, respect, compassion: that is, love.
Between King's birthday and Valentine's Day, the Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalists have considered what it might mean to commit ourselves to the deep love King promoted. This is a love that looks for what is right and true in human relationships - and encourages us to extend love to the whole of the human community.
I have heard falling in love described as a kind of "temporary insanity." Those in love see the world through a different lens. There is beauty they had not anticipated, meaning in what had before seemed ordinary, hope for what this relationship might bring.
But I disagree with the assessment of falling in love as a form of mental delusion. Perhaps, instead, it's "temporary sanity," a glimpse of what human beings can be at our best. Granted, we can't live in this state for very long (too exhausting). But the experience can serve as a guide for what we strive to be.
The personal love Valentine's Day celebrates is among the deepest experiences a person can know. But it need not be limited to those few individuals I might personally love. For love can also be a transforming experience, a way to change the world.
The writer is Minister for Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalists.