Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2010

Someone sent this to me by email a few years ago.  It makes a lot of sense to me, so I thought I would share it with you.  I have tried to find contact details for Gary Hull on the internet to ask him whether or not this is copyrighted and if he would mind my posting it.  I can’t find contact details for him (there are about a million Gary Hulls), so I’m going to go ahead and if he objects I’ll buy him a beer and take it down.  Actually, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind—it’s a win for everyone: for him because his ideas are read by at least two more people, for you because you are exposed to his wisdom, and for me because I’ve got a blog post without having to come up with a thousand words of my own.  So here it is.  Enjoy.

The Meaning of Valentine’s Day: Love is Selfish
by Gary Hull (February 14, 2005)

Every Valentine’s Day a certain philosophic crime is perpetrated. Actually, it is committed year-round, but its destructiveness is magnified on this holiday. The crime is the propagation of a widely accepted falsehood: the idea that love is selfless.

Love, we are repeatedly taught, consists of self-sacrifice. Love based on self-interest, we are admonished, is cheap and sordid. True love, we are told, is altruistic. But is it?

Imagine a Valentine’s Day card which takes this premise seriously. Imagine receiving a card with the following message: “I get no pleasure from your existence. I obtain no personal enjoyment from the way you look, dress, move, act or think. Our relationship profits me not. You satisfy no sexual, emotional or intellectual needs of mine. You’re a charity case, and I’m with you only out of pity. Love, XXX.”

Needless to say, you would be indignant to learn that you are being “loved,” not for anything positive you offer your lover, but–like any recipient of alms–for what you lack. Yet that is the perverse view of love entailed in the belief that it is self-sacrificial.

Genuine love is the exact opposite. It is the most selfish experience possible, in the true sense of the term: it benefits your life in a way that involves no sacrifice of others to yourself or of yourself to others.

To love a person is selfish because it means that you value that particular person, that he or she makes your life better, that he or she is an intense source of joy–to you. A “disinterested” love is a contradiction in terms. One cannot be neutral to that which one values. The time, effort and money you spend on behalf of someone you love are not sacrifices, but actions taken because his or her happiness is crucially important to your own. Such actions would constitute sacrifices only if they were done for a stranger–or for an enemy. Those who argue that love demands self-denial must hold the bizarre belief that it makes no personal difference whether your loved one is healthy or sick, feels pleasure or pain, is alive or dead.

It is regularly asserted that love should be unconditional, and that we should “love everyone as a brother.” We see this view advocated by the “non-judgmental” grade-school teacher who tells his class that whoever brings a Valentine’s Day card for one student must bring cards for everyone. We see it in the appalling dictum of “Hate the sin, but love the sinner”–which would have us condemn death camps but send Hitler a box of Godiva chocolates. Most people would agree that having sex with a person one despises is debased. Yet somehow, when the same underlying idea is applied to love, people consider it noble.

Love is far too precious to be offered indiscriminately. It is above all in the area of love that egalitarianism ought to be repudiated. Love represents an exalted exchange–a spiritual exchange–between two people, for the purpose of mutual benefit.

You love someone because he or she is a value–a selfish value to you, as determined by your standards–just as you are a value to him or her.

It is the view that you ought to be given love unconditionally–the view that you do not deserve it any more than some random bum, the view that it is not a response to anything particular in you, the view that it is causeless–which exemplifies the most ignoble conception of this sublime experience.

The nature of love places certain demands on those who wish to enjoy it. You must regard yourself as worthy of being loved. Those who expect to be loved, not because they offer some positive value, but because they don’t–i.e., those who demand love as altruistic duty–are parasites. Someone who says “Love me just because I need it” seeks an unearned spiritual value–in the same way that a thief seeks unearned wealth. To quote a famous line from The Fountainhead: “To say ‘I love you,’ one must know first how to say the ‘I ‘”

Valentine’s Day–with its colorful cards, mouth-watering chocolates and silky lingerie–gives material form to this spiritual value. It is a moment for you to pause, to ignore the trivialities of life–and to celebrate the selfish pleasure of being worthy of someone’s love and of having found someone worthy of yours.


August 21, 2009

There is a phenomenon known as sensitisation whereby a person who has previously had no problem with, say, eating shellfish suddenly experiences a severe allergic reaction to it. The same thing is happening to me, but with a word rather than anything I eat. The word is “massive”. I hear it all the time, almost always used inappropriately. Listening to radio news this morning, I learned how a former senior politician had suffered a massive heart attack, there are massive fires putting residences at risk, there is massive relief now that the massive transport strike is over. Between the news and the weather came a commercial for Cape Union Mart where, apparently, massive savings are to be had, then we were informed of a massive cold front due to make landfall tomorrow. Is this a “fad” word that has just come into vogue and is being flogged to death, or has it always been so misused and I have only recently started to notice it? I have news for any media person who reads this: massive does not mean big. Look it up.


Caster Semenya winning the 800m Gold Medal in Berlin

Caster Semenya winning the 800m Gold Medal in Berlin

The controversy over poor Caster Semenya’s sex has shone the spotlight on an elephant (well, perhaps not an elephant, but at least a medium-sized rhino) in the room. Caster is an eighteen year old South African athlete who won the world championship gold medal for the womens 800m yesterday. She has a deep voice, some facial hair and a well-developed musculature, so she is being accused of not being a proper woman by some, others baldly state that she is a man. This, of course, is nonsense. The fact of the matter is that the media confuse sex and gender. What is at issue here is Caster’s sex, not her gender. She may exhibit some masculine attributes, but her sex is female and she is therefore eligible to compete as a woman. Take a look at the accompanying photo. I, for one, would not like to meet any of these women in a dark alley, but that does not alter the fact that they are, nonetheless, women. Caster’s mom, Dorkus, is even more masculine than her daughter; in fact she makes Arnold Schwartzenegger look slightly pansyish. Sex is a binary variable, either male or female, gender is more a continuum, a mixture of masculine and feminine attributes. The media confuse these two things because they are so coy they blush to their roots even to think about sex, much less say the actual word.


Talking about binary variables: either something is unique (one of a kind) or it isn’t. Please, please stop saying that so-and-so is “very unique”, it makes no sense because it is nonsense. Have you ever heard of anyone being “slightly dead”?

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Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.