When I was thirteen years old living in upstate New York, Friday nights were often spent at my uncle’s quasi-gothic, lagoon green house to watch black ‘n white scary movies. With popcorn’s aroma swirling in the air, relatives gathered in the living room, and lights were sequentially turned-off to create an eerie mood. My older cousin would increase tension as he’d silently roam the room mimicking a creature’s erratic movements, flashing gargantuan shadowy figures on the wall. Precisely at 11:30 pm, WSYR TV-9 opened with the appearance of Baron Daemon, the Dracula-esque host of the “fright-night” feature. In the period of 1962-67 when that show aired, we’d be thoroughly entertained by the original masterful horror films like Frankenstein (1931), The Wolf Man (1941), and Dracula (1931). These early creature films were tame compared to today’s high-tech monsters, except add the daily fear induced by the cold war and monthly atomic bomb survival drills in K-12. The Friday night ritual is remembered most for family assurance that “everything’s going to be fine”.
Somewhere along the path of graduating from college, budding a career, and romantic pursuits, I lost interest in the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and that horror movie genre. However, fast forward to The Shape of Water, the 2017 film with 13 Oscar nominations, including “Best Picture”. While I would have preferred this controversial film had not sensationalized sexual content, it’s essentially at its core an exotic, romantic fantasy about ephemeral connection. In this fable, a petite, mute female custodian and an amphibious, non-speaking, crusty-thick skinned humanoid creature from the Amazon discover an uncanny communication; eventually bonding in allegorical bliss. The film’s denouement is eloquently captured in a closing poetic narrative:
“Unable to perceive the shape of you, I find you all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with your love. It humbles my heart, for you are everywhere.” As with varied interpretations of this film noir, this enchanting description is symbolic of ubiquitous, divine love. A place all souls yearn to be.
There's an intrinsic desire for human connection. Authentic connections with family, friends, and the world community that weave purpose for this pilgrimage. It wasn’t that long ago, school, church, workplace and the fitness center were the social gathering spots for natural connection, often leading to meaningful relationships. In a far less trusting world today, there’s fewer opportunities for random connection and friendship. With the arrival of the Internet, there’s been a quantum shift in social behavior. Online dating sites, Facebook, and other algorithms in cyber-space have replaced the “face-to-face” connection. Lurking on the horizon is A.I., which will promise to “connect us perfectly”. Unfortunately, these high-tech vehicles to connect people are flawed from the beginning.
Many people on Facebook describe their significant relationship as “complicated”. Even in the quest to embrace someone special, there’s acknowledgement of how challenging it is to have a stable and mutually satisfying life with a spouse or significant other. Reliable data on current U.S. divorce rates from the American Community Survey reveals a continuing and dramatic increase in the risk of divorce since 1990. The rise of divorce is especially evident for older adults (ages 55 to 64), with statistical quadrupling over the past three decades. While the literature is divided on the current rate of divorce in the U.S., there’s growing consensus it hovers at 50%. An expected outcome of divorce is a drop in traditional marriage. With 57% of adults getting married ten years ago, only 51% are getting married now. Last year, only 9% of 18-to-24 year olds in the U.S. were married, compared to 45% in 1960. The trend is to cohabitate, to avoid the catastrophe of divorce. Obviously, finding someone to share life with is clearly “complicated”. Fleeting may be descriptively more accurate. What explains the ineffectual human ability to connect “for better, for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to have and to cherish, as long as we both shall live”?
This blog was purposely published on Valentine’s Day, the second anniversary of my website, LovesIntention. Valentine is the Roman saint of the 3rd century that is commemorated on February 14th. Throughout history, saints have lived and taught sacrificial love. It bears remembering on Valentine’s Day that the occasion be marked by loving others without regard to self. Chuck Swindoll’s book, “Improving Your Serve”, eloquently recounts a metaphorical story for loving intentionally from the heart:
Little Chad was a shy quiet young fella. One day he came home and told his mother he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, I wish he wouldn’t do that! She had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly
made thirty-five valentines. Valentine’s Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement! He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them up warm and nice with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he would be disappointed … maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt her to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines. Maybe none at all. That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. When she heard the children outside she looked out the window. Sure enough here they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened she choked back the tears. “Mommy has some warm cookies and milk for you.” But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow, and all he could say was:
“Not a one … not a one.” Her heart sank. And then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”
Chad wasn’t concerned for himself. It didn’t occur to him if his classmates gave him any valentines or not. His focus was giving, serving his classmates with a token of his love for them.
Connecting with true-self is to know the spiritual love of God, Creator, Source, Heavenly Father. Identity, fulfillment, and the riches of peace and purpose lie within the sanctity of the soul. Enlightenment, I AM. Craving connection through worldly treasures of self-indulgence manifests the fiery hell of pretenders, known by destructive behaviors that spiral to physical and spiritual death.
Fundamental to my faith is the inspired word of God, assembled in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Through parables, commandments, illustrations, and the teachings of Jesus Christ, we’re instructed to connect with love. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
Crave connection this Valentine’s Day, and every day, giving sacrificial love that’s vibrant, audacious, and generous. Love never fails. Happy Valentine's Day!