14 Feb, 2002

Valentine's Day, Love and Freedom


((This message is a little more personal than most. I make no apologies, as I consider the subject of this message a vital part of my own and everyone's spiritual well-being.))

This Valentine's Day, I'm separated from my own special Valentine, my lovely wife Bonnie. Her picture is shown on this page, taken on a trip we made to Florida in 2001. I think you can see why I love her so much. And as beautiful as she is, she is twice as smart, three times as talented, and four times as sweet.

We've been separated since October. We're both in the Air Force and she was sent to Virginia as a consequence of 9.11. I miss her dearly, and Valentine's Day has just made it all the worse.

I've read with some interest lately two new articles about Valentine's. Both of these articles were pulled from the Yahoo News website. (To find them, go to Yahoo News and search on the term Valentine.) Here's one quote: "Hindu nationalists marched to parliament and burned Valentine's Day cards Wednesday to show their opposition to the growing influence of Western culture in India. The 20 nationalists waved religious saffron flags and demanded Valentine's Day celebrations be banned in predominantly Hindu India. They called the cards obscene because they show young couples embracing and kissing."

Last year, this same group entered restaurants Valentine's day, turned over tables and forced many young couples to flee for their safety. I think we've all been exposed to a little too much religious fundamentalism over the past several months. And it really doesn't matter what religion. There are Christian fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists, Jewish fundamentalists and apparently now Hindu fundamentalists. I must say that fundamentalists of all types are responsible for so much of the hatred and violence throughout the world. Look at Israel and Palestine, look at India and Pakistan. The belief that "our way of thinking is the only way" and the use of violence to back up that belief, is the greatest evil facing our world today.

We should all be fighting as hard as we can for the opposite viewpoint. The opposite view can be summed up in one word: FREEDOM. We must fight as hard as we can for freedom. Freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom to pursue happiness, not someone else's idea of what happiness should be, but our own personal ideal. Freedom goes beyond the political realm. Freedom is essential to maximize personal and spiritual development.

If the fundamentalists don't like Valentine's cards…fine, don't buy them…but don't try use intimidation to try and bully others to agree with you. If you don't agree with your neighbors because they happen to be Jewish or Hindu or Moslem, fine…you are free to believe your way…just allow them the right to believe their way. You may be surprised when you get to know them, and you move beyond externalities, how similar your beliefs actually are.

Here's a quote from another, more positive article about Valentine's Day: "As romantics sent cards and red roses, the World Heart Federation said: Valentine's Day lovers have another reason to celebrate today as findings show that being in love and being loved helps to keep us healthy and is particularly good for our hearts. The federation said that many published studies show that psychological risk factors as well as physical ones are involved in heart disease. In one five-year study, 10,000 men at high risk of developing angina (heart disease-related chest pain) were asked, "Does your wife show you her love"? Those who said "Yes" had half the risk of getting angina. Another study had followed 1,400 men and women with coronary artery disease. After five years, 15% of those who were married or had a confidant were dead compared with 50% of those who were unmarried and had no confidant."

I think love is what the Hindu fundamentalists protesting Valentine's Day, and indeed all fundamentalists are missing. If love truly fills your heart…you can't hate your neighbors, no matter what religious or political beliefs they may hold. We must fight for freedom, we must fight for love. And the best way to fight is to start within ourselves. We need to strive to fill our hearts with unconditional love. We need to not judge others, and allow them their freedom. We need to teach our children these things. We need to be examples to those around us.

Several years ago, I hungered to find out more about love. What exactly was it? It was missing from my life. I read many books, but it wasn't until I met my sweet wife, that I discovered the answer. And each day I learn more and more about it. Love has to be experienced. It has to be freely given, and freely received. There are all kinds of love. The love between friends, the love between a parent and a child, or brothers and sisters. But to me, the ultimate love is that between a man and a woman, a true partnership. When it is right, it goes beyond romantic love to a spiritual level. For me, that type love opens the door to understanding the love that God has for all his creations.

I am thankful to God for sending me an angel for me to love. Who showers me with love. Who loves me for who I am. Who helps me understand the importance of this concept. I hope this Valentine's day, you take an extra moment to tell those you love, how you truly feel. Don't let there be any doubt in their mind. Share your love so your understanding may grow, and maybe those of us who feel and understand this love will be able to teach the others what life is really all about. Not hatred and scowls and burning, but love and smiles and creating.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!


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