A spectre haunts Valentine’s Day or V-Day: the spectre of fate. Cupid, with much cupidity, seems to decide whether our love is destined for joy or misery, ascendancy or decline. No day of the year encompasses the potential for ecstatic heights or dour doldrums more than February 14th. Relationships are made or broken by what transpires on this day, or so it can seem. It’s as though our life appears as invisible parallel lines that meet on the horizon and “represent infinity” in the vanishing point of a painting. Our selves feel like lines that either bend into a unison of mutual embrace or diverge sharply like two magnets each showing their repulsive sides (Ancell, online). V-Day brings out the heights and depths in any of us, especially if we are seeking to outdo our past efforts for our beloveds. The day can also teach us about progress toward success and descent toward failure in our studies.
History and Meaning: It’s Personal
Valentines Day can mean the best of times or it can yield the worst of times. Meaning in terms of love means more than words and yet, even though meaning surpasses linguistic bounds, if we can say it like Hallmark we probably make outstanding V-Day cards.
Jacques Derrida, in his survey of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 18th Century conception of the origin of human language, wrote that “he would like to say that progress, however ambivalent, occurs either toward the worse, or toward the better, either for better or for worse” (Derrida, 249). And yet, faced with the messy reality of reality, Rousseau is compelled to admit that while “conventional language belongs only to man (sic) that is why man makes progress, whether for good of ill, and why the animals do not at all” (Derrida, 249). The trick for us, then, is to find a language of love that we excel at in the same manner that we choose an academic discipline that piques our interest. Derrida makes short work of this distinction where progress travels in at least two essential directions at once: “Rousseau describes what he does not wish to say: that ‘progress takes place both for the worse and for the better. At the same time. Which annuls eschatology and teleology…” (Derrida, 249). Wherever we come from and wherever we go depends on our own interpretations and the maps we project as we embody our destinies. V-Day depends above all on us in the same way as do our studies at AU.
Truth and Destination: How Love of Studying Can Make Us a Better Lover
Eschatology is the science of the apocalypse, or end of worlds and viewpoints, and is familiar in feeling to that dreaded slippery slope as a relationship begins to fall apart or as we fear disappointing a love one on the 14th. Eschatology, like any ‘ology, is a discourse about something using a set of core beliefs. Like all discourse it takes the form of a Logos or logic compiling meaningful words based on the subject. In this case the words are about love, and they need not be frightful—they probably best not be. After all, love doesn’t have to incorporate fear or dread, it only will if we’re getting too eschatological.
We might grasp for the right words to write on a card, or reach for the perfect flowers to create a beautiful bouquet and yet still not overcome a sense that we are losing our footing on love. But fear not! Pensiveness over the perfect V-Day rarely makes or breaks a romance. It’s like taking a few days away from our textbooks; we don’t fail when out ambitions ebbs and flows, we fail when our whole goal drifts listlessly into a sea of procrastination. Remember, from an eschatological point of view, decline, dissipation, and disaster lurk inexorably as the pull of gravity. We don’t have to look at life or love or our studies in such a negative light.
The second word Derrida uses, teleology, is more provisional in its outcome. Teleology is the science of time-based outcomes or destiny immanent (not imminent, but immanent as in always-already built into the universe). However, teleology, like eschatology, implies a destiny built into a design, be it causal or even divine. The concept of destiny here simply means that things work out as they should, or at least in a straight line that implies progress to a good outcome.
Progress can seem more like an abstract law than the magical mystery of love. Aristotle, for instance, believed that because a rock falls over a cliff and onto the ground (and who hasn’t felt like dead weight when their Valentine’s plans fall flat on their face) it must belong at the lowest point it can find. This process, called entelechy, illustrates an induced teleological outcome. Give the slightest nudge and a determined course of events will follow. Yet, we make our lives out of our actions based on beliefs, and not only in a stodgy, inanimate matter. In the land of teleology there is always hope for a brighter future; if we are optimistic about our Valentine’s Day endeavours based on belief that certain results will arise from particular actions, then we’re holding hope for a positive teleological outcome.
Loving the Journey
We arrive here at a truth mutual to both love and AU; we control our destiny in how we interpret our destinations. Perhaps the discovery of personal meaning is inseparable from becoming a good lover; probably, if we can apply ourselves to a goal then that makes us more attentive people. Any fool in love can give their partner what s/he seems to desire for a day but it takes a deeper knowledge of context, what Max Weber termed verstehen, to achieve meaningful relations. Verstehen comprises methods we use “to understand, perceive, know, and comprehend the nature and significance of a phenomenon.” V-Day is a chance to demonstrate our knowledge of what truly matters to our beloved, and how our lives are joined by common contextual evaluations.
Yet, there are some realities that we just can’t transcend. If we’re not poetic then we best write our love poems in jest. And if we’re not avid shoppers then finding that perfect something for a loved one is assuredly unlikely. And sometimes, hey, you just have to be lucky to be good and good to get lucky. Like adult education, a good relationship typically is a year-round vocation. So even if your act of kindness or love is simply tying someone’s shoe, remember that it’s pulling our best selves up by our bootstraps that brings us courage and success at AU. It’s the small successes that add up to monumental achievements.
Which way does Cupid’s arrow point? It’s a mystery! As we look back at our AU journey, we can certainly imagine our future self impressed with the trials and tribulations we’ve had in our love affair with lifelong learning. Maybe a box of chocolates sent to our future self would be in order! Truth is, Valentine’s Day often includes harsh and happy memories in equal part. School will be over for us one day, and so will our cosmically brief time on earth. Relationships too have their end, so lets make the most of every instant with loved ones and let’s treat every study hour as a gift giving us an opportunity to shine.