After a wee sabbatical from writing The Chat, I’m happy to be back.

If you have managed to venture out to the shops during the course of the past few weeks, you would no doubt have had your kinesphere invaded by bobbing helium-filled foil hearts anchored by an assortment of chocolate hearts, red roses or fluffy teddy bears with heart-shaped navels.

The month of love, with its climax on the 14th, Valentine’s Day, is a tradition with cultural, religious and commercial origins. It’s a time where you are encouraged to lavish your lover or the focus of your romantic aspirations with gifts or expressions of love.

But as with most traditional celebrations, the machinations of commercial campaigns can turn even something as beautiful as saying I love you into a cliché that tramples on sincerity and meaningfulness.

You could argue that the February fare is merely frivolous froth, still leaving us with 11 other months in which to kindle or rekindle the real deal. And where’s the harm in having fun, albeit costly for some while commercially festive for others. With keenly honed awareness, you are always free to step out of the madness and align yourself with your truth and meaning, where evidence of such will infuse all your relationships.

But froth aside, true love holds true power, and pivotal to this is freedom, freedom to create your own life, freedom to be. And I cannot recall a time more compelling than now to exercise the power of love globally. Despite being united in our focus on the pandemic, views and beliefs about it have torn the world apart in oppositional hostility. As the rift widens, abuse is hurled from side to side as each attempts to out-vilify the other.

Despite the accusations, both sides of the argument follow science. There are medical scientists who promote the mainstream media narrative and there are medical scientists who oppose it. There is no lack of scientific research on either side and nor is it the first time that conflict has arisen within the scientific fraternity. Yet the weaponisation of science, the shaming and gaslighting continue to ride the waves of social media. I’ve even seen requests posted on FaceBook to those who hold opposing viewpoints from the request’s author, to unfriend themselves! I remember when my son yelled, “I’m not your friend anymore!” at the age of four years old.

What is happening to our collective consciousness?

I too have felt myself slip into the jaws of anger, fuelled to retaliate. However, opinions and remarks drenched in venom do little more than propagate more seeds of venom. They arise out of the pit of fear – the home of anger, anxiety, hatred and so on. Both sides of the debate are fearful. Perhaps for different reasons, but fearful they are.

But as with any dispute, peaceful resolution does not come from judging or attacking each other but rather from a desire to learn and understand more about other viewpoints. Building a bridge requires an open and curious mind instead of a closed and defensive one.

As the Sufi poet Rumi wrote:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Peace also requires an appreciation of diversity and an acceptance of differences. Everyone has the right to think, to question and to formulate thoughts, which remain as the property of their respective thinkers. And in that adjective lies yet another crucial element for our peace on earth – respect. Respect for each other’s beliefs and thoughts. It’s a birthright to think for yourself. And it would be magnanimous for each one of us to play our part in fostering a safe and accepting environment in which thoughts are not deemed to represent a person’s whole identity, to be abused and disrespected or worse.

What would love do?

And now on a lighter note. In Japan and South Korea, the women give men gifts on Valentine’s Day and on the 14th March, the men return the gesture. But South Korea has a third celebration on the 14th April, called Black Day, where single friends gather to eat noodles and celebrate being single! (Apparently the name does not come from a twist of irony but from the noodle dish which has a black sauce.)

Love – the greatest power, the freedom to create and the strongest cohesive force. Let’s not block it from our life. It starts with the self.

True love of self
love of all