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happy valentine’s day

February 14, 2013

Valentine’s Day often makes me think of Skinny Puppy’s “Love in Vein.” At first glance, a song that’s essentially about shooting up heroin may not seem very appropriate. But if you think about it, it’s actually quite fitting considering that what we call love may very well be the result of a complex array of chemical reactions in the brain; and morphine, the active ingredient in opiates such as heroin, has a chemical structure similar to that of endorphins, endogenous opioid peptides that are produced by the brain when one’s in the throes of love, and which help to relieve pain and produce feelings of pleasure and well-being. Heroin, endorphins, it’s all the same really.

In contrast to my rather vulgar, materialistic ruminations about love, however, I also have a more idealistic appreciation of what we call love, which is heavily inspired by my readings of Plato. Human culture has long celebrated the concept of love, Eros. And while many today only think to celebrate the conventional or ‘appetitive’ aspects of Eros, such as romantic love and sex, there are other, more refined aspects of Eros to consider as well—aspects that can transcend the heat of human passions and stimulate the rational part of the mind to reach for ever greater philosophical heights.

From an appreciation of common beauty can arise an apprehension of the form of beauty itself. The celebration of erotic love can be transformed into the love of wisdom, of truth. Each appetitive aspect acting as a stepping stone to the rational—an idea that’s beautifully illustrated in one of my favourite dialogues from Plato, the Symposium, which I find myself returning to again and again, like some kind of philosophical heroin.

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