February 7, 2002 -- Call it a tribute to the individuality of human taste. How rarely one person feels a strong attraction to another. The phenomenon is so infrequent that we recall, back to our school days, those that made our heart flutter—the moments in time that stand still, during which we experience cinema-like captivation.

One’s life experiences result, understandably, in preferences for a certain type of person. Love is a theme universally trumpeted but, by necessity, individually understood. Wherever a discerning mind ponders romance, a unique image of the ideal will materialize. The discovery of that ideal is exhilaration like no other.

In light of the depressingly high divorce rate, however, it’s clear that the route to romance is more easily mapped than traveled. How often do we cast aside our better judgment in fear of turning away companionship? People mistake the relationship as an opportunity to form the person, when it is the characters that must determine the success of the play.
A healthy bond can act as a lantern, illuminating life’s landscape. Terrain previously left shaded and unexplored by loneliness or trepidation brightens in the company of a trustworthy partner. There is no substitute for seeing one’s own life-view alive in another person, as John Keats penned in his poem “Solitude”:
“Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind, / Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d, / Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be / Almost the highest bliss of human-kind, / When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.”
This quest for an island-for-two is not surrender to sameness, but rather a respect for the ideal. There are those we tolerate, those we like, and the special few for whom we reserve our deepest affection. If we don’t endeavor to create the sort of world we crave for ourselves, including finding those with whom we wish to share it, we sentence ourselves to flat lives.
A life charted by thrilling peaks and curious offshoots starts with the discovery of what is best in things and people. A wonderful element of Valentine’s Day is its appreciation of these sorts of distinctions. One cannot love blindly without neutering the dignity of the word. To pretend an equal, unwavering fondness for all mankind is to assume that any one person is a clone of the others. Valentine’s Day applauds the person who says, “I love you because I value the finest, and because I've seen the rest and know the difference."
True affection requires integrity, a commitment to judging honestly the nature of the attraction. Discern the traits you hold dear, and remain true to them. Intelligence, sophistication, creativity...such traits cannot co-exist with ignorance and brutishness. Treat yourself to the luxury—and maturity—of choosing the best.
Discarding the weight of loneliness at first opportunity, when the partner is but a shell of one’s ideal, is an empty prospect. The body cannot force the motions of a relationship when the fuels of respect and endearment are absent. The trials and discipline of the search for the ideal can be difficult, but the reward is that eventual moment of implacable contentment in the relationship, knowing…it was worth the wait!
At the highest level of rapture, love can be neither universal nor halfway. It is a wonderfully singular, filling experience; a release of sorts, in that thoughts left invisible for lack of an audience suddenly find a mirror-image in another soul. It restores our benevolent sense of the world, the sense that no matter what else may occur there is a base of goodness in life. In a world recently torn asunder by violence and ugliness we struggle to define, the soulmate is a foundation for our happiest outlook.


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