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NOTIONS: On Valentine's Day, wishing you less war, more love

February 13, 2006

AT T E N T I O N READERS! We interrupt your regularly scheduled life to bring you this special emotional bulletin.

For one day-and one day only-you're encouraged to ease off the throttle of an existence so anxietyridden that Americans last year ordered up 42 million prescriptions for sleeping pills just to bring themselves down from their insomnia-inducing days.

So if you've been violently protesting cartoons portraying Muhammad as, well, violent, you can use this day to ditch that Dutch embassy and practice the peace the prophet actually professed.

If you've been tirelessly torching Alabama churches, this day provides a wonderful way to lay down that gas can, stow those matches and check out an uncharred chapel near you for the benefits bundled inside.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, during these magical 24 hours, you too can hit the pause button on the perils of tax preparation. You can omit from your mind that overbearing boss. You can tune out those traumatized tots, that nagging neighbor, those sanctimonious sales calls.

In short, you can set aside whatever worries, angers, troubles, torments or terrorizes you, and focus, for just a day, on:

Love.

That's right, my friends: love.

Because this Tuesday, we honor not the birth, crucifixion or resurrection of one man of one faith in the face of unholy oppression.

We salute not the brave souls, living and dead, who've defended us from humanity's hate and violence.

We mark not our nation's rebellion from tyranny, its bombs bursting in air, or those who've perpetuated our liberty against enemies foreign and domestic.

Instead, we celebrate the spirit of St. Valentine.

And whether you do the deed by cuddling your cat, snuggling with your soul mate, remembering mom, dancing with dad, humming a love song or just marveling at that magnificent mug of yours in the mirror, you-yes you-can awaken on Feb. 14, make like that old Toyota ad and experience that "Oh, what a feeling" feeling that only love can bring.

And what, you ask, makes yours truly such a sap? What qualifies this scribe to write of such a lofty ideal as love in the unlikely confines of a business journal?

Only this:

That since last Valentine's Day, I have loved and lost, and lived to love again.

On the former count, I speak not of the "Dating Game," Neil Sedaka, "Breaking-Up-Is-Hard-To-Do" kind of denouement. Nor do I mean the broken-promise, "Iregret-that-vow" divorce kind of demise (though I've done that, too).

Instead, I reference the irretrievable, death-do-us-part, no-one-lives-happilyever-after finale to a rare and remarkable romance.

And having suffered such a grim ending to my fairy tale, it saddens me this Valentine's Day to see love so frequently forsaken, so often overshadowed, so tacitly taken for granted.

It saddens me to see two people who've not only fallen from love's graces, but who've also suffered through the anger and insult of a hurtful parting.

It saddens me to see allegedly loving people of faith pillory those who love differently than them.

It saddens me when someone who loves deeply is beaten to death-or nearly so-for merely loving another soul.

It saddens me to hear of a young woman wracked by uncontrollable sobs as her lover heads off to fight a war born of hate. It saddens me when young lovers fail to act on their feelings for fear their love might, someday, possibly, maybe not end well. It saddens me when longtime lovers are too busy, too frazzled, or too uncaring to buy a card, send flowers or plan a little romance. It saddens me when parents are too busy to kiss their little ones good night. It saddens me when they're too weary to kiss one another good night. It saddens me when lovers roll over without holding hands, or saying "Sweet dreams," or whispering, ever so softly, "I love you."

Mostly, it saddens me that we spend so much more time and energy on fear, and hate, and violence, and greed, and envy, and jealousy, and power, and money, and glory than we do on love.

When I was a kid, I used to watch protestors on TV. They carried signs that said "Make Love, Not War." They sang songs like "Love the One You're With."

It didn't do much to promote safe sex, but at least it advanced the concept of human beings getting along instead of getting revenge or getting ahead.

We need not return to the '60s and '70s. But with faiths and races, straights and gays, couples and partisans, parents and kids facing an omnipresent choice between loathing and love, surely we could-in the spirit of St. Valentine, or the prophet Muhammad, or Jesus of Nazareth-opt for less of the former and more of the latter more than one day a year.

And that, my friends, would be a news bulletin worth reporting.



Hetrick is president and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bhetrick@ibj.com.
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