What Love Boils Down To

I love you. That's what one says on Valentine's day. Feb. 14 is bonanza day for florists, vendors of expensive chocolates, and candle-lit restaurants where giddy swains take their intendeds for dinner. Love can be expensive.

I love you.

Valentine's day inspires people who are in love with other people to write poetry, much of it mushy. ''Roses are red/ Violets are blue/ I love you most/ When we visit the zoo.'' Love can make the sanest among us addlepated.

I love you.

Valentine's day awakens the exotic in the souls of those enamored. An otherwise pedestrian gentleman will suddenly buy rackets and airplane tickets and whisk his beloved off to Italy's canal city for outdoor sports - tennis in Venice. Love can be bizarre.

I love you.

There were actually two martyrs named Valentine. One was a priest who perished during the anti-Christian persecutions of emperor Claudius II Gothicus. The other was a bishop of Terni, also martyred in Rome.

It's obvious that I haven't been walking around with these facts about Saints Valentine in my head, that I had to look them up in a learned book. Love requires us to be truthful.

I love you.

The record of a Beatles song called ''Real Love'' is being re-released Feb. 14. Presumably young ladies will not rush about shrieking as they did when the Beatles first sang the song years and years ago. Love - especially of the Beatles - can cause noisy public demonstrations.

I love you.

One of those people to whom profound utterances are attributed - Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln - once said that you can fall in love with up to four people during your lifetime, but only one dog. Love is exhausting for those who are simultaneously enraptured by four human beings and a dog.

I love you.

Whatever else it may be - expensive, addlepated, bizarre, truthful, noisy, exhausting - love is the recognition of something splendid in the object of our affection. Everyone has something splendid about them, which is why ... I love you.

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