I think every Valentine's Day there should be a free concert of music especially for the lonely, rejected and lost. In my ideal program, the first half would consist of music inspired by Dante and the Divine Comedy ( everything from the arias of "Francesca da Rimini" to Liszt's Dante Sonata to Lorena McKinnett's Celtic-influenced "Dante's Prayer") . The second half would consist of Beethoven, especially the late piano sonatas and string quartets. In the midst of the commercial sentimentality and rampant cloying materialism of Valentine's Day, it is important to remember that love can indeed redeem the world , even when it doesn't lead to the wedding chapel or a romantic ending..
Dante and Beethoven are the best examples I know of how a broken heart can actually become food for the world. Dante would never have written the Divine Comedy if he had gotten his Valentine, Beatrice,-and if any of the women Beethoven ardently courted had accepted his proposals or returned his affections, I doubt we would have the staggering beauty of his late period works. Love can take many forms, and the life and works of both Dante and Beethoven testify that even (and maybe especially) unrequited love can become a powerful force for beauty, revelation, transformation and healing in the world.
Below is a youtube link to my favorite piece of grief, longing and loss: the "Cavatina" from the String Quartet OP. 130 in Bb Major by Beethoven, written near the end of this short, messy, misshapen, funny looking man's life. Listen to how, in the middle section, the lower strings throb and ache while the first violin cries out in desolation ("Beklempt", meaning "choking" is written in the score). And marvel at the grace and profound consolation Beethoven pries from the fingers of his heartbroken despair.His music promises that you, too, are not beyond love (even if you, too, are deaf, ugly and foul smelling - as he was). Somewhere- maybe beyond this mere mortal realm- somewhere, there is a love answering back to you. A love, as Dante wrote at the end of Paradise, "That moves the sun and all stars".
I've been using the story of Psyche and Eros in my five week course on Living an Alchemical Life. This tale- first written down as the centerpiece of Apulius's first-century novel, The Golden Ass, is a vivid and penetrating story of the journey to find our true selves and spiritual maturity. The last task of Psyche;s initiation involves a descent into the Underworld where she must find the secret of beauty. On her way, Psyche is cautioned that she must not be diverted from her true task by the myriad voices seeking her assistance for their own needs and aims. There are always good causes that try to claim our attention, but in heeding them, we, too might be dissuaded from our soul's purpose. Mary Oliver expressed the same idea in her powerful poem, "The Journey" (read here) At some moment, each of us is called to step into the truth of who we are and claim our real task in life. It is a difficult moment, often filled with painful sacrifice. But to do anything else would be to live someone else's life.
The myth invites us to consider so many questions. When have been the moments in your life when you've been lured away from your true path in order to tend to someone else's neediness? When have you had to be strong and not listen to the voices all around in order to keep on your true course? How have your underworld experiences led you to beauty? A nd what might you suspect is the secret of Beauty?
In each of our lives there is a garden with two trees. One is a tree of bitterness, with fruit of envy, despair, blame, judgment,and disappointment. The other tree holds the fruit of compassion, mercy, hope, faith and gratitude. The question we are faced with each day is: which tree will I eat from? The Tree of Death Life, or the Tree of Life?