Valentine’s Day… A Celebration of Radical Inefficiency

“Dance first, think later. It’s the natural order”Samuel Beckett.

What could be more inefficient than love? I mean what is its purpose? What does it achieve? For example, you could walk like my sweetheart does for miles along Stinson Beach simply to admire the ocean and be delighted by its over-the-top, exuberant displays of color, light and power. But what difference could that possibly make?

Or like me, you could read, memorize and write poems, essays and aphorisms for no good reason beyond the joy of sudden insight and learning. But who cares about such random ah-ha moments?

Perhaps like my Mother, long ago on the South Carolina shore during July, you could pick up shells simply to examine and relish their beautiful colors and mysterious symmetry.  Then read the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay to redefine yourself and escape the gravitational force of a working-class life. But that doesn’t pay a single gas or grocery bill does it?

Clearly, none of these unproductive activities help us cross off even one to-do list item, nor propel us closer to financial independence.

Still, we strangely love such things. They fill us with gratitude and wonder. We cherish their beauty, art and meaning. Even as our culture and practical day-to-day lives demand efficiency, productivity and achievement our hearts have their own ways of keeping score.

Because ultimately, there is a reservoir of paradox up underneath everything. And something else even deeper called the mystery. There are things in our lives bigger than to-do lists. These are things that live beyond our ordinary success. These are the things which make or break our lives at their very core. And it is that which Valentine’s Day truly celebrates. Yes, it is that irrational, illogical, wild and inefficient thing called love.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day I would like to share a poem written by one of my long-time mentors from afar and recent friends, James March. I have loved and admired his work for years. Recently I’ve had the wonderful good fortune to actually meet and spend a little time with Jim. He is an amazing teacher, thinker and poet. He is professor emeritus at Stanford University. Jim has written many books of both prose and poetry and made two movies since retiring from his full-time teaching at Stanford. I include the poem here with his gracious permission.


My candle burns

in a holder next to yours.

It is flickering now, and so is yours.

Still your flame lights up my life,

and I want to stay a little longer,

if I can.

By James March

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