Looking for some Valentine’s Day reading? Philosopher Gordon Marino has penned an informative and thought-provoking essay for the New York Times in which he argues that humans should be more open to feeling what he calls “tenderness.” 

Almost by definition, every culture cultivates certain qualities and feelings. In the United States, we lionize resolve, determination and resiliency. Although we have a strong nostalgic streak, we are a hard people who no less than the ancient Romans entertain ourselves with a steady diet of throat slitting and torture images that can only work to pound the tenderness out of us. Of course our TV tough guys always shroud their violence in some mollifying narratives that render their acts of slaughter righteous and emotionally satisfying. But for the most part in our culture, we leave the feeling of tenderness in a small pot in the mudroom. To feel tenderly is to feel vulnerable and vulnerability is not a favorite American dish.

When it comes to the humanizing sentiments, we Americans place placards in public schools and in general harp on the significance of respect. While I have all the respect in the world for respect, it is a chilly sort of feeling — if it is a feeling at all. Respect is a fence that prevents us from harming one another. But strengthening the ties that bind and make us human requires something more pliant, more intimate. We need to be visited by that weird and neglected angel that is the feeling of tenderness.

Indeed. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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