Valentine’s Day is over and many couples are beginning to drift down from cloud nine, throwing away the wilted remains of bouquets and eating the last box of candy hearts.
And James Park said he hopes the romantic feelings aroused by Valentine’s Day have not lingered.
“Romantic love is a hoax,” proclaimed Park in a presentation at Coffman Memorial Union Friday. In a series of two lectures, Park engaged his listeners in a discussion about the reality of romantic love. The University alumnus and lecturer on the topic of love chose Valentine’s Day for the presentation because he said he wants the celebration of Valentine’s Day to be real, not a fantasy.
Park, 55, earned a degree in philosophy and humanities from the University. As a member of the University’s Council of Religious Advisers, he still carries a U Card, which he displayed in a show of camaraderie to the listeners at the presentation.
He became a critic of romantic love through observation of romance, not “on the basis of painful experiences from the teenage years.”
Park said he skipped over the adolescent “falling in love” period, an aspect of his personality which his high school classmates must have recognized — the quote next to his picture in his high school yearbook says, “Love is too simple a game for a brainy man to indulge in.”
“Romantic love is based on false perceptions, false ideals,” warned Park. Romantic love is not a natural phenomenon, but the result of cultural programming, he said.
“People learn to have the romantic response from popular culture, such as movies, magazines, music, advice columnists and books,” Park said. Through his analysis of these media, Park concluded that they are major contributors to the “programming” of romantic feelings.
Students responded to Park’s ideas positively. “I think it’s good to have something like this on Valentine’s Day,” said James Moudry, a College of Liberal Arts senior. “It’s a confirmation that it’s okay to wonder about love.”
Park said he wrote his book, “Love Among Authentic Persons,” to encourage better loving.
He said he feels that authentic and thoughtful love can come after a long growth process in which people say goodbye to their romantic illusions. He observes that two people often enter into a relationship as “a package of (romantic) illusions.” Park’s concern is that once the romance drains away, there won’t be anything substantial underneath the illusions.
“People can enjoy (romantic love), as long as they don’t take it seriously,” he said. Those who do take it seriously are cause for worry. He cited that one-third of the criminals in jail have committed some type of domestic violence, which is often the result of jealousy or problems in love. Park also worries that people will do something drastic, “like getting married under the influence” of romantic love.
“It’s like a bungee jump, man,” one audience member said.
Park agreed with the sense of excitement and said that people can often get caught up in it, without rationally thinking about what they are doing.
Park is also critic of marriage. “I think it’s wise not to fall in love with the person you are going to marry. (Marriage) is a practical affair.”
He said that he has no plans for marriage. His significant other, whom was present at the second presentation, said that she agrees with much of what Park said, but admitted, “I don’t feel as strongly about it as Jim does.”
Park asked the audience of about 35 to share their experiences with romantic love. One student, while talking about his experience with love at first sight, said, “You see someone … and they captivate you.”
Park warned that love at first sight is often a sign of romantic illusions. “There is a lot of romance in the newness of a person. They are a blank screen to project romantic illusions on.”
A man who shared that he had been married for 18 years, admitted that he wished he could “find that romantic thing” he once had in his relationship.
Another student admitted that he might “need a few more slaps in the head” before getting over romantic love.
Park struck a nerve in the audience when he began discussing monogamy.
Real love, Park claimed, should allow people to “have the freedom to have more than one relationship.”
“That bothered me,” said College of Liberal Arts freshman Heidi Heise. “I don’t understand how you can have real love and not be monogamous … that’s not real love.”
Monogamy, marriage and the illusions of romantic love are topics Park will cover in a free, four-part course this spring.