Today, couples all over the Western world are purchasing Hallmark gift cards, boxes of chocolate, expensive dinners and otherwise feasting from the trough of holiday commercialism. Within the next nine months, the human population might experience a peculiar spike. One thing is certain — none of those whipper snappers will share my genes.
But tomorrow is Singles Awareness Day. A time to soberly reflect on the tens of millions of souls who are buying themselves flowers or sitting alone at the bar giving a toast to their own health. Though it is fortunate to be loved, one must learn to love themselves first.
So to all of my unattached readers, I gift you with a list of seven historical figures who, despite (or even because of) their frustrated romantic desires or their sheer lack of interest, revolutionized the world.
Isaac Newton (1642-1746), formulator of the laws of physics and founder of the scientific revolution, never married, though there was a rumor he was once engaged. It is widely believed Newton died a virgin.
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was the Serbian electrical wizard whose inventions shaped modern civilization — the alternating current, fluorescent light bulbs, X-rays, the radio, the remote control, the electric motor, the transistor and the laser. His expressed reasons for shunning relations with women might prick our contemporary sensitivities — he believed that the feminist movement was leading women to overtake men. However, it is important to remember that Tesla always attributed his talents and accomplishments to his mother, who was also an inventor. He was also a hypochondriac and refused to even to shake hands with people — let alone sleep with them.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher who introduced elements of Eastern philosophy to the West and investigated the nature of human will, and his work has influenced thinkers from Freud, to Einstein, to Carl Jung. Schopenhauer spoke of romantic affairs very seriously — finding a sexual partner is the most important aim of a human’s life, since it determines the composition of the next generation. However, he only engaged in intermittent relationships with two women, until he retreated into isolation where he preferred the company of his poodles than people. As he once wrote, “Marrying means to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find an eel amongst an assembly of snakes.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), another German philosopher, is recorded having only one serious relationship in his life. It was brief and humiliating. Let’s dispel the rumor that Nietzsche died from syphilis contracted from prostitutes — a smear-campaign carried out by his critics — it was brain cancer, according to new research. Asexuality was a trait he found to correlate with what he deemed the “Ubermench,” the ideal human being. In “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” he writes: “There are chaste people through and through; they are milder of heart, they laugh more gladly and more richly than you.”
Ralph Nader (1944 to present) is an American politician and activist who mandated safety belts in vehicles. In 1966, GM attempted to discredit Nader by digging up dirt in his personal life — but it turned out he had no romantic or sexual relations with anyone. The company went so far as to hire prostitutes and tap his phones in order to trap him — instead, Nader sued them and won. According to one of his writers, he has never married and has devoted himself utterly to his activism.
Paul the Apostle (5-67 C.E.), who lit the fire of Christianity from the coals of Christ’s teachings, was famously celibate. “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” he wrote in 1 Corinthians. He admonished that, while celibacy is the preferred state of a human being, “it is better to marry than to burn,” though later he ultimately concludes, “Nevertheless, such shall have trouble in the flesh.”
And finally, let’s not forget the most revolutionary of history’s virgins — Jesus Christ. Setting aside any Dan Brown conspiracies, neither Christ nor any of his disciples married nor strove to marry. According to Matthew 5:28, Christ even tells his followers: “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
In speaking of Christ, I modestly propose my religious readers — whether currently committed or pining for a paramour — to consider what Leo Tolstoy wrote on marriage. It might be outraging, or it might be liberating. If nothing else, it is at least though-provoking:
A Christian is a “citizen” of the kingdom of God, which is “not of this world,” according to John 18:36. Therefore, just as there is no institution such as a Christian state, a Christian army, or a Christian court, there is no such thing as a Christian marriage. Because Christ did not marry, marriage is not the ideal, but rather a fall; chastity is the ideal. In fact, a true Christian must regard marriage as a worldly mockery of Christian teaching, as nothing else but a deviation from Christ’s doctrine — a sin. When a Christian is baptized and commits himself to Christ’s entire character, I wonder why they willingly ignore Christ’s celibacy.
“But humans are weak,” one might protest. “How could anyone without the gift of chastity sustain lifelong celibacy?” That, and if the entire world ceased to reproduce, would the human race be doomed to extinction? Would not human history effectively end?
But their God teaches that humanity shall never go extinct, whether they procreate or not — for they will ascend from death itself. “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven,” Jesus says in Matthew 22:30.
Closing with Tolstoy’s words, the weaker one’s will, then greater is the need that his model should be perfect.
Happy Singles Awareness Day, everyone.