Today, we do something different. We postpone our eighth ritual of kindness to have a ritual of love, in celebration of Valentines Day. As with any holiday, today is one of reflection, to express appreciation for the love we have in our lives. Let’s first explore why most of the world choses to honor love today…be it a celebration of paternal, brotherhood, sisterhood or romance.
There are many exaggerated tales of Saint Valentine, believed to have lived second century Rome. Legend has it he married Roman soldiers against the edict of emperor Claudius and ministered Christianity, which conflicted with Roman theology. He was imprisoned, during which he restored the sight of his jailor’s blind daughter, Asterius. Emperor Claudius interrogated Valentine. Valentine attempted to convert the Emperor. In response he was beheaded. It is believed this happened on February 14th, 269. Before he was executed he wrote Asterius a farewell letter, and signed it “Your Valentine.”
Numerous traditions coincide with mid-February that encourages fertility and rebirth, but it was not until the Middle Ages this date was associated with “romantic love.” This was the time of “courtly love,” inspired by the chivalric code. Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet, solidified these two concepts in his epic, “The Parliament of Fowls.” During eighteenth century England this tradition evolved into a day of celebration between lovers. It slowly grew to inspire the rest of the world.
True, there is plenty of cynicism on this holiday. You cannot validate an argument by disproving its negative, however, in this case, I believe there is a poetic justice by disproving how this is only a materialistic holiday.
An argument in favor of materialism is how the average American spending on this day has steadily increased double-digit percentages year over year. But we must remember we do not pay for company…and also must reinforce this is not the same as paid services…such as a guest speaker. The purchase of a plane ticket or a meal or a material item is the price of admission…it sets the backdrop of how you chose to spend your time with your special someone. It is how you behave and what you expect in that moment that determines its value…not how much money you spent.
Nor is it about giving time and money to “get something” out of your moment. It is about giving yourself to your person because of how you feel. It is not uncommon to believe that one such “something” is sex. This belief is like worshiping a false god, where we deprive our best values, and glorify what is without meaning. We will explore sex in a later entry, but for now I want challenge that sex in its purest form is the highest value of exchange between two people…people physically and emotionally giving themselves to each other.
We can express our love in an infinitesimal number of ways. Weeks ago I wrote, “I believe one of the most phenomenal abilities a person can have is to create something from nothing…To have the ability to take [a] precious moment…and mold it into something we can cherish in our minds for as long as our memory serves us, is perhaps the most powerful gift of all.” This day is about being in the moment with your partner, and finding the means to express your true feelings towards him or her. It is a day to appreciate the passion’s flame you have with your partner, and to renew your vow to never take it for granted. How you choose to do that is up to you. But remember, we all came from nothing, and we are oh so capable of making something out of it.
And I will conclude our ritual of love with closing thoughts…be active participants in how you celebrate this day. It does not matter if you are a man or a woman, nor does it matter if you wear the masks of traditional gender roles and expect to sweep her off her feet or to be swept by him. Be in the moment today, as you should in all days, and when you look him or her in the eyes, understand what you commit to when you say, “I love you.”
May we all reflect on how dear this is so every exchange with our loved ones becomes a ritual of love.