Love is in the air, and I’m not even in Paris. I’m actually nowhere near any spot that’s a romantic getaway, but it is Valentine’s Day. February 14th, the day where we exchange cards, stuffed animals, and commemorate our loved ones. But most important of all is the candy, and the CHOCOLATES, right?! Yes, I’m a chocoholic, and fall victim to the industrial spin on satisfying the sweet tooth (though I’m convinced that I also have a sweet tongue, sweet throat, and sweet belly). It’s actually quite clever of them. Almost everybody loves the sweets, and of course fall victim to the mass marketing. But Valentine’s Day is about showing your love, and the sweets are actually supposed to be a gift for another. So not only are you buying for yourself, if you fall victim to temptation, but you end up buying for another also. But is this really what Valentine’s day is meant to be about? I think our conscience might know the answer is a no. In fact, I think many of us forgot the actual name of St. Valentine’s day, and that it was named after an actual person.
It could have also been named after a couple people really, the pope at the time of the holiday’s creation was eager to replace the pagan holiday that was in practice at the time. Not too much is known about St. Valentine, or even which saint was the one the holiday was made after. It’s possible that Valentine wasn’t even his real name, as it was a popular moniker given to martyrs. It’s kinda fitting since Valentius is Latin for worthy/strong/powerful. It shows the strong integrity that any martyr would have.
What is known about him is that he was a martyr, and was supposedly beheaded on Feb. 14th. His crime was conducting Christian weddings for Roman soldiers. The emperor, being very anti-Christian, of course didn’t want his soldiers to be “tainted” by Christian ceremonies, so of course made it illegal. So yeah, that’s St. Valentine for you.
When Valentine’s Day was created, the Christian’s slightly modified the Roman pagan celebration, but it still shared a resemblance. That resemblance supposedly faded over time, possibly got mixed up by some with another holiday called Galatin’s Day (which meant lover of women), and got influenced by Shakespeare even. It was in Shakespeare’s time when handmade cards became popular gifts to others, and a form of courtly love was promoted. It was in the early 20th century that cards became mass-produced, and Valentine’s day rapidly became an industrial spectacle.
Holidays are meant to be set aside to help boost our spirituality. This is seen when you look at the word holiday itself. Holidays were first known as holy days, and that kinda fused into one word over time. Clearly, Valentine’s Day is an economic and cultural occasion instead of a spiritual one. Should we do anything about this? I suppose you should if you see any value in using the occasion as a spiritual boost. And if you feel outgoing to tell everyone to stop supporting the abomination of a holy day, then I suggest you instead learn from the Buddha, and turn the arrows into flowers. If you deem it unnecessary, then don’t worry about it.
But what can we do? I suggest, we dwell on the idea of love. Love comes in many forms, and different versions. The Greeks had it fairly summed up as 6 different kinds. There was erotic love, the love that comes from a deep friendship, the love that supports patience, playful love (I think that’s what I was raised to think what orneriness meant), love of self (aka selfishness), and unconditional love for everyone.
Valentine’s Day became too couples-focused (outside of school when you tend to get cards for virtually everyone), and is a fairly depressing day for single people. The remedy for that is simply focusing on non-erotic love. Find someone, or some people, and make them your Valentine by practicing the different kinds of love (preferably focusing on the ones that you’re weak at). So for the impatient, practice patience. For those who have friends they barely talk to anymore, reach out. For those that are too serious, try to be playful. For the selfish, try putting your Valentine first. For those rare few that are basically selfless, treat yourself.
How is this spiritual? How does this make it a holy day?
The spiritual path is a path of love. One of the best things you can do for your spiritual life is by strengthening the different kinds of love and your ability to express them. And for those who fail to see this, then remember Jesus spoke of charity. When you do things for those in need, you do them for Him too. If you love God, then you love others too. If you don’t, then you’re in love with simply an idea.
I dedicate this blog post to the Divine, and I do so by also dedicating it to my wife. And in the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day, I will strive to strengthen and show my love for her, through honoring her can I honor the Divine. Like the Divine, she has shown me love in all manners, and I really appreciate, and love her.