For many years I had thought that Valentine's Day was nothing more than a bogus holiday dreamed up by corporate interests to sell greeting cards, candy and flowers.
Obviously there was truth in that assumption. That is very largely what Valentine's day is in our commercialized culture. But - and I freely concede that being happily engaged to a wonderful woman has affected me here - I've come to see meaning and purpose in this holiday.
If we step back and think of this day as a day to set aside for the celebration of love, we shall see that it is well worth the observing. And I mean ALL LOVE. We love our family and friends, our lovers, and to some degree - when we are at our best - all of our fellow human beings. Having a day to recognize this love is important.
Love is what is best about human beings. Yes, I know that we are also full of hypocrisy, hate, greed, and foolishness. And for this very reason it is all the more important that love be remembered, that love have the final say in our lives.
There are various legends and tales about a supposed St. Valentine. These tales come out of the later middle ages and the 19th century, and have nothing to do with any possible "Historical Valentine." Common to all the tales is the idea that either Valentine himself, or young people whom he as a priest married, were forbidden to love and wed by the forces of tyranny, oppression and empire. Valentine defies these powers and their laws, celebrating and sanctifying love. For his courage, Valentine is martyred.
The message in the tales of St. Valentine is that love liberates us. By loving each other we discover ourselves, and only then. This, in the legends of Valentine is why love is forbidden and why Valentine is proclaimed a hero for championing love against the power of empire.
Romantic love in particular is celebrated on this day. I used to hold that this was nothing more than a bias on our part. Privileging one kind of love over the others. Well, we do in fact misconceive and over sentimentalize romantic love (just as we do childhood). Nevertheless, romantic love unites two people like nothing else can.
Romantic love burns down the walls that separate us and compels us to grow, mature, and change in ways we never thought possible and never knew we could.
So let us celebrate love today, let us celebrate each other. We need not buy chocolate or flowers, but we need to remember the value of love.
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!