By: Jason Lydon/TRT Columnist
I am well aware that I am supposed to hate Valentine’s Day. It is commonly understood that this is a day when we buy silly cards for our romantic partners, spend exorbitant amounts of money on cut flowers that have been shipped half way across the world and eat chocolates out of heart shaped boxes. Jewelry companies try to convince men that if they buy expensive diamonds that were mined with slave labor in the Ivory Coast, their girlfriends or wives will do whatever they want. So, many of these traditions hide the real importance of love and the beauty of being there for one another in meaningful and fulfilling ways. All of that is true, yet I have to say it, I pretty much love Valentine’s Day. I love it because I like to reimagine it!
Imagine if Valentine’s Day was when we got in touch with the erotic power that Audre Lorde, Black, lesbian, feminist, poet, organizer, wrote about. She reminds us that, “the very word erotic comes from the Greek word _eros_, the personification of love in all its aspects – born of chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony.” I know that as I passionately kiss my sweetie in the street or dance with him in my kitchen that chaos seems to bubble up inside me, filling me with excitement and smiles. Audre Lorde continues on in her reflecting on the erotic describing it as “the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy, in the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, harkening to its deepest rhythms so every level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience whether it is dancing, building a bookcase, writing a poem, or examining an idea.” It is without a doubt that many of us have experienced that. Valentine’s Day, the celebration of love and our erotic selves need not be limited to our romantic partners. We can celebrate our love of ourselves, love of our passionate lives, and love of our dear friends. Why should we let card companies dictate who we love on a day that celebrates the great power of eros.
One of the stories of Valentine’s Day that I have no idea if it’s true, but is one that I have heard numerous times and makes a beautiful myth, is that of St. Valentine. In the end of the first millennium Italy St. Valentine broke state and church law by marrying young men and women. Marriage was banned for a number of years because married men were not allowed to join the military and go off to fight war. However, there were many battles going on at the time supported by both the Church and the State. St. Valentine defied the marriage ban and continued to marry couples in defiance of the state and church. He did so for the purpose of keeping men out of war and standing by his ideas of love. St. Valentine was executed for his actions; he was made a martyr because he would not stand by as men went off to war. While I am not a fan of the modern institution of marriage, this act of anti-statist action inspires me and reminds me that my love for the world extends far beyond those I can hold in my arms. As carnations and roses get passed around on Valentine’s Day I will also be thinking of this martyr who gave his life in the name of love and justice.
This Valentine’s Day I encourage others to explore all the ways you can express your love. Help your neighbor dig out their snow covered car. Make a delicious meal for your best pal. Kiss your sweetie passionately so other people can see. Give your pet their favorite treat. Take your child on an exciting adventure. Treat yourself to your favorite dessert. Use all of your senses this Valentine’s Day and help actualize the great power of love.