A Valentine’s Day Reset

Posted by at 3:15PM


In the words of famed social psychologist Pat Benatar, “love is a battlefield.”

Indeed, it seems that every year around February 14th, two camps pitch metaphorical tents and lob pithy arguments at one another, as both the happily romantically involved and the victims of SAD (singles awareness day) weigh in on the relevance or irrelevance of this candy-hyped holiday.

Fact or Fiction: discerning the reason for the season

Curious as to the origins of this spat, I went one deeper and checked out the origins of the holiday itself.  My discoveries were surprising, to say the least.  The only definitive fact about the origin of Valentine’s Day is that it honors two Christian martyrs (both named Valentine, of course) who were executed in the second and third centuries A.D.  Not only is there no evidence for some mystical monk sending love letters between star-crossed lovers: the notion of an amorous holiday recognizing violent religious persecution seems utterly… well, unromantic.

The most prevalent unsubstantiated myth suggests that Valentine was a priest who performed secret marriages for soldiers legally bound to celibacy.  Even this less-bloody story, like the martyrdom story, indicates a more important, more universal theme than the Hollywood-ized version of Cupid and candy hearts: the survival of love in the face of adversity.  Faith overcoming death, love overcoming law.

This greater, original theme suggests that Valentine’s Day is all-inclusive.  Whether you’re maintaining high school friendships despite thousands of miles of separation or pursuing classical flute training while balancing a heavy ChemE load, ultimately your passion has overcome your challenges.  Perhaps the best examples of this inextinguishable love are the hundreds and thousands of Stanford students who hurdled socioeconomic barriers to attend our University and pursue their love of learning.

Only one day to celebrate love?

...because xkcd is really the best commentary on the absurdity of love

Perhaps more to the point, even if you celebrate the Hallmark ™ version of Valentine’s Day, there’s some cognitive dissonance required to celebrate it according to our modern interpretation.

Why does the Valentine’s Day distinction exist?  Do you love your Valentine any more on Valentine’s Day, or any less on any other day of the year?  There’s probably something amok if we have to be reminded to appreciate the special someones in our lives.

Not to mention the inherent commercialism of the modern Valentine’s Day: roses, chocolate, elaborate cards… anything less than the best is a felony.   But the objectification intrinsic to equating love to stuff poses a greater problem when one considers the exploitation of child and adult workers often used in the flower and chocolate industries.  If you’re supporting offending companies, what does your love symbolize?

Everything in Moderation

So why the battle?  Express your love to your heart’s content, or don’t.  Buy into the mass-produced passion if you want to, but if you don’t, don’t let a silly holiday commemorated by neon, chalk-flavored hearts (seriously, who thought those could ever be romantic?) ruin your day.

Unless, of course, you’re CS or EE.  ‘Cause let’s be honest: with the influx of projects and programs we have due this week, none of us have time for significant others.  😉



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