Valentines Day has a dark history, but it’s just another example of a social institution we take for granted. But the successful people don’t just take things for granted. They make curiosity a life mission.
The world is full of things we take for granted.
Things that get handed down from generation to generation, without anyone ever questioning why.
Like Valentines Day. It’s now the sweetest of sickly sweet days, full of love hearts and teddy bears, but it has a dark and gruesome past.
The story goes that Claudius II, an ancient roman emperor, took it upon himself to ban marriage. He felt like married men might become a bit too attached to their families, and this might hinder their ability to fight as soldiers and die a glorious and pointless death in the name of the empire.
Marriage, he said, makes you soft.
He might be right. I’ve certainly picked up a few extra soft bits since I’ve been married…
Anyway, at that time there was a bishop by the name of Valentine. He felt sorry for the young couples who longed to consecrate their love in the eyes of the church, and so he went behind the emperors back, and started secretly joining couples in lawful matrimony.
It’s never quite clear why he took such a big risk to help out a bunch of horny teenagers, but there you go.
Anyway, somehow or the other, he got busted and went down for sedition.
But then! … as he was waiting for the day of his execution to roll around, he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter… who was blind!
This gets more and more Mills & Boon by the second.
But the emperor would not forgive him, and on the day of his death – reportedly February 14!, he sent the jailer’s daughter a letter signed, “From you Valentine.”
The jailer said to his assistant – a bear wearing a bow tie and carrying a box of chocolates – “There’s money in this!”
The Catholic church, never one to miss an opportunity for positive cashflow, decided to honour the poor bishop’s martyrdom with the declaration of St. Valentines Day and 12 long-stem roses.
And the tradition of Valentines Day began.
Ok, this story is full of holes, and it might be more legend that history, but have you got a better explanation?
For most of us, Valentine’s Day is just one of the facts of life. We never stop to question it.
Like mother’s day.
That also has a dark history.
Apparently, it has it origins with Ann Reeves Jarvis, an American woman who way back in the 1850s was organising Mother's Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and fight disease.
The groups also tended wounded soldiers of both sides during the U.S. Civil War.
But the modern mother’s day owes its life to Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Jarvis. Moved by the death of her own mother in 1905, she instigated church services in honour of all mothers, with the first occurring on May 10, 1908.
From there, with the younger Jarvis driving it, the concept of mother’s day took off. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson officially set aside the second Sunday in May in 1914 as a holiday.
But Jarvis wasn’t happy.
Florist, confectioners and card makers quickly saw the incredible gold mine that mother’s day represented, and started to cash in. This made Jarvis furious, and she fought all her life against the crass consumerism that had poisoned her special day.
“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” she said. “And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment!”
She fought hard against what mother’s day had become for the rest of her life, throwing all of her inheritance into a useless pit. She even crashed a convention of American War Mothers who were using the day to raise money and got herself arrested.
It destroyed her.
In the end she died, penniless, childless and confined to an insane asylum at the age 84.
Seriously, what was she thinking? I mean, it’s one thing to complain about how commercial and meaningless these holidays have become. It’s another to try take on the weight of western greed and capitalism.
You’re never going to win that one.
Likewise, you’d have to wonder what Ol’ St Valentine would make of wonder proceedings. If he knew what he was dying for…
Still, you’ve got to admire people of conviction. All power to them.
But I bring this up just to show how much of modern life we take for granted. We just accept the stories we’re told.
How is it that Valentines day has makes such a huge splash every time it comes around, but we never bother to find out where it comes from?
And this is one of the traits of the successful people I know – curiosity.
They’re not inclined to take things at face value, and they never settle for “because I said so.”
And we end up inheriting a lot of stories from our old folks. I can’t tell you how many mentoring student’s I’ve had who honestly thought the only way to get ahead was to buy a house, work hard and pay it off. Then buy a nice weekender. Keep stashing something away for retirement.
And so they leverage, take risks, get into new ventures and markets.
They stay curious, stay hungry, and stay engaged.
It’s the only way to avoid those well worn (and poor) ruts.
And if you were expecting, a “don’t waste your money on Valentines Day” type post, I’m sorry to disappoint.
And so to my wife… I know you’re probably not reading but in case you are:
I wuv u very very much.