The feast day of Valentinus, patron saint of courtly love and epilepsy, martyred in the third century for amongst other heinous anti-social crimes ministering to Christians imprisoned and awaiting public execution in the Colosseum. The day has been included in the ‘Roman Matyrology’ since four hundred and ninety-six anno domini.
The positive impact we have continues after us, the negative simply follows us into the grave. Valentinus, Saint Valentine as we now more commonly recognize him, has stood the test of time, his legendary unselfish commitment and care for others has enshrined him amongst out most iconic exemplars. That he is often confused with some fantastical winged cherub holding a mirror for that vain Roman goddess Venus is of no great import. That his holy day is now a cash cow of unfathomable commercial value throughout western society, simply an unfortunate biproduct of his otherwise worthy nature.
How we view our heroes and heroines, our vague or misguided notions about their activities and motives is unimportant, how we memorialize their existence inconsequential. The significance exists only is in the lessons we extract and continue.
Growing up I had three heros, Zorro, the Lone Ranger and Napoleon Bonaparte. Zorro for his defense of the weak and underprivileged social classes, the Lone Ranger for his altruistic version of wealth distribution and pronounced multi culturalism, Napoleon Bonaparte for his valiant attempts to corral the explosive nature of revolution into a fruitful and manageable form of egalitarian government. That all three of my paragons are to some degree armed agitators, two decidedly violent and generally festooned in disguise, the other famously a dictator of the most virulent variety, perhaps says more about my political and social concepts than is wise or appropriate to share.
We all have specific characters, real and imaginary, that represent individually or jointly our true nature. Recognizing, researching, dissecting and understanding those individuals and their role in the construct of self is a major step towards truly seeing ourselves.
Saint Valentine, to return to the anniversary at hand, is a beau idéal we may all enjoy with full face exposed, unabashed by possible misconception, unembarrassed by plainly visible displays of joyful or pained emotion. It is a day for feeling, for expressing, for sharing that which is the purest of human emotions, heartfelt, unadulterated love.