The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
⁓ Victor Hugo
Why are we talking about this? It’s because Valentine’s Day is less than three weeks away!
Love. Why do these four letters evoke such complexity of meaning and emotion? How can this word affect us so profoundly in a multitude of ways? I cannot begin to fully explain the reasons and means. To put it simply though, it is because we are human. Love is a primary driving force that underlies our motivations, decisions, and sense of purpose. Throughout humanity’s existence, it has been the deepest root of joy and sorrow, strife and harmony.
Another Origin of Valentine’s Day
It is no wonder then that Valentine’s Day holds so much significance for us. In spite of its somewhat dark, historical origins, it has been transformed through literature and tradition to become the day that we celebrate love.
Romantic love as the classical focus of Valentine’s Day owes its inception to the writing of 14th century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. His Parliament of Fowls is widely accepted to be one of the inspirations for associating Saint Valentine with the romantic idealism of the Middle Ages.
The influence is drawn from the poem’s plot. One early Spring on “Seynt Valentyns day”, a gathering of birds is witnessed by the noble goddess Nature, and heated discourse ensues as they begin to choose their mates. Three male eagles debate for the hand of a single female. She refuses to decide and asks to be given more time to consider. Nature accedes, and consoles the suitors by stating, “A year is not too long to endure.”
In February 1477, Margery Brews from Norfolk wrote a letter to her fiancé John Paston with the greeting “my right well-beloved Valentine”. It is the earliest known surviving English letter of its kind, perhaps inspired by the poetry of Chaucer.
Thus begins our own romance with the day itself. We honor love and our chosen ones through symbolic exchange — letters and other tokens meant to express our regard for each other on one special day every year.
Other Ways to Honor Valentine’s Day
February 14 has been a day traditionally focused on lovers. It remains a celebration highlighting the different languages of giving and receiving love, popularized through gifts woven with words of affirmation and quality time enhanced by physical touch.
The Greek language illustrates various kinds of love. Valentine’s Day is commonly associated with three. One is Eros or passionate love. Attraction and intensity are the ingredients for this exciting and intoxicating relationship.
Another is Ludus or playful love. It is flirtatious and lighthearted, embodying the giddiness of a budding relationship. This may eventually evolve into Eros in time.
Pragma or enduring love is Eros transformed through bonding and shared experiences. This relationship is grounded on commitment and compassion, expressed through caring and nurturing ways.
When we consider the shifting norms coupled with our expanding awareness, Valentine’s Day can encompass so much more. Humans — being the loving creatures that we are — can commemorate different aspects of love to include other significant people in our lives.
February 14 can be celebrated through the people who have cared for us through happy and hard times. Such is the subject of Philia or the love forged from a deep and lasting friendship. This platonic relationship is characterized by mutual trust and respect that is as meaningful as any kind of romantic association. Quality time is one of the treasured languages expressed within this kind of love.
Storge is familial love. It is born from instinct and sustained by compassion and protection. It is deeply rooted in memory and bound by blood. Acts of service is one of the natural ways of strengthening this relationship.
The love that deepens our capacity for all the other kinds is philautia or self-love. It is vital as it influences how we act within our relationships. Without esteem and compassion for ourselves, how can we open up to and be present for other people? The love we nurture for ourselves replenishes our well so that others may share it. Self-care as an act of service is one way of encouraging philautia.
The kind of love that goes beyond the individual and breaks the boundaries of otherness is agape or universal love. This is deeply compassionate and kind — this love felt for all living things without reservation. It is rooted in awareness and choice, and expressed without any expectations of reciprocation. Unconditional describes it well.
For Fountain Pen Lovers
This coming Valentine’s Day, let our enthusiasm for our avocation inspire the ways we can express different kinds of loves for our cherished ones. Using fountain pens and inks, our words of affirmation can be set down on paper and sent as meaningful, personal letters or artful greetings. Gifts in the form of wished-for writing instruments can be another way of expression, likewise penabling them to pass on the love they have received. Why not extend that love to yourself, by getting that complementary or matching fountain pen you’ve been desiring?
When choosing a gift for your loved ones, what is most important is that it is personal and meaningful. Take your time to consider what they truly want, what embodies their personality or that certain something that you treasure about them. Since open and honest communication is one of the cornerstones of a nurturing relationship, you can ask them what they actually like if you prefer a direct answer.
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Written by @lekzumali
Check out her musings on Instagram!