Way back in 1999, I wrote an essay called Valloween for one of my many now defunct webzine attempts called Ariadne’s Thread. I still love that title, but that was a different life. Each February, I dust off the essay and post it somewhere, usually in my Livejournal or whatever website is currently the focus of my energy. I’ve never gone back to rewrite or rework it and this year, 2010, the 11th anniversary of my Valloween essay, I thought it was time to refine it a bit.
Love inspires grand feats, art, and music. Two men’s love for the beautiful Helen of Troy ignited a war that buried the city. Shah Jahan in 1631 had the Taj Mahal built after the death of his wife to honor his love for her.
St. Valentine’s Day is the day on which we celebrate and honor love. St. Valentine served a prison term in Rome for being Christian. While imprisoned, he received letters of support from children. These letters later became valentines. Truly, how noble it is to juxtapose the feast day of a saint, someone who epitomizes the love of Christ with a day to celebrate and honor love in general. The thought is sincere but easily corrupted. Corrupted by the master of corruption. On a day where the grandest of all virtues, the virtue of love, is celebrated, people eagerly flock to join the celebration. People make grand pronouncements of the virtue of love. What these poor unsuspecting souls don’t realize is they are being lured into the most insidious trap of sin ever devised.
Love is but one virtue. On St. Valentine’s Day, the Seven Deadly Sins ride piggyback on this one virtue, corrupting the souls of the innocent. Lust, Sloth, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Envy, and Pride are all actively used on this one day. If one of these sins doesn’t get someone, another will. It is for this reason, Valentine’s Day might as well be Satan’s birthday. And because of this revelation, Valentine’s Day should be called Valloween so the innocent know what they are getting into and those who are already corrupt can fully enjoy the festival of vice.
The complete perversion of love, lust is a desire for pure carnal delight. Lust is the realm of the satyr — wanton sex without any care or love beyond the moment. Lust drives the typical person to do the most horrific things: lie, threaten, cajole, cheat, and debase. The lust-filled mind cannot see past the moment of physical pleasure to the damage that the action might cause. The lustful care is not for consequences.
The couple caught in the hype of Valentine’s Day rarely if ever celebrates the different types of love, focusing on the carnal type only. Most people in relationships expect to have sex on Valentine’s Day. Look at the merchandise that is sold during this time period: lingerie, massage oil, incense, and other elements of an evening wrought with sex. At any point in time will the couple stop and appreciate the Love of Wisdom or the Love of Nature? No, the Love of Carnal Desire or Lust will blind them and urge them to eat through the edible underwear quicker than ever. A couple with a rocky relationship will even convince themselves there isn’t a problem with the relationship for a chance at one more game of slap and tickle in the sack.
Valentine’s Day creates expectation, builds it up, and makes promises that will inevitably fall flat. Lust does not have the same depth as true love. Once sated, the lustful satyrs and nymphs lose interest and drift apart until drawn together by their naughty urges. The only connection created is purely physical. There is no bonding, no mutual desire for a lasting entwined future, just an entwining of limbs in the bedsheets.
Sloth is the sin of inaction and laziness. It is difficult to see how this relates to a day on which it is customary to do something. It is precisely because something is done, is expected, and is so cleanly scripted that sloth is encouraged. The basic fact that the action is so well scripted: “romantic dinner (with or without candles), roses, wine, card, and cutesy gift” means no mental energy is expended. Real sloth occurs in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day and the weeks after. Yes, the evil of Valentine’s Day extends beyond February 14th. It is just that insidious.
Knowing a day is coming when a couple will take action to display their love for each other, the days leading up to that moment are left with inaction. Flowers are not delivered, tender moments are not shared, and plans are left unmade all because of this one day. “I don’t have to show I care because next week I’ll demonstrate my love through a formulaic evening resulting in my getting laid.”
Who wants to the be a person who makes a loving gesture the day before Valentine’s Day? It would look silly. It would appear as though that person didn’t own a calendar and was unaware of which day was the appropriate day for the loving gesture. Lovers take no action before February 14th, because it is on that day they can follow the script and show their affection for each other in the correct and proper, nearly effortless, way.
Overindulgence in food is almost a forgotten sin. Gluttony is not eating until sated. Gluttony is more about eating because you can. A glutton gorges him or herself. A glutton takes all that is available and wants more – demands more. Gluttony can be forced on a person by presenting them with food and drink beyond what they care to have.
On Valentine’s Day, the average adult will eat more chocolate than on any other day simply because it is readily available. The dinners eaten will be more extravagant than at any other time of the year.
“Steaks marinated in aged cider served with julienne green beans and brandied pears. For dessert, a chocolate torte served with a white chocolate gelato scoop covered with red raspberry syrup.” A meal like this, if served to anyone at any other time of the year, would be turned down as being too rich, too indulgent. It is over-the-top and seems to imply the richness of the food is more important that the richness of the emotional connection.
We all know greed. It is the sin that gets trotted out most often and we all claim that we aren’t the greedy ones. Greed can be subtle and on Valentine’s day, it works its tendrils into the celebrants like mildew in the grout of a seedy motel shower. For illustrative purposes, I quote Shakespeare from his play, King Lear.
King Lear: Which of you shall We say doth love Us most?
Goneril: Sir, I love you more than eyesight, space and liberty; Beyond what can be valued rich or rare; No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour; As much as child e’er loved, or father found; A love that makes breath poor and speech unable; Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
King Lear: What says Our second daughter, Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwallis? Speak.
Regan: Sir, I am made of the same metal that my sister is. And prize me at her worth. In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love; only she comes too short: That I profess Myself an enemy to all joys, which the most precious squares of sense possesses; and find I am alone felicitate in your dear highness’ love.
King Lear: Now Our joy, Although the last, not least. . .what can you say to draw a third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
Cordelia: Nothing, my Lord.
King Lear: Nothing!
It is difficult to imagine how one day could possibly enhance greed beyond the normal day-to-day level.
Christmas is often accused of promoting greed, but Christmas constantly reminds us to give, share, and appreciate the thought behind the gift. Valentine’s Day is nothing like that. It is about ‘the gift’ not the sentiment. The gift, the material item is supposed to represent the emotion. On one day, love is measured by worldly goods. How sick is this? The expectation of the gift is also pretty overblown. “This is the year I’m getting the diamond.” “Paris will be lovely!” “I’ve emailed my lover my Amazon wish list.” The expectation of roses, candy, perfume, jewelry, lingerie, and other carefully scripted gifts drives a buying frenzy.
Men and women, knowing their purchases are going to be used against them as a sign of how much love they have for their partner, are pushed into nervous breakdowns. Like King Lear, people cannot just accept the love given, they want it quantified, weighed, and entered in the emotional ledger to be pulled out at a later time and used as proof of how much love is lacking in the relationship in order to win a petty fight over the thermostat or which movie to go see.
Even after all the motions have been made, the “perfect evening (candle-lit dinner, dancing, and a long moon-lit walk)” planned, anger pokes its nasty little head into the evening. Someone’s nerves get frayed from trying so hard, breaking their budget, or being underappreciated. Like a vicious pitbull, that person snaps, makes a critical comment, contradicts the partner or becomes silent trying not to ‘ruin the evening’ (as if silence has ever enhanced an evening).
An argument ensues. A number of relationships will end on Valentine’s Day, a good number due to the pressure of the day that causes minor faults to become gigantic fractures. The interesting thing is the number of relationships that will not end that should because of lust. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: Satan’s favorite conundrum.
The sin of envy is not just admiring what others have but wanting it for yourself so much that it preoccupies your time and energy. This would include the envy of those people in relationships. The insidious nature of Valentine’s Day is it not only corrupts people in love but people without partners in that noble emotion. Single people don’t find themselves immediately alone on this day. That would be bearable. No, they are bombarded with the fact they are alone for the entire season. Local papers begin running ads for romantic getaways or reviewing the ‘Best Date’ movies. Lessons on how to care for the flowers you are guaranteed to get abound in magazines, news shows, and office break rooms.
Eventually, the single person becomes envious of anyone in a relationship, no matter how horrible that relationship is. The desire may even combine with lust to create a lethal sin cocktail, a potion guaranteed to cure sanity.
The envious single person resorts to desperate measures, latching onto whomever they can find. Or barring that, gallons of ice cream will be eaten, bottles of wine will be drunk, and hours of stupefying television will be watched.
More people damn themselves through pride than any other sin, at least according to recent popular representations of Satan in movies and TV. Satan’s greatest personal sin was one of pride. Pride led him to betray the Holy Father. People of prominence are easily affected by pride. The desire to win at all costs is a desire born of pride. Pride creates selfishness. Pride creates egotism and megalomania. Authoritarianism is a product of pride, as is extreme nationalism. Like gluttony, the sin of pride is about taking something too far. Having a good sense of self-worth is not sinful. A desire to be successful is not sinful. Even being pleased with your accomplishments is not sinful. The sin of pride takes hold when the self-worth is considered greater than anyone else’s. Valentine’s Day is filled with pride. It is the one day people are supposed to ignore the problems that exist within the relationship. If couples would celebrate the true accomplishments of their relationship, that would be one thing. Instead, on this one day, couples pretend they are living in a fairy tale romance. The sin of pride leads them to denial. In order to create the illusion of a perfect romance, lies will be told to one’s partners and to one’s self.
The sin of pride also works inside the relationship. At times, the lie told begins to be believed by one partner or the other. That partner thinks the relationship is succeeding because of the effort that the partner is exerting. One or both partners will take on an elevated sense of self-worth demanding more and more attention, material, and praise from the other. Of course, the natural repercussion of this is resentment and anger. The elevated sense of self-worth, puffed up from the lies and self-deception only increases the sin of greed, as the desire for material representation of worth is increased.
Seven deadly sins, all well represented in one fashion or another on a day that is a holiday. The wise and pious will carefully avoid the pitfalls of this evil day. They know that what is being honored isn’t love, but sin. The truly pious will revere the day as a day to honor all types of love: the love of a friend or family member, the love of a romantic partner, the love of wisdom, and the love of nature. The way in which love is honored is not through material goods but through acknowledgment and nurturing. The wise and pious will tell friends and family how much they are appreciated. Romantic partners will do something nice for each other. To honor the love of wisdom, perhaps the wise and pious will reread Plato’s Phaedrus. And to honor the love of nature, instead of hacking flowers down to rot in a vase, the wise and pious may plant a tree or at the very least pay attention to nature in all its glory instead of taking it for granted.
St. Valentine’s Day is quite possibly the evilest day ever conceptualized. No other day is so insidiously evil, drawing in and corrupting so many people. Hell’s minions will leave no stone unturned in an effort to tantalize the helpless souls caught in the glamor of the day.
For those who are already corrupted though, Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to lure others into the abyss. Buy some chocolates for someone, urging them to gorge themselves on the delightfully sinful taste. Count the number of Valentines you get to see if you are being appreciated appropriately by the people in your life. If you find yourself without a date, revel in your singleness, watch porn, eat massive amounts of ice cream, dress up in your sexiest clothes, and cruise the bars trying to turn the heads of the people who are supposed to be on dates.
For the sinful, Valentine’s Day can be a day of intense revelry! Happy Valloween, everyone!
©Sean D. Francis 1999, 2010