In the western hemisphere, the month of February is most closely identified with Valentine’s Day and the varied expressions of love: passionate love, familial love, the love of friends, the expansive love for all beings and life itself. Most people associate the origins of Valentine’s Day with the celebration of the Catholic Saint Valentine; however, Valentine’s Day (and the month of February in general) has even older origins and associations with the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, a holiday devoted to the Roman Goddess Juno Februata, Queen of Gods and Goddess of the ‘fever’ (febris) of love.
The festival of Lupercalia was a day of erotic games where men chose their partners by drawing ‘billets’ (small papers) with a person’s name on it. This was too racy for the early church fathers who tried substituting the names of saints and quotes from the bible on the billets; however, in spite of the continued efforts to ‘platonize’ the holiday, the general populace kept returning to their passionate antics and the ‘love notes’ that transformed into the exchange of Valentines that we engage in today.
If you’ve ever received a Valentine, you might remember how good it felt to do so. Imagine what would happen in the world if we regularly expressed our love and admiration for each other more than once a year? In a world where some people insist on promoting ‘othering’ - a philosophy that demonizes diversity, rather than celebrating our differences and honouring our similarities – the radical act of expressing love for each other can be a game changer. The rest of Nature understands the interdependency of diversity – surely to goodness we can re-learn this as a species.
So, how does one express love in the midst of chaos? As always, it starts with allowing ourselves to love ourselves, warts and all. This is not an invitation into narcissism but permission to allow ourselves to be who we are without falling into the trap of trying to be someone ‘extra-ordinary’. The western cultural mandate to be “America’s Next Big…” or “Canada’s Top…” has many of us scrambling to be more than, to have more than, to do more than. Not only does this send us the damaging message that we’re ‘not enough’ just as we are but it also sets the stage for constant competition against ‘others’ so that we can land on the top of the pile.
What if the radical act of love started with acknowledging the paradox of being ‘unique’ and also ‘the same’ as others? What if our overarching philosophy was one of partnership and community rather than domination and separation? Can you imagine how incredible that would be? This can happen; each of us can be a part of the paradigm shift that is necessary to embrace the interdependent diversity of life on this planet.
With the advent of the internet and advances in technology, we are more connected than ever and yet, paradoxically, we seem to be more disconnected from each other every day. Why not make the month of February a month of daily actions that demonstrate loving connection, with self and others? Here are 28 suggestions for self-love and diversity you can play with in the month of February and beyond.
Our planet is both incredibly large and surprisingly small. When we give ourselves time to look inward as well as expand our vision outwards, we can more easily recognize that we truly do live in a place where “worlds and cultures meet”.