EDITORIAL – The business of love

In his 1979 encyclical Redemptor Hominis, Pope John Paul II emphasized, “Man cannot exist without love; without love, he becomes incomprehensible to himself.” While not explicitly addressing romantic love, this poignant statement from the Polish Pope resonates as Valentine’s Day draws near.
Originally dedicated to the Catholic martyrs Valentinus, February 14 has metamorphosed into Valentine’s Day, a celebration of Cupid, the son of the Roman goddess of love, Venus, and his arrows that spark affection.

Yet, could Valentine’s Day have transformed into a commercial conspiracy aimed at enriching those involved in its billion-dollar industry? The question lingers as the day approaches, prompting contemplation on the authenticity of the celebration of love.

The origins of the modern celebration trace back to 17th-century Britain, where friends and lovers from all social strata exchanged small gifts and affectionate messages. By the mid-18th century, handwritten expressions of love transitioned to printed cards, often featuring messages by famous poets.
In 1840, Esther A. Howland made history by selling collections of cards in the United States, accompanied by roses, particularly red ones. This marked the inception of an avenue for lovers and secret admirers to eloquently express their feelings.

Over time, Valentine’s Day, much like Christmas, has burgeoned into a complex industry, with an estimated billion cards exchanged, in addition to countless bouquets, chocolates, and gifts. Various sectors, including romantic dinners, trips, and perfumes, reach their pinnacle on February 14, solidifying its status as the second-largest shopping day in some countries, trailing only Christmas.
Despite its economic significance, it is disheartening that the true meaning of this day – the celebration of love – often takes a backseat amid the materialistic fervor. The commercialization prompts reflection on whether the essence of love is overshadowed by consumerism.

Material gifts and beautiful roses, while appreciated, are not essential for our loved ones to feel cherished. The most valuable gift this Valentine’s Day, as Forbes aptly notes, is our time. In an era dominated by materialism, the currency of time remains invaluable and profound.

Every day, and particularly on Valentine’s Day, extending one’s attention, time, and affection to those we love is a gesture that transcends material possessions. It is a reminder that the core of love lies in the intangible connections forged through shared moments, laughter, and genuine expressions of care.
As the commercial aspects of Valentine’s Day gain prominence, this call to prioritize authentic connections becomes increasingly relevant. Embracing the true spirit of love, beyond the confines of consumerism, ensures that this celebration remains a heartfelt expression rather than a mere transaction. In a world driven by transactions, the genuine investment of time in our relationships emerges as the most profound and enduring act of love.

Roberto Silva

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