It started on YouTube really—not Valentine’s Day itself, but the reminder of its proximity this year. For the first time ever I was seeing such a prevalence of Valentine’s-related videos. But they induced neither gagging nor eye-rolls.
And what a pity that that should come as such a surprise.
Hearts, hearts, and more hearts—the trite associations to the holiday have made it more and more a venue for mockery than to highlight a universal message.
And let’s face it. It’s really easy to make fun of Valentine’s Day. But not so much this year.
This year, all sorts of channels—SciShow, Mental Floss, Google, Ted Ed—were posting interesting, educational, universally feel-good videos, and not dominated by stereotyped romance.
Next I started noticing the Facebook feed. Sure there was the occasional anti-Valentine’s post, or some other grievance, but almost everything else was purely positive and again, of substance.
There was a touching post about the Utah boy who bought a flower each for all 834 girls in his high school because it broke his heart to see the girls who didn’t receive anything on Valentine’s Day. There was a status share of a Muhsen post, to which my friend added a hopeful shout out to people with disabilities. Another post talked about a couple’s struggles while living in different places and that their fights really stood for their constant efforts to be there for each other. There was even an article about different Valentine’s Day traditions from cultures around the world, all very heartfelt and meaningful. It was all really nice to see.
For the past few days prior to all the posts, I had been accumulating bits together from different places. My friend recently left her work place in somewhat of an unexpected exit and she said it surprised her to get so many nice messages from people, who while she worked there may not have said anything as expressive to her. We both wondered together, why don’t people say how much you mean to them while you’re still with them?
I’ve been reading what may possibly be the coziest book in the world called Still Life, a mystery set in a small town in Quebec. I remember my first pause was on the dedication page itself, as the author expressed her love and gratitude for her husband:
This is for my husband Michael, who has created a life for us full of love and kindness. He allowed me to quit my job, pretend to write, then gave me unstinting praise even when what I produced was drivel. I’ve realised that anyone can be a critic but it takes a remarkable person to offer praise. Michael is that person.
It reminded me instantly of people who have taught me what love is, and how I think of them so often when I see oppression in the everyday and think “that person would have handled this so differently, so gently, with so much love, and it would have worked.”
I suppose lots of things happened in the few days that can only make sense or be of interest to me—but the bottom line was that I was thinking a lot about what remains important to us, how love cancels out our other feelings at the end of the day, and that the mystery of the human heart is that it is actually able to put someone else first, to defeat its own selfishness.
All these thoughts floated around in my head or sat scribbled on bedside notepads until it all fused together yesterday while reading Qur’an. The following ayah is number 78 of Surah 16, Al-Nahl (The bee):
In preceding ayaat, Allah talks about the bellies of bees and of cows and finally talks about those of our mothers and how we emerged from them not knowing a thing. And yet we have been blessed with hearing and sight and strong, passionate hearts, so that we may be grateful. Nouman Ali Khan explains that the entire essence and atmosphere of these ayaat is the importance of paying attention to Allah’s creation and that in doing so we may become more grateful. We are specifically made in this way and given remarkable faculties such as our hearts so that we may reach the ultimate goal of being grateful, the goal of Alhamdulillah.
Though the holiday may commercially appear distasteful to some, and the anatomically incorrect heart symbol can get overwhelmingly nauseating, perhaps we can hold on to the positive vibe this year and assign to Valentine’s Day the meaning of gratitude—gratitude for our hearts, for those we love, for those who love us.
It’s a short time on Earth—let’s be good and love one another!