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Valentine’s Day: Its Gory, Unromantic Secret History
The origin of Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with love and everything to do with “torturous martyrdom.” On second thought, perhaps the origin of Valentine’s Day has a great deal to do with love.
The origin of Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with love and everything to do with “torturous martyrdom.” On second thought, perhaps the origin of Valentine’s Day has a great deal to do with love. *
Originally, the feast day of St. Valentine remembered two 3rd century martyrs by the name of Valentine who were elevated to sainthood in the early middle ages. Both Valentines—one the Bishop of Terni and the other a priest in Rome—were allegedly decapitated by their persecutors on February 14.
Incidentally, St. Valentine (as the two Valentines seem to have merged into one figure by the 9th century) is the patron saint of epileptics, not lovers.
Medieval miracle plays based on the Bishop of Terni Valentine show him brutally beaten, bloodied, and decapitated before angels transport him to heaven. It really puts you in a mood for love.
According to author Leigh E. Schmidt, several locales in Europe claimed Terni’s relics, as they were widely dispersed. Several different shrines claimed possession of his skull.
There was no link between St. Valentine’s Day and love until the 14th century. At that time, some scholars claim that Chaucer associated Valentine’s Day with lovers by describing it as the day on which birds select their mates.
More plausibly, writes Elizabeth White Nelson, the tradition of expressing love on Valentine’s Day comes from the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility rite held on February 15. Typically, the medieval church would try to combine saints’ feast days with pagan festivals, to boost Church loyalty and participation.
Whatever the reasons, by the 1500s the link between Valentine’s Day, courtship, and love was established. The religious meanings of the day faded; its amorous meanings grew.
Rituals emerged in Europe in the 1600s and 1700s to divine future spouses on Valentine’s Day. Some young people went to churchyards at midnight to await an omen, but drawing lots was the most common practice of divination. Clergyman Henry Bourne explained in 1725, “it is a ceremony, …to draw Lots, which they term Valentines….The names of a select number of one Sex, are by an equal Number of the other put into some Vessel; and, after that, every one draws a Name, which for the present is called their Valentine, and is also look’d upon as good Omen of their Man and Wife afterwards.”
The “drawing lots” ceremony could get ugly, and vicious. In France this celebration of the lottery of love became fractious. In France, explains Elizabeth White Nelson, once the valentines had been chosen, the woman prepared a meal for the man, and they attended a public dance. If the man was displeased, he would leave her, and she would remain in seclusion for eight days.
But, at the end of this time, “all the women who had been spurned gathered in the town square and burned their valentines in effigy.”
This carnival of romantic revenge often escalated into riots, such that in 1776 the French parliament outlawed the ritual, and it had practically disappeared by the 1810s.
When Valentine’s Day migrated to the United States, it was well established as a holiday for love, but was scarcely observed in the 1700s.
Then, in the 1840s and 1850s there was a “valentine’s epidemic.” Cards were flying through the penny post, and “Valentine” came to denote the card, not the person. Dismayed defenders of the faith felt that the penny post valentine cheapened affection, and joked that many a postal carrier was crushed under his bag of cheaply-produced letters strewn with cooing birds and hearts.
A rich, hilarious world of romantic charivari—an Anti-Valentine’s tradition—developed parallel to the ornately sentimental and sincere valentines. The first card manufacturers offered “comic” valentines that engaged in “ritualized mockery” and insult. These cards ridiculed professions—members of a certain craft, for example—but mostly lampooned old maids, social poseurs, male dandies who refused to marry, and feminists. Read one card of the 1850s (reprinted in Schmidt’s book):
You ugly, cross, and wrinkled shrew,
You advocate of woman’s rights,
No man on earth would live with you
For fear of endless fights
Another features the devil pitch-forking an old maid. “The End of the Old Maids,” it began:
Oh what a very sorry sight it is,
to see an aged lady still a Miss,
to know that single she must live and work,
and in the end be toasted on a fork.
The influential Godey’s magazine decried that these mock valentines were “so gross and disgusting that it would seem only savages or brutes could have prepared them.”
They couldn’t quibble with the sales, however. Surprisingly, the cultural undertow of satirical, mock valentines sold just as briskly as the tenderly affectionate ones. Even in the putatively more sincere Victorian age of intricate, lacey, effusive cards, Valentine’s Day had an unromantic, sardonic alter ego.
Purists in the 1840s and 1850s saw even the more sentimental commercial cards as “an abomination,” opined the Philadelphia Public Ledger. “What satisfaction is it to a lady to receive a printed declaration, embossed and gilded according to a set pattern, and which is a precise facsimile of fifty thousand others which she knows to have been sent to half the young ladies in the town?” Another essayist in 1845 called valentine’s cards “a vile variety of the bribe kind—the most cutting form of dismissal” in its lack of authenticity or spontaneity.
To manage the paradox that a generic, mass-produced valentine was being asked to convey a heartfelt, singular emotion, a whole new business emerged of “valentine writer books.” These books provided verses that could be copied into a valentine and presented as the sender’s own words, and unique creation. Elizabeth White Nelson describes a book in which two of the poems of prepared verse are marked with the names of two women, one in pencil and one in pen, both in the same hand.
So, all you cranks and cynics take heart: Valentine’s Day had a decidedly unromantic genesis, and even after the holiday got alloyed to romantic love, it had its own subversive, cynical undertow right from the start, whether it be the riots and effigies of failed love, the charivari mockery valentines, or the valentine writer’s plagiary book to achieve “authentic” expression.
* I draw this material from three scholarly sources that include material on Valentine’s Day: Leigh E. Schmidt, Consumer Rites; Elizabeth White Nelson, Market Sentiments; and Frank Staff, The Valentine and its Origins.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
How can we promote the creation of new neurons - and why is it so important?
- Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
- After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
- Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
Two parts of the brain can continue growing through neurogenesis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTAwODc1MH0.4GDLlZmkwuD0-pJ0s0UWcUoYXMy95a-AM61a_QAlAeA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e77e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4e23499fdf3b2185533979083fd02db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="brain made of twigs and plants concept of neurogenesis" />
Neurogenesis is still possible well into adulthood in two very important parts of the human brain.
Image by EtiAmmos on Shutterstock<p>Although most people are aware that aging or bad habits such as heavy alcohol use can contribute to the deterioration of our brains, not many of us give thought to how we can generate new brain cells.</p><p>Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth. </p><p><strong>After birth, however, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain:</strong></p><ul><li>The olfactory bulb, which is a structure of the forebrain that's responsible for our sense of smell. </li><li>The hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain located within the temporal lobe (just above your ears) - this area is important for learning, memory, regulation, of emotions and spatial navigation. </li></ul><p>Of course, when this information first came to light <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13860748" target="_blank">back in the 1960s</a>, the next natural question was: How do we promote neurogenesis in those areas where it's still possible? </p><p>Researchers today believe there are activities you can do (some of them may be things you already do on a daily basis) that can promote neurogenesis in your brain. </p><p><strong>Why is it important to promote the growth of new neurons in adulthood?</strong></p><p>We produce an estimated 700 million neurons per day in the hippocampus - this means by the time we reach the age of 50, we will have exchanged the neurons we were born within that area of the brain with new (adult-generated) neurons. </p><p>If we don't promote this exchange with the growth of new neurons, we may block certain abilities these new neurons help us with (such as keeping our memory sharp, for example). </p>
4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE3NjczNH0.qyzh_AIUPKfaQIa1QEq4yTNCAAK9nYkH3HFV9vWXwww/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C104&height=700" id="64a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee1307fe2dd61ae425552da56db3c5ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child playing trumpet concept of learning a new instrument neurogenesis" />
Learning a new instrument helps promote neurogenesis.
Photo by DenisProduction.com on Shutterstock<p><strong>Intermittent fasting</strong></p><p><a href="https://law.stanford.edu/2015/01/09/lawandbiosciences-2015-01-09-intermittent-fasting-try-this-at-home-for-brain-health/" target="_blank">A 2015 Stanford study</a> examined the link between <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section1" target="_blank">intermittent fasting</a> and neurogenesis. Calorie restriction and fasting can not only increase synaptic plasticity and promote neuron growth but it can also decrease your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases and boost cognitive function. </p><p><u>Two of the most common ways you can intermittently fast are: </u></p><ul><li>16 hours per day every day - this is a method where you are able to eat for an 8 hour period of the day and fast for 16 hours of the day. Many people begin their "fast" after dinner, pushing their morning meal far enough towards lunch that most of their "off" eating time happens while they are asleep anyways. </li></ul><ul><li>24 hours every week - this is a method where once a week you fast for an entire day. Some people prefer this method because the rest of the week can resume as normal - but for many, this is a difficult way to fast. </li></ul><p><strong>Traveling to new places</strong></p><p>While traveling is something many of us enjoy — scenic routes and new fun experiences — these things also promote neurogenesis while we're on vacation. <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-xpm-2014-01-28-sc-trav-0128-travel-mechanic-20140128-story.html" target="_blank">Paul Nussbaum</a>, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explains that the mental benefits of traveling are very clear.<br></p><p><em>"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites (dangling extensions) which grow the brain's capacity." </em></p><p><strong>Learning a new instrument</strong></p><p>The mental health benefits of music have long been studied, but did you know that learning a new instrument can promote new neuron growth? </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996135/" target="_blank">this 2010 study</a>, learning to play a new musical instrument is an intense, multisensory motor experience that requires that acquisition and maintenance of skills over your entire lifetime - which of course, promotes the new formation of new neural networks. </p><p>When is the best time to begin learning a new instrument? Childhood, of course. </p><p><em>"Learning to play a new musical instrument in childhood can result in long-lasting changes in brain organization," </em>according to the study mentioned above. </p><p>While learning an instrument in adulthood will also promote neurogenesis, children who began training with a musical instrument before the age of 7 have shown that they have a significantly larger corpus callosum (the area of the brain the allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain) than many adults. </p><p><strong>Reading novels</strong></p><p>A study from <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html" target="_blank">Emory University</a> showed there was an increase in ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading the same (fiction) novel. </p><p>In this study, enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that control physical sensations and movement. Reading a novel, according to lead researcher Gregory Berns, can transport you into the body of the protagonist. </p><p>This ability to shift into another mental state is a vital skill that promotes healthy neurogenesis in those areas of the brain. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?