Love and Passion. Since this blog is posting on Valentine’s Day it seemed fitting to give a little history about this special day. Passion is the force that drives the heart in the direction of what we love. And if you keep reading, you’ll see that it brings you back to a place we all know and love, Asbury Park.
The original Saint Valentine (there were many) was a Roman Catholic Priest who was a martyr and became a saint after his death. The history of Valentine’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Valentine, is somewhat obscure but most accounts include the imprisonment of Saint Valentine for performing weddings for soldiers, who were forbidden to marry. Defending the values of the church which encouraged marriage as a sacred union, and a romantic at heart, Saint Valentine defied the Roman Emperor Claudius II’s order forbidding weddings and secretly married young couples. Claudius supposedly forbade marriage in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers, not wanting to go to war and leave behind their wives and families. When Saint Valentine’s defiance was discovered he was sent to prison and eventually put to death. According to legend, one of the men to judge him was a man called Asterius, whose daughter was blind. Saint Valentine prayed for the young girl and she regained her sight. They fell in love and she visited him during his confinement and before his execution. The last words he wrote were in a farewell love letter to her, which he signed, “Your Valentine”. That’s the inspiration behind today’s romantic messages.
Another embellishment suggests that in order “to remind these men of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment” and given them to the soldiers, a possible origin of the use of hearts on Valentine’s Day. Over the period of time, St Valentine became the patron saint of lovers and we began to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a day of romance.
Folk Traditions and the Advent of Spring
A proverb says that “Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots.” Plants and flowers start to grow on this day. It has been celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards and in the fields commences. And it is said that Saint Valentine’s Day marks the beginning of spring.
During the Middle Ages, people in England and France held a belief that birds started to look for their mate from February 14. Which is probably how another proverb originated, that birds propose to each other or marry on this day, and perhaps is where the term “love birds” comes from.
Saint Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring, which is customarily worn on the hands of Christian bishops. It was said to have an image of cupid engraved in it, a recognizable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask him to perform a marriage for them. Probably due to the association with Saint Valentine, amethyst has become the birthstone of February, which is thought to attract love.
We commemorate Saint Valentine on this day because it’s the anniversary of his death, February 14, 269 AD. Saint Valentine’s passion was his belief in love and the union of marriage, and in his suffering and death, the reason he is named a martyr. After his death, Valentine was named a Saint.
The fact that Saint Valentine was a Catholic Preist causes me to give mention that today is also Ash Wednesday, a solemn religious observance known as the commencement of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar. Lent is the practice of fasting and abstinence. If you are Christian, it is during Lent that you give up your passion, your most heartfelt enjoyment, or your vices. And as we all know is the motivation behind the Mardi Gras celebration and “Fat Tuesday” — we get ourselves all fattened up, like a bear preparing for his winter’s nap, just before we deny ourselves the things we love for the next 40 days. As the Lenten season comes to a close our sacrifice culminates with mourning the death and celebrating the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. The ‘Passion of Christ’ is the memory of his trial, his suffering and his death. In Latin, the word Passion itself means to suffer and endure.
Because February is also Black History Month and a time for remembering important people of African descent and their contribution to history, I would also like to honor the Passion of Nelson Mandela. His story is one of suffering and endurance from imprisonment of nearly 30 years. It did not break his spirit, but rather ignited his passion to serve a higher purpose and fight for racial equality and democracy. Eventually, he drove his passion even further by standing up for human rights across the globe, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize.
That’s the kind of Passion I’m talking about. The kind that makes you feel extraordinarily alive. The kind that fuels your dreams and sparks a gravitational pull toward your life’s purpose. The kind of passion that gives you the courage to speak up, stand up, and fight for injustice, or inspires you to dance, sing, or play with reckless abandon. It is the Passion of People.
Say Hello To TED…
Recently, I attended an event where people stood up in front of an audience and talked about experiences that impacted their lives. A TEDxAsburypark live audition held backstage at the Paramount Theater. The theme of the talks this year is Passion. I had never been to a TED Talk before so I was curious as to what it was all about. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. The X indicates that it’s an independently organized event.
TEDx organizations are non-profits, run strictly by volunteers and the speakers do it for the desire to share something of value. Two Asbury Park residents who play a key role in the production of TEDxAsburyPark are Scott Softy and Evie Task, both of whom happen to be my neighbors.
TEDxAsburyPark used to be known as TEDxNavesink. The event is in its sixth year and was initially held at the Two River Theater in Red Bank. As the event grew, it moved to Brookdale Community College, Monmouth University, and eventually to the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. This is the second year the event will be held at its new home. TED Talks began in 1984; their mission was devoted to spreading ideas, mostly in the form of short, powerful talks, (12 minutes or less). Over the years it has evolved into a variety of topics from science to business to global issues, as well as an inclusion of art, musical acts, comedy, and dance. And the mission has taken on more of a “world-changing” theme.
The evening proved to be entertaining, educational and participatory. Even the host, Mike O’Keeffe entertained us with his amusing anecdotes. The live audition consisted of 18 speakers who were given 6 minutes to pitch their topic. After each presentation, the audience got to vote on their performance using our phones. The speakers who received the highest scores may be selected to speak in the TEDxAsburyPark main event on May 19th at the Paramount. There were so many good speakers it would be arduous to mention them all, but the people who stood out for me were: Dr. Nick Despotidis, Leslie Ferrier, Brandon Burke, and Kevin Tallon. I don’t know who will make the cut, but to all the speakers who auditioned, especially those who don’t get selected: thank you for sharing your stories. I could see the passion in your eyes, and in some cases, the pain. It was a courageous and generous act.
Here’s What I learned
You never make anything better by making it worse, (say that again). Why you should take your kids and get outdoors. Smile, even if you’re crying inside. How to turn fear into action. Make your dreams come true, take a risk, and ask someone to lunch. The importance of Offshore Wind Power. Spread gratitude every day. And be passionate about YOU!
This event is one to mark on your calendar. The stories you’ll hear will inspire you, teach you things you didn’t know, allow you to see something from a new perspective, make you sad for twelve minutes, then laugh out loud for the next twelve. It will expand your mind and get you wondering; “What do I have to share with the world?”
What’s your passion?
What keeps you going for hours without a thought or a care to how long you’ve been there? What drives your heart in the direction of something you love? Think about it.
For me, it’s writing this blog…Thanks for reading.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! <3 <3