And then, excuse from pain-
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;
And then, to go to sleep;
And then, if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The liberty to die.
- Emily Dickinson
I recently read an interesting article by Roger Scruton explaining his philosophical objections to celebrating Christmas. He summed it up in one word: kitschification. He was not merely talking about the material kitsch of plastic santas. His concern was the very theological basis of the holiday (the incarnation) had been reduced to papier-mâché platitudes.
As much as I agree with him about Christmas, I think he picked the wrong holiday. Today's little celebration of the life of St. Valentine (or Valentines, since there are 13 of them) has nothing to do with martyrdom -- unless you take into account all of those long-stemmed beauties who give up their very lives in the cause of love. For a manufactured holiday, 14 February takes one of the top prizes. If love can be reduced to roses, truffles, and rank verse, kitsch will rule. But kitsch may be better than the other legacies of this day -- with blood in a warehouse on North Clark Street. Even though both are evidence of a hollow where a heart should be.
So what causes this musing? I cannot be certain, but my visit to the dentist this morning may be cause enough. I had two root canals before noon. They needed to be done -- I seem to clinch my teeth tighter than a pit bull while asleep. (Reason #1 to move to Mexico: my job is eating up my eating utensils.) The pulling of the pulverized pulp was easy enough. The most painful part came at the desk: $1,186 (US) for the root canals, $1,369 (US) for a new crown -- and not the type that will allow me to order the decapitation of knaves. (Reason #2 to move to Mexico: I have read enough to know that the dental care is every bit as good for a fraction of the price.)
Where does that leave us? Perhaps wondering why the multiple St. Valentines were martyrs and why we find honor in eating the little chocolate hearts that symbolize the second greatest commandment -- to love one another. And to remember that Al Capone does not hand out greeting cards at his warehouse.