12.8.18 - "Love Is Most Definitely Divine"
Dear Sweet Babe,
Today I want to talk to you about love.
Now, your initial reaction may be to say, “I know all about this one! Every musician on earth has written about love and I’ve already seen loads of rom-coms!”
Well, let me stop you there!
Because, guess what? Our society, in general, does not know a single thing about love.
Y’see, love in our modern, useful context, doesn’t have anything to do with birds tweeting, bells ringing, first sights, butterflies in your stomach, a willingness to die for another, or how much you even like someone else. Love is also not something you fall into nor is it something you are struck by. In short, the media (love songs, rom-coms, romance novels, Valentine’s cards…etc) have lied to you.
Well, to be fair, it’s really more that the media is presenting an archaic and problematic version of love that we, as a culture, have progressed beyond.
Allow me to take you back to ancient Greece. Your uncle is rather fond of the mythology, the religious stories, of ancient Greece. Not only do they lay the groundwork for many concepts that our modern western culture is based on, but these stories are just really thrilling. They tell of heroes and monsters, brave plans and tricky subterfuge, and through it all, the gods of Olympus pull the strings and rule over the universe.
The Greeks had gods for many, many things. They had gods for rivers and the ocean, for the sun and for the moon, the hunt, for war, and, yes, even for love. The goddess of love was Aphrodite…but Aphrodite wasn’t the goddess of the kind of love that we understand today. Aphrodite and her son (Eros- or, Cupid as the Romans knew him) were the gods of attraction, sex, and lust. They would toy with the feelings of mortals (and of other gods) to get them to chase after others.
See, in ancient Greece there were three kinds of love: Agápe, Philia, and Éros (guess which one belonged to Aphrodite and Eros). Agápe was a “charitable and philanthropic” type of love, like how one feels towards their fellow man or a suffering animal. Philia was an “affectionate, dispassionate, virtuous love between…equals,” such as one would feel for one’s friends, peers, or family. And, Éros, the divine dominion of Aphrodite, was an “erotic, sexual love…(a) passionate desire for an object.” This kind of love was seen as a type of madness. One could, literally, get love sick (we can save the problematic-ness of the “desire for an object” bit for a later conversation).
But, as society and civilization has progressed we’ve grown to change our understanding of love, but unfortunately the definition hasn’t really caught up. People still seem to think of love as an uncontrollable emotion that happens to you; a love sickness. This view would be all well in good…if we wanted to live in a society where only lust was seen as true love, we didn’t mind hurting people with the whims of attraction, and where we were left in confusion and pain when every long-term relationship seemed to lose the elusive “love” after several months.
So, what is love, truly?
Well, again, I will remind you, that is not for me to define for you. Love, like identity, like beauty, and like the myriad of other topics I will talk to you about, is completely up to you to define, and then share with the world. But, allow me to share with you what I think of love:
The Greeks weren’t wrong. Love can be broken into three categories…of course, love could also be broken into any number of categories. The key is the connection that all of these categories share. Love, in a general, all encompassing definition, is a decision to put someone first. When you love someone or something, you are agreeing to put them ahead of your own wants and your own whims. That is what is present in Agápe, Philia, and Éros. Whether it be in caring for a stranger’s needs, attending to a friend’s wants over your own, or acknowledging someone else’s attractiveness over asserting your own, love is the putting first of another.
That’s how love is so prevalent within our society and culture. Whether it be the love that is in the air at Christmas when we’re giving gifts, or the love of a family that rallies around a member who’s struggling, or the love of a teacher for their students when they give all they have to teach, or the love of a spouse dropping their work for their job to listen and care for their love. Love is the strongest way that human beings connect with each other. Love is the greatest gift we have to give to another.
Plus, the Greeks also got another thing right: love is most definitely divine.
So, sweet babe, who do you love? How will you show them that you love them?