As a speaker of the English language, do you think your experience of love is limited by vocabulary? We employ just one sweet four-letter word to describe all forms of it: L-O-V-E.
The Greeks have many and I’ve written about them on the blog before:
*Eros: sexual passion
*Philia: deep friendship
*Ludus: playful love
*Agape: love for everyone
*Pragma: long-standing love
*Philautia: love of self
*Storge: familial love
*Mania: obsessive love
As a love-obsessed teenager (mania anyone?), I wrote a well-received [at the time, by my family (storge) and teacher (agape)]poem entitled “Love”. Here’s a small excerpt:
“It’s beautiful and strong
and you want it longer
but it goes”
I was thirteen. My cigarette-smoking bad-boy had left me, probably for a girl who had breasts. What on earth did I know about love?
I guess knew what I saw on TV, heard in songs, and read in books. The word made me blush; I thought love was romance. I thought love was something that went together with “marriage” and a “horse and carriage”. I thought love was something I lacked. Society was subliminally telling me I needed to get out there and find it! Stat!
Okay. Lest you think my parents withheld love, I’ll explain. They were, let’s say, from the British Isles’ stiffer-upper-lip society. My mom was heaps friendlier than my dad – and certainly way more hug-gy as she got older – but they didn’t go fawning over each other, or us. It wasn’t like, lovey-dovey all the time. It was more likey-likey. I felt safe and secure. I belonged.
Although I know it now as love, I wouldn’t have called my family experience “love” back then, which is a shame. I wish there was a special English word for it, something fun, like . . . “famjam” perhaps? That’s what my famjam calls our group text thread. I feel all warm and fuzzy just typing it. Famjam. Yeah. Those are my closest peeps, the ones I’d do anything for. We’ve got the strongest bond; don’t go trying to mess with it!
So, I obviously misspoke – or miswrote – in my “Love” poem, when I said “it goes”. Sure, “puppy love” comes and goes (don’t bother talking to a teenager about puppy love, they can’t hear you), but true love, of all the varieties the Greeks identified? True love is persistent, resistant, and abundant. To exist is to love, yes? In our chests beat small suns capable of radiating infinite warmth, joy and love to every other human being – and creation – we encounter.
I love (ludus) what Michael A. Singer writes in The Untethered Soul about the sun. He makes the observation that the sun doesn’t shine differently on this person or that, this tree or that. It shines equally on all. Surely we can, and should, too?
What stops us? Well, I wrote about that recently in Cruella and Me. That voice inside your head – call it Beast, Cruella, or say Judgy-McJudge (what a good friend says one of her kids calls her when she expresses a strong opinion) – is always chirping. I like this. I don’t like that. Why did he say this? Why did she do that? The more salacious the better. The human mind loves (mania? philautia?) drama, huh?
And there’s so much of it to be found out there right now. The divide. It grows, over so many issues. Climate. Pandemic response. Politics. To cancel or not to cancel? That is the question. Ha. Are there too many people of various backgrounds with too many needs and desires? Or did we just stop loving, preferring to just go with fear? Our negativity bias does prefer fear.
When I’m feeling fearful, these great lyrics from Van Morrison come to mind:
I forgot that love existed, trouble in my mind
Heartache after heartache, worried all the time
I forgot that love existed
Then I saw the light
Everyone around me made everything alright
What’s that you say? You’ve canceled Van the Man? Why? He’s an a-hole? My husband B says that’s how he comes across in biographies on him. Or was it because of his views on the pandemic, which some consider problematic, like those of Eric Clapton?
Michael Schur, (The Good Place, The Office, Parks and Recreation and author of How to Be Perfect) has a cool take on cancel culture. I think we’d all agree that Schur’s comedy in the above shows has made us laugh, lightened our moods on dark days, yet who was his greatest comedic influence? Woody Allen. I know. Yikes! But Schur argues, how does he throw everything Woody Allen away? You end up having to hold two things to be true. Allen’s comedy kicks butt. His bad behaviour kicks butt too, but in a most reprehensible way!
If you’ve followed my blog, you know there’s a certain former politician (name rhymes with rump) who’s bad behaviour I abhor. But if I dig deep, even I can see a positive in his political existence. He made so many people interested in and passionate about politics. Even me! I have a much better handle on my beliefs, and it’s a crucial time, globally, to be engaged. He made politics salacious, which, see above, the mind loves.
I struggle with extreme anger in politics, though. And disrespect. I know people are upset with a certain Canadian leader right now (name rhymes roughly with Cousteau) but do we have to wave flags with the “F” word on them? Do these flag-wavers really want to make love to him? Do they know there are young children out there who can read? Or has the time finally come, due to overuse, that the impact of the word has been diminished? (My first mother-in-law would make them destroy that flag, then wash their mouths out with soap!)
But politics was never, nor has it ever been, about love. It’s about power. Plato pointed out the quandary of leadership over 2,300 years ago in the Allegory of the Cave. Those who seek office do it to assuage the ego, so they tend to exploit power. Those who would be good leaders often fail to seek leadership due to the lack of ego driving them.
Positive change happens from the ground up. The people. Us, with all these bright and shining suns pulsing in our chests. Communities, pulling together. Agape. Love for all.