As I write this, our southeast coast is bracing for Hurricane Mathew. It will be another test of how much we can love one another. Not romantic love–although that’s always possible–but the human being to human being caring. We’ve seen it before. Times like when the towers came down, earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long in some cases. We aren’t practiced in the long term hard, sometimes boring, and often frustrating act of loving another human being, faults and all. When we think of “love,” particularly those of use who read romance, we think of romantic love. But the Greeks had another idea.
Six Definitions of Love
Eros. Eros is sexual passion, almost love as an addiction. The sixties ushered in the idea of “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.” The thing those three have in common is their ability to make us forget. While it’s something many of us want to do, to shut out the world, it isn’t always the best approach. The Greeks didn’t think so. (Maybe a caution not to get too wrapped up in our romance novels to forget to live.)
Philia. Originally, this was the love between soldiers. No, not sexual love. The “I’ve got your back” love. Because of the decade and a half of war we’ve had, there is a lot of this in America. Men and women who feel they can share their experience with no one else, but someone who has shared it. Sometimes, in a family wreaked with trauma, siblings can feel this, as can people who have shared a horrific experience. Again we return to Hurricane Mathew.
Ludus. Do you flirt? Then you practice Ludus. It’s playful love. One of my favorite memories is very odd. I was walking a street in Paris. I looked into a shop window. Okay, it happened to be a butcher shop. The shop owner looked up as I walked by. And that look … oh that look … embedded into my memory for ever. It’s okay. As long as you don’t act on it … play.
Agape. We need more Agape. When John Lennon sang, “All You Need Is Love,” could this be what he meant? Story of the Good Samaritans? Agape. The people who stay through the hurricane and help out people they don’t know? Agape. When you sit down and try to understand, truly try to understand, someone with whom you don’t agree. Really strong agape.
Pragma. One of my favorite images is of an old man and old woman holding hands. Have you read The Notebook? To me that is one of the most incredible stories showing Pragma. If you haven’t read it, take a look. Just have a pile of tissues next to you.
Philautia. This is a healthy love of self. Don’t confuse it with narcissism which is a very destructive love indeed! Romance novels are predominantly read by women (although some men read them, too). Women are incredibly hard on themselves. We often think it’s our fault, and sometimes it is. Philautia encourages you to stop beating yourself up quite so much.
In my current WIP, both my hero and heroine need to practice philautia, play a little with ludus, so they can find eros, encompass their friends with agape, and have a hope of getting to pragma.
In the meantime, let’s all practice a little agape, particularly for those experiencing things beyond their control.