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Sunday, September 21, 2008

What is love; or rather what are the the loves we need for happiness?

How can so many millions of us believe that love is the best thing in the world, and yet there be so little emphasis in our popular culture on what love is, as distinct from finding someone to love and to be loved by? John Lennon was quick to say “All you need is love” but he did not explain what love was. Was it just sex? Popular songs sometimes take a stab at it, but are better at phrasing questions than providing answers: “What is this thing called love?”, “Is this love?”, “I want to know what love is”, “How will I know when it’s love?” See Mathew 22:39; I Cor 13:4-7; Mathew 22:35-40, Luke 6:37, Luke 6:27) John 13-33) What is love? C.S. Lewis embarks on a personal and insightful exploration of affection, friendship, romance, and Agape Love or Charity. A wonderful book to read on this subject is C. S. Lewis The Four Loves (1960)
1) Affection (storge, στοργη) is fondness through familiarity, friendship with acquaintances , parental affection for children. Storge or storgic love is the instinctive affection most animals especially mammals have for their young.. Over time this can grow into a deeper friendship. But my Spanish wife often speaks of the importance of CONVIVIENCIA –there is no word for this in English either- which means “getting along with others; living together”. We might call it ‘socialization” but the Spanish word implies respect and affection. In other words, in is not likely you will develop a strong relationship with a cousin you see once a year at Thanksgiving. On the other hand if you go on retreats or camping trips or ball games with your friends and relatives on a regular basis you will develop a fondness, friendship and trust. In my experience “storgic” love fades quickly but the deep broad love of true friendship and true love encompassing the four loves last a lifetime and beyond. Truly love conquers all, including time.

2) Friendship, comradeship, platonic love.(philia, φιλια) is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity. Words used for this kind of love are DEVOTION, LOYALTY. It is used in the Bible for love but not as often as “agape/caritas” love. This is a strong feeling that people who serve together on the same ship or regiment develop. Many soldiers and Marines say for example that their closest relationships were with their fellow comrades, particularly if they experienced combat together. Teachers working on a faculty over many years develop this kind of friendship and so do people who share musical passions, hobbies or intellectual friendships. We do not want to be excessive in our self-love but neither should we hate ourselves. We should try to understand ourselves and our fellows. We should forgive small faults and cherish the good, especially of generous and loyal friends.

3) Eros (έρως) is romantic passionate love; physical love, a desire for sexual intimacy. Love in the sense of 'being in love'. Infatuation is what we call a relationship which is based mostly on EROS or sexual attraction. The impulsions of love are often compared with the pull of magnetism. Of course, EROS by itself can know adolescent love, adult love and illicit love (merely sex) but the highest and most satisfying loves are conjugal and familial not merely erotic. We must distinguish between true love and the murk of mere sexual lust.

4) (agapē, αγαπη) is selfless altruistic love ; an unconditional love directed to others; divine love or Christian love; “God is love”. Conjugal love at its best begins with the first love and perhaps the third love but is sustained by the second and the fourth which is the greatest love of all. This is usually translated in the New Testament as CHARITY (Caritas). UBI CARITAS DEUS IBI EST. “Where love is there is God also.” Human love is a thing of the spirit as well of the body. This perfect love is more than fallen human nature can come by and sustain without God’s love and grace. Only then do we participate in God’s love for Himself and His creatures –loving God with our hearts and souls entire and our fellows as ourselves. These are the essential precepts of the truest and deepest and an everlasting love.

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