what love is

…continued from yesterday’s (this morning’s really) post “What Love Is Not”.

I have been in such a tizzie about this question that I’ve been researching like I was back in high-school trying to write a term paper.

The last time I was this frantic about finding my truth, I was just starting out my search for the important questions to my answers. Because this quest also feels very much like a spiritual journey, I decided to once again look towards faith teachings for answers.

(Did you know that you can find information relating to almost EVERYTHING in holy texts? Pretty cool, that.)

Anyway, The Hebrew Bible (or The Old Testament for those Christians who’ve adopted it and call it their own) references four types of love that exist between people: storge, philia, eros and agape

Storge  (storgē), the first love between people is literally the first love between people.  Storge means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural biological affection, like that felt by parents for offspring.  This ‘love’ is the type that binds families together so that, no matter what external forces come against them, the unity of the group remains complete and unbreakable. Even though suffering and heartache may come into their experience, storge love binds the family together and strengthens its ties.

Philia (philía) means friendship or affectionate love in modern Greek. It is a dispassionate, virtuous love. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. Philadelphia, The city Of Brotherly Love, derives its name from the root word philia. Philia would be the love that defines patriotism, school pride or the relationship between the fans of a sports team. Although it would appear to be benign, a negative aspects of philia may present as prejudiced behaviors and mob mentality.

Éros (érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. Eros is the type of love that we usually think of when we first ponder ‘love’. It is often exciting, overwhelming, and wonderful. Eros is the type of love for which we long, the love for which we may indeed wile away the hours and commune with flowers, the love that inspires poets. Eros is the type of love we are referring to when we say “Love hurts”.

Agape is the final Greek word for ‘love’ used in Scripture. Agape is defined as being unconditional, pure love. It is a love that stems from the ability of the individual to see the divine spark in all life. Agape distinguishes its character from ‘eros’ which has more sensual associations. The word was used extensively in early Christian writings to express the love of God or Christ or the love of Christians for one another and was translated in Latin to caritas or ‘charity’ in English.

So, by these definitions, Love is then about passion and sexual intimacy. All the angst, the crazy butterflies in our stomaches, love is about all of that too. But, sadly, that kind of love is fleeting.  We so desperately want to live in a state of agape that we trick ourselves into believing eros is so much more than it really is. And then, then when the shine is off the penny and the newness of a relationship has faded, we find that we have “fallen out of love”. With our naive and unrealistic expectations of love we are literally setting ourselves up to fail.

I think the primary difference between agape and other manifestations of love is intent. When we strive to experience agape, we consciously tend to our relationships with others. We cultivate and work at maintaining such love. Agape is love in action; if relates to  what we do rather than how we feel. Eros, storge and philia are more passive than overachiever agape.

Sadly, way less emphasis is put on the role of agape in our culture than other types of love. We convince ourselves that eros is the end-all-be-all and that all we need is love. Hmmm. Crazy, huh?

So, Seal and Heidi…. I guess they held tightly to their eros for the duration, so sad that in the monotony of the day to day they didn’t have the skills to shift along the continuum from eros to agape. Passion fades, good looks are subjective, belt-lines expand and hair falls out or turns to grey. For love to last, honest hard work must be part of the program.

At this point, I would like to state that I think the worst thing to ever happen to the status of love in western society would be the release of the movie Love Story based on the book by Erich Segal and starring Ryan O’Neil and Ali McGraw. The famous quote, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” comes from this movie. Unfortunately people still believe this claptrap and behave accordingly. We all know, though, that love means having to say you’re sorry all the time, don’t we? Love is not about being right, it is about being… well, being loving.

Love you (and all your quirks – cuz they’re what makes you you)

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what love is not

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life:

That word is love.

-Sophocles

Not sure I agree with Sophocles’ philosophy of  love there.

Struggling to come up with a better one, however.

Let’s start with what love is not.

Love is not an emotion.

Love is not something  you “feel”

Love is not about having sex.

Love is not fixing someone who is broken.

Love is not  changing someone else.

Love is not controlling.

Love is not complacent.

Love is not co-dependent neither is it enabling.

Love is not a hole one can fall in and out of.

Okay, so, let’s move on to what what love IS.*

Love is a job.

Love is what you do.

Love needs cultivating…….

damn…..

I was all set to present this entry as a rant, but that didn’t work out because my anger dissipated when I started putting my thoughts together. Then I realized that I was sounding all Corinthians 13-ish and that isn’t where I want to go with this either.

I feel like I am sloshing through a bayou of discontent. I have been debating with myself, questioning my belief system,  looking to my friends and family (and Google), reflecting on relationships long gone – all in an effort to define what love is. Or what love is to me at any rate….

***the following three paragraphs serve absolutely no purpose other than to provide a little digression that allows me to think about what I really want to say (feel free to skip if you’re not interested in taking that extra time for a moment of Jenn….)***

My secret guilty pleasure is celebrity gossip.  Generally, reading about the rich and famous and their woes, contributes to my feeling a little better about my own issues. For example: no matter how overheated, miserable or depressed I’ve been, I have never shaved my head nor have been busted by the paparazzi without my skivvies. (Thank you, Britney Spears.) I have had a couple of my own nervous breakdowns that have been quite spectacular, but then along comes Charlie Sheen (and Brit again) and my problems look like a mild bout of SAD.  Watching Jon and Kate was too much, even for me, but I sure could read about them and, wow, did my family shine in comparison (ALL of my family).

In the midst of all the day-to-day drama, in an age when marriages have about a 50-50 shot at lasting, some celebrity couples just seem to work. Perhaps they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Perhaps we need these subtle heroes to emulate. I am thinking of couples like Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward, Kevin Bacon/Kyra Sedgewick and Danny DeVito/Rhea Perleman.

At any rate, I am having difficulty wrapping my mind around Heidi Klum and Seal’s divorce. (I want to remind you here that despite any proof to the contrary I am actually a very intelligent person.) I know that celebrities and their issues have no impact in my life, but They presented as an ideal couple – at least all the weeklies made it seem so.  She was quoted regularly saying how wonderful, handsome and considerate  a husband he was. They were often photographed out and about with their family. He adopted her first-born. Yet, they either couldn’t or wouldn’t find a way to salvage their marriage and preserve the structure of the family unit. Those “close to the couple” have referenced his temper and her resentment of the lack of passion in their union as possible  contributing factors to the demise of  their marriage.

That just doesn’t seem like love to me.

Ummm, so it’s past 3am and I really need to make an effort  to get at least five hours of sleep tonight – so this is going to have to be a two-parter.  As a warning, I will be getting religious when I start in on what love is. (tomorrow, I  hope)

Love you (and caffeine, dear, dear caffeine)

*Note: it is significantly easier to define what love is not than what it is

the leibster award

All y’all know I take obligation seriously. If I tell you I’m going to do something, odds are 99.75% that I will do it. (Yeah, that’s right, .25% of the time, I’m just simply NOT going to follow through… Well, really, I probably will follow through, but I like to give myself some wiggle room.) I’m not quite as bad as Dr. Sheldon Cooper when working out my interpersonal debts, but I think I run a pretty tight second.

So I blame my good friend Bohemian Geeky Girl for my being incommunicado for the past couple weeks. Actually, that would be too easy – she simply set me about a task; I choose to use that as an excuse to not come here.

You see, Bohemian Geeky Girl awarded me the most-sought-after blog award available today. Apparently the Liebster Award is a way of supporting other new bloggers with fewer followers, in recognition of their efforts and to promote and circulate their little known, but great work. Part of the award is to “pay it forward” by passing the award to five other “smaller” blogs, and linking them to your own blog.

Then, if you can believe it, I was Leibster’ed by Cynthia Beard, another of the five that GeekyGirl had nominated. Awesome (amount of weight on my shoulders – ‘cuz now I have to choose 10 blogs to pay it forward to…).

I am returning the award both to Bohemian Geeky Girl and  Cynthia Beard hurtling through space to keep the love flowing. Seriously, I would be including them anyway and it does take two off my total due… Let me tell you about these two wonderful women.  The Geeky Girl is like conscious-streaming the thoughts of every girl who loves Dr. Who, knows the difference between Star Wars and StarTrek and has participated in at least one live action game…. Love her.

Cynthia Beard, is writing from point far further down the road (I hope) of a caregiver to  someone with long-term care issues. Her mom passed away a year ago. No joke, it is tough to read her work, but I know that I need to hear what she has to say. Ya’know? And she writes in a style that I can relate to – no easy task, I guarantee.

Other blogs that I am following cover a pretty wide range of topics. However lately,  most of them are larger blogs that seem to be being published in book form. (I believe there is a certain level of irony in this factoid.)

I have been following From Two To Five Overnight for a couple of years now. The author is one of my former classmates. The blog began as an attempt to keep family and friends in the loop while she and her military husband were overseas on deployment. It became so much more. K shares their struggles and joys while adopting three young children and acclimatizing to being a family of five.

Another of my favorites is Single Mom Survives. She has been off-line for a couple  of months now, but I hold out hope that she will return. She dishes with beautiful honesty about all things single-mother-y. It doesn’t hurt that she was raised up in the area of TX we are in by her mom and her partner. Just makes me like her all the more.

Trailer Park Karma, penned by my dear friend The Trailer Park Bodhisattva is a guide-book for living off what you have. She amazes me on a regular basis. She actually gets paid to write. Crazy, huh?

Mean Moms Rule is another keeper. Sometimes, living in the glut of niceness that is the land south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it is nice to  bite into a little snark every once in a while. Actually, most of the time.

This next one I realize isn’t probably a smaller/newer blog although I wonder if it actually does get 200 readers each month, but is one that I follow regularly. UU Parenting is sometimes over-the-top (in my opinion) regarding staying on the right side of the PC-Line – but it does offer some viewpoints on the harder social justice issues that we are faced with today. Usually opinions/viewpoints that I am not too likely to hear unless I actually am at church…

I lovelovelove thxthxthx. It takes me less than a minute to tap into my daily dose of appreciation. I like that. I find it helps me to redirect my point of view. Nice.

In direct opposition of thxthxthx, would be Things I Want To Punch In The Face. I don’t think I really need to take the time to let you know why this particular blog appeals to me. Do I?

I hope that I have been able to turn you on to some new reading materials. I hope you will be as affected by them as I have been.

Love you (and receiving recognition – thanks)