Yes, I capitalized it. It’s a word of a thousand and one meanings and examples, so it is worthy of capitalization. When we think about love, we often think about romantic love or love between a parent and child, something traditionally seen as ‘real love’. But the Ancient Greeks had a broader interpretation of what fits under the category of ‘love’ and I think it is worth looking at.
Philia — Affectionate. Love without romantic attraction and occurs between friends or family members.
Pragma — Enduring
Storge — Familiar
Eros — Romantic
Ludus — Playful
Mania — Obsessive
Philautia — Self
Agape — Selfless. Sometimes called “God love”.
When you look at the list, you start to realize there is a spectrum of sorts. In current American culture, we don’t categorize love in a romantic relationship as shifting from romantic love to enduring love. We also tend not to think of playful love as really loving someone. Our perception of love is often the schmaltzy Valentines Day kind of overly clear demonstrations of ‘love’ or the ‘love gone wrong’ of court tv and CSI/SVU kinds of shows. Have we really forgotten so much about love and how many ways there are to love?
As I watch the news and read about politics and the justice system and educational funding and everything else going on, I feel like the question might have become rhetorical before I even asked it.
What is it about even the word love that makes us have such a strong reaction? I asked around, and it seems that generally the issue with love as a concept is that it is seen as a strong emotion. An intense emotion. An all-encompassing emotion. Rarely did the people I discussed it with think love was a sweet emotion, unless they referred back to early ‘puppy love’. That seems to be the one exception to the belief that love is an all-or-nothing emotion or that it can overwhelm other emotions.
So thinking about love…what is it that makes us feel like it is such a big deal that it can’t be something light and easy? Is it love songs? Ballads about broken hearts or first love or love gone wrong? Is it romance novels and English soap operas and Spanish novelas that bring us extreme examples of love? Is it stories from our grandparents or parents or other family and friends that lead us to norm the word, at least culturally?
I don’t know. I’ve thought about it a lot. I have been in love romantically. I love my family and friends. Sometimes I take care of myself to show myself love. When I was younger, there were even a couple of times I got obsessive about loving someone. Which, to be honest, was not a high point in my life, but it was one of the kinds of love. I have given away my last dollar and my last minute of time without thinking about it, so I have experienced selfless love as well. Why then, does it feel like I have no real understanding of what it is like to be ‘in love’?
When we stop and think about love, do we think of relationships? Do we think of partners? Do we think of events? Do we think of places? Do we think of all-of-the above? I suppose that if I’m really thinking about love that it is all of those things. So why don’t I feel like I understand love?
I think love is incomprehensible. Really, I honestly believe that love is one of those things you have to experience to understand, but I also believe that love is different every time you experience it so you could go a lifetime and never actually understand it. Are my thoughts clear? Not really. Am I sure what’s what I’m thinking? Definitely.
So we we think about love, remember that there are all kinds of love and a spectrum of emotion for every one of those kinds of love as well. So if you are having a bad day and think nobody loves you, you can probably think of someone who does, in their own way, love you. What does that make me feel better? I don’t know, except that knowing there is always someone somewhere who loves you in some way just feels…better.