Day 132 - Eight Fold Love on Valentine's Day...
Ok, so I wrote last year about how much I hate this holiday and why. This year I am trying to have a more positive attitude...
I guess there is nothing wrong with a day that celebrates love in theory. I guess I have more of an issue with its application rather than its ideal.
I go back to the ancient Greeks for this one. They had eight different forms of love that they talked about...Eros only being one of them. They had Eros, Philia, Storage, Ludus, Mania, Pragma, Philautia and Agape.
Seems that on this day that we are reminded to celebrate love, it might be nice to expand our definition so that it is more inclusive rather than only focusing on Eros for a change.
Since my main objection to this holiday was the manner in which it excludes people and makes those excluded feel like shit, I offer the following as an attempt to bring everyone into the love fold.
We can start with Eros just to get it out of the way...
The first kind of love is Eros, which is named after the Greek god of love and fertility. Eros represents the idea of sexual passion and desire. Eros is manifested in the physical body.
The ancient Greeks considered Eros to be dangerous and frightening as it involves a “loss of control” through the primal impulse to procreate. Eros is a passionate and intense form of love that arouses romantic and sexual feelings.
Eros is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love that in the hearts of the spiritually awakened can be used to “recall knowledge of beauty” (as Socrates put it) through Tantra and spiritual sex. But when misguided, eros can be misused, abused and indulged in, leading to impulsive acts and broken hearts.
Eros is a primal and powerful fire that burns out quickly. It needs its flame to be fanned through one of the deeper forms of love below as it is centered around the selfish aspects of love, that is, personal infatuation and physical pleasure.
I am totally lacking in this department on this day. Truth be told, that is ok. I will skip the highs to avoid the lows right now. Just where I am today. Someday, I hope to be able to enjoy the more spiritually evolved form of this kind of love. To date, seems as though this always ends in disaster.
The second type of love is philia, or friendship. The ancient Greeks valued philia far above eros because it was considered a love between equals. This kind of love manifests in the mind.
Plato felt that physical attraction was not a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, “without physical attraction.” Philia is a type of love that is felt among friends who’ve endured hard times together.
As Aristotle put it, philia is a “dispassionate virtuous love” that is free from the intensity of sexual attraction. It often involves the feelings of loyalty among friends, camaraderie among teammates, and the sense of sacrifice for your pack.
I am lucky in love here. I have a lot of Philia love in my life. There is The Tribe for starters. They are my pack. My girls. My cheerleaders. They bring me soup when I am sick. Vegetarian soup at that. They check up on me. They listen to my rantings, they support me in all that I do, attempt and fail. They are my biggest fans and most honest, sincere supporters. They love me to my core. I return their love in equal measure. We are equals. I am also blessed with many other friendships based on Philia. Some with men, most with women. My life is overflowing with this type of love.
Although storge closely resembles philia in that it is a love without physical attraction, storge is primarily to do with kinship and familiarity. Storge is a natural form of affection that often flows between parents and their children, and children for their parents. Storge love is based on memories.
Storge love can even be found among childhood friends that is later shared as adults. But although storge is a powerful form of love, it can also become an obstacle on our spiritual paths, especially when our family or friends don’t align with or support our journey.
I am lucky in love here as well. I have a great relationship with both my parents and my children. While there have been opportunities for my spiritual path to be blocked in this regard, the love that we share for each other has helped all of us to work through our issues and move ourselves forward. While we haven’t always understood what is going on, we have always done our best to support each other on whatever path we find ourselves.
Although ludus has a bit of the erotic eros in it, it is much more than that. The Greeks thought of ludus as a playful form of love, for example, the affection between young lovers. Ludus resides in our emotions.
Ludus is that feeling we have when we go through the early stages of falling in love with someone, e.g. the fluttering heart, flirting, teasing, and feelings of euphoria.
Playfulness in love is an essential ingredient that is often lost in long-term relationships. Yet playfulness is one of the secrets to keeping the childlike innocence of your love alive, interesting and exciting.
I think I miss this form of love the most. It is the thing that I think about when I think about falling in love again. It is this playfulness that I have come to define love going forward. It is what I want most from a partner. A connection that allows for us to be doing the laundry, hiking, shopping or whatever and having a great time. That energy between us connected and lit up. The ability to enjoy each other and whatever the task solely because we are together.
Mania love is a type of love that leads a partner into a type of madness and obsessiveness. It occurs when there is an imbalance between eros and ludus. Mania resides in the survival instinct.
To those who experience mania, love itself is a means of rescuing themselves; a reinforcement of their own value as the sufferer of poor self-esteem. This person wants to love and be loved to find a sense of self-value. Because of this, they can become possessive and jealous lovers, feeling as though they desperately “need” their partners.
If the other partner fails to reciprocate with the same kind of mania love, many issues prevail. This is why mania can often lead to issues such as codependency.
Um, well yeah. Have been here. Not lately...but wow, I could have used this definition at 12. This would have been totally helpful to have seen this as a form of love AND not a goal. I am happy to report that it has been a very long time since I had this type of love in my life. However, there have been strains of this in more recent relationships...something to be mindful of going forward. Today, I am not interested in experiencing this again...ever. Thus all the work on self worth and esteem. Love between equals seemingly the only love I am interested in today.
Pragma is a love that has aged, matured and developed over time. It is beyond the physical, it has transcended the casual, and it is a unique harmony that has formed over time. Pragma resides in the unconscious.
You can find pragma in married couples who’ve been together for a long time, or in friendships that have endured for decades. Unfortunately pragma is a type of love that is not easily found. We spend so much time and energy trying to find love and so little time in learning how to maintain it.
Unlike the other types of love, pragma is the result of effort on both sides. It’s the love between people who’ve learned to make compromises, have demonstrated patience and tolerance to make the relationship work.
This is perhaps the love I understand the least. It is something that I observe. I think my parents have it for each other. I have seen others love each other in this manner. I hope for this in my life but as I grow older, the less and less I see that happening. This is a love that requires a lifetime to come into being. The shorter the lifetime, the less depth the love. Or maybe that is wrong, maybe it depends more on the quality of the love over time, not just the duration. I honestly don’t know...
The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This form of self-love is not the unhealthy vanity and self-obsession that is focused on personal fame, gain and fortune as is the case with Narcissism. Philuatia resides in the soul.
Instead, philautia is self-love in its healthiest form. It shares the Buddhist philosophy of “self-compassion” which is the deep understanding that only once you have the strength to love yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin, will you be able to provide love to others. As Aristotle put it, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.”
You cannot share what you do not have. If you do not love yourself, you cannot love anyone else either. The only way to truly be happy is to find that unconditional love for yourself. Often learning to love yourself involves embracing all the qualities you perceive as “unlovable”, this is where shadow work comes in.
Well, here is where I have done a lot of work. I am still doing a lot of work. I got this way wrong. I thought that if I got someone else to love me, then I would be good. I spent the better part of my life chasing down Eros and Ludus, only to realize that without Philutia they really mean nothing. My ability to participate in a truly loving relationship, completely and totally dependent upon me being able to love myself. I am doing the work but the progress feels slow going. I still find myself deluded into believing that validation can and will come through another person. I know this is wrong, but am continually returning to the point where I have to let this go again and again and again.
But I do have it for myself today. A love of self. I value myself much more and better than I ever have before...while I can still see the work I need to do...I will allow myself to call it good today. Whatever amount of Philautia, enough.
The highest and most radical type of love according to the Greeks is agape, or selfless unconditional love. This love resides in our heart.
This type of love is not the sentimental outpouring that often passes as love in our society. It has nothing to do with the condition-based type of love that our sex-obsessed culture tries to pass as love.
Agape is what some call spiritual love. It is an unconditional love, bigger than ourselves, a boundless compassion, an infinite empathy. It is what the Buddhists describe as “mettā” or “universal loving kindness.” It is the purest form of love that is free from desires and expectations, and loves regardless of the flaws and shortcomings of others.
Agape is the love that is felt for that which we intuitively know as the divine truth: the love that accepts, forgives and believes for our greater good.
This is the area I have done the most work. I do feel loving kindness for others now. Not all the time certainly, but I feel it. I can be out there in the world, interacting with people and can have this love surge for them. It happens in traffic, it happens in line at the grocery store. It happens in the most random places, usually some place where I am more likely to be irritated and impatient. But without my permission, I feel overwhelmed by our shared humanity. The commonality of their struggle with my own. Sometimes it is overwhelming to the point of making me cry. I had it last weekend as I walked the streets of San Francisco. When I saw the young man completely tweaked out of his mind, the young gay couple kissing on the street, the pigeon landing in my path, the homeless man trying to find a sunny spot to warm up in. I didn’t feel different than, I saw our shared humanity. I saw that we all suffer together. If I am paying attention, I can feel their pain, as acutely as my own. It slices deeply and I am overcome with love.
This type of love feels like it is the most needed in the world. The good news being that I think more people are working on this than ever before. We are conscious of the world’s need for agape. For loving kindness to be the manner in which we all relate. Perhaps, a challenge in the upcoming election but my goal nonetheless. If I am different than, I am taking myself out of the human race, and setting myself apart. When I am apart, I can feel nothing. I shut down a part of myself in this way, and that limits my ability to feel anything at all. Any of the eight forms of love.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I challenge us to work on all the forms of love today. Love in whatever form it manifests for you. Love with abandon. Love with intensity and fervor. Love in whatever way you can. Even if your love is Mania, do that with all you are as well but maybe stop short of getting a restraining order... The lessons for each of us, happening in our lives right now. Today, instead of focusing on what type of love I lack, I am going to focus on the love that I have, the love that I give and the love that I receive. Every day. This life has meaning and depth because of love. Today, I will try to keep that in the forefront of my mind as I walk the treacherous path of a single woman on Valentine’s Day.
*All of the information I got about the eight forms of love came from Mateo Sol’s website, Lonerwolf.com. The passages are direct quotes from his website and not my own writing. I underlined all of his words to clearly delineate what is mine and what is his.