Thursday, February 5, 2009

February Contest! Follow the Links!

Everybody writes about love in February. Why should I break the trend?

Read on and follow the blog trail to your next target! Find out who hosts the next stop on the blog trail at the bottom of the page. Then post a response to this blog before 12 midnight on Monday, February 9th for a chance to win a copy of The Joining before it hits the cyber-shelves on Wednesday!

Now let me tell you. There’s more to love than greeting cards and roses.

Of course, a greater number of books and plays have been written about it than any other subject. But fiction writers are not the only ones to ponder the nature of love.

Why don’t we look at what philosophy says about it?

First, let’s learn about the word itself.

Yes, I do mean the word. I’m not going to recount any emotional first meets, or tell you the best way to set up a romantic dinner.

No, I want to look at the meaning of the word love and what it signifies for our relationships.

But have we imagined that love comes in several different kinds, and that each can have a multitude of qualities and degrees?

We know of a mother’s love, of brotherly love, of the warm feeling of a deep friendship. However, have we considered that all these are entirely different types of love, rather than degrees of one and the same feeling?

The Greek language (so beloved of ancient writers and philosophers), differentiates between four kinds of love. There’s storge, philia, eros, and agape. They refer to different bonds between different people. We all know (or think we know) eros. But what of the others?
Philia is not unfamiliar from compound nouns we use quite often: philosophy, Francophile, bibliophile, philanthropy, not to mention the less pleasant ones… that I’m not going to quote here. They all refer to someone who likes or loves something. But there is an even deeper meaning to philia.

Agape is the Greek equivalent of the Latin caritas, charity. And the meaning of charity in our language is charged with centuries of cultural changes, so that the modern English word doesn’t reflect anymore the original agape.

Storge is an entirely different term, and refers to affection. But before you dismiss affection as a lukewarm and weak emotion, let’s see how one philosopher discusses the differences between The Four Loves.

Meet Clive Staples Lewis.

We all know C.S. Lewis for his Narnia stories. But Lewis wasn’t just a children’s writer. He was a philosopher of religion. In The Four Loves, he explores the nature of love from a Christian perspective through thought-experiments and examples from literature (Wikipedia).

Not only did he define the various terms in the context of our Western culture, but he also gave them an order of importance, agape being the greatest of loves. I will take the liberty of upsetting his order, because I’m not looking at love from the strict point of view of philosophy, but rather from my own -- that of a fiction author who can’t help but add romance to her stories.

In Lewis’ words, agape is an unconditional love directed towards one's neighbor which is not dependent on any lovable qualities that the object of love possesses. Agape is the love that brings forth caring regardless of circumstance. It’s the emotion that urges us to help a stranger. It’s the emotion of a civilized society, that which holds it together and transcends its laws and rules.

Storge, affection, is fondness through familiarity, especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance. It’s the feeling you have for your siblings, even though you can’t stand to be in the same room with them. It’s the comfort of knowing you have relatives and acquaintances who fill your life, and that you are not alone.

It’s also the feeling necessary to survive the anxieties of raising children. Parental love, too, is storge.

Friendship, philia, is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity. In other words, if you don’t have anything in common with someone, you cannot experience philia for that person.

A common cultural background, a common pride in your heritage, engenders philia. Belonging to the same association. Sharing a passion for books or sports. Philia is the emotion that makes football-watching a successful social event.

Eros is love in the sense of “being in love”. We associate eros with physical expressions of love, love-making, and sensuality. But Lewis separates it from sexuality, although he does spend time discussing sexual activity and its spiritual significance in both a pagan and a Christian sense (Wikipedia).

Because, while eros does lead to, or contain the seeds of sexual expression, it is neither limited by it, nor dependent on it.

What does this discourse mean for writers and readers of romance?

Something we already know: love isn’t simple. True love, the love of a lifetime that binds the partners, is a construct of all of the above. It is eros, because we should never fall out of love. It is storge, because our partners become our family. It is philia, because if we don’t have anything in common, nothing to share, our lives will be barren, and there will be nothing to feed the relationship. It is agape, because true love must be unconditional and spiritual.

Now lest I become too maudlin, allow me to share C.S. Lewis’ warning, that love—commonly held to be the arch-emotion—becomes corrupt by presuming itself to be what it is not (Wikipedia) — “love begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god" (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).

Now leave me a comment, and enter to win my latest story of intergalactic love!

On Tuesday, follow this link: Ginger Simpson (http://mizging.blogspot.com) for the next wayside on the blog trail!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Weird. I've seen agape in lots of places since I've started studying Freemasonry. Freemasons operate on agape. And, love is definitely a demon. There's a reason it's the Devil card in Tarot... representing passion and obession. You know Freemasonry and numerology believe Christ's number 33 can't be reduced. If it was, you'd end up with 3+3=6 or the Devil card. I'd say Christ was haunted with a love of something, eh, culminating in a little passion and obsession...

Great post. Did you see the article on teleportation this morning, Masha? I posted the link at my blog, http://blog.skhyemoncrief.com.

Thanks for the excellent information. Skhye

Hywela Lyn said...

What a fascinating article, Masha. I love C S Lerwis's works myself, especially his adult trilogy.

Congratulations on your upcoming release, I'm really looking forward to reading 'The Joining'

housemouse88 said...

Thanks for the information. Congrats on your upcoming release. You have given me something to think about with the holiday just around the corner.

Skhye said...

Sorry to hear about your MIL, Masha. Try to relax some. I know it's difficult.

Babyblue22 said...

Wow! I've never heard any of that before, Thanks for the information, never knew their were so many definitions on love and it comes just in time for V day.
Enjoyed the Post very much.
~Afshan

SFWriterMasha said...

I'm so glad you're enjoying this post! That's what happens when a research geek has Valentine on the mind.

Emma Lai said...

Great post!I haven't read that particular work of C.S. Lewis, but I find most of his writing to be very thought provoking, even The Chronicles of Narnia!

blessedheart said...

Very interesting blog, Masha! Thanks for sharing it!

Blessings,
Rhonda :-)

Judy said...

I really enjoyed your article. I did not understand some of the posts, but enjoy learning about the different things. Never can tell when something might be useful.

Debby said...

Very interesting article. Thanks so much