The meaning of Love involves profound complexities that have percolated for thousands of years, in an endless array of emotional attitudes.
“Love” can mean so many, many things. Love that pulls us together, Love that lets us fly free. Healing and inspiring, Love can be passionate, gentle, kind.
The first touch of Love can be exquisite.
At the recent birth of their first child, a young couple wrote: “We couldn’t be more in awe of her. Everyone was right when they told us our hearts would grow 10x, and what an amazing feeling it is to be overflowing with LOVE! We are smitten!”
Beautiful, winsome words.
Sometimes words are not enough… when Love simply cannot be described or accounted for by anything we know. As Emily Dickinson wrote: “That Love is all there is, is all we know of Love.”
You can’t put Love in a box.
Love is a multiplex of feelings and meanings in endless shapes and sizes. Whatever kind of Love finds you, it burrows into your heart and soul. Thousands of years ago, the philosophers of ancient Greece described the different ideals of Love in categories that are today, still helpful, relevant, and instructive.
Ideals of Love
Eros is the Greek word for passionate love, and was also their god of fertility. Physically, it is found in longing, desire and infatuation. Yet Eros can also become a spiritual value for beauty within a human being – within the soul – as well as the concept of beauty itself.
Greeks used the word Philia for Love of friends, family and community. The library on my little island was named the Jamestown Philomenian Library – a community space shared in love and friendships. Philia speaks fondly, affectionately and with enjoyment; and emphasizes virtues of loyalty, fairness and trust in our relationships.
Parents and Children
A subset of Philia, Storge described the Love between parents and children as sharing emotions such as affection, allegiance, appreciation and regard. Storge demonstrates respect, attachment and sacrifice.
Herein is the Love of Agape, extended to everyone, whether family or strangers. Understood as universal, loving kindness, compassion and empathy, it is altruistic, benevolent goodwill.
It is an unconditional, transcendent and eternal Love, as a divine Love of God. The Romans later translated Agape to the Latin Caritas – which means Charity.
Pragma refers to longstanding, mature Love, developed with patience and allowing. This Love is devoted, faithful, and flows with compromises of giving and receiving.
Ludus abides in the laughter of Love. It describes the enchantments, sentiments and enjoyment of children. Also, it fits the flirting, teasing bantering of young Love, dancing in delightful relationships.
Love of Self
Philautia was like a coin with two different sides. One was unhealthy, self-obsessed narcisissm. But the other, the healthy side, was magnanimous, for if you Love yourself with confidence, you will have Love to give and share with others.
The Message of Love
Today the word “Love” can still mean any or all of the above Greek examples. But sometimes human beings think they can find all the qualities of Love in one person. Obviously, the Greeks had that figured out. Their message is to cultivate the different types of Love and draw on its many sources… to feel the blessings of Love.
The genres of Love can help you consider the multiplex of feelings and meanings you experience when you are looking for Love – or when Love finds you.
It can be a valuable exercise to answer the question: