Thursday, February 26, 2004

As usual, I cannot pass up a chance to blog about love and relationships. In particular, a response to Jonathan's initiating question,
"What does it mean to be in love?"
And a corollary question of how does love in a dating relationship differ from all of our other relationships, since we are called to love everyone?

As we generally know now, the Greeks had four different words for "Love":
1. storge (storge), which describes a natural affection especially of a parent to his/her child;
2. philia (philia), which describes the love of a strong friendship;
3. eros (eros), which describes loves between the sexes, and which does not necessarily include sexuality;
4. agape (agape), which describes the self-giving love that only comes from God.

Although by no means an authoritative resource, I thought I would look to C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves to better understand Eros, which seems more the topic at hand. [On an aside, I found some sound recordings of C.S. Lewis himself on the topic (just an introduction). I thought this was kind of neat especially after hearing about Tolkien forming his character, Tree Beard, after C.S. Lewis' slow and booming lecture style.]

Interestingly, the Greek New Testament neither finds any instances of Storge nor Eros. Nonetheless, Lewis has demonstrated much insight into the human condition to warrant some investigation into his work. Lewis' bases for his essay, then, are much from his background of the Classics, Aristotle in particular, (since obviously the Greeks first used these different Greek words for love.) Of course, Lewis tempers these principles with God's Agape, which was a rarely used word until Jesus' time. [I apologize for the one-sidedness of the following discussion as I paraphrase Lewis, and he writes from a male perspective:]

Eros is that state which we call "being in love", or the kind of love which lovers are "in". Often, Eros sets on simply by a delighted pre-occupation with the Beloved - a general, unspecified pre-occupation with her in her totality. Eros makes a man want not only a woman, but one particular woman. Eros is fundamentally a "need-love", but changes intensively to the point that it sees the object most intensely as a thing admirable in herself, important far beyond her relation to the lover's need; Eros changes this need into a pure "appreciative-love". The distinction between giving and receiving is obliterated.

The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. And contrary to common belief, Eros does not aim for happiness. It is the mark of Eros that when he is in us we had rather share unhappiness with the Beloved than be happy on any other terms. To be in love is both to intend and to promise lifelong fidelity. Total commitment, reckless disregard of happiness, transcendence of self-regard -- Eros almost speaks like God, like Love Himself.

And Eros, honoured without reservation and obeyed unconditionally, becomes a demon, where we can turn "being in love" into a sort of religion. The real danger appears to be that lovers will not idolise each other but that they will idolise Eros himself. A couple whose marriage will be endangered if they have idolised Eros -- they expected that mere feeling would do for them, and permanently, all that was necessary. When this expectations is disappointed they throw the blame on Eros, or, more usually, on their partners.

In reality, however, Eros, having made his gigantic promise and shown you in glimpses what its performance would be like, has "done his stuff". But it was we who must keep them. We must labour to bring our daily life into even closer accordance with what the glimpses have revealed. This is something all good lovers know, to "take the rough along with the smooth", etc. But of course this is not possible without humility, charity, and divine grace. Thus Eros, like the other loves, but more strikingly because of his strength, sweetness, terror and high port, reveals his true status. He cannot of himself be what, nevertheless, he must be if he is to remain Eros. He needs help; therefore needs to be ruled. The god dies or becomes a demon unless he obeys God.

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

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