Love : Much more than its made out to be !

The word “love” is one of the most misused words in the English dictionary. For some it refers to a romantic idea linking two people – for the young a term infused with passion and thoughts of erotic liaisons, for older people a term that brings comfort and a hope of enduring closeness. For those who “love” to braai on a summer’s evening, or who “love” to go to the mall on a Saturday the word conjures up pictures of people having a good time – on their own or with others.

And what about that warm feeling when two or three mates get together for a beer or to watch a rugby game, or when the “girls” get together to go shopping ? Another kind of “love”?

But today as I walked on past a couple of “bergies” wrapped in cardboard boxes and crouched against the cold on a walk round Cape Town’s Rondebosch common my thoughts turned to agape love that other “love” – the toughest one of all – that asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In the English language “love” is the word used most often to describe different situations of closeness and friendship. And, not surprisingly, this may at time cause confusion. Imagine what the response would be if a burly rugby-fan professed “love” for his drinking partner ! Or if a schoolboy used the “l” word to one of his close buddies ! Or even if two male pensioners expressed “love” for each other while seated on a park bench ! Confusion and chaos all around !

The Greeks had a better way of dealing with the concept of “love” – using three different words for three different scenarios :
Eros love is that romantic love mentioned earlier. Two people romantically involved with all the emotions and acts of love that go with it.

Filial love on the other hand is the “brotherly / sisterly” that you have for a close friend. The sort of love that comrades in arms develop during times of war, the love that team-members develop as that tough playing season wears on; the love between colleagues at work or the love between people living in retirement villages. An all-embracing feeling of closeness between human beings.

Agape (say AG-a-pay) love is perhaps the hardest love of all. It is the love that religions around the world ask us to show for others REGARDLESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES. “Compassion” might be another way of saying this form of “love”. It’s the love one is asked to feel for those Cape Town “bergies” or for those politicians we all love to hate. It’s the one form of love that I have most trouble with, but then one that sits in my head as I struggle to find ways of dealing with it.

Eros, filial and agape love. Each a form of societal “glue” within communities with the potential to bind people closer together. Each in danger of splintering and changing as the world about us gets busier and meaner. I don’t know about you and how you sit with these three loves, but I suspect that the challenge for enduring forms of each will increase and grow as time goes by. Please tell me if I’m wrong!
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Dr Lynn Hurry is a freelance writer concerned with anything that affects environmental sustainability on planet Earth. lynn@ecology.co.za