Scholarly look at creative human force known as love

Over 60

In a world growing with hate since 2016 (white supremacists alone responsible for 73% terrorist deaths in the U.S. this past year ), it’s time to recognize the need for an opposite emotion.

Hate destroys. Love creates.

But what is love?

According to the old joke, it’s a man’s insane desire to become some woman’s meal ticket.

According to the dictionary, it is “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.”

According to Sigmund Freud, it is “unconditional,” meaning that there are “no expectations or limitations set.” He adds, “to love unconditionally is a difficult thing, and most humans aren’t good at that. But true love really does love without trying to change the loved person.”

Everyone seems to be hankering after romantic love, an idea which is far from being timeless and universal. In fact, “Romantic Love” is a modern construction, discussed inappropriately in Flobert’s “Madame Bovary” (1856) and other romantic novels since, as well as in the romantic films of the 30s and 40s, as being all about exotic love and lovers, damsels in distress swooning in lonely lodges, etc. – as if Gable and Leigh in Gone With the Wind knew only one way to experience that delicate emotion.

We are often confused with the difference between love and lust: We say today, “I love you, I love you,” and hop into bed.”

In point of fact, scholars have divided love into seven different kinds:

1. Erotic (Eros). Sexual or passionate love, the kind most akin to our modern trend to confuse sex for romantic love. In Greek myth, it is a form of madness brought about by one of Cupid’s arrows. The arrow hits its mark and we fall passionately in love.

2. Philia (friendship). Shared good will, a non-sexual warmth for someone who is useful, pleasant, and virtuous – transferring plain lust to a shared desire on a higher level of love.

3. Storge (store-gae) or familiar love – A kind of Philia that pertains to the love between, for example, parents and their children.

4. Agape. Universal love – A broad love for nature, God, people in general. Today we connect it with altruism (an unselfish concern for the welfare of others), leaving us with a so-called “helper’s high.” (Given our pervasive state of anger and hate, we could all do with quite a bit more agape love.)

5.Ludus. Playful, uncommitted love involving such activities as teasing, dancing, flirting – and, at its extreme. seducing and conjugating – fun with no strings attached.

6. Pragma. A kind of practical love founded on reason or duty and long-term interests, in which sexual attraction takes a back seat to other pragmatic, personal qualities and compatibilities that include shared goals to make it work.

7.Philautia (fil-aw-shia). Self-love, which could be unhealthy when akin to Hubris (an arrogant, haughty sense of one’s status & abilities.) On the other hand, healthy self-love creates honest self-esteem.

There is a kind of easy movement between and among the seven types; they are rarely isolated as experiencing only one or the other.

In all, Plato called love not a god but a philosopher, saying, “He whom love touches walks not in darkness.”

Is it love or lust? We tend to confuse and blend the two, but Theodore Reik (one of Freud’s earliest and brightest students) clarifies with the idea that love is giving, sex is taking, and strongly suggests that in any true relationship love must come first with sex following later. Anthropologist Margaret Mead whose famous study of love and sex agreed, insisting that the best, most lasting marriages result from at least a two year period of engagement with love without sex, adding that it takes up to 2 years to really get to know someone; waiting that long before marriage insures a happier, fuller married life.

Some truths about love:

•People who are truly in love tend to get jealous over stupid things.

•You love someone that you want to be happy, even if that someone is not you.

•You miss someone when something good happens and you want to share it.

•Listening to music or watching TV together creates better communication and longer.

•Philophobia is the fear of falling in love and/or becoming too attached.

•You’re not afraid to love; you’re afraid of not being loved back.

• Generally, those who lose their virginity before 18 have less successful relationships later in life.

•Cuddling reduces emotional stress.

Well, that’s hardly scratching the surface about so vital and pervasive an emotion as love, but it might get us to thinking about it in a new and more satisfying manner.

We began with humor; let’s end the same way with a redneck love poem:

Susie done fell in love.

She planned to marry Joe.

She was so happy ’bout it all,

She told her pappy so.

Pappy told her Susie gal

You’ll have to find another;

I’d just as seen yo’ ma don’t know,

But Joe is yo’ half brother.

So Susie put aside her Joe

And planned to marry Will.

But after telling Pappy this,

He said, “there’s trouble still.”

“You can’t marry Will, my gal,

And please don’t tell yo’ mother.

But Will and Joe and several mo’

I know is yo’ half brother.

But mama knew and said, “My child,

Just do what makes yo’ happy.

Marry Will or marry Joe;

Yo’ ain’t no kin to pappy.”