On the eve of Valentine’s Day, the current state of the country has left me questioning the true meaning of Love. Published in 1960, C.S. Lewis discussed the philosophical meaning of Love in his book, “The Four Loves”. I had to read this piece for a religion class called “Marriage” I took in college. Aside from receiving a B in the class, this work opened my eyes to the fact that we can legitimately express different styles of Love towards one another.
Prior to the social media age (Mark Zuckerberg adding the ability to “Love” someone’s post on Facebook, rather than simply “Like” it), The Four Loves were established as Storge, Philia, Eros and Agape. The first, Storge, deals with one’s comprehensive force towards family, friends and other social beings. This sort of love also includes the once friendship love that transcends into the sexual love. It is an attraction with whom the focus is on a commitment. The Greeks defined it as a natural affection. The second love, Philia, is often referred to as “Brotherly Love”. However, if you’ve been to an Eagles or Flyers game, you’d probably see that things have changed since the 1960’s. Aristotle viewed this type of love as a common means of happiness. Love ones surroundings and they will love you. Eros love, named after the Greek god of love, is simply the physical, sexual and romantic attraction. The fourth and final, Agape, is the greatest form of love, embracing a universal love, often believed to be the love originating with humanity.
Since its publication in the 60’s, the theory of love has taken a variety of forms. Beginning with Storge, Lewis believed this to be a dependency love, one which is acquired through natural character. This affection is developed through a natural love towards those closest to them, most commonly from a parent to a child. However, as the divorce rate climbs in our society to nearly 50%, could it be possible that less love is directed towards a child that comes from a home that doesn’t house both a mother and father? Or maybe in the 1960’s it wasn’t the norm to get divorced, so families remained together. Couples today are also getting married later in life and living with one another prior to exchanging vows, metaphorically concentrating on a love one day at a time. Lewis also believed that this love was often too expected, making those susceptible to its outcome.
Philia, otherwise known as the bond of friendship, isn’t as natural. It is developed out of an affection for common morals or interests. We develop such a love based on our current surroundings. Similar to the term “blood brothers”, two remain loyal to one another while sharing no sense of relation by birth. Again looking towards social media as a reference, we acquire friends through everyday interaction, but how many of those 1,000+ friends can we consider of a closer association? Is our personal Rolodex of acquaintances becoming so broad that we lessen such personal relationships? Back in the day, we would write letters to those we loved, creating a more intimate message. Now it seems we depend on mass texts or posts, allowing our message to reach a wider audience.
Eros, aka the erotic love, is similar to the term “being in love”. This is probably the one love that hasn’t changed since Lewis’ first pressing. We as a society still feel the intimacy and the desire for closeness. Aside from the divorce rate being higher since the 1960’s, we still embody a sense of mad love and heartache. We fall in love, and in my opinion, we don’t fall out of love, it just lessens with time. The term honeymoon phase is often referred to the first few months of a couple’s marriage. Ironically the term honeymoon comes from a European custom in which newlyweds would drink a cup of mead, a honey alcoholic beverage, during the first moon of their marriage. Yes, even in the 5th century couples had to drink to get through the first few months of marriage.
The finale love, Agape, is the highest form of love, embracing a universal and unconditional love. The religious form of this love is considered to be the love directed towards ones God. Regardless of the circumstance, this love is always the strongest and most vital. You may not always feel a sense of storge, philia or eros, but one can always assume this love, regardless of the context.
Being newly single, I can’t say that I’m too insightful when it comes to love (I did get a B in the class). However, studying people my entire life, it’s hard not to see the developments that have occurred in our society. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Not everyone is born peaceful, yet neuroscience has proven that we have the ability as a society to bring happiness and content to our lives. We were taught as adolescents to love thy neighbor, however we’ve become accustomed to criticize their religious, political or philosophical beliefs. We’ve become so enthralled in other people’s lives that we relish in one another’s instant life updates.
Love does exist, yet sometimes I question its sincerity. A study by US News in 2015 said that Valentine’s spending neared $19 billion, stating that over 50% of Americans at least 18 years of age planned to celebrate the holiday in some form. While it’s great to see everyone rushing to Target to purchase a Hallmark card and teddy bear, does this act of affection really need to span across a 24-hour period? It’s about as heartfelt as a Drake love song.
As C.S. Lewis pointed out, there are different forms of love, but has it slowly become a cliché? We speak of love so vaguely that when we boil it down to what we truly love, it seems minimal. If we approach our community, like we would a conversation with your ex-girlfriends father (leaving out politics, religion and money), I think we as a society can begin to love and appreciate one another again. By the end of this semester, let’s try to get that B up to an A-.
Lead image: ana_c_golpe