By Suzanne Deakins–GLAPN
Love the most written about topic, the most longed for emotion, and perhaps the most painful of all emotions when it goes “wrong.” The first pull we feel toward a potential lover is often eros. Eros is a chemical, sexual passion, and desire. Eros can burn out rather quickly if the attraction does not morph into a Philia (deep but non-sexual intimacy between friends and family).
Greek and Romans had many ideas about love and the different kinds of love. Most cultures have specific language nouns and verbs describing the variants of the meaning of the word.
In the western world, there are several terms, for instance, Ludus represents a kind of playful or flirting love, Pragma is the type of love that develops between long-term couples and involves actively practicing, goodwill commitment, compromise, and understanding between the couple. In this relationship, sexual activity takes on a different meaning than just passion and desire. Sexual activity is not necessary to remain in a Pragma relationship.
Agape became a modern term describing love in the early 1970s. Used by new agers and metaphysical as well as Christian churches, it illustrates a more generalized concept of love that is not exclusivity, but rather a love for all of humanity. Sometimes Agape is replaced by the term unconditional love and/or absolute love. Both terms carry a broader idea of love reaching out into the universe. Philautia is self-love, which is not a selfish love, but the idea that you must care for yourself before you can care for another.
In Western cultures love is highly connected with morals and ethics dictated by religious practices and beliefs. In the Sinic cultures such as China, Japan, Korea, and East Asia, love is more culturally imbued. There may be as many different types of love as there are words for mother, father, siblings, etc. Love takes on a cultural philosophy rather than religious overtones.
For us, the answer to what is love remains somewhat elusive because love is not one thing or one idea. Love for parents, partners, children, country, neighbor, God and so on, all have different qualities and aspects. Each quality has its variants such a blind, one-sided, tragic, steadfast, fickle, reciprocated, misguided, and unconditional. Love in western cultures needs passion and commitment or it turns into an infatuation and a mere dedication. Love like all ideas needs nurturing and insight or the relationships we have will wither and die. In the case of love, we must transform it into either pragma or philia for it to remain viable. Love like language is living entity that allows us to grow and mature. It is the vessel in which we grow and experience life.
The paradox of love is that it is supremely free yet attaches us with bonds stronger than death. It cannot be bought or sold; there is nothing it cannot face; love is life’s greatest blessing. If you are secure in love, it can feel as mundane and necessary as air. You exist within it, almost unnoticing. Deprived of love it can feel like an obsession; all consuming, physical pain.
Love has nothing to do with gender or sexual preference but rather our ability to see beyond the ordinary and experience the extraordinary life of us all.
Suzanne Deakins, Ph.D., is an author, and publisher of One Spirit Press/Q Press. Her commentaries have appeared in Bloomberg Press, Working Women, Art Age, and Wall Street Journal. Some of her books include “Back to the Basic Management, Lost Craft Of Leadership”, “Authentic Forgiveness”, “Sacred Intimacy”, “Double Chocolate, Book of Exotic Poetry”. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. “All We Need is Love, Love Knows No Gender” is from her new book, “Sexual Fluidity” To be released March/April 2016
GLAPN was founded in 1994 as the Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest. Its purpose is to discover, preserve and share the history of all sexual minorities in the Pacific Northwest. GLAPN gladly supplies speakers to groups interested in regional queer history, and just as gladly consults with groups who want to document their own history. Materials donated to GLAPN become part of the reference library at Oregon Historical Society.