“You are free. You are free before the noonday sun. You’re free before the moon and you’re free before the stars, and you are free where there is no moon or sun, where there isn’t a single star in the sky.
But you are a slave, you are a slave to the one you love because you love him, and you are a slave to the one you love because he loves you back.”
I don’t know where the quote above comes from, if anyone else does please let me know I suspect it is part of a longer poem, ancient and likely Arabic. I think it is beautiful and the truth. We are all, at best, slaves to our hearts. Each of us, wanting to love and be loved in turn willingly opening ourselves to greater or lesser degrees throughout our lives to achieve acceptance and love.
We want to be loved, for ourselves, for who we are and what we bring without hiding anything. We want to open ourselves, explore and feel safe in those explorations without risking our core. We want love to blanket us and free us, all in one embrace. Love is one of the most frightening emotions of the human experience. Each of us feel it differently, our responses and reactions differ depending on our histories and how much we are willing to risk, to give away.
C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, explored love based on specific principles within his own life, including his own Christianity. His understanding of love wasn’t much different from many of our own; whatever else we might believe, including these:
Storge – the basis of affection, the most natural and most emotive. Storge is both Gift and Need Love, the least discriminating and the most diffused, this love that pays the least attention to what is ‘valuable’ or worthy, giving without question and thus is the love that can lead us to be most hurt.
Philia – the bond of friendship, the least biological and the least natural according to Lewis. Based on his observations, even during his time friendship was a lost art and because it was the one bond we did not need for reproduction or protection, Philia is also the one Love that was most fully human of all the other loves.
Eros – romantic / sexual love, in a nutshell the bond of lovers.
Agape – the final and all-encompassing of the four Loves, although Lewis never referred to Agape specifically others later used the term. Agape subordinates the other loves, whether one refers to Agape as the love of God, or a broader love of mankind, charity, kindness or some other virtue. Agape is in my mind what makes us fully human and allows us the compassion and empathy to Love fully and with our entire hearts engaged. Agape can be found within our interpersonal relationships and is often found within Eros relationships. Where this is of a reciprocal nature these relationships work well with both partners being aware of the other, forgiving of foibles, generous in time and praise, patient and understanding of differences.
If we believe the premise of C.S. Lewis, then love is fairly simple, straight forward even. We are working with a set of principles that stay consistent throughout our lives; it is only for us to understand how they apply in any given situation and with any given set of people. The only other important thing to understand, we our history and whether we like it or not, we carry with us from one place to the next, all that came before us. We are formed by how we loved and were loved before, by family, by friends and by lovers.
I believe strongly in Agape, that we must strive to be compassionate, to be loving and forgiving; that our hearts should be generous and we should be patient with those we love, even when we disagree, even when we are hurt. Without Agape, the rest doesn’t work. It is my belief this is true whether applied within the context of relationships with lovers, family, friends or our relationships with the broader world. I may rage at times, I may find the world harsh and hateful even, nevertheless I believe it is within me to search for a way to make it better, even in some small way and this is the gift I can leave behind for those I love.
I do not always react in ways people expect of me. My friends, family and those I love all too often grow impatient, even angered at my reactions. Sometimes my reactions are directly tied to my history, the very real and active pieces of my history that trigger me. Those triggers cause me to retreat, hide behind pragmatism, logic or what seems to be no response at all. This takes us to the Storge / Philia love bonds, where Need Love and Choice Love are most important. We may not always remember another’s triggers or their history, just as they may not remember ours. We may not always react in the perfect manner, just as another may not provide us the perfect comfort when it is needed. The best we can do? Apologize when we have fallen short (Storge), stand together and try do better in the future (Philia) and most important forgive (Agape).
I am not even going to try to tell you I am an expert or have an opinion on Eros, I am not and I don’t. I have far too many failures to ever claim expertise. I can only say with any level of certainty, I believe without the other three; Eros isn’t even in the cards.
Love in all its infinite and delightful permeations is waiting, is out there and is holding its breath if we are willing to open the door and lay our hearts bare, I am certain of this. Love is hard as hell and when you are human with history, it is even harder. Love burns, leaves skid marks across our spirits and our hearts, every single time we open the door, no matter what we do or who we are we can’t help but ‘want what we want’. It is our humanity seeking to be loved for ourselves, supported as we are right now not as we might be with some prodding to improve to be better than we are today. It is our humanness seeking to mold ourselves to be worthy of love, while still holding onto our uniqueness, our core.
Constrained as we are by all that has come before, we dance with our demons. Every single one of us battle demons, some of our own making and some left behind by those who said to us once upon a time, “I love you and I will always love you”. Now, we question motives, reactions and responses. Now we devalue the love of the next person as they fall short of our demands and needs, because the one that came before them lied. Now each trigger carries with it a history, no time for forgiveness only remorse if we fail to hear, “I am sorry”.
I still believe in Love, in all of its great glory. I believe we deserve love, to be loved and to love. I believe we deserve acceptance, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, trust and comfort as part of love, I believe mostly in Agape. I am forever hopeful, silly and maybe even stupid in my hopefulness; yet still I believe.
This remains the song I want sung into my soul someday, that someday someone will scratch into my heart.