Love and the Season (of love)

“Gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.” – A. Einstein

Falling in love is in the air (or has been in the air).  Yup: Love, that is the topic of the St. Valentine’s Day — the season of love.

According to wikipedia, Valentine’s day (or once known as “St. Valentine’s Day”) is once a holiday observed on Feb 14 honoring one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine.  Accordingly, “[t]he day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.”  Since then “love” acquired many other meanings I suppose.

As human beings above all created beings with physical nature (according to the Great Chain of Beings which seem to start from Aristotelian concept of scala naturae); we ought to think and behave like one and try ascend to our highest end: to love the Absolute and to live it with others (cf. Christian law: love God, love others).

Unfortunately, love has evolved to mean almost anything from simple liking, attachment, lustful, romantic to worship.  Looking back, we find the early greeks to have a good idea of having different terms related to love: Eros, Phileo (some also Storge) and Agapé.  Based on one of my (non-catholic) christian lessons on love, I remember imagining them in a pyramid as such below.

Hierarchy of love

Hierarchy of meanings of love and their implications.

Agapé is the love of all humanity (christianized form) that makes us stop or interested in any person who is lying on the ground dead while we stroll in a foreign place one day (hypothetical).  Phileo is more specific than agapé because it can only be given for a more specific group of people: family, brothers and sisters (blood or social filiation; filial love).  Eros is the love founded on physical attraction (you may say “lust”) or affection (“romantic”).  Eros therefore is ordinarily (read: according to the order of things) applicable for one and only one person only and of opposite sex (hence, the word “erotic love”).

This pyramid of love could give us hint on how to found a lasting relationship: founding it on agapé that leads to filial love and eventually developing to eros.  Eros is an essential element of marriage as it is a natural inclination towards the physical unity in the vocation of raising a family.  It is at this point that we see how this relationship-building is rational.

Founding relationship on agapé or eros

Founding relationship on agapé or eros

A relationship (especially that in marriage) founded on eros is UNSTABLE.  Eros is not stable because it depends on the (physical) attributes of another.  As we know that physical attributes are temporal, eros cannot last “until death”.  True love therefore involves all three but does not necessarily all at any time.  Being human beings, we must recognize that we are governed by senses (passion) and will.  But primarily, in humans, the will must control our passions.  When passion governs the will, what difference does that give from the animals which eat whenever they are hungry?

Love: Will versus Passion

Love: Will versus Passion

Based on experience (being a married man with, currently, two kids), marriage vocation requires understanding that love is a will to find the true good of another.  While passion makes the experience exciting, it is the will that survives the test of time.  Difficulties arise but the will to make the relationship work is always there.

It is therefore in one’s will that one will find the true manhood — the true expression of that love, whether to a family or to whatever  vocation you chose.


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