- Eros for erotic love.
- Philia for the love of friends.
- Agape for selfless, unconditional, spiritual love.
The Greeks also offered us a couple others, less often mentioned.
- Storge: familial love, especially as a parent for a child.
- Xenia: stranger love – hospitality -- a fullest embrace and appreciation of what is Other and different.
At the same time we can see a developmental progression, a narrative arc in which eros unfolds into storge, which opens to xenia, which moves into philia, which finally points to agape. Romantic love flowers into a family and creates the context for storge, love of our children, to emerge. The family, then, needing not to be insular, opens into xenia, hospitality to the stranger. Some of those strangers then become friends, thus philia, love of friends, emerges. And all of this ultimately brings forth agape. Love and life, of course, are messy and not so neat and orderly, yet this pilgrim’s progress of unfurling love sketches a kind of archetype underlying the scrambles and modifications our lives make.
The sexually-charged energy of erotic love begins to open up possibilities for us in adolescence, and it draws us toward beauty in the human form. Eros fires the creative furnaces, producing poetry, music, painting and sculpture. More than that, it opens our lenses to new possibilities and dimensions of being the particular animal that we are.
Socrates was keenly interested in love.
“Eros, to Socrates, is the merging of acquired judgment with our instinctual desire for pleasure. Eros is neither reason nor instinct, but both, entwined in the service of” wholeness. (Christopher Phillips, Socrates in Love, 36)In the entwining of reason and instinct, the heart opens up and opens up the mind with it. It changes us. The medieval Sufi poet of love, Rumi, says a lover’s goal is feel that push and pull of love.
“Lovers who do not seek this, Rumi would say, reject true love, because they do not care to change. They refuse to leave themselves vulnerable to love, to lay themselves bare to its possibilities and so are missing out on life, missing out on the prospect of true love.” (Phillips 67)This transformation, then, is not merely personal but social, for
“when you fall in love with someone, you fall more in love with the world in such a way that beauty pervades even the most mundane.” (Phillips 70)The whole world looks different -- which prompts us to act in ways that make the world different.
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This is part 2 of 4 of "What's Love Got to Do with It?"
Click for other parts: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4