Alien Love: Love, 3

The romantic connection to another person is basis for connecting to the world. Lovers discover that when the beloved is the whole world, then the whole world is the beloved. It's an individual transformation -- and we saw also saw it illustrated on a large scale in the 1960s. Eros burst out in the sexual revolution, which then unfolded into yearning for a wider revolution, political and spiritual and economic. The call to “make love, not war” lifted eros into a vision of a world where everything we do, everything we produce, is a form of expression geared toward greater freedom. Let all our waking and working moments be creative outlets for and expressions of our passions, including sexual passions.

Out of the lovers’ connection emerges family, household: from making babies we step into having and raising them – and love sprouts a new branch: storge – familial, especially parental, love.

It is a difficult thing to wrestle with the balance between supporting your child, being there for her heart and soul, loving unconditionally – yet also making judgments about what to correct, to punish; when to assist and when to step and back and let your child have the invaluable, precious, and absolutely necessary experience of failure.

And, again, the love that passes through the trials of storge emerges with socially transformative power.v
“If a family just looks out for its own selfish interests, theirs isn’t true family love, because they have no concern for the greater family of” community, of humanity, of life. (Christopher Phillips, Socrates in Love, 103-04)
If eros pulls us out of our individuality to connect with another person, storge pulls the couple out of obsessive coupliness and into contact with a child.

Through storge, our life has the meaning it has through a context of others. We begin to get a sense of what the African Zulu call “ubuntu”:
“I am who I am because of who we all are. . . . We are human only through the humanity of other human beings.” (Phillips 109 & 116)
Familial love brings awareness of our meaning within embedded context, preparing us to see the planet as our family.

Storge, then, paves the way for xenia -- stranger love, hospitality for the foreigner – because seeing the planet as our family is going to mean taking in a lot of strangers. Our children may sometimes seem like little aliens -- and loving them helps prepare us to love other aliens.

The ancient Greeks, apparently, extended effusive hospitality, no matter how abject or beggarly the appearance of a stranger. The stranger also has a special place of care within the Jewish tradition which we inherit. The Hebrew God, Yahweh, declares himself to be
“God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10: 17-18, NRSV)
Yahweh then commands his people:
“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19, NRSV)
I fear we Americans have become a people with more xenophobia than xenia. Our government policy, then, follows the pattern of our people.
“The United Nations has long requested that each developed country contribute 0.7 percent of its GNP to economic development efforts in the Third World countries.”
Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden meet or exceed this request.
“The United States, the world’s wealthiest nation, contributes 0.08 percent of its GNP to these efforts.” (Phillips 164)
When we reach beyond our individuality, beyond our couplehood, beyond our family, to embrace the stranger with care, we begin to manifest our most essential being.

Said Heidegger:
“Care is the most basic state of human existence. In the act of caring for others and for ourselves, we necessarily discover how human existence interrelates with existence in general . . .” (cited in Phillips)
We are thrown into this world, without asking to be born or choosing our conditions. The only way to make it less alien, more authentic, more of our own making, is through the investment of caring. To love the alien heals our own alienation.

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This is part 3 of 4 of "What's Love Got to Do with It?"
Click for other parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

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