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The Ways of Love

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Once a year we celebrate the subject which is said "makes the world go round," yet we spend all of one full day on what is the primary preoccupation of most all theater, movies, TV shows, novels and almost all fiction. So many people's lives these days in the 21st century -- in at least the west -- are largely centered on love, money, power, influence and prestige, then health and happiness. Love is a central theme in most people's lives.

We have a few archetypes of love in the west, which represent a few different aspects of love. The most popular, and the one that dominates our stages and airwaves, is eros, commonly translated as "romantic love." There is a seductive quality here, because the joy of being loved, cared for, adulated, enjoyed as an attractive being, sexually and spiritually, is prepossessing for people the world over.

Eros is a bit of a trickster, but one of his mythic values is stimulating the human from the beginning toward procreation, but is curiously considered to have been "self-born," a primordial deity. Surely we all know another version of Eros, "the Younger", who is portrayed as a mischievous boy-deity, equipped with a quiver of arrows to spread love wherever he goes.

The joy of love, celebrated on Valentine's Day, is actually so important, as said, it literally permeates our lives. The erotic component is the one commercial society has seized upon because it plays on an aspect of us all, because it is so basic to the instinct to species survival through the pleasure of sex, and indeed it should be celebrated.

But in fact, the domain of love is so much vaster than that. We know that the romantic, erotic qualities are there in a way that allures, but in fact, the other qualities of love are not as commercially interesting but truly much more ample and widespread.

Another major aspect of love is expressed through the Greek word is storge, generally translated as affection, or affinity between family members or friends, people who find themselves spending much time with each other with whom each becomes familiar. Familiarity, of course, has its root in "family." This more generic type of love is very widespread, because it's the love with which we live daily.

My view is that it is one of the "biological glues" that gives us the sense of being connected to humanity.

Another big form of love, according to the Greeks, is philos or phileo, friendship. Whether it is circumstances that bring people together like college roommates (I'm still close friends with my first college roommate, decades later), sharing common values or being behind a cause, people form bonds that can be long-lasting. It also opens up the doors to conversation that can scale upward over time. Another powerful bonding experience is, of course, when people enter adventures together and have to spot one another at moments of potential danger. Sports bring people very close as well, and the development of teamwork forms bonds in sports, work or religious/spiritual endeavors where integrity, being reliable and the like are sometimes of life-and-death importance. Friendship is one of the deepest bonds we have -- unlike our family, we consciously choose our friends and can develop these relationships to the max. This kind of love also develops in mentor relationships, and for this I always recall the beautiful relationship in Hermann Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund.

Considered the largest and most encompassing love, agape is usually translated as "unconditional love." It's love that is not based on conditions, not based on "a reason." In fact, it's baseless, it just is. As with the air we breathe, we love. It is the essence of life in which we swim.

When we are connected to the pulse of life itself, as they say, "if we wake up above ground" in the morning, we have so much for which to be thankful. When we feel so connected to life all around us, we become grateful to the source of that life, whatever that may be. We come to simply embody gratitude and love, and out of that, effervesces what Ken Wilber refers to as "The good, the true and the beautiful."

Agape is often described as the love of God, the impulse to charity, to service, to an exquisite, unconditional relationship to both the material and non-material worlds.

"Love" just is, which is why it cannot be celebrated in one day called Valentine's Day, it is truly the essence of life itself, the magnetic, binding forces between particles in an atom, which asks to be celebrated not just every day, but truly every moment.

Let's give love its proper place, and I daresay that we would have a different, much happier, more balanced and harmonious, just world if we were all more in touch with the archetypal energy behind these forms of love.

Can you imagine if world leaders were in touch with, well, let's limit it to the three last forms of love, with each other? With their people? If we could speak of love publicly, not just of erotic love, but really of the others, what kind of world we could have? If politicians shifted from their love of money and power to agape, the love of humanity and life itself, we would not "see war anymore." But we've lost touch with our imaginations and forgot that we created this whole scene. And walk around with the power, every day and every moment, to re-sculpt it.

We could really have a world that works for all.

Does love make the world go round? You bet it does!

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