Updated: Feb 12
“Then I will go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I Love you.” Sitting in a café, I cannot stop musing on these lines of my favorite Sinatra classic. Why Sinatra’s world as he knew, felt communication of Love as something to be feared. Or is it a fear of attachment, or just a symbol of crisis of Love in the world we live in?
In the current post-industrial world, as we have made progress through binary logic, we have probably also ‘binarized’ Love to a feeling for someone special with whom we share erotic sensual connection. And then, we live in a world of high divorce rate, loneliness and depression, human abuse, conflicts, and suicidal tendencies.
The recent upsurge in visibility of suicides makes one ponder, where have we gone wrong? Is Love missing in our society? Do we really know what we mean by this four letter word?
The exploration of Love is probably as old as human civilization. The English word “Love,” is derived from Germanic forms of the Sanskrit word lubh (desire), and is broadly defined and resolved to some extent by the reference to the Greek terms, Eros (desire and passion), Philia (friendship and loyalty), and Agape (universal compassion).
Love had various flavors in ancient Greece, in fact in Plato’s Symposium (385–370 BCE), a banquet was held and speeches were made in praise of Eros, the God of Love. While Aristophanes presented a story where original human was made up of two conjoined humans, and was cut in half by Zeus, which resulted in a mythical search for better half,
Socrates believed Love to be a desire of perpetual possession of what is Good, not only what is missing. In his concept, later known as ladder of Love, Love might start with bare lust, but then gets superseded by intellectual conception of Love from purely physical, before moving towards transcendental vision, Love for Absolute, or Beauty.
In terms of Platonic Ideals, Socrates calls Lovers as seekers of Absolute Beauty, Beauty which is self-sufficient, unique, and eternal.
As Plato intellectualized Love, Rumi embodied Love through music, dance, and poetry. He saw Love as longing, for the union with their Beloved, from whom he saw himself as cut-off.
Rumi (1207–1273 CE), a Sufi poet and scholar, coped his separation from his friend Shams, the prophet, and God, by writing thousands of Love songs. A poet of Love and joy, Rumi wrote, “Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Rumi's bereavement at the death of Shams led to a masterpiece in poetry on Love known as Divan-e-Shams. While he struggled with the separation with his beloved friend, he found his meaning in oneness like many perennial philosophers, as he wrote, "Why should I seek? I am the same as He. His essence speaks through me. I have been looking for myself!" Love for Rumi was the underlying enchanting force in the universe which connects all beings.
However, Socrates was sentenced to drink poisoned hemlock for his Love of wisdom, and Rumi’s friend Shams was driven away by Rumi’s disciples jealous of Rumi’s Love for a friend. Is that why Love is considered stupid in our modern times? Or is it a destiny of true Lovers, to overcome societal dispositions.
The modern scientific question might even ask, “Where is Love in this cause and effect atomic world.” The forces which binds the cosmos, per scientists, are gravity and electromagnetic, but per Empedocles, ancient pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, Love and strife are the driving forces of cosmos.
The creative process of cosmos is dependent upon attraction for its creation and preservation. If Earth and Sun are not attracted to each other, if bees do not have desire to come near flowers, and if apples do not fall on the ground, the world as we know now would not have existed. This attraction, allurement, gravity or Love is the essence of the cosmos.
The separation from this essence is leading to the fall, towards depression, anxiety, loneliness, and suicidal tendencies. Shall we take the word "love" wider that its societal definition, and focus not only on Eros, but also on Philia and Agape?
Shall we start by just saying “I Love You” to people we care about and to experiences we are attracted towards? We might get connected to this stupid thing called Love and find our essence.
What is your definition of love - Eros, Philia, Agape, or something else? Please write comments below.