Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to Stop Loving Someone

A friend of mine recently expressed what many would call naive confusion at how a woman of whom she'd read could go from loving her man to hating him. I don't think it's naive of her to wonder at this, just that her comment reveals that she has not fully accepted the way love has been dramatically re-defined in our culture - which is, I think, a good thing (her lack of acceptance, that is).

So what is love, how has it been re-defined, and how do we lose it? If the Beatles are right and Love is all we need, how will we know if we have got it? If my mom is right and God is Love and I want God, then shouldn't I have some sort of an idea what this Love is that I am wanting? I would think that would be important, so I would be able to tell if I had somehow lost it.

In the movie "Playing by Heart," Angelina Jolie says that "talking about love is like dancing about architecture" and she is right, I think. It seems a bit silly to try to talk about love. But dancing about architecture never hurt anybody; so I will give it a try by deferring to someone a bit older (and a bit more dead) than me, Mr. Clive Staples Lewis, who once took a stab at it by describing four types of love that peoples can have for other peoples.

He called them storge (the affectionate love: most often associated with the love of a parent for a child), phileo (the "unnaturalest" of the four: known as friendship, which is more about choice than base instinct), eros, (that sort of love we think of when we think of 'being in love'), and finally agape, (also known as charity, which is the sort of love that Lewis believed that God exhibits: a love that is utterly unconditional and self-sacrificing). 


The first three are marvelous types of love. We crave them, rely on them, and need them like we need honey-peanut-butter toast (mmm... toast). The last, for most people in America today, is a big ball of fru-fru nonsense. Completely unconditional? Self-sacrificing? I mean, it would be nice if someone gave me that kind of love, but c'mon... waaaay too risky. Who was Lewis kidding, right? 


Well, not me, because I buy it. Completely. I think it is beautiful, mysterious, and the only kind of love that won't in the course of time turn slowly from love to hate. Fortunately, I also believe that these four loves are only distinct from each other when they are merely words on the pages of a book. In reality, they mish-mash together as the sustaining, enduring power of that agape love entangles with the others and helps them to persist in spite of all the stupid stuff we keep doing to try to destroy them. Parents keep loving their bratty little snot-nosed progeny, friends keep calling their absent-minded friends, and couples keep being all erotical, even though they are both just a couple of selfish, obnoxious weasel-monkeys. 


If this annoys you -- if it bothers you to have some nosy Divinity infecting your life with a transcendent and sustaining love -- then all you have to do is re-define love. You can keep your storge, your phileo and your eros -- just systematically strip them of any traces of self-sacrifice and un-conditionality. Make them about you. Redefine them to be all about how you feel and what you want. Demand that they come with a whole lot of pre-existing conditions. Delude yourself into believing that really loving yourself means putting yourself before other people, other relationships and the community at large. If you can do that, then Presto-Bango my confused friend, you have got yourself a love-to-hate transition. 

1 comment:

  1. Bang....That's the proverbial nail being hit on the head, my friend.

    Perhaps the Beatles did have a realistic glimpse of the world as their lyric is quasi egocentric in nature - "All Y-O-U need is love." At least Paul wasn't singing, "All I need is love." That would be a little too me-centred for my liking, but perhaps even more culturally reflective.

    Surely there's a little more need to give love than to get love, if you want to experience it in all its richness. Perhaps then we won't be standing with mouths agape at harshness of the world around us, but rather warmed inside with the blessing of the agape that surrounds us.

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