Can We Live Without Love?
Most of us straightaway think of the romantic strain when we read this. Close on its heel will definitely be parental love. These are the forms of love and experiences of love that are most celebrated and at times distorted.
But there are many forms of love, if we begin to understand what love is.
The Greeks, known for their philosophical pinings gave us eight ways of seeing Love. The first five are more common:
Philia (affectionate love) ...
Agape (selfless, universal love) ...
Storge (familial love) ...
Philautia (self love) ...
Eros (sexual love) ...
To these, they also added:
Mania (obsessive love) ...
Ludus (playful love) ...
Pragma (enduring love) ...
This dissection of Love is actually very important and helpful. It offers us a broader and deeper vision of love which can encompass many of our experiences in life. It shows us that we have all been touched by love in some way.
In my first experience of Fall, I walked deep into a wooded area vibrant with hues of orange, teal, red with lingering greens and browns. The sense of Life and beauty was so powerful I felt enveloped by it and as I stood there breathing it in, I felt loved. Beyond what I can do, where I fail, or how I struggle, there is this incredible gift of Life’s phases providing me a sense of stability and wonder. The beauty did not withhold itself from even those who didn’t seem to appreciate it.
Of course some have unfortunate experiences with nature and may even develop phobias because there was no protection or healing. Nature is powerful and wild. In the same way, most of us have been hurt by others before. We may develop a ‘phobia’ of certain kinds of persons or situations and avoid them to prevent ourselves from being hurt. Setting boundaries is generally sensible, but sometimes we can go overboard and begin to distance and even numb ourselves. This will undermine us and rob us of really living.
No one is without the possibility of receiving and giving love.
I remember an old uncle I got to know at an aged home. He was cranky and very few would go near him. Somehow I managed to strike a conversation with him and with successive greetings, he softened. After I heard his heartache and responded kindly, he eventually agreed to let me reach out to his estranged son to broach a reconciliation.
It is also critical to know that our demands of those we expect to love us often outstrip our commitment to offer love. This self-awareness can keep us from becoming unreasonable, judgmental and even narcissistic.
When I was ten, I participated in my first flag day. I had met Mrs Ferris at the SPCA and she asked me to join her. So on a typical humid Singapore morning, we were standing along Orchard road with our tins and stopping passers-by with, “Hi, would you like to help the SPCA?”.
Often, we would also have to explain a bit of the work of SPCA. But mostly, people saw the cute picture of the cat and dog on the tin and would oblige with a coin or dollar.
But along came this huge Caucasian man who began to question me about the point of saving small animals when humans were struggling and dying. He mocked our efforts and derided our cause as inconsequential. I was stunned and stood there unsure of what to do. Thankfully Mrs Ferris noticed it and ambled over swiftly. She looked at him and said, "We all care about different things, it’s ok if you don’t share what we care about. We need all kinds of people to love all kinds of things”. Thus confronted, the man walked off.
What Mrs Ferris said that day stuck with me.
Money may oil the wheels of commerce and satisfy basic needs. But when it comes to truly living, we need Love. We can give and receive love differently, and we may be given a special love for different things.
When it comes to human relationships, what love does is it celebrates and empowers the beloved. And we all long for and need it: to be celebrated and empowered.
The people in our lives may do this poorly or do it well. Where they have failed us, we can turn to self-love and count on the love of others to find healing. There are those who love to see others well and are thus willing to journey with you. In our other interactions with friends or colleagues, they often offer love too when they are supportive or offer a listening ear. Sometimes even the kindness of a stranger makes our day because that is what their act has done: we feel seen and validated.
It is up to us to slow down enough to consider how love has touched our lives, savour the gift it brings us, and turn around to serve others who also need to experience this basic need, in order to really live.