this week i'm thinking about: EVERYDAY LOVE
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
While I hope that you are eating chocolates, looking at a dozen roses at a five-star restaurant with a Prix Fixe menu and making out with your sweetheart later …
Valentine’s Day has less to do with the flashy Instagram posts of perfect couples and more to do with unconditional love - of yourself & others.
An ancient Roman tradition (the first ‘holiday’ dates back to the year 496), there are a few different versions of how Valentine’s Day came to be:
The first is that February 14th was meant to mark the beginning of spring in ancient Rome. On this day, the Romans would throw a large festival where boys would choose the name of a girl to be their ‘girlfriend’ at the festival…some would even get married after ‘dating’.
Another version is that a priest with the last name Valentine (later adopted into sainthood) would secretly marry young lovers after the emperor had banned marriage, stating that single men made better soldiers.
The last legend suggests that our friend, Saint Valentine, was given the death penalty for trying to free Christians from harsh Roman prisons. While in prison himself, he often forebodingly wrote his first love (thought to be his jailor’s daughter) and would sign his letters, ‘love, your Valentine’.
Although the legend of Valentine’s Day remains somewhat a mystery, the underlying theme is that of unapologetic love.
Whether you are in a romantic relationship or not, love is everywhere and today – cheesy as it may be – seems like a perfect day to celebrate.
While the ancient romans began the traditional holiday, I believe that it is the ancient Greeks who got love right. Not because they were the most romantic, nor because they had imprisoned saints courting their forbidden loves, but because they view love as all-encompassing.
Many times, we believe that love is somewhat linear; I like you, you like me…we must be in love.
But, love, defined as, “an intense feeling of deep affection”, is neither linear, nor limited to one person.
This is where the Greek’s got it right; they break love into four parts that make up the feeling as a whole.
“Eros is sexual or passionate love and is the most akin to our modern-day construct of romantic love. In Greek mythology, it is a form of madness brought about by one of cupid’s arrows”. This is the romantic, dreamy, shameless love that we feel for our significant others - perhaps as Valentine felt for his jailor’s daughter.
Philia is love specifically for your friendships based on the premise of mutual benefit and goodwill. “Aristotle believed that a person bears goodwill towards another because, above all they are rational and virtuous. Friendships founded on goodness are associated not only with mutual benefit but also with companionship, dependability & trust”. Philia is why we text our friends about our secrets, why we celebrate “GALentines day”, and why we say,
“I love you” to them before hanging up the phone.
This love isn’t inherent, it is sought after, “real friends seek together to live truer, fuller lives by relating to each other authentically”. Plato believes that the best kind of Philia is that combined with Eros a.k.a.,
when your lover is also your best friend.
“Storge, or familial love, is a kind of Philia pertaining to the love between parents and children. It is a fondness built on familiarity and dependency and does not hinge on personal qualities”. Storge is the reason that we love our families unconditionally and is what Eros eventually turns into once partners marry and have children.
The concept of Agape is my favorite because it is universal love. Agape is “the love for strangers, nature & God; it centers around unselfish concern and the welfare of others”, perhaps closest to the modern construct of altruism. It has been studied that Agape is associated with many benefits. In the immediate, it gives us a short-term euphoria known as the “helpers high”. In the long term, it is associated with mental and physical health, as well as longevity.
It is the highest form of love.
Pretty interesting, right? That we try so hard to define love as one thing, one feeling: right or wrong, real or fake. When in reality, love is everything and is everywhere. We all host many versions of love and have plenty to give - to our lovers, our friends, our families, our higher power and our world.
The only thing I’d add to that list is a sense of self-love; where I believe it begins and ends. You are the first and most important love of your life and if you don’t foster that love, it feels much more difficult to give that gift to others.
Whether or not you decide to celebrate today, I encourage you remember that you lose nothing by giving love – it is infinitely inside of you. However, your love given to another is the greatest gift that they will ever receive and vice versa.
With that said, to all of the family, friends, lovers and strangers that are currently reading this,
I hope that you know that we are sewn together, not by coincidence, but by the universal thread that is love.
*all quotes are taken from psychology today