By Bob Acebedo | Published: November 18, 2020
Way back when I was in the seminary, a period in my life I may aptly consider as “early enlightenment age”, we were taught about the various forms, definitions and ramifications of “love” – academic as it were, though.
We’ve learned, for one, that love has seven different types according to ancient Greek etymology, namely:
Eros, named after the Greek god of fertility, refers to lust, passion and pleasure. It is the romantic, carnal, or sexual form of love.
Philia (or philos, from which the words “philosophy” and “philanthropy” are derived), is the type of love that is directed towards “friendship”, and is formed by companionship, dependability, or mutual trust. This kind of love goes beyond “physical attraction”.
Storge, is kinship-based love or protective love that is experienced between family members or clan. It can also describe a sense of patriotism (love of country) or allegiance to the same team.
Agape, is selfless, unconditional, or universal love (e.g. love for God, nature, or humanity). It is bigger than ourselves, a boundless compassion and an infinite empathy for everyone, be they family members or distant strangers.
Ludus, or playful love, is focused for fun, game or enjoyment.
Pragma, is the type of love that is founded on duty, reason, or one’s long-term interest and commitment.
Philautia, is self-love and this can be healthy or unhealthy. Unhealthy if one places oneself “above the gods”, to the point of hubris; healthy if it is used to build self-esteem and confidence.
From the foregoing definitions, obvious it is to infer that the true or highest kind of love is agape, which is “selfless, unconditional, universal”, and more importantly, infinite and, hence, eternal.
Wanting In Experience
But admittedly, my learnings about love whilst back in the seminary were largely theoretical or academic – wanting yet in experience or empirical basis.
Not that I was devoid of love for God or for my family then.
In fact, my love, or “infatuation”, for God was my initial motivation in entering the seminary.
But reckoning back then, it seemed that love was more discussed than experienced, more contemplated than practiced or done.
In a sense, our engagement with love back then was but “platonic” in character.
The Greek philosopher Plato contended that true love, which is “philia” (thus philosophy etymologically means “love of wisdom”), transcends eros, “develops and transforms it from a lust for possession into a shared desire for a higher level of understanding of the self, the other (person), and the universe. [In short], philia transforms eros from a lust for possession into an impulse for philosophy” (Neel Burton, “Plato On True Love”, psychologytoday.com).
Needless to say thus, we were just philosophizing about love in the seminary.
Albeit, back when I was a seminarian, I felt or “experienced” at times the “praxis” (embodiment or “walking the talk”) of loving the masses, the “poor, oppressed, and deprived”, during our summer apostolate to far-flung barrios.
However, my radical transformation about love occurred when I met the “love of my life”, my wife – who erstwhile was my student in college.
In one glorious instant, everything seemed to glow or glitter in my life.
There were no “lurking dark clouds” and I could only see the appealing rainbow colors. It was a eureka moment for me.
“Is this real love?” I asked in utter nirvana.
Thus, defying the student-teacher status we had and likewise the certain impracticality of marrying too early and not resource-wise stable yet, I forgot my priestly vocation and decided to get married.
Fast forward to the present, I and my wife are on our 35th year of marriage.
Already with four children-sons, all grown up and three are married, our marriage – like any other – wasn’t all throughout heavenly.
Stages of Marital Life
Psychologists aver that there are basically 5 stages of marital life, namely:
- Romance Stage (neither of you can do any wrong in the eyes of the other, because you’re both still in your best behaviour);
- Disillusionment Stage (Adjusting to Reality Phase. You start recognizing each other’s flaws and shortcomings);
- Power Struggle Stage (Disappointment Phase or Distress Stage. Increasingly aware of your many differences, you fight to draw boundaries in the relationship, and even small annoyances become big issues. Thus, most couples have occasional thoughts of leaving the relationship;
- Stability Stage (Friendship Phase or Reconciliation Stage. You find that you have deeper feelings of love, connection and trust with each other, regardless of personal differences), and
- Commitment Stage (Acceptance or Real Love Phase, Transformation Stage. Couples have a clear notion of who their partner is, faults and weaknesses galore…yet they make a conscious choice to be with this person inspite, or even because, of all those flaws).
Not Losing The Boy In Me
Have I and my wife reached the 5th stage of our marriage? Perhaps, yes.
But we’re not just keeping it there.
We’re constantly making it fresh everyday, never losing the boy within me and the young girl inside my wife, no matter how many wrinkles edge our eyes.
Having gone through the best and worst of times in the past, we never believe that the best days are over – they are always happening today and tomorrow.
One last thing. Is real love forever? If we go by the definition of real love as agape, which is “unconditional” and “universal”, it can be said that true love transcends all “conditions” or limits, including time.
Rizal, our hero, is long dead, but his magnificent love for our country has been immortalized in his works. Saints, both with capital “S” and lower-case “s”, have long sacrificed their lives but their exemplar love for God and humanity are yet present “on earth as it is in heaven”.
I and my wife’s love for each other as well as for our children will always be recreated or re-lived by my children’s children and grandchildren.
Loving One Another
In sum, worth reckoning are these words from two prominent sages.
First is from Buddha: “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.”
And lastly, St. Teresa of Calcutta once said: “At the end of life, we are going to be judged on the basis of our love for one another.”
Nagmahal…ako’y nagmamahal…at ako’y patuloy na magmamahal.