I love music. I love that new song by Band X.
I love these shoes. I love my job.
I love my dog. I love my friends. I love my country. I love my neighbors. I love my nieces and nephews and my brother’s wife and my nephew’s wife. I love my whole family. I love my brother. I love my parents. I love you. I love…..
We cover a lot of territory one that one word: Love. I bet it’s exhausted.
The first lines of the Happy Life Manifesto proclaim:
It starts with love.
Once I’d typed those words, I started to think more critically about the way we use the word “love” so casually and carelessly to refer to anything we like and approve of.
Colloquial English isn’t very precise.
What Is Love?
Back in 1984 Foreigner’s arena rock anthem I Want To Know What Love Is was a big hit. I thought it was schmaltzy—not my type of music.
I was into the Cure, the Clash, the Go-Go’s, the Violent Femmes.
To the extent I’ve heard any Foreigner their music in the past 30 years it’s been as background noise—not by choice.
But this morning the song popped into my head out of the blue as I was brainstorming pop songs that might offer a useful reference point in this blog post.
Love abounds in pop music—from metaphorical naughtiness to silliness to schmaltz to the vulgar and explicit. From Cole Porter’s birds and bees to the Beatles Love Me Do. My first inclination was to use Howard Jones’ What is Love? But once I listened more carefully I decided it wasn’t right.
If it’s not yet obvious, the English language is pretty lame when it comes to various ways to express the concepts and feelings we lump into a single word: Love.
So as I sat pondering the possibilities, trying to think of a song about love that wasn’t explicitly religious or romantic, Foreigner’s hit popped into my head—out of the blue. I couldn’t remember any lyrics except for a bit of the chorus: “I want to know what love is, I want you to show me.”
I turned to Google and YouTube and found that the lyrics are vague enough to use as an illustration for this post. Mick Jones, the songwriter, seems to be talking about love in something akin to the higher sense that I want to explore.
Now this mountain I must climb, feels like the world upon my shoulders.
Through the clouds I see love shine, it keeps me warm as life grows colder.
Mick Jones, I Want to Know What Love Is, Foreigner
Types of Love
We know that love means something very different in each context and at different points in time. For each of us, the type of love we’re referring in one context to can mean something different for someone else speaking about the same thing within their own life experience.
I do love my dogs and cats, but I’m pretty sure that when I say I love my dogs and cats that I mean something more or different than when my family members say they love these same animals. As their “person,” I have a different kind of love for these furry friends than do others, even those who are true animal lovers.
There’s romanic and sexual love, family love, the love of friends and humanity and country. The Greek language has at least four words to represent these different types of love:
Eros is the type of love that’s sexual and romantic. There’s a place for eros love, but that’s not my focus. Other blogs and writers can handle that topic.
Philia is brotherly love. It’s relevant in the Happy Life Manifesto, but not my focus in this post.
Storge is a type of love that refers to the bonds of family—also relevant, but not my focus today.
Agape love is the highest form of love and it is the type of unselfish, all-encompassing love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible.
A Different Kind of Love
It’s agape love that is at the foundation of the Happy Life Manifesto.
I believe there’s a force that is Divine Love. It is greater than humanity, greater than the universe we see and know, greater than the parts of the unseen universe that physicists theorize.
I believe in this force, God, because I have on more than one occasion directly experienced grace and mercy that is beyond anything humans could provide. This agape love clearly came from something beyond me. It was not self-generated and it was not delivered to me through another human person.
I can’t see this Divine Love directly. I can’t explain it in human words that will prove it to others. I see through a glass darkly and yet I know the Divine Love is real. Yes, it requires faith but my faith is based on something more than a simplistic acceptance of someone else’s message. I have experienced this Divine Love in a very personal and direct way (more than once).
Since I’m a Christian, I can only speak to the faith I know and this Divine Love as I have experienced it.
The Bible tells us that God is Love.
The Divine At Work
With the exception of copyediting, I wrote everything that appears above this section early Sunday morning, February 7, 2016. Before I could finish the post, I ran out of time and needed to leave for a worship service at Avondale United Methodist Church, where I’d volunteered to help with the sound system. Had I not volunteered to help with the sound, there’s a good chance that I might have stayed home to continue working on this post.
In one of those amazing examples of serendipity, the sermon by a guest speaker was exactly what I’m attempting to write about here. An atheist might say this is all just a coincidence that I’m looking for something and I’m seeing/hearing what I want to see and hear. I disagree.
All I can say that there are forces at work in my life that I cannot explain—a tug of war between Goodness and Love and The Resistance—and I have a mission to pursue this at this stage of my journey.
To keep this post a manageable length, I’m going to stop here. In the next post I’ll talk about the message from the guest speaker, Gwenn Freeman. She delivered a much more eloquent exegesis on the the different types of love and why we are disappointed in love.
I hope you’ll bear with me as I explore this topic of Love. It’s task I’ve been given to complete.