updated 11/23/20        1220


What is love.   We use that term so many times in our day to day life but what does that word truly mean?   We might say we love that food, love our job, love a class ect   but is that the true meaning of love.   Are there many types of love or one true love and others are just substitutions?  Is it an emotion, a chemical change in our bodies?   Is it a learned trait or something more in its truest and purest form?   I hope to address these questions as best I can below, for what is true love and what is love is a timeless question that we have not been able to answer.  Why one might ask because I feel love cannot be defined in one category or type, it is different from one person to the next.     But before I dive into my belief what love is in its truest form, I shall give you a starting point where some enlightened people feel is its true definition.    Starting with webster dictionary it gives the definition of love as an intense feeling of deep affection, and a great interest and pleasure in something. Or to feel deep affection for someone or like or enjoy very much. 

 But that only describes how we use the term of love and not what it is. A philosopher name Adrian Catron said “love is the most powerful emotion a human being can experience.  The strange think is that almost nobody knows what love is.  Why is it so difficult to find love?  That is easy to understand if you know that the word love is not the same as ones feeling of love”   he also goes on to say “the word love is used as an expression of affection towards someone else ( I love you) but it also expresses pleasure ( I love chocolate).  To make it a little more complicated the word love also expresses a human virtue that is based on compassion, affection, and kindness.  This is a state of being, that has nothing to do with something or someone outside yourself.  This is the purest form of love. “ 

 Going back further in time to the ancient Greeks they used several words for the term of love.  From terms describing the love between friends, the natural affection between family, love of friends, sexual desires, unconditional love, love of yourself and lastly Love between two people such as married couple.       So, before we dive into what ancient philosophers thought about love we must understand they divided up the modern term we use Love into different words and categories as they explained it.     


The first Greek word for love I wish to discuss is philia and it is one type of love we all are familiar with.  That is the love of friendship.   We all have had varying degrees of friendship and love our friends.    It is a virtuous love and thought of by Aristotle where he expressed this as loyalty to friends and used the term brotherly love.  It also is written about a being kind, authentic, the kind of love that builds a great friendship and bond between two people.    It is based on the goodwill of one about the other.   Wanting what is best for the other person.    In Greek philosophers’ writings it is also used to describe soul mates either as a platonic best friend or what we now call best friends for life, or the romantic partner we have.   So many times, we hear people say they married their best friend.   And they mean that through marriage they became best friends.    It is one-part soul mates and the other destiny in Greek writings.  


The next Greek word is Storge.  This is the love shared between family members.  Most seen in the love between a child and its parents.   This is an inseparable bond that starts at birth and last to the end.   It is sometimes referred to as a one-way love.  No matter what you will love your parents and siblings.   Even if you hate them.  And as a child you may not be able to express you love to your parents, but they show you their love towards you.

  Afape is the love of man itself and the love of God.   This kind of love is shown by the love of others, the less fortunate, and strangers without expecting anything in return.   This kind of love and the people that show it make the foundation of a great societies and communities.  This is a hard love to have by some while others have an abondance of this kind of love

The Greek word Philautia is used to describe self-love.  It has two meaning in Greek literature one being the healthy self-love.  That reinforces self-esteem.  The other meaning is selfishness that you put yourself above others.    So, this kind of love can be a double-edged sword so to speak.   But to be open to any kind of love you must first love yourself.  I will talk about this more later. 


   Ludus is the Greek word for the first stages of love, we call this a crush, but not just the crush itself but acting on it as well.  It is the love with zero implications of obligation.  It is rooted in just having fun.  The modern equivalent of this would be the Netflix and chill scene.

the Greek word Eros means “love, mostly of the sexual passion”  Plato refined his own definition: Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, “without physical attraction”. In the Symposium, the most famous ancient work on the subject, Plato has Socrates argue that eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth, the ideal Form of youthful beauty that leads us humans to feel erotic desire – thus suggesting that even that sensually based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence.   


Lastly the term Pragma it means compassionate love that is built over a lifetime, built on understanding, commitment, and best interest of the one you love over the long term.  the key traits of this kind of love written about by the Greeks are honor, respect, and cherish each other, and learning to compromise.   It is rooted in romantic feelings and emotion but not an emotion itself.   


I think we can all say we feel some form of these kinds of love every day of the week.   From our friends, kids, lovers, family, ect.  Some many times a day, but do we know the act of love is happening or do we accept that whatever love is, it is present in our lives, from those we think love us.    

            Some will say love is just a feeling held between two people.  I believe this primis  to be false.   If it is just a feeling or emotion it would pass with time.   And would also be overwelled by other emotions.  One may feel emotions while in love but the love is still there .   Anthropologist Helen Fisher says” love is not like an emotion. Emotions change like a kite in the wind.  We may go through many emotions while in love but the overall thing about love is a drive that makes us feel empathetic to someone.”  We feel their pain, feel their happiness, and would sacrifice anything for the other person.    Just as we feel our pain and happiness when we love ourselves.   The drive to improve ourselves is there because we love ourselves and are looking for ways to improve ourselves.  This proves in my opinion love is not an emotion, if it were the drive would change.  


 Others say it is a chemical change in the body that manifests itself as feelings.   Now it is true that emotions do change the chemical reactions in the brain and causes the body to do things.   Like fear will cause your body to increase its heart beat, releace addrenalin in preparation for the fight or flight reaction.   The same thing can be said when we are in love,  Syracuse professor Stephanie Ortigue led this study. Ortigue and her team found that falling in love created the same “euphoric feelings as using cocaine.” They found that “12 areas of the brain work in tandem to release euphoric-inducing chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin” and adrenaline.  When we are smitten with someone, chemicals such as adrenaline make our face turn red, our hands sweat and our heart beat faster.

The website Health.com describes dopamine as the brain’s pleasure chemical. It activates the reward circuit in our brain and plays a role in drug addiction and falling in love. Dopamine makes lovers feel happy and energetic about each other.

Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” because it deepens feelings of attachment. Oxytocin is the hormone that plays a role during pregnancy, nursing and in mother-baby attachment.

Ortigue’s team also found that falling in love affected intellectual areas of the brain and not just the pleasure and reward center of the brain where drug habits may begin.

As a side note, they also found that falling in love takes about “a fifth of a second before the brain starts to react.”   So the old saying of love at first sight may actually be true in some respects.   Further on in the study they found males can fall in love faster then females.   But the females have a longer effect of chemicals released in their body then males.    But once around there loved ones again the chemicals will be released again but once again faster in the males.  Lastly they found that love, lust and other things like this cause the brain to react in different ways in different parts of the brain.   So they are not the same in respect of how we react.         

   But this chemical reaction in the brain is  the reaction to result of love itself.  It is the effect not the cause.  So I will say that love can not be explained as just a chemical reaction. 


Is love taught and we just accept it.   The way one may show one loves another for whatever reason may be taught, or learned through live ecperances   but I do not think love itself is taught to us. 

Now I wish to dive deep into the most common path of love and how we open ourselves to love from another.   Aristotle said “to love others one must love yourself first.   This virtue is essential to the pursuit of happiness.”   We today hear these words spoken many times.   “In order to be loved one must first love themselves first” this is true for many reasons.     Because if one does not love themselves first one will not be truly open to the love of another.   And one will not recognize the love from another for what it truly is.   They will say they are just doing this because of this, or not see people true acts of kindness driven by love for another in their pure form.   They will look at them as having alternative motives.  Or worse yet not feel they deserve the love from another.    But loving one’s self is a hard thing to do.   To love one is self-one must first accept one’s self all the good and bad that is them and say this is me and I love myself.    But by doing that one will see what they do not like, and this will force change in them.   So many times, people fall and drown our parts of their lives in something as an escape, drugs, food, alcohol. Throwing themselves into work or a project.   Not because they are intentionally doing this but because they are trying to escape something, they do not love about themselves.    A weakness, a fault, a mistake in their past, or a failure, or a traumatic event.   But once they face whatever they do not love about themselves and change that you see them change.     And their lives improve.     It is at this point that they began to love themselves.  

Now I will address a saying that has been said many times over the last past 20 years we have been at war.  “there is not greater sign of love then one who knowingly would give their life for another” this has been said many of times.   And having been someone that has served and is a firefighter now I will say this, this comment is true but not in the way people think it is talking about.   Those that give their lives for another it is not because they love that person.   They might hate that person.    I know it might be weird to say one would die to save another and they do not love that person. But this act is a different form of love, a love for your fellow man forged in hardship.  That person is their brother or sister like them or not.   In the military we have a saying   I am my brothers and sisters keeper.  What that means is we would go to hell and back for those we served with and those we might have never known.    And they know that person would do the same for them if the shoe was on the other foot.  It is a weird bond that people who workday in and day out training and then doing what you trained for a very long time.  It is an unwritten rule in the fire service 2 people go in into a burning building and 2 come out or none at all.   You see you accept the fact that you may not make it home ever again well before you are even placed in that situation.   Your mind is at a weird sense of ease.   You do not look forward to death, but you accept it may happen.   If you did not do that you could not do what we ask these man and woman to do.   You pray it does not happen.   But when faced with it you do say I might die if I do this.   You say I must do this for my brother or sister next to me. And they do it day in and day out every day.  

 And here are my final thoughts of what love is in a relationship.  Love is not just an emotion that one feels.  Love is in its truest form the want and desire of another.  But not in a sense that everyone thinks about.  The true definition of love is the want and desire of one to become there best with your support but without your involvement.  By that I mean you want that person to become the best and to reach their fullest potential in whatever they do.  You will support them and help them in any way, but you want them to succeed in that endeavor on their own.  By their success they will be rewarded by happiness and a sense of accomplishment.     You want them to as some say, “reach for their stars in life and touch them all”.  You will support them in reaching that accomplishment.   Much like a parent will support their children. There is no better advocate for a child then a loving parent in whatever they do.   They nurture their dreams and comfort their failures.   Much like those that are in love in its truest form they stand by them after they do.   That is what true love is.  Giving of one’s self to another with no conditions and standing by watching them succeed and being there to congratulate them.  

To give of one’s time the one thing we do not know how much we must another is the greatest gift one can give to someone.  We are not guaranteed to live past the moment we are in.   The emotions associated with love are feelings and feelings can change moment to moment.   But true love is eternal because the time given to another is eternal.   And that time we chose to spend with someone is what sets everyone else apart in our lives with those we love.   That is something I think people forget and gets lost today.   It is not just being there for someone giving your time one must invest their time they give.    If you look at people that are married for over 50 years.   They each chose to give their time to each other through the bad times and good.   And at the end of their days they still yearn for more time to spend with the one they love.   And when one passes on the other looks forward to being with there loved one in the next life.   Why, to spend more time with them.    Now I am not saying that we measure the time we spend with others as a metric of how much we love someone.   I am saying that the time we chose to spend with someone where we could be doing anything else with that time is love.    We have obligations to go to work, school, originations we might belong to.   Do we love those probably not, we may like them but love them highly unlikely?   But they are obligations we have said to ourselves that we must do.   Now that remaining time that is free who we spend that time with and dedicate that time to is love.    It could be just 15 minutes a day walking out the door spending with the one you love.   You chose to do that more than anything else.    When one comes home you chose to spend that time with that person.   When you wake up next to them you are grateful that you will be able to spend one more day with them.   And when they are gone you long for just one more day.     So, I feel we can like many people, accept many people, and care about many people, but only truly love very few people.   Because we have truly so little time to love others. 

We can love people different ways, different amounts in our lives.  We love our friends differently then our kids, our partners ect.    But in my personal opinion when someone says they love someone they are talking about their partner in life for the most part.   And we can truly only love one other person.  But we don’t love them off the bat so to speak, we learn about them and by doing that we learn the reasons we love them.   We will tell them things about ourselves that we would never tell anyone else.   We expose our most venerable side to them because we feel we can trust them.   And that they would not do anything that would hurt us with that information.     But also I think we know when we meet someone for the first time if something  clicks so to speak.  We did not know it then but looking back most people will say there was something different about that one person out of the thousands of people we meet in our day to day lives.    That is why we are willing to give our time to that person.    It just feels right.    Later on we may discover that they are what some people call a soulmate.   Something about that person connects with us but not in a physical way, but in a truly spiritually way.      

Now that I have said that I also think that we all truly have a soulmate out there someplace.  But it is not a specific person.  I feel that as we spend time with the person, we love the souls of those people become connected.   Socaties talked to great length about the soul of a person.   That is to is eternal.  That the persons soul is neither in the mind nore in the heart.   It is a part of the person but not the body.   So many other philosophers have gone down this road and came to the same conclusion.   In class we called this “the good” or “one’s pure self”.  Love is also when the good or one’s pure self is opened to another unconditionally that the truest form of love is found.  When we not only chose to spend our time invested in another but when we reveal our soul to another.    It is at that point that the souls of the two will seek out what the other is missing in the other.    The yen and yang so to speak, opposites attract ect.   I do think that is true.   Your soul is looking for whoever makes them whole. Fills that missing part to make it complete.   That is what a soulmate is.  And as you spend time with that person your soul will find what completes it in that person.   And in that interaction between two people we find the drive that was talked about earlier.      

 In class after you gave me this topic you also asked a question on the paper.   So, to answer your question can we love everyone the answer is truthfully no we cannot.   We can like, support, like, admire ect as many people we want to.  But to truly love someone i.e. give your time to them, we cannot because we do not have unlimited time.   That is why sometimes when people break up, they say well that 3 years down the drain.   It is then that they start to realize that to love someone is time.  Time to join the souls, time to feel comfortable enough to reveal yourself to another.  And time it took to love oneself to be open to another’s love.    But it takes many people a lifetime to find that out.

In closing I believe that love is a word used to often and in place of other words, why because it is easier than to use another word and it is expected or easy to understand.   But when we meet someone and truly love them with all their faults and positives that make them who they are as a person.   Each person will know who that person is.  And they will know what true love is to them.   So be careful who you chose to give your time to, open yourself up to.  Make sure you spend your time well with others as we all chose to do.  We have no guarantee of tomorrow nor tonight.  But if you truly love someone it will be time well spent.  Weather it is a day, month, year, or lifetime.   You will be longing for just one more second with them when they are gone and them with you.     



%d bloggers like this: