Well, I said I would explain more about some things, so here goes (I realize I have something to say about love, too).
First off, the heart. This is probably the most widely abused word in modern times. There is hearts everywhere, there is hearts in pretty much every song that has to do with “love” (“… listen to your heart, when it’s calling for you / listen to your heart, there’s nothing else you can do…”), everyone is talking about what their heart is telling them and other such crap. “Heart” in modern English has come to mean, not the deepest and most precious part of the human soul, but the place where all desires come from. Especially if your reason can identify that they are wrong. If a husband decides to leave his wife and two children to run off with his latest fling, then it is most probable that he would claim he “listened to his heart” and that his mind told him to fulfill his familial duty, but he had to go with his heart.
Plato, or Socrates for that matter, did not talk much about the heart, but they did talk about duty. What do you think the guy who accepted the death penalty despite knowing that he was wrongly convicted and had every means to escape would say to that man? In another strange book, in fact it is so strange I can’t even remember its name, this weird Godly-seeming dude says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It is better for you to lose your hand or your eye than your self.” In any case, Pascal, who has shaped most of my thoughts concerning the heart, says, “the heart has its reasons, which reason cannot understand.” Now, in seeming, Pascal agrees with the scenario above. However, to say that would mean to ignore part of what Pascal is arguing, i.e. that the heart has its reasons. This word has long lost its meaning in the modern world. Reasons imply logic, logic implies mind. Indeed, super-logic and super-mind. As I said in the soul entry, the heart is that part of our soul which is able to tap into the Divine logic, which gives us access to Divine reasoning. It would be simply ridiculous to argue that it was “Divine reasoning” that made this man leave his wife and children, but shift the meaning for heart from the seat of the soul to the seat of desires and when that mean goes to his nearest pop-psychologist, he will feel much better about himself once he/she gives him an approving look as he mouths “I had to go with my heart.”
Of course, pop-psychology is only concerned with making the pain go away, with fixing your self-esteem, not the problem. You can imagine how quickly a doctor in a trauma center would be sued and slapped in prison if he gave all his patients enough morphine that they would not feel pain, but did nothing to heal their wounds. If, however, someone does the same thing to the soul, it is perfectly fine. Why, because you can’t see that your soul is wounded? If someone goes in the ER with a deep cut and the wound is sewn up, then that doctor has done his/her duty and is rightly praised for it. If someone comes into a psychologist’s office with a spiritual wound, it would be a mortal sin to mention the word “sin.” In any case, I digress.
Finally, to love. Because of the inadequacy of English, a lot of people brought up in the US and other English-speaking countries and the West in general, think of love as one thing in itself. In C. S. Lewis’ Four Loves the differences between different kinds of love are explain in detail. I would highly recommend the book, even though I don’t agree with some of the stuff in it.
In a nutshell, however, C. S. Lewis explains that there are:
- Need-loves (i.e. the love of water, it comes on only when someone is thirsting and stops after the thirst is quenched)
- Gift-loves (i.e. the kind of love that makes you give to others)
- Appreciative-loves (i.e. the kind of love that you feel when you see a beautiful sunrise, or smell an aroma coming off of a garden, etc. Basically, loving something for what it is, regardless of whether you possess it)
- Affection (storge) (i.e. love that comes from prolonged contact with something or someone)
- Friendship (filia) (i.e. love between two friends)
- Erotic love (eros) (i.e. love between two lovers)
- Charity (agape) (i.e. Christian love or the nature of God)
Summarizing the book would take a little too much time and this is already a long blog post, but the big point is that other than the need-loves, gift-loves, and appreciative-loves, which are not evidenced only in humans, there are four types of loves, namely storge, filia, eros, and agape. If you know even a little big about Greek, you can see that the names of the loves are Greek. In fact, most ancient civilizations had a much more systematic and well thought-out understanding of love than ours. The only later addition to the list is agape and that comes on after the advent of Christianity. In any case, the big point is that most of the problems in the West (at least within the family and society relative to the person) boil down to misunderstandings about love.
C. S. Lewis rightly says the quickest disappearing form of love in our civilization is filia or friendship. We have all heard versions of, “if you want a real friend, get a dog.” Of course, this chiefly comes out of the huge misunderstanding that you can go into any environment wanting to make friends and then make them. I can’t say that I have never behaved in such a silly way, but some of the closest friends I have I have met while doing other things and realized that there are other people who love doing the same things as me in the same way. Whereas the objective of the person who wants “to make friends” is to make friends and once he/she has these new friends their objective is complete, the person who does what he/she deeply enjoys and meets others who deeply enjoy the same things just as deeply, will have those friends for as long as their personality does not suffer an extreme shift (frontal lobotomy style).
Another very important point in the book is about eros. Here is where I personally disagree with C. S. Lewis on account of Plato’s Symposium, because I believe Lewis misses the distinction between pandemia (common) Aphrodite and ourania (heavenly) Aphrodite, but nonetheless, he does have a very important quote in that chapter, which is “man must do eros’ works while eros is missing. One of his points is that eros is not forever (which I disagree with), but I do agree that eros inspired by common Aphrodite (physical attraction) does not last forever. When that is so, the lovers must do eros’ works while eros is not present. That is to say, common Aphrodite is a feeling, however, the duties of love are to be completed even when that feeling is absent. In other words, if you are so ugly that you make me vomit, I can’t help that, but I can help how I behave toward you. After a marriage counselor gave a lecture once, a man came to talking to him. He explained to the marriage counselor that he had stopped loving his wife. The counselor replied, “Well, then, you should love your wife.” I don’t think the married man understood.