As a younger adult, I often had mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. If I was single, I felt left out. If I was in a relationship, I felt obligated to participate in all the Hallmarky ways. But over the years I’ve come to a place of ease and enjoyment around it.
Being married to someone who loves holidays and freely reimagines them, I’ve learned to appreciate the opportunities they provide (to tune in, to remember the sweetness, etc.) and to take liberties to personalize them. I choose to experience Valentine’s Day as a celebration of LOVE in all its forms. The V-Day industry focuses mainly on the passionate, romantic type of love (lingerie and roses anyone?) – known in Greek as eros. And eros is delicious, but it’s just one of the many kinds of love.
Next there’s familial love – AKA storge – that love between parents and children, between siblings, between cousins, between aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces. It’s often called an “instinctual” love because it so naturally occurs between those who share blood and living space. There’s usually an unspoken sense of safety within the storge container. There’s a unique bond to having shared the same recipes, the same challenges, the same vacations, the same clothes, etc., with these folks.
Then there’s the love of friends, or platonic love – AKA philia – sometimes called “brotherly love,” though more in the way that your friends become like brothers and sisters. We don’t always have romantic partners, and we sometimes lose or become estranged from family, so for many people platonic love is the most stable, abundant, and important form in their lives. The great potential of platonic love is that we can include so many souls in it. We’re limited as to how many family members we can add, and most romantic relationships are monogamous, but it’s fully possible to have brotherly/sisterly love for hundreds or thousands of humans – and in so doing, to dissolve the sense of separation between ourselves and the rest of the world.
Some make a separate distinction for hospitality – guest love (xenia) – or the way we treat strangers and visitors when we’re in the position of host. While it may seem less significant than the previous forms of love – eros, storge, and philia – there’s something beautiful and virtuous about rising to this occasion. Think of someone you know who is the quintessential host – you feel cared for, you feel your needs are being anticipated, you never feel unwelcome. Can you humble yourself and serve in that way? This form of love is one of the main driving forces behind the Dragontree and to a great extent it arose from my wife’s natural aptitude for it. If you haven’t been to one of our spas, come experience it sometime!
Next is Divine love or unconditional love – agape. Agape describes a kind of love that transcends any causes or conditions. It transcends our humanness – it doesn’t come with any strings and it isn’t stoked by the needs of the body or mind. It’s the broadest form of love. In religious contexts, it’s the term for the love of God – from God to human, from human to God, and from God through human to all of the universe.
Finally, there’s love of oneself – philautia. Self-love has often been regarded with some scorn, especially in the past, before the advent of modern psychology and the great leap in understanding of human needs that came with it. It was previously conflated with arrogance and pride, but pure self-love is entirely positive. It’s the way all of us should feel about ourselves – and I don’t use the word “should” to mean that you’re bad or wrong if you don’t love yourself. I mean it to indicate that if you were able to sweep away all of the sad, outdated, judgmental – and ultimately meaningless – criticisms of yourself aside, you would have no reason to deny yourself love. You would see how it only hurts you to withhold love from yourself.
So if you’re looking for a fresh and expansive experience this Valentine’s Day (or anytime) I invite you to consider these various forms of love and devote yourself to one of them. Is there one that you’ve had trouble with? What gets in the way of letting the love arise freely in you and flow outward? Can you let the love itself melt the blockages and do its loving thing? Please share about your experience below!
So much love,