“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22: 37-40
Jesus replying to a question posed to him by the Pharisees at the Temple in Jerusalem.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15: 12-13
Jesus speaking to His disciples in the Upper Room during the Last Supper.
There is a long Judeo-Christian tradition of loving one another as being among the most important things we can do with the life that has been given us.
As you engage in the Social Interaction typical of a flâneur, already outlined somewhat extensively on this website, you will get to know many different types of people. Some you will like immediately; others you will grow to like as you get to know them better; and still others – no matter how hard you try (or even no matter how hard they may try) – will just not float your boat.
That doesn’t mean that those in this last group are necessarily bad people – it just means that their personalities and other characteristics that make-up their humanness are not simpatico with yours. And that’s okay. In situations like this, I think it’s absolutely all right to be thankful for the opportunity to have gotten to know them, as well as for how they may still have nonetheless enriched your life, and simply move on – ‘cause it’s a big world out there with lots of other people to meet.
Conversely, there will be people you meet with whom you hit it off immediately. They may possess qualities that you personally admire; you may find that you have shared experiences with each other that create a bond; or you may share similar worldviews that also create a bond – or any other combination of factors or characteristics.
As you get to know these people a bit deeper, the affinity and affection you have for them may ultimately develop into a profound love for them.
Love. In the post-modern, narcissistic American culture of today, we tend to associate that word, more often than not, with romance and/or sex – particularly if it is between people of different genders.
The ancient Greeks on the other hand appear to have been a bit more sophisticated in how they differentiated among different types of love, and for purposes of the treatise here, I believe it would be instructive to review how they defined the different types. The number of distinctions and actual terms used can vary from source to source, but for our purposes here, we’ll go with four types, and define them as follows:
So, given the frequent over-simplifications and misconceptions that have been reinforced through persistent conditioning in our present-day culture through the arts, commerce, politics and media for at least decades, it is no wonder that loving others – particularly those of opposing genders, even in a pure way, has the potential to cause much confusion, misinterpretation of intentions, anxiety, and even great sadness.
Yet to develop a selfless love for at least some of those whom you meet is an inevitable outcome of Social Interaction.
I suppose I would represent a classic case-in-point of one who has a propensity to love those of the opposite gender. As a 61-year old man who has been faithfully married to my wonderful wife for 23 years, the only man I have ever loved in any way was my father. That’s it. All of the other truly profound friendships I ever had in my life were with women.
I think the reason for this is relatively straightforward to explain. I was once described by a friend while in a bar as a [rather hopeless] Romantic.
Having that disposition, and working in the operations end of the railroad business for my entire adult life, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the male co-workers with whom I was associated didn’t really share any of my sensibilities, interests, or for the most part, my outlook on life. In fact, they didn’t have a clue as to what made me tick. When I did meet someone who knew exactly what I was about, at least in my case – it was always a woman. Consequently throughout my entire adult life, my most profound friendships were always with women.
Perhaps my case is atypical – perhaps not. But I believe it is nonetheless instructive in how to love others, particularly those of opposing genders, and still be absolutely faithful to your spouse. And this brings me back to the four types of love identified by the ancient Greeks that were summarized above.
If you are married, I would argue that your spouse – and only your spouse, is the one person in your life for whom all four loves apply. And I would further assert that Eros love is a love to be reserved for your spouse, and your spouse alone.
Now I may have lost about 80% of my readers with that last statement given our current societal values – but that’s actually okay. Because it’s not difficult to see that things can get gummed up pretty fast if you are married, yet also unconditionally love others in your life – without following the two principles in the previous paragraph.
The other thing to keep in mind about your spouse is the special spiritual relationship God has created between a husband and wife that exists between no two other individuals, succinctly summarized by Jesus Christ in His response to the Pharisees concerning their inquiry to him regarding the lawfulness of divorce, as recounted in Mark 10:6-8:
“But at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.”
Therefore, there is no other relationship in this life as exists between a husband and wife, regardless of how you love others. And it is important for your spouse to know this and believe this to truly be your feelings. Otherwise you will have some significant problems to overcome. In my life, I view my wife spiritually not as another person, but as an extension of myself, and me an extension of her.
And frankly what this means is that there is no one in this life equal to your spouse. If you always keep that in mind, and abide by it, you can love others (in an Agape sense) all you want, and your life will remain in balance.
However, I can also state without any equivocation, that there have been a number of other women in my life for whom I have had Agape love. And I have found these experiences to be among the most exhilarating, yet painful in my life.
Exhilarating, because it is a love for others as God intended – a purest form of love that requires nothing in return – that puts another human being ahead of your own selfish interests, and in my opinion, is the highest purpose to which you can commit your own life.
Painful, because those to whom such love is directed may not even be aware of it. And if they were, they may very well not understand it, and maybe would even ridicule it. Because it’s just not a common part of our culture. So the pain, and it can be quite intense, is associated with not getting back what you’ve offered in return. But remember, by its very definition, Agape love is not about what you get back from others – it’s about doing selflessly for them because they have come to mean something quite profound to you.
In our imperfect nature, it’s quite easy to try to love others selflessly but secretly hope for some acknowledgement or positive reinforcement from them. But when we do that, we are missing the point, and in the process, setting ourselves up to get seriously hurt.
However trust me, regardless of the selflessness of it, Agape love will still truly enrich your own life. It is the freest form of love to give, and it is totally under your control, because it’s predicated on nothing but your willingness to give it. To engage in Agape love with anyone will have a transformative effect on the perspective you have of your life.
I would respectfully suggest that you haven’t really lived until you’ve actually experienced it. And as a flâneur engaged in meaningful Social Interaction with many others – you will. It’s only a matter of time. Just be prepared for it when it comes.
Now. What do you do when a person to whom you’ve extended Agape love ignores you; rejects you out-of-hand; ridicules you; or even betrays you? What do you do? It will be one of the most painful experiences of your life. And how you respond will determine not only your longevity as a flâneur, but also your ultimate happiness as a human being. We’ll talk about that next, "When Doors Slam Shut.”
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
We live in very interesting times. People are communicating with one another at a greater frequency than at any other time in human history – but the means of communication is more often than not electronic, rather than face-to-face.
I am quite confident in asserting that humanity was never meant for this type of sterile Social Interaction. But nonetheless, it will no doubt continue to expand at probably an exponential rate. We are to the point where we prefer to text one another rather than have a telephone conversation, let alone one that is face-to-face. And we often don’t even use words to communicate anymore, but rather we have devolved into the use of technological hieroglyphics known as emoji and emoticons.
It was Pliny the Elder who first observed that the, “….eyes are the windows to the soul.” Yet, how soulless our interactions are in the context of today’s technology! How frequently we communicate with others without ever seeing their faces! And some of us don’t even speak to real humans, but rather artificial intelligence such as that which is built into our smartphones, like SIRI.
A true flâneur, in my view of the world, shuns this relatively recent predisposition towards impersonal communication and is always inclined to face-to-face conversation – preferably over a cocktail. This is the social creature man was meant to be. To be able to see the sparkle in the eye, or hear the inflection in the voice, or observe the body language while speaking – these are among the characteristics, the cumulative effect of which make up what we know as civilized Social Interaction. It’s not just words on some electronic device, or far worse – emoji.
So the flâneur endeavors to wander about the social places, watching those engaged in their daily activities – even if it’s only idleness, and always on the lookout for someone who piques his or her interest or curiosity. It could be something a person is doing, how they look, or perhaps just the expression on their face.
But the glorious freedom in the life of the flâneur is that you’ve made time in your own life to approach anyone you want and at least attempt to get to know theirs. By smiling, introducing yourself, and engaging them in some conversation that is meaningful both to them and to you. Not all who you approach will have an interest in returning your conversation. But you will be surprised at how many not only do, but who are also appreciative of the interest you have shown in them. And at the end of the conversation, you may have not only learned something of value from a fellow human being that can enrich your life, but you may have also made a new friend in the process.
Not too unlike the poetic lyrics from the wonderful Johnny Mercer song,
Free and easy, that's my style
Howdy-do me, watch me smile
Fare-thee-well me after a while
'Cause I gotta roam
And any place I hang my hat is home.
Sweetenin' water, cherry wine
Thank you kindly, suits me fine
Kansas City, Caroline
That's my honeycomb
'Cause any place I hang my hat is home.
Birds roostin' in a tree
Pick up and go, and the goin' proves
That's how it oughta be
I pick up too when the spirit moves me
(I go where it behooves me**)
Cross the river, 'round the bend
"Hello stranger!", "So long friend!"
There's a voice in the lonesome wind
That keeps whisp'ring, "Roam!"
I'm going where a welcome mat is
No matter where that is
'Cause any place I hang my hat is home.
 © 1946 Warner/Chappell Music Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home Music by Harold Arlen; Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
If there was ever a song that captured the true spirit of the uniquely American flâneur, for me this would no doubt be among the top three.
So, here’s a quick story for you that will serve as an instructive example for the point I’m trying to make in this post:
After a very difficult day in the office about four years ago, I wandered into my favorite bar at West 36th Street in New York City for a late lunch. It was about 2 o’clock – maybe even a little bit later. The place was mostly empty, save for a few people doing the same thing I was – namely taking a late lunch at the bar with a cocktail to wash it down and to take the edge off of a lousy day.
There was a lovely lady sitting a couple of barstools away, and after I had gotten myself into position with a Manhattan placed in front of me, she looked over, smiled, and asked me how I was doing. I think I sullenly replied, “Fine. How you doin?” – or some other such socially-retarded retort. Nonetheless, we started chatting over our libations and pub food – for the next several hours.
Needless to say, when the time came for us to part company that day, my outlook had changed completely – all on the strength of a conversation with someone who previously had been a complete stranger. We planned to get together for a follow-up lunch and, as sometimes happens after a chance, random encounter – we never did. And worse, we lost touch.
So think about this: If you can find such a friend only 1% of the time out of all of the new people that you meet, how much more enriched would the quality of your life be? And if that’s the case, why wouldn’t you be seeking to meet new people all of the time? So, go out and do it. And do it intelligently. You owe yourself nothing less. (Note: For help with this, check out the Resources page to learn how to hold an engaging conversation, if in fact you are a recovering smart phone addict.)
But for you to motivate yourself to consistently meet new people, you really must have an interest in them; like them; and perhaps even grow to love them. You can’t be a misanthrope like I was for most of my life. If you are, I do not believe you would make a very good flâneur. You might as well just become a hermit.
We will talk about how to appropriately love others in the next blog posting – tricky business indeed given today’s crass, narcissistic, and carnal American culture.
But if you do it right, it’s the highest purpose you can give your life. And that's coming up next.
© 2016 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
David Nogar is a railroad transportation consultant presently working in New York City.