“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
David Nogar is a railroad transportation consultant presently working in New York City.