Of a morning, I’m woken up by the song Higher Love by Steve Winwood. And not every morning, I ask myself, “What is this song really about?””Where is this higher love he keeps thinking of anyway?” Perhaps this higher love might be one of C. S. Lewis‘s The Four Loves:
- Storge: Love experienced by and for family members, companions or colleagues. As anyone would know this is a love of boundaries and a subsuming of personality.
- Philia: Love experienced through friendship which may of course have flexible boundaries and an extension of personality but there are still boundaries.
- Agape: Altruistic, unselfish love experienced through being kind to strangers or generous to those we do love.
- Eros: Erotic, romantic, infatuated love which is joyous until the deinfatuation occurs.
As a father, son, brother, friend, colleague, husband, lover and occasional altruist, I’ve experienced all of these loves. I’ve especially written about agape love in On Unselfish Love and explored it further in Rumi’s Puzzle of Love.
But for me, sadly, these loves have an element of impersonality as they are restricted by boundaries in one way or another. All in all these loves have a sense of disconnectedness about them.
But as Steve Winwood hinted, when he woke me up, there is another love, a fifth love, if you will, a love that simply does not fit the above categories. I’ve been touched by and wrote about that love in Love, Science Fiction and Understanding. I’ve heard it hinted at in the writings of Rumi and Donne and many others. I’ve seen it in action during the beautiful relationship of a favourite uncle and dear aunt.
But as an aspiring poet and storyteller, I still feel I’m grasping at air. Try though I might, I cannot define it, let alone describe it. It seemed as if the answer was out of sight and out of hearing. An answer, it seems, that the heart knows but won’t tell.
And at an unexpected place and an unexpected time, I find the beginnings of that answer.
I’m in Colombo International Airport, Sri Lanka after attending my friends’ wedding. I have four or five hours to wait for my flight as it leaves well after midnight. I sigh and reach into my bag. I retrieve Joseph Campbell‘s the Power of Myth and try (and again fail) to read it. For every single time I read this book, I become lost with new thoughts and feelings. And this night, in an airport slowly being emptied of travellers, it’s again the same.
I randomly choose a chapter, Tales of Love and Marriage. In the first page, Campbell starts talking about the medieval troubadours. My first tired thought is, “This isn’t for me.” My next thought is,”I have three or four hours, so read.” I read on. And I read something that catches my breath for an eternity. Campbell sets aside the concepts of Eros and Agape as respectively a biological urge (infatuation) and a charitable (spiritual) love. He introduces the term Amor, a person-to-person love, a love based on connection that exceeds any of the four loves. Much much later, I’m reminded of that phrase so many people use to describe a failed love, “We didn’t have a connection.” They’re right.
That night everything falls into place. For this love is one that looks into the eyes of another and sees not only their heart and soul but the rest of the universe as well. This love is one that will explore the known and unknown, knowing that all will never be revealed. This love is one that is based on vulnerability, compassion and courage. This love, this fifth love, demands a price but pays bountifully.