Did You Know There Are 8 Different Definitions of Love?
Love, in all its glory, is in fact a very simple thing. Scholars have spent years trying to explain it and yet only the fool in love really knows what it feels like. The Greeks though, were not fools. They experienced love and then went on to define it in 8 different ways.
From the passionate throes of a new relationship, to the gentle affirmation of a mature partnership; from an affirmation of marital vows, to healing your soul after a heart-break; from becoming a new Mom, to bidding farewell to the very same child at a college door – the emotion of love is omnipresent, but varied in its manifestations. And what’s even more interesting to note is how each person experiences these loves differently. Love in all its forms and to every individual is unique. It comes to us in its own shape and size, just like natural diamonds. And it is what we do with it that shapes it into something sparkling and beautiful. Like love, diamonds too go through the trials of pressure under the earth, and yet it comes through as one of the most priceless, timeless gems nature has to offer.
But at the end of the day, how many kinds of love are there, really? How do you differentiate one from the other? What is our purpose in travelling these different journeys of love?
An Overarching Spectrum: Ancient Greeks and The Eight Kinds of Love
My search led me to the world of Ancient Greeks, where love’s enchantment held sway over Mortals & Gods in all the three planes of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld! Ah! The manic chase of Goddess Daphne by Apollo at the instigation of mischievous Eros; the epic wanderings of Odysseus to reunite with his wife Penelope in the Odyssey; the all-consuming passion between Paris and Helen that led to the Trojan wars in Homer’s Iliad!
This research led to a shocking denouement! According to the Ancient Greeks, love might throw us around into unknown tempests of joy, grief, passion, or depression, but in fact there are only ‘Eight Kinds of Love’ in the entire world of experience: Eros, Philia, Agape, Storge, Mania, Ludus, Pragma & Philautia.
My immediate response was, “This cannot be right! Eight categories are surely inadequate! I took it upon myself to put this discovery to test, in the dynamic world of modern celebrity.
Eros: The All-Consuming Fire of Physical Attraction
Look at Eros, a passionate, amorous kind of love, filled with physical tension and desire. Two bright stars who appear to be ensnared in this kind of love are the Hollywood couple Blake Lively & Ryan Reynolds. They met each other on a film-set and their hearts ignited. Ancient Greeks would argue that it was a result of love-arrows shot at them by the Child-God Eros, the mischievous son of Aphrodite & Ares. Even as marriage and children followed, their love has remained undimmed with the passing of time. It shines like a Natural Diamond on social-media platforms and red-carpet events that they frequent together.
Pragma: The Powerful Dynamics of Mature Love
Let us look at Zeus, the King of Gods in the Greek pantheon. He saw Princess Europa when she was playing with her friends on the Phoenician sea-shore. The arrow of Eros found its mark and Zeus wooed Europa in the shape of a snow-white bull, until she fell in love with him and agreed to become his consort. Strangely enough, it reminded me of the courtship of Shahrukh Khan and Gauri. Young Shahrukh saw Gauri at a dance-party. He was so smitten that he travelled between Mumbai and New Delhi regularly to win her heart, with passion, dedication & a lot of respect. The love-struck couple got married and went on to create a strong, stable family, as well as a business empire that is the envy of millions. Ancient Greeks would argue that even though Eros brought them together, their relationship has now evolved into a mature Pragma kind of love. It is a love that radiates mutual respect and inter-dependence between strong individuals, who are successful in their own rights.
Storge: Love of Children & the Soft Power of Innocence
I was becoming more curious as the research progressed. Witness the story of Hardik Pandya, the fleetfooted all-rounder from the Indian cricket team who enjoys the status of a demi-god with his fans. He was much like Hermes, the wayward Greek God of sports, who was known to carry chaos with him, wherever he went. But then Hardik fell in love with Serbian performer Nataša Stanković – a love that transformed him. In his own words, ‘I have found someone who I actually love. I think I am becoming a better man.’ But soon another kind of love struck Hardik, which changed him even more drastically. It was the birth of the couple’s first child Agastya! Today Storge, the natural affection between a parent and child appears to have shaped Hardik into a stable & nurturing family-man. The steadying influence of Storge has reached his social & professional life as well, leading his fans, friends, and family to declare their surprise & delight on social-media. What a journey it has been!
Philautia: The Love Within
But what happens when love with a partner doesn’t live up to our expectations? What happens when love is lost on our journey? The celebrity world is agog with the story of the Emmy award winning actor Jennifer Aniston. Her marriage broke down suddenly & rather publicly. Eros, Mania, Pragma & Ludus seemed to desert her. I wanted to know; what kind of love follows a heart-break? I wished to ask, does love only exist in the presence of another? The Ancients did not fail to enlighten me. Remember the famous lines of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite? ‘Here is a quiet at the heart of love and I have pierced the pain and come to peace.’ Jennifer went through a transformative journey of healing, to find the wisest, most valuable kind of love – the love of one’s own self, Philautia.
An endearing tryst with Greek loves In my discovery of these meanings of love, I also ventured into understanding Philia, Agape, Mania and Ludus. While Philia characterises an intimate, soul-to-soul bond, it stands for the love that great friendships are made of. Agape is an empathetic, universal love. It’s the form of love one may have for humanity, God, and nature. It’s also the love that is responsible for keeping good communities growing stronger together. Mania, on the other hand, is interesting to note. It’s the obsessive, possessive kind of love. The kind that makes you co-dependent. It’s often considered to be an imbalance of Eros and Ludus. And that brings us to Ludus, the flirtatious, playful love. It’s infatuation, it’s non-committal and mostly, it comes without any Eros or Philia attachment. Phew, that sums them all up!
The Spectrum of Transformation – Our Eternal Journeys into the ‘Eight Kinds of Love’ It was clear to me that ‘transformation of self’ is a quintessential tenet in the stories of Ancient Greeks. Heroes transmute under the trials and tribulations of love like those ordinary rocks of carbon, which withstand the weight of hundreds of kilometres of Earth’s crust and transform into Natural Diamonds. In Ancient Greece, the word ‘Adamas’ meant ‘unbreakable.’ Over a period, it became synonymous with the word diamond, symbolising strength under pressure, and constancy of hope in the face of change. I hope that we all meet these ‘Eight Kinds of Love,’ to enjoy, to confront and to be transformed by, so as like Natural Diamonds, we too can come through as the best that our life and our loves deem us to be!