|来自：Northern California, USA|
|时间：2019-06-03 22:01:03｜人气：23 |
|“Love” is undoubtedly an overly used word in America. One can “love chocolate cookies” or “love to work.“ Johnny “loves baseball” or Susie “loves to gossip.” Valentines Day conjures up images how most would associate with the word “love”: the fuzzy, sweet and tender romantic feelings between lovers idealized so countless times by Hollywood: boy meets girl, boy and girl “fall in love,” they marry and “live ever happily” after...|
The subject of “love” has intrigued and bewildered the West for ages. C. S. Lewis famously wrote about the different kinds of “loves” in his book titled “The Four Loves.” Taken from the four Greek words describing “love”, we have:
Storge: “affection” in English, “亲情之爱” would be my Chinese rendering of the word, “fondness due to familiarity” in the words of Lewis himself.
Philia : “friendship” in English, or 友爱 in Chinese, is a kind of love or deep bonding between friends that can be as close as that between siblings.
Eros: “erotic" or "romantic love” in English or 性爱 in Chinese, is the kind of love Hollywood or Valentines Day merchants promote. But in “eros” Lewis tried to distinguish erotic love from pure sexual drive: wanting all women would be sexual, while wanting one particular woman would be eros.
Agape: “charity” in English which meant unconditional or selfless love for Lewis. I struggle with its Chinese translation, 真爱 would be my attempt but it should be followed by ”无条件的爱” to explain its real meaning.
For Lewis, the first three loves, storge, philia and eros, are “natural loves” in that they exist in both humans and to some extent, lower-level animals. The problem with natural loves, be it affection, friendship or romance, is that they are conditioned on some external factors; once external circumstances change love in these forms can turn into something quite unlike love.
Storge and philia, practiced to the extreme, can create such undesirable circumstances as cliques, jealousy and a false sense of pride. Even romantic love, the Romeo and Juliette type, that so captures our hearts and minds and moves us to tears, can turn to “crime of passion” - once impeccable lovers becoming bitter enemies when they "fall out of love.”
How about that tenderest among all human loves - namely the love between a mother and her child? A Chinese song celebrating maternal love goes like this:
The song starts with lauding "mother is the best in the world", with the image of a happy child in the arms of his mother. But next the scene changes: a motherless child out of mom''s bosom becomes a lonely, unwanted weed: completely void of happiness. A mother''s love, presumably the best in the world, is, sadly, just as fleeting as other natural loves.
Is there a love that''s even better, which neither disappoints nor changes under any circumstances? Yes. This is agape, the complete, selfless, unconditional love, or “true love” if you will. Agape is a love that betrays animal instincts; therefore it’s “unnatural” and beyond the capacity of lower animals. As such, agape is not easy to comprehend even for us humans - we are animals also after all.
Love risen to the level of agape is profound, weird and even other worldly. It is therefore not surprising that it’s a subject discussed mostly by religious people.
Buddhism has the concept of 大慈大悲，the extreme mercy and compassion that is required for those who aspire to enter the realm of nirvana. This is one way to understand agape.
In Confucianism, the most important virtue for the “ideal gentlemen” (君子) is that rather confusing Chinese word of 仁，which roughly means being humane. What is 仁(pronounced “ren”) exactly?
The explanation was given by the most important disciple of Confucius and co-founder of Confucianism, Mencius: 仁者，爱人也. "What is Ren?" he asked rhetorically in the classical Chinese style. "Answer: to love others.” So 仁 can be another way to decipher agape.
Christianity would echo both Buddhists and Confucianists here and may go several steps further. The centrality of love to Christianity is obvious from the Christian understanding of the very nature of God itself. The biblical God represents justice, beauty, truth and many other good things, but when it comes to love, God not only represents it but God is love itself; God and love are one and the same:
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. “(1 John).
Being a Christian - a follower of God - then simply means being a person of love:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing...”(1 Corinthian)
The sheer weirdness of agape demanded of a Christian - a person of love - is best illustrated in the Sermon on the Mount, in the ideas of “turning the other cheek” or “loving your enemies”:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5)
From a secular humanistic perspective, this makes no sense at all, even ridiculous, but this is what true love demands. Loving your family or friends? Most people can do that. Loving someone and expecting something in return is love, but it''s a conditional love.
To truly and unconditionally love another, you have to try what most people are incapable of doing, such as loving your enemy. Knowing in advance that your love will never be returned, knowing your love will be met with hatred, you go ahead and love anyway. If you can do this, you have agape.
Agape, or Godly love, is a theological virtue for Christians. Love at this level is not a feeling but a willingness to do what’s good for others with total disregard for what we can get out of our actions. Simply put: agape is to will the good of the other, under all circumstances.
Love is the one Christian virtue that trumps all others. It is the only virtue that can be pursued without being “too extreme.” Unlike justice or faith, where too much justice may lead to the infringement of mercy and faith overstated, credulity, love - at the level of agape - can go as deep as we want. Love has no maximum and is infinite and eternal:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking... Love never fails...but where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”(1 Corinthians)
Christianity and other authentic religious faiths to varying degrees insist that it is necessary for human beings to attach ourselves constantly to that source of infinite love - God, as we humans don''t have within ourselves the power to raise love to the level of agape, just like dogs, lovely animals as they are, don''t have the capacity to understand love beyond storge.
If agape is so hard and strange, shouldn''t humans just forget it and try to live like dogs, who seem pretty happy with just storge? The short answer is it''s not going to work. As hard as we try, human beings will never live like dogs because we are made differently. This is both a curse and a blessing.
I am speaking in general terms. Of course, people differ greatly. Some will not only deny the existence of agape, but don''t think much of affection, friendship or romance. But looking at humanity as a whole, it''s clear that we as a species are both material and spiritual. Spiritual pursuit, along with material progress, has been a part of human experience since time immemorial.
The quest for truth, beauty and love is part of our spiritual pursuit. Here human nature compels us not to settle with just truth and beauty, but absolute truth and absolute beauty. As for love, we remain restless and unsatisfied until we find not just love, but love that is absolute and complete. The relentless cultivation of love has broad and profound consequences, both societal and personal.
Love appears to be the virtue that powers other Judeo-Christian ethos. The concepts of justice, equality, fairness and charity towards the less fortunate sprang out of the fountain of agape. It can be argued that from the same fountain also flowed the core values of Western society (at least in theory): the liberal democratic political system, respect for the rule of law, and recognition of the inviolable dignity of every human individual.
Mother Teresa, the Catholic nun who abandoned everything and devoted her life to the poorest of the poor in the most daunting of places in the world: the slums of Calcutta, said:
"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
This sentence summarizes both the paradox and beauty that is agape: as profound and elusive as it is, agape is within the reach of all human beings no matter the circumstances we are under, provided, it seems, that we want agape desperately and are willing to go to any length to get it.
Saints and sages like Mother Teresa would insist that it''s absolutely worth it to cultivate love because great love like agape offers a kind of joy so deep, so serene and so satisfying that it''s better than anything we will ever experience or possess in this world.