It’s almost Valentine’s Day, a day devoted to the celebration of love — one of the most powerful human emotions.
It is a day that makes some people anxious. After all, it’s easy to be at a loss for words when we try to express something as complex and confounding as “love.”
Love can be felt, but it can’t exactly be defined. Scientists have no solid evidence for its chemical existence, but we know it exists all the same. What we do know that it is timeless. And it seems unfathomable that something so precious and powerful could exist in such abundance.
Some are cynical and numb toward the notion of love. After all, we live in a world ravaged by war, steeped in economic strife and disfigured by injustice and anger.
Yet not a day goes by that we don’t see marriage proposals, weddings or pregnancy announcements. Proclamations of devotion, friendship and love abound, and centuries of sorrow have yet to staunch the power of love.
It is not unusual for couples to be married for 25 years, or 50 years or even more. These are amazing milestones worth celebrating. The cynical reader might point to the prevalence of divorce and mention the fact that half of all marriages don’t last “until death do us part.”
But this statistic is skewed by the men and women who marry and divorce multiple times. In fact, the majority of first marriages stand the test of time and everything else life throws at them.
The ancient Greeks had not one, but four words for love: agape, eros, philia and storge.
Agape is a selfless, sacrificial love, the type shared within a tight-knit family. Many Christians refer to agape as unconditional love, one God feels for His children and all of mankind. As such, we often preach that we should extend agape love to our fellow man.
Storge is a familial love, while philia is brotherly affection that is defined by loyalty. Eros? This is the stuff of romance, and countless volumes have been written on the subject.
While the hearts and flowers often dominate the spotlight, Valentine’s Day is a day to commemorate all forms of love. It is easy to downplay the subtle stability of friendship next to grand gestures and Say Anything-style romance, but I beg my readers to take the time to honor every source of love in their lives.
No type of affection is lesser than another, so don’t worry about classification or needless pigeon-holing. Agonizing over details and labels is what makes this a stressful day for some.
But, according to the words of ancient know-it-all Plato, this anxiety is needless. Socrates was his teacher and Aristotle was his pupil, so you might want to listen to what he has to say.
“At the touch of love,” Plato declared, “everyone becomes a poet.”
So boldly tell those you love how you love them, and, more importantly, tell them why. You can use your words, you can put those words to paper, or you can show them through your actions.
This is one day when such living poetry will be appreciated. Plato is in your corner.