I love C.S. Lewis (author of the Chronicles of Narnia, among many offerings). Lewis published “The Four Loves” in 1958, from a set of radio talks. I encountered the work in the 1980s, and was captivated by the idea that love is not singular.
In short, and by way of a summary, Lewis' the Four Loves are: Storge (στοργη) - the empathy bond, the love that comes through familial or family love. Philia (φιλια) - the love between friends, companionship. Eros (ερως) - Being in love, desiring the one, rather than the many. Sexual love. Agape (αγαπη) - Unconditional love, natural love, God love, community love.
But what Lewis arives at is that love is not selfish. We must love ourselves if we are to even begin to love others, but that is not selfish in a negative sense, it is positive in a healthy, integrating and mature sense. Self love is the begining of love.
Gary Chapman picks this up and progresses it with his wonderful work “The Five Love Languages”, which is now a major best seller. Chapman believes that we all have a primary love charism, or love language (Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service), and if we understand our love language we will understand those we are intimate with on any level much better.
Carl Jung said: “Where Love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking.” And Abraham Maslow ranked love as the third level of the hierarchy of needs.
The risk they all point to is obsessive love, posession of the other. And the risk of a negative, selfish love – it’s all about me!
But what captivates my desire, my imagination, my hope for the world, is that as we seek and engage all forms of love, that there is that one shred, that chink of light, the moment of possibility of community. That with all our flaws, with all our selfish ways, with all ME in the mix, community is possible and real. In that sense, in our most imperfect self, we’re still a funnel of, or for, love. For me that is hope for the world. Love is not singular!