On Saturday, we watched a Netflix movie entitled "Some Kind of Beautiful." The film portrays an English Professor (Pierce Brosnan) whose female students (Jessica Alba and Lindsey Sporrer) initiate romantic liaisons with him. Alba ends up marrying the professor, but later realizes she made a big mistake. Although the film involves a multitude of other plot twists, this particular part really made me think.
I've long believed that our culture has an incredibly paltry view of love. After all, we use only ONE word to cover all of the various nuances and meanings of love! By contrast, the ancient Greeks had at least SIX different words: eros (sexual passion), philia (deep friendship), ludus (playful, flirtatious love), agape (universal love), pragma (longstanding love between couples), and philautia (mature self-love). In our own culture, love between a man and woman (leaving open the possibility that same-sex love may contain a greater number of variations) generally has only two recognized types: romantic love (where there is an erotic attraction) and "just friends" love (where there is little or no attraction.)
I believe we suffer immensely in our society because we fail to have a more nuanced understanding of love. For example, we would do well to value ludus more, where playful flirtation - which does indeed hold an element of attraction - is valued AS AN END IN ITSELF, without the need to act romantically or sexually on it. In the movie, perhaps both Brosnan and Alba could have benefited from understanding that an attraction felt between a younger student and an older teacher can definitely be valued as an end in itself, without the need to act erotically on it. In this case, a seventh kind of love (philosophia, love of wisdom) predominates, as the two parties find themselves oriented toward an attractive sacred THIRD. In fact, in my mind, ALL true love is oriented ultimately toward a larger Third presence - The Divine - which manifests Itself to each of us in a multitude of different ways.
What would our society be like if we held a more nuanced view of attraction, where any magnetism felt between two people could be valued as a worthy end in itself, without the need either to repress it or act romantically on it? Perhaps we could learn here from others cultures - Latin American, French, Italian, and a few other European cultures, for example - where there is always the option of viewing attraction more playfully as a worthy end in itself. Personally, I'm most drawn to a philosophia version of love and find it profoundly fulfilling. How about you?
Photo: Different color variations of Paintbrush, Saint Louis Lake, Fraser Experimental Forest, CO, August, 2015
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.