Sunday, May 18, 2008

Love contained...

I confess I have been overexposed to Jane Austen lately and that always puts me in an "other" state of mind. First, the local PBS station broadcast 5 or 6 movie versions of her books over a two month period. Then my husband bought me a book for my birthday called "A Walk With Jane Austen," a memoir of another Austen fan who visits Austen's home and various haunts, interweaving the story of her own search for love. Finally, we rented "Jane Austen Book Club" the other night. (This video is only enjoyable if you know all her books, as I do.) Suffice to say, these Austen encounters have me thinking about love in general and the various love relationships that people find themselves in.

I suppose a discussion about love needs to include an overview of three "roots" for love -- eros, philio and agape. Eros (erotic) love is the heavy breathing, sweaty palms, tingly skin kind of love we experience in the desire or achievement of physical intimacy with another. Philio (brotherly) love is more like a concern for another's well-being without getting all worked up in a frothy lather about it. Agape love is unconditional love -- Divine love -- the love that says, "I love you no matter what."

OK, now that I have entirely oversimplified the ideas behind eros, philio and agape love, let me share with you some thoughts I've been turning around in my mind. I have 3 types of love to suggest as well. They do not necessarily correspond to eros, philio and agape love. I call them ... love containers. I believe these containers can apply to boyfriend/girlfriend, parent/child, husband/wife and friend/friend. (I have arbitrarily chosen gender id's in explaining my thoughts, with the man being the object of love, the one contained.)

Please note ... I will absolutely refuse to respond to any questions concerning which "container" my relationship with anyone falls into!

Type 1 -- Stay! In the first type of love, one person places the other person in a container. When she wants to be with him, she opens the lid and invites him to come out. They interact in ways that are meaningful to her. Then she realizes that she has run out of time and puts him back in the container again. Stay! Don't go anywhere until I get back!

Type 2 -- Incoming! In the second type of love, the love object finds himself back in the container again. Only this time, his lover jumps in the container with him. She closes the lid tight so no one else can come into the container with them. She makes sure there is very little space between him and her at all times. When she has had her fill, she leaves again, demanding, Don't let anyone else in the container while I'm gone!

Type 3 -- Release! In the third type of love, the woman stumbles across the container. She opens the lid and looks inside. She sees the object of her love there and laughs with surprised amusement. What is he doing in there, she wonders? She calls playfully to him, Come out of there! When she has had her fill, she chides him, Now stay out of there!

Is it possible to contain love? Yes, to some extent, but it certainly isn't a good idea. That's the reason children grow up and leave home; friends stop taking phone calls from other friends; lovers exclaim, "you're suffocating me!" and spouses wonder, "Does one flesh mean one identity?"

It seems to me that the most enjoyable relationships are those in which each person helps to free the other from the "containers" that have come to suppress who they really are. I think the same relationship can move back and forth through these various containers or stay kaput in one for the entire run of the relationship. Yes, it's flattering to have someone love you so much that they want to keep you all to themselves. Yes, it's romantic that someone would want to block out the rest of the world so that the two of you are never interrupted. But in both cases, one or more persons is contained, and that simply will not do for the long haul.

No, in parenting, friendship and "boy girl" love, it is much better to pull back the lid and say, "Come on, come out of there! Come out and be with the one who loves you."

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