Friday, June 11, 2010

The Four Loves

Every serious writer has a style that is all their own. It may be an amalgam of several other authors at its core, but eventually the sum becomes distinct and unique compared to the individual ingredients. Much like a loaf of bread is so much more than a pile of flour, some yeast, and a bit of shortening. Such is the case with C.S. Lewis. I have read a fair number of his books and found a passion and a care and a logic that can fill my senses, much like walking along a deserted beach just after sunrise. I have the sense that Mr. Lewis never took the easy path to framing an argument. He did not just sit down at his typewriter with an empty mind and start prattling away at the keys. My impression of his research and his exquisite attention to every last detail was only strengthened by reading his 1960 publication, The Four Loves.

C.S. Lewis began this book by introducing the four Greek words for love:
  • storge - affection between near relations;
  • philia - friendship, a bond that exists between those who share a mutual interest;
  • eros - the love between the sexes (distinct from "Venus", the sexual element);
  • agape - love in the Christian sense, namely God's love for man and man's love for the bretheren.
In his careful style, Mr. Lewis steps through each type of love in turn to flesh out its definition, its content, and its relation to the other loves. The version of the book that I own is only 141 pages long, but it certainly was not a quicky read. It took me just over 3 weeks to work my way through it. This book was not a self-help book. It was an academic thesis. However, I sensed that throughout, the writing of the book was primarily for the enlightenment of its author and his own quest or thirst for knowledge rather than a work primarily for me. I have chased this rabbit before as I suspect that most others have as well. Just when you think you have a grasp on some topic, you find out that there is much more to it than you first thought. The more you probe and think and listen, the more you find out that your initial ideas or holdings were rubbish. That's when things get good. That's when going along for the ride makes for an exciting journey. That is the path of The Four Loves.