She loves you yeh, yeh, yeh. All you need is love. Love is the answer. In the 1960’s the Beatles gave voice to the changing nature of young society. But what is love in English culture in 2017. Is there a culture that can be defined in a hyper-reality post-truth society? Some love their football team, some a pop group, some are in love, at least for a time, for some it’s a pill and some even are in love with themselves. I would suggest that these things are associated with happy short term emotions and potentially quite shallow when tested. England seems to be a place where a need can be satisfied by a quick fix or a like on social media or a cash incentive. But is there a deeper truth that is being missed, a greater love that comes from greater and longer term work and commitment. Love is a word that is bandied around the English language very easily and covers a large number of different emotions and ideas.
In Ancient Greece there were a number of different words that were used for love. Philia was a type of love that meant brotherhood or affection. Eros referred to sexual love. Agape meant a sacrificial love that was generous in giving without seeking reward. It was an honourable action that was selfless and considerate to another.
In general terms, people used to come to agreement with each other, to exchange goods, services or favours. In the past a simple handshake would suffice, and your word was your bond. Every now and again an act of generosity would sweeten the deal and oil the wheels of the agreement. Picture the scene in a fruit and Vegetable market. A market where supply and demand is important and the price would vary accordingly. The deals that would be made would go something like this. ”Hello Guv, give us a box of bananas.”
“No problem, that will be £2.”
“I tell you what, since you are a good customer, I will throw in an Irish Pomegranate”
Now the deal is done, but the pomegranate is the agape.
Jesus talked about turning the other cheek if someone hit you, or if someone asked for your cloak you should give your shirt as well. In my opinion, these are not iron religious rules that must be obeyed in every circumstance, but are different options when dealing with a situation. I believe people should make their own judgement as to whether it is appropriate to exercise that agape generosity or not.
Giving a coat to a homeless person is an excellent example of agape. Also when you walk past a homeless beggar and turn your nose up at their perceived addiction, consider the effect of opiates. In the National Health Service, opiates are excellent strong pain killers, for both physical and emotional pain. Major operations could not be contemplated without them; severe pain from heart attacks, sickle cell anaemia or terminal cancer can be borne with their help. It does come with side effects which have to be managed. Despite this there is no evidence that suggests Hospital use of opiates leads to addiction. Street heroin is an entirely different matter. It is not pure and is not used in the same dosage. But to those who have become addicted, lacking opiates causes great pain.
Next time you pass someone in the street, consider this. If you cannot find a solution to the problem, not only in kicking the habit, but in finding a life afterwards, then why not show some compassion and help them with the pain they are about to suffer today. By giving to beggars, you are reducing the risk of other crimes.
Agape can best be applied in close personal relationships where an act of kindness can oil the wheels where misunderstanding, assumption and miscommunication have got in the way of people who have become emotionally involved. To step away from one’s own needs and points of view and concede, submit and give in agape love is a way of fanning the fires of any relationship.
But it is not about feelings, it is a practical action. It may start as an occasional feel-good action akin to what used to happen at Christmas when it was a time of peace and goodwill. It may grow into an important tool which can empower you in life. It can create better relationships that have greater depth and loyalty and are more than superficial. However it does not always have the required result. Some will take advantage and some will twist it against you through selfishness and lack of understanding. But this should not deter you; this path is a hard one. Real love takes sacrifice, rejection and hard work. But without these things, what can you really achieve in life. Some people just want to party, and why not. But it’s like the Beastie Boys said, “You’ve got to fight for your right to party!” The best parties come from creating the right conditions, taking the right precautions and getting properly organised.
If you look back over the course of history and remember the heroes of our various cultures, self-sacrifice is predominant in their make-up. Some historians like to build up heroes for political inspiration and myth building, but there is no doubt that some people saw the greater good as more important than their own life. We don’t know what trials these people went through wrestling with their conscience and we never can. But when the time comes, some people need to step up to the mark and take on whatever life throws at them and win for the sake of mankind.
This agape cannot be applied with the knowledge of reward in this life or the next. It can only be a decision to put yourself on the line for what you believe in. This action can be one of the highest points of human action and let’s face it we write enough books, songs and films about such actions.
But to do this we have to believe in a cause worth fighting for. What cause are you fighting for? Is it yourself, or is there something greater than that. If you have chosen a selfless path, good on you. But it is not just making that choice, it is doing it for the right reasons, making the right plan and never, ever, ever, ever giving up.