Love: It’s all Greek to Me

First and foremost, apologies for not having posted in quite sometime. I meant to get something up last Saturday, but didn’t make it in time before my boyfriend came to visit. He lives in London (yes, it’s a trans-Atlantic relationship) and I haven’t seen him in five months, so I basically put aside everything this past week so we could spend time together. And now, I’m “back”!

I was sitting in the Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side with my roommate last Saturday doing research for my blog (and devouring a delicious s’mores tart with a tall glass of milk while dutifully waiting for my boyfriend), when a guy sitting behind us overheared me discussing on my blog. He was flipping through Ideas that Matter by A. C. Grayling and came across a section on love that he thought sounded like a good fit for the blog, so he passed the book on to me.

I didn’t know who Grayling was so I spent some time reading his Wikipedia page as well as his website. A great deal of his recent work has focused on morality, religion, and humanism, which is reflected in the book. Since I didn’t read the whole book, the four or so pages on love seem a bit out of place given Grayling’s academic interests, but I did like what he had to say overall.

There are two particular passages that I want to note here.


 English has just one inadequate word to denote all these different emotions – these bonding, affectionate, caring, needy, desiring, dependent, nurturing, passionate, painful, ecstatic, erotic, romantic emotions – and the kinds of relationships that involve them. The Greeks, with more nuance, had several names: agape, storge, philia, kudus, eros, pragma, enabling them to discriminate more finely among them.

Ludic is playful, light-hearted love, nothing deep and meaningful. Erotic is sexual, physical love, of course. Storge is love based on deep and genuine friendship, such as that between well-functioning families and  between married couples after many years. Although Grayling does not name the source, he says that sociological research into the respective proclivities of men and women as classified in terms of the Greek notions suggest that men are more prone to ludicrous and erotic love and women to storge and pragmatic.

I grew up in a family that speaks Gujarati and a bit of Hindi and I studied Spanish in college. What always struck me is that there were numerous different words for love in Indian languages but only one in Spanish. Amor is the noun for love in Spanish, and amar is the verb form meaning “to love.” In Hindi, there are several nouns alone: pyaar, ishq, mohabaat, prem. Unlike in Greek, I’m pretty sure that in many instances these words are interchangeable, but I just feel like something as complex as love can’t be reduced to just one word.

The second passage I like is:

The reasons why any two people fall for each other and pair off, whether for the short or the long term, tend therefore to be for reasons that – whatever rationalization they gave to others – they do not themselves really understand, for they lie too deep for reasons.

So basically, this blog is pointless because we can never really understand love. Even people in love many times don’t really know why they are in love, despite all their attempts to give reason to what’s going on in their heads and their hearts. It’s just a feeling…. 🙂


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