31 October 2012

What is Love, Really?

The word love is thrown around, misused, abused and often misunderstood.  One of my biggest pet peeves, for example, has to do with one of the most popular uses of the word: i.e. "We made love."  It makes me crazy because people say it even when love, per se, is not involved.  Why must they use the word euphemistically?  Why can't they just say, "We had sex"?  I won't go on that rant just yet...  I'll save it for the post I do on eros (ἔρως); whenever that is.  

I would like to look at the types of love (more in a moment) in different ways and in different places: literature, symbols, ritual, sacred writings, spiritual/mystical writings, philosophy, and many, many more!  Yeah, that might happen.

I am not a Christian, but I have, over the years, thought many times about a sermon[*] I heard once (when I was Christian): the subject was the types of love: agape (ἀγάπη), philia (φιλία), storge (στοργή) and eros (ἔρως).  It was one of my favorites and it keeps coming back to me.  It's just a good topic; the world needs love, of whatever kind, right?  True love, I believe is about commitment: this is apropos with regard to any of these types of love.  All of them come down to being committed to the other person.  Anyone that's not you is an other (I guess I shouldn't open that topic here), so commitment is necessary.

After deciding I wanted to dwell on the subject of love for a few, I searched for, found and am currently reading C. S. Lewis’s book, The Four Loves, which covers this topic; I'll try to quote from it from time to time and hope that others find it as interesting as I do.  

What really interests me in this study is that “storge” (στοργή) is not in the New Testament.  I searched The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament [1]The Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament [2], and Strong's Exhaustive Concordance [3]; none of them have it.  So, I thought that perhaps it was a Platonic word, being that much of Christian doctrine was merged with Plato’s philosophy during the Middle Ages. 

Doing a little search online, I found that the word “storge” (στοργή) was used eight times by Flavius Josephus in his Antiquitates Judaicae (Antiquities of the Jews).  A tie is held, as far as usage goes, by Aelian, whose work I don’t know, but it is also used eight times in his De Natura Animalum (On the Nature of Animals).  Next, it is used six times by John of Damascus, of whom I also know nothing, in his Vita Barlaam et Joasaph (The Life of Barlaam and Joasaph). 

Several others, including Aristotle in his Metaphysics, use the word four or fewer times.  It is interesting that it is not in Plato, but is in a few of the early Church fathers: Saint Basil, Bishop of Caesarea, Epistulae (Letters), John of Damascus, mentioned already, Eusebius in his Historia ecclesiastica (Church History).[4]  So, here, I guess, with the early Church fathers we can see how it eventually made it to us.  There is the possibility that we could have acquired this word, as “affection,” from Josephus, but it is most likely that it came through the Church doctrines which have not changed all that much over the centuries, even if there have been major splits and disagreements among the various sects of Christianity during that time.

This makes me want to intensify my Greek and Latin studies…. 

Maybe I'll look at storge (στοργή) in my next post (which most likely will be in December), then work my way through the others and hopefully learn something along the way.  These may come slowly.  That sounds confident, doesn't it?  Anyway, please don't hold your breath waiting for the next post on this topic. 

Also, I want to be very frank here: I am going to participate in the NaNoWriMo challenge during the month of November, so right now I have nothing planned to post during the month.  I may post something, but I don't plan to.  And, I may not even do an entire series on love, but will sporadically post about it.  As I do with everything, right?  Like I said, don't hold any breath.  An interest hits me and I run.  Sometimes, the interest is sustained, other times, it's not.  

Till next time ... 

[*] This sermon was given by Mike Beecham.
[1] William Mounce
[2] Warren Trenchard
[3] James Strong
[4] http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/resolveform?type=start&lookup=storgh&lang=greek and: Word frequency information for στοργή:  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/wordfreq?lang=greek&lookup=storgh%2F

29 October 2012

Review of Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird

The Painted BirdThe Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosiński

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everything the blurbs on the cover said. It is heartbreaking, amazing, powerful. At times you want to turn away, but you don't; then, you realize that life is not always nice.

The protagonist changes many times throughout the book. He changes in order to survive, he changes because he sees something that he believes is better, or he changes because his eyes are opened and he sees how life really is.

Kosinski was accused of betraying his country, he was also accused of not going far enough in showing the horrors of war as the boy experienced them. Maybe it's autobiographical, maybe it's not. What is important is that it is a true picture of what happened to many during the years of the Second World War.

The author pulls no punches, so be prepared to read about depravity, hatred, racism, violence and even death when you pick up this book.

And prepare to be changed. I was.

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28 October 2012

Review of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God

Child of GodChild of God by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Coming to this book, I knew only that the main character, Lester Ballard, had some strange ways, but I didn't know how strange until several chapters into the book. It is an interesting read; McCarthy has a way of making it seem dream-like: broken up, but still flowing together. I'm not sure that makes sense, but that's how it reads to me. He kept the chapters short, most being only a single scene: some shorter, some longer. The short chapters coupled with Lester's bizarre behavior keeps you turning the pages, not to mention the "need" to know what happens....

There is a strong link to mythology in most of McCarthy's work and this book is no different. There are trips to the underworld, shape-shifting and tragedy among other motifs.

Without giving away too much, I will say that this book is not for the faint of heart. If Nabokov's Lolita bothers you, then there is a possibility that this will, too. It isn't exactly the same as Lolita , but the deviance of Lester, the main character, is very pronounced as is that of Humbert Humbert. But, in the case of Child of God, Lester is not the narrator.

I wonder if you could still call Lester a protagonist? He does change, but not much. The reader gets the sense that he is depraved right from the beginning. It's the level, or depth, of his depravity that changes.

The writing itself will not disappoint fans of McCarthy. His prose, as always, is tight and musical; the critics like to call it poetic, which it is. It damn near sings. I give it four stars simply for the prose. The content gives me pause; that's not to say that we should ignore it, it's just more unsettling than a book with a happy-go-lucky attitude and a bright happy ending. McCarthy almost never has happy endings and this is no exception. He does have "just" endings on occasion, or endings in which those who deserve it get it, if you get my drift.

I will read it again, simply because I love McCarthy's writing and want to learn from him. If I were reading it as a reader only, once would be enough--maybe more than enough.

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