I was watching a film clip, on an obscure Internet site, with an affectionate interlude between a dog and a cat, both of them enjoying the other's warmth. The kitty was licking the dog's face at one point, and the dog was gently hugging the cat. They were obviously very much in love.
It reminded me of lessons I learned long ago in a theological school, in which the religious tradition has made a sharp distinction among erotic love, parental love, and brotherly love, as though these were quite different sorts of human experience. Erotic love, with Venus or Aphrodote as its matron Goddess, has always been the most exciting, but also the most dangerous, to the extent that some religions have called it "sin":
"Oh, do not tell the priest our plight, for he would call it sin! For we
have been in the woods all night, a-conjuring summer in,"
in the words of Kipling's wonderful song, "Oak and ash and thorn." And, we can only mourn at the triumph,
"Thou has conquered, O pale Galilean, and the world has grown gray with thy
in the words of one of my favorite poets, Algernon Charles Swinburne. We are slowly emerging out of that gray world, thanks to the warmth that Aphrodite has brought, full of light and color and love.
Motherly and fatherly love is quite different. It is the warmth that the kitty and doggy showed. In pictures from Wolf Creek Habitat, down in Southern Indiana (visit them at www.nighthowls7.com -- they're wonderful!), we could see the daddy and mommy wolf waiting, patiently and hungrily, as four ravenous little cubs were feasting on a deer carcass. The parents were hungry, too, but they were waiting for the babies to have their meal first. This is what parents do. This is the fierce protective behavior that keeps the worst predators away from the children. This is the angry search of the Goddess Isis for the baby Horus, and which is the fierce, protective binding that holds the family together.
Finally, there is the generous, brotherly or sisterly love that we sometimes find in warm, even heroic acts, like those that kept police, firemen, and many others searching through the ruins of the World Trade Center. Many of these men and women died, and others were left with lingering breathing problems, because of smoke and dust inhalation. More recently, miners were searching, apparently in vain, for some of their comrades trapped underground. Firefighters have been attempting to contain the many fires raging in our forests. This kind of heroism is an expression of another sort of love, that truly holds civilization together.
There are many species and subspecies of love, but these three are the traditional varieties. Love is central to our religion, based as it is on "perfect love and perfect trust." Without love, there would be nothing left. With it, we rejoice in the light of day
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Love, by John Morris
Posted by Misti at 4:09 PM