Saturday, February 14, 2009

What Is Love?

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken."
~ C. S. Lewis

Today, is Valentine's Day. According to the U.S. Greeting Card Association, there will be a billion cards sent again this season, thus making it the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. Christmas, naturally, is numero uno.

Thirty years ago I am pretty sure I inundated my bride-to-be with more than a few cards (and poems) because we were separated at the time. I was in Puerto Rico and she in Maine. We got hitched in August, but at that time the closest I could come to being with her was to look at the moon and hope she was looking at it at the same time.

That year I was working at a Christian book store in suburban San Juan. Being an avid reader, I loved the context I found myself in, other than the aching heart. I discovered many treasures. One was an audio cassette series of lectures featuring C.S. Lewis, in his own words. The theme of these lectures formed the basis of his book The Four Loves, a deserved classic on this universal theme.

If you've not read it, I wholeheartedly commend it to you. But till then, you may find the following review by David Lahti to be a nice appetizer. This is the intro to his reflections on C. S. Lewis' The Four Loves.

What is love? Lewis embarks on a personal and insightful exploration of affection, friendship, romance, and charity.

How can so many millions of us believe that love is the best thing in the world, and yet there be so little emphasis in our popular culture on what love is, as distinct from finding someone to love and to be loved by? John Lennon was quicker to say “All you need is love”, than he was to explain what he means by love. Popular songs sometimes take a stab at it, but are better at phrasing questions than providing answers: “What is this thing called love?”, “Is this love?”, “I want to know what love is”, “How will I know when it’s love?”. The voluminous self-help books are focused on practicality rather than explanation, and the works of psychologists and philosophers (for good reasons) often confine their analyses to those aspects of love that result from a study of behavior and are amenable to quantification.

C. S. Lewis’s book, on the other hand, is devoted entirely to an explanation of love that descends into our animal nature, but ascends also into the realm of religion and spirituality whence (Lewis believes) true love comes, and where it reaches its highest and most meaningful fulfillment.

To read Lahti's review in its entirety, along with a few additional recommended readings on this abiding topic, visit his page here.

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