Four Loves Friday: Agape AKA Charity

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

The last section of CS Lewis’s The Four Loves brings in a form of love that goes beyond the natural loves of Affection, Friendship, and Eros. The difference of life with three of the four loves but no agape and life with all four loves is the difference between a garden and a wilderness, according to Lewis. He also emphasizes that the three previous loves are not rivals to God’s love (Agape) in and of themselves. The way that the rivalry was created was when we put the three loves ahead of Agape, an idolization of them if you will.

Think of it this way: it’s harder to find works in media that portray selfless love. Eros is easy to find, due to our hypersexualized culture. Agape is stuff saved for Oscar movies or movies that want to get Oscars. It’s harder to find in the everyday life, partially because of how selfish and skeptical the culture is. We often scoff at the “Christ” metaphors in superhero movies such as Man of Steel, we often question a celebrity’s altruistic motives, and while we all love A Christmas Carol, our minds cling to the image of the miserly version of Scrooge rather than the changed man he became in the end.

But does being selfish and skeptical really benefit society and ourselves in the long run? To make a long answer short: NO! 

No matter how hard we try to pride ourselves as an intellectual society, the fact of the matter is that we are a culture that follows our passions. Human beings can’t cut themselves off from emotion unless they want to be labeled as a “sociopath.” There’s no such thing as being “incapable of loving” because even the worst of humanity has something or someone that they love.

This is also the most theologically centered chapter of the book because Agape ties into so much of what God means to Christianity. In the eyes of Christianity, God IS Love. He created humanity to love him, but the love He wants isn’t a forced love. God NEVER forces any person to love Him if they don’t desire it because real love comes from free will. Christians don’t do good things because they think they’ll go to Heaven. They do good things because God’s love inspires them to love others in return.

So often, people think that Christianity is hateful when in reality, Christianity is so selfless that they want to protect people from hurting themselves. In the end, everyone has a choice to make, but Christians want to encourage people to make good choices. Christians don’t get anything out of trying to stop somebody from hurting themselves, if their motives are for all the right reasons. Real Christians don’t actively try to condemn others, but they admonish others.

Admonish means to caution someone, to remind a person of his or her obligations to something. Think of a child who is still learning the ways of the world. If a child was going to climb a tree, you would caution that child to be careful. If a child was procrastinating on an important project, you would remind that child of his or her duty as a student.

This all falls under the category of selfless love because the person who is admonished may hate the person doing the admonishing; he may not listen or he may condemn the other person. But the person doing the admonishing will still love the person being admonished anyway.

The best example of Agape in a person is Mother Teresa. She serviced the poor, but she never discriminated against a person’s religion. However, she did admonish wealthy countries and spoke out against abortion. Some people have hated Mother Teresa for what she stood for, but she continued to do her work anyway.

I’ll end this entry with a quote attributed to Mother Teresa and leave you to think about how our society would be if we were all a little more like her…

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

 

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

 

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

 

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

 

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

 

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

 

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

 

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

February Progress Report

I didn’t update this blog as often as I thought I would due to sickness and me realizing that I needed to take things into a different path. I want to be more open about my faith on this blog, especially with Lent coming up in a week. So after my Four Loves Friday post, the next time you’ll see me update this blog will be on Ash Wednesday.

Lent has always been a tricky thing for me, even back when I was a kid. I hated fasting because having food allergies made giving up meat every Friday even harder than it already was. And when I got older, fasting also meant eating just one meal during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Lent was also emotionally grueling because it was often a time that I was spiritually and emotionally tested. Last year was bad because of a serious bout of emotional distress brought on by Pope Benedict’s resignation and the betrayal of a friend. I spent the rest of the year recovering from my friend’s betrayal.

Now that I feel that I have recovered from the trauma, I want to focus on discerning my vocation. So I will be using this blog as my Lenten journal. The posts will feature the following:

1) My 365grateful photo that will undergo a Lenten theme

2) A link to Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflections (If you don’t know who Fr. Robert Barron is, he is a priest/vlogger who creates videos that comment on current events, movies, and pop culture and talks about them through a Catholic perspective. Look him up on YouTube and then check out wordonfire.org. He is awesome!)

3) Any sort of thoughts I have about the day in general.

I am also planning on praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Examen as part of increasing my prayers.

So what am I giving up, you ask? After giving it a lot of thought, I decided on limiting the amount of clothes I would wear for the duration of Lent.

Come back here on Friday where I reveal my favorite CS Lewis quote and go into what it means to love selflessly.

Four Loves Friday: Philia AKA Friendship

Sorry again for not updating on Tuesday. I’ve come up with an idea on what to do for this blog and I realized that the whole “True Love Tuesday” thing was seriously biased of me. I want this blog to be more than just my ramblings on fandoms. I want to show the things I love to bring out a stronger truth. With that, let’s continue the Four Loves Friday with Philia AKA friendship.

Like Affection, Friendship is often overlooked in the shadow of Eros. However, Friendship has it even worse than Affection because it seems so everyday compared to the sweet softness of Affection and the grandiose affair that is Eros. The worst thing is that people often want Friendship to turn into Eros. (Just google “JohnLock.”) Why is that?

According to CS Lewis, it’s because few people experience what friendship really is. Look beyond the pastel-colored ponies that declare “Friendship is Magic” and give this some thought: Friendship is not something that comes naturally. Eros eventually leads to the creation of future generations. Affection helps raise future generations. But friendship? It’s not a necessity. Think about the most logically created business mergers or arranged marriages. Yes, it sounds cold and detached, but at one point, society didn’t put such an emphasis on feelings.

Nowadays, we put such an emphasis on feelings that people often assume there is something more than friendship when two people are out on the town together with no other companions tagging along. If a man and a woman are seen out together, it’s assumed that they’re in a relationship. If it’s two men, they’re gay. If it’s two women, they’re lesbians. Even now, completely platonic friendships seem unnatural because of how oversexualized our culture has become. 

However, in this age where technology has become a part of our everyday lives, new ways of creating friendships have formed. The internet has become a great way to find people who share a common interest in something. The best example of this are the content creators from That Guy With The Glasses. They all have a shared interest of expressing their opinions on various media. They meet in conventions or via online hangouts and people can see, from the huge amount of crossovers, that these guys have developed a camaraderie. Some romantic relationships have come out of that, but as a whole, the TGWTG team are True Companions.

However, having a common interest might not be enough to sustain a friendship. Sometimes, that love for a shared interest might be the only thing you might have in common with a person. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the friendship can be hard to maintain when there is only a few common interests. No matter how much you love something, that one thing doesn’t necessarily define your life. I’m not saying that being in a fandom is a bad thing. It just can’t be the only thing.

True friendship comes from shared experiences. The reason why the TGWTG content creators have a strong friendship is because of the times they collaborate together, give each other feedback, and make fun of each other. Another example of friendship from shared experiences is the main cast of How I Met Your Mother. While the show has its flaws, the reason it’s been going on for 9 seasons was because of the strong friendship between Ted, Marshall, Barney, Lily, and Robin. The best example of that was when Marshall and Lily were deciding on who their son Marvin’s godparent would be and they decided on all three of their friends because Lily wanted Marvin to stay in the family no matter what happened to Lily and Marshall. The friendship between the five of them has endured Ted and Robin’s relationship, Barney and Robin’s relationship, and Ted’s neverending quest to find his soul mate. The focus on How I Met Your Mother wasn’t on the various romantic plotlines, but on the strong friendship between these five amazing characters.

Next week, I wrap up this series by going into what “Agape” means and plan out what I’ll be doing in March.

Four Loves Friday: Storge AKA Affection

To paraphrase a well-known quote, if love was rain, Storge or Affection would be drizzle and Eros would be a hurricane. But what’s so wrong with a drizzle? Drizzles are a manageable kind of rain, the kind of rain that helps the flowers grow instead of flooding cities. In a similar way, affection and familial love are such a part of everyday life, that it’s often overshadowed in the hurricane that is Eros. As I said before, romantic love is not the end-all, be-all of life, nor should it be. Like Eros before it, Affection has a lot of misconceptions. 

Lewis says that Affection is different from the love we have for our pets or to put things in modern day terms, the love a fandom has for a certain show, movie, book, or celebrity. Affection is something that grows over time, can be mixed with the other three forms of love, and produces appreciation for the recipients of said affection. What sets Affection apart from the other three loves is that it can love things that some may not see as loveable. I’ll go into detail on how affection works by combining it with what I wanted to write for True Love Tuesday, but got delayed to to my being ill at the time.

There are examples of Affection seen throughout media, but it’s rarely the central focus of the show. TV shows like Charmed and Gilmore Girls have Affection as the premise and theme, but a lot of plot points in those shows tend to move towards romantic love. So instead, I’ll look into three examples of Affection from some more recent works. BE WARNED! SPOILERS AHEAD!

1st Example: Elsa and Anna’s sisterly bond in Frozen.

Believe me when I say that Frozen deserves all the hype it’s getting and I really hope it wins an Oscar. The central focus of the movie is about Elsa and Anna’s sisterly bond. The two sisters spend the time between the prologue and the first act isolated from each other and they cope in different ways. The entire plot is moved forward by Anna’s desire to be close to her sister again and Elsa’s fear of hurting Anna. Distracted by the expectation that the movie would follow Anna as she falls in love with Hans and the expectation that either Hans or Kristoff would be the one to save Anna via True Love’s Kiss, it comes as a shocking and refreshing surprise that Anna and Elsa end up saving each other in the end. Anna saves Elsa from Hans by throwing herself between them, even though it came at the cost of her entire body becoming frozen due to Elsa accidentally freezing Anna’s heart. However, that selfless act of bravery made Elsa realize how much Anna really meant to her and the mistake she made of isolating and hurting the only person she wanted to protect. 

In true Disney fashion, Anna’s heart thaws Anna herself and Elsa realizes, through Olaf’s words and Anna’s sacrifice, how she can control her powers: her love. In the best example of showing-not-telling, Elsa channels the Affection she has for her sister and her kingdom to end the endless winter she inadvertently caused. 

Other examples of Affection in Frozen can be seen in Olaf’s affection for Anna and Elsa. Before Anna sacrifices herself for her sister, Olaf creates a fire for Anna and tells her that “some people are worth melting for.” He also helps Elsa to see that her ice powers aren’t a curse if she could create life from it. In the end, Olaf is rewarded for his Affection by getting an affectionate gift from Elsa: the ability to enjoy summer with a personal little flurry over his head. 

2nd Example

The True Love that I wanted to write about on Tuesday was the Affection between Henry and his birth mother, Emma as well as with his adopted mother, Regina. In the first season, Henry is what motivates Emma to stay in Storybrooke and what leads the major characters to go to Neverland when Henry gets taken there in the Season 2 finale. Season 3, so far, had Henry at the center of the plot, with Affection being played against Pan’s manipulations. 

And no matter the ship wars in the Once Upon a Time fandom, the one thing fans can agree on is that Emma will always put Henry first before anyone else. Henry was willing to eat the poisoned apple turnover for Emma to prove to her that magic existed. By the time of the Season 3 mid-season “finale,” Emma and Regina have put their differences aside to save their son from Pan and Henry considers both women to be his mother. Lesbian undertones aside, the interactions between Emma and Regina in Season 3 were seriously awesome and there is at least a form of platonic affection developing between the two of them. Whether the affection leads to friendship or a romantic relationship is up to the writers.

3rd Example

In this world of new media, it’s amazing how far YouTube has come from the everday cat videos. Some content creators have taken the risk towards adapting literature into a series of YouTube videos. What started this trend? The Lizzie Bennet DiariesAn Emmy-award series created by Hank Green and Bernie Su, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries took Pride and Prejudice and turned it into a series of video blogs by modern day 24-year-old Lizzie Bennet. Pride and Prejudice is famous for the love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, but what makes this adaptation just as good as the book, if not better, is that it focuses on the relationship between Lizzie Bennet, her sisters (Jane and Lydia), and her best friend, Charlotte. 

The romantic leads of the story (as well as the romantic rival) don’t appear in the videos until certain episodes, so events in the novel that are usually seen through a third-person narrator are often re-enacted with “costume theatre.” The majority of the action in these videos isn’t on the romantic plotlines, but on how Lizzie, Jane, Lydia, and Charlotte feel and react to the things that are happening and the things they decide to do become major plot twists.

The best example of how Affection is more prominent is shown in Episode 15: Lizzie Bennet is in Denial. In this episode, Charlotte and Jane give a different point of view to an event that Lizzie would rather dismiss out of her own negative bias. Their affection for Lizzie doesn’t blind either of them to the fact that Lizzie has a lot of personal prejudices to get over. And eventually, lack of Affection leads to a major important plot point that I won’t spoil here.

So for this Valentine’s Day Weekend, think about the people you feel Affection towards. See how you can show them how much you love them. After all, hurricanes aren’t for everyone.

Four Loves Friday (Late due to Sochi)

Eros is probably the most well known and also the most misunderstood of the Four Loves. For one thing, sexuality and lust aren’t always a part of Eros (think about someone you know that had meaningless sex with somebody). However, C.S. Lewis doesn’t say that Eros (which he defines as romantic love) and sexuality are incompatible. He just wants to make a distinction between Eros and what we call “erotic.”

Lewis says that romantic love begins with a pre-occupation with the Beloved. In other words, the “crush” phase. Going back to my post about Spike and Buffy, this happens when Spike dreamt of Buffy kissing him instead of staking him at the end of the episode “Out of My Mind.” Ideally, sex is not the first thing that comes to mind during this phase. Instead, the person with the crush is more pre-occupied with the person he or she is crushing on. It’s kind of a “Getting To Know You” phase. Lewis describes having what I call a crush as entering “like an invader, taking over.” How many times have we often said that we can’t get that person we’re crushing on out of our head?

Lewis continues to make a distinction between Eros and the erotic by citing George Orwell’s 1984. Two things: 1) Lewis calls the protagonist of 1984 less human than the “four footed heroes” of Animal Farm and 2) Without Eros, the beloved is an object, lusted after as a means to an end; with Eros, the Beloved is cherished as a person. Ideally, the Lover puts the Beloved first. 

So why is romantic love so messed up? According to Lewis, it’s because both Eros and the erotic are taken too seriously. How many times in our lives have we seen stories where getting the guy/girl at the end is seen as the end-all, be-all? How many teenagers feel insecure because of their apparent sexual inexperience and see being a virgin as a crime? While both Eros and the erotic need to be taken seriously, neither one can’t be the end-all, be-all. People shouldn’t constantly worry about not having a relationship or “dying a virgin.” There’s more to life than that. And yet, because of the culture we live in, this distorted version of romantic love has become an idol, a standard that many people try to measure up to.

Part of this problem comes from three views on what the human body is. One view, called asceticism, sees the body as a prison for the soul. The second view, hedonism, worships the body too much. The third view takes inspiration from St. Francis of Assisi who called his body “Brother Ass.” This view is self-depreciating, humble without being humiliating. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves when it comes to acknowledging ourselves as human beings before we approach a romantic relationship. Think about Elizabeth Bennet and William Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Both of them learned to laugh at themselves and the mistakes they made throughout the time that they knew each other. 

When we fall in love, we lose ourselves, but we never feel like we have lost unless the love we have is unrequited. We have to realize what we’re feeling and accept it. Otherwise, we fight a losing battle. And yet there’s also an element of masquerade to romance. We put our best foot forward in hopes of winning the heart of the Beloved. Is this bad? According to Lewis, no. The masquerade highlights the lovers as individuals.

Lewis moves on to quote one of the most controversial Bible verses. You know the one: Ephesians 5:25. Here’s the thing. That verse? It’s not misogynistic. It’s a verse that talks about mutual surrender. Yes, men have to make the first move, but the move he makes is the will to lay down his life for his wife. An ideal marriage, according to Theology of the Body, is a reflection of Christ’s spiritual marriage to the Church, which is seen as His bridegroom.

In the end, Eros’s endgame isn’t happiness. There is a reason “for better and for worse” is written in the marriage vows. Real love is choosing to suffer with your loved one rather than let them suffer alone. Real love is realizing that you make each other’s lives better and willing to make sure that you spend the rest of your days making each other happy. “Better this than parting. Better to be miserable with her than happy without her. Let our hearts break, provided they break together.” 

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? I’m not saying that this advocates staying in an abusive relationship because the heartbreak is one-sided in that scenario. I’m just saying that as long as people learn to stop being self-centered when it comes to romantic love and stop seeing relationships and sex as a be-all, end-all, we might learn to see the people we love for who they are and not just what they mean to us.

True Love Tuesday: Why I Ship Spike/Buffy and Faith/Angel

In October 2013, I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer to get myself hyped up for Halloween. Since all 7 seasons were available on Netflix, I went through all 7 seasons in a matter of 5 months.

At first, I liked the Buffy/Angel relationship. I thought it was cute. I also loved Spike as a villain and I loved him with Drusilla. I was fairly certain that I would ship Bangel given how much Buffy loved him. And I still like Angel’s character to this day, but when he became Angelus, it was basically the most emotionally driven story arc I’ve ever seen next to Seasons 5.

Then everything changed when I started watching Season 3. It kept showing just why Buffy and Angel could never work in the long run. She is desperate to hold onto him while he keeps her at a constant distance, knowing the consequences of what happened in Season 2. It culminates with Buffy forcing Angel to feed on her and it shows that that is the closest thing the two of them get to having sex without Angel losing his soul.

As I said, I love Angel as a character, but what irks me about him is that his brooding demeanor. He has a reason to brood, obviously, but that kind of attitude is all wrong for Buffy. So when Faith came around in Season 3 and tried hitting on Angel, I was actually intrigued. When I watched the episodes where Faith appeared in Angel, I was even more certain that they would be better together.

Faith and Angel are birds of a feather. Both of them have seen the darker side of life and are working towards bettering themselves as people. However, Faith can bring something to Angel’s life that Buffy can’t: a wild, rambunctious spirit that can lift Angel out of the dumps and a more direct approach to life. Even if Faith and Angel had sex and Angel would lose his soul, they’d still work together and become the hottest evil couple ever. In an AU where evil rules the world, Faith would be a hardened vigilante who plays by her own rules and Angelus would encourage her to embrace the darkness she loves.

So where does that leave Buffy? Should she be with Riley? Uh, no. Riley is boring and a total hypocrite. Intimidated by Buffy because she’s stronger than him and then he goes and marries someone that can fight alongside him? Someone beat him over the head with a shovel. Repeatedly. Until he dies.

No. I ship Buffy with Spike. It started in Season 4’s “Something Blue.” The intent of the episode was supposed to show how ridiculous the Spike/Buffy relationship. Instead, I loved the idea of it. I literally went from “I know they’re under the influence of a spell, but this is so cute” to “Get a room already!” in the span of one episode. Then as soon as it was established that Spike was falling for Buffy in Season 5, I wanted Riley out of the picture way earlier than when he left and for Spike and Buffy to start hooking up. I ship them so hard, that I’ve started writing fanfiction about them. And I haven’t posted anything on fanfiction.net in years.

Why? Because again, it’s about bringing out what the other person needs. Buffy needs someone who brings fire into her life. Spike’s devil-may-care attitude combined with a softer, romantic side is perfect for Buffy who has a bad tendency to close off her emotions. It’s shown that the two of them work wonderfully together in the Becoming 2-Parter. He also gets along with her mom and when Dawn enters the picture, Spike is the one who acts as Dawn’s confidante and protector. Need we bring up the events “Intervention” (stupid BuffyBot aside)?

Yes, Spike and Buffy have a complicated relationship and Spike attempted to rape Buffy in “Seeing Red.” Attempted rape is always going to be a horrible horrible thing but the problem is that it was kind of the end result of a series of complicated events that I’ll explain on Friday. I’M NOT SAYING THAT SHE WAS ASKING FOR IT OR THAT SHE DESERVED WHAT HAPPENED. I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WHAT SPIKE DID WAS WRONG. A really well written defense is shown in this post.

Funny thing is after that happened, he went off to get his soul so that he can become the man Buffy deserves. And their relationship was actually at its best in Season 7. It was also one of the few good things in Season 7, especially the episode Touched.

To quote Spike in Touched: “I’ve seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are.” Which is true as evidenced by this post.

Even if Spike were to lose his soul somehow, they could still work because Spike sans-soul and sans-chip has been shown to be a good ally to Buffy in Becoming Part 2. The best picture that shows their relationship was in Chosen when the two of them held hands and their hands caught fire as Spike was about to sacrifice himself. Buffy and Spike are the fire that the other one needs.

On Friday, I will cover the form of love everyone is familiar with but also misunderstands the most: Eros.