L O V E…
A L T R U I S M… E M P A T H Y
Béa Aaronson PhD
WHAT IS LOVE?
How do we begin?
Here is an Indian parable
I would like to share with you:
A little boy goes to his grand father ands asks:
“Grand Father, Grand father, tell me please
Why are some people kind and loving, helping,
and others nasty, killing, filled with hate?”
The Grand father looked at his grand son and answered quietly, calmly,
with a deep voice of wisdom:
“My grand Son,” he said, “we, all of us humans, have 2 dogs living inside of us: One dog of LOVE, and one dog of HATE”
“But, grand father,” the little boy went on, “then they fight all the time inside of us and make us sick. And who is going to win?”
you will have chosen to feed”
WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE….
WE CAN ALL CHANGE THE CRAZED DIRECTIONS OUR TIRED WORLD IS TAKING.
Before entering the world of LOVE,
let’s first see what the dictionary tells us…
LOVE, according the unabridged Webster, is:
- A profoundly tender or passionate affection for a person, for all sentient beings
- A feeling of warm personal attachment
- A personification of sexual affection as Eros and Cupid
- The affectionate concern for the well being of others, otherwise known as Altruism
- The strong predilection or liking for anything, like the love of books, the love of music…
Two words need probing further: attachment and affection
“attachment” means you need two independent entities in order to “attach,” to link…therefore the “other” is already involved…
Distance creates the link…
physical distance….emotional distance…
Friendship is a form of attachment,
but so is “hate”…
Indifference is the total lack of attachment…
“affection” means “fond attachment,” “devotion,” “ love”
but also, in pathology, affection is a disease, a condition of being diseased,
an abnormal state of body and mind…that fits Romantic love to a tee…
We fall ill and we fall in love…
In French too “on tombe malade, on tombe amoureux”…
Descending love… Descending toward the material, the satisfaction of bodily sensations…
Scientific research, biology, neuroscience, has demonstrated that when one falls in love, a protein molecule known as
“nerve growth factor,” or NGF,
reaches high levels in the brain.
The brain releases a certain set of chemicals, including pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin,
which act in a manner similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain’s pleasure center
-which may explain why so many people want to keep falling in love, never committing to attachment-
the side effects are well known!
Increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, sweaty palms, and an intense feeling of excitement. Definitely an “abnormal” state of being…
“Affection” also means the act of influencing or acting upon which fits Altruism.
LOVE encompasses all different modalities of human attachments.
Lust, a physical biological attachment, as the initial passionate sexual desire that promotes mating, a mammalian drive like hunger and thirst (which does not last long)
Leading to attraction, (lasting a little longer, with an individualized desire for a specific partner)
Leading to attachment, a bonding that promotes relationships lasting much longer.
Attachment to one’s parents, to one’s children, to one’s brothers and sisters,
to one’s boyfriend and girlfriend,
to one’s spouse, to someone we know,
to someone we do not know…
But also attachment to one’s dogs and cats, to nature, to literature, art, music…
One facet the dictionary definition does not touch upon is ANIMAL LOVE. Animals too feel love, and experience attachment, beyond biological encoded behavior.
One cannot refute the fact that LOVE exists in the animal kingdom …look at mother elephants for example…mot just instinct, but love…they remember and cry…I have seen a hippo saving a young dear from the jaws of a crocodile, bringing the young victim ashore, licking him, taking care of him…a lion saving an orphan baby monkey, licking him, feeding him, putting him out of reach from predators….
They do not write poems, songs…
They act… Because LOVE is not only a noun to repeat, ad nauseum, but a verb to activate, to actualize…a verb of action… Because LOVE is not just a feeling, but an activity…
A WORD IS DEAD
AN INTENTION IS DEAD
IF WE DO NOT INHABIT THEM
IF THEY DO NOT INHABIT US
Different cultures have given different names to different dimensions of LOVE.
IN GREEK ANTIQUITY
The word AGAPE refers to divine Love, unconditional, self-sacrificing, thoughtful love, pure and idealized.
AGAPE was then used by Biblical and Christian authors to describe the highest form of love… One that surpasses all other types of affections.
Opposed to Agape is EROS, which refers to an affection of sexual nature, with sensual carnal longing. Can be translated as the love of the body.
Then, we have PHILIA, a concept developed by Aristotle.
It denotes a non-sexual affection…
A dispassionate virtuous love, loyalty to friends, family and community. Can be translated as love of the mind.
STORGE depicts natural affection, like the love felt by parents for their offspring.
And we must not forget XENIA, hospitality, as a form of ritualized friendship between a host and his guest, an extremely important practice in Ancient Greece. Xenophobia, or the fear of the other, is a disease that still kills all around the world.
IN ANCIENT ROMAN
AMARE is the verb TO LOVE.
AMOR, the noun LOVE
It is interesting to note that the city of ROMA is an anagram of AMOR, which was the secret name of Rome…
Amans, the lover, the professional lover too
Amicus, boy friend,
Cicero wrote his treatise on friendship
DE AMICITIA, which discusses all levels of friendship, indebtedness, influence, mutual advantage
OVID wrote his ARS AMATORIA (the Art of Love), which explains everything, from conjugal love, extramarital affairs to over protective parents, with explicit suggestions of love making positions to attain the best pleasure possible.
In Ancient Rome there was also CARITAS, which was used by the Christian Bible to mean “charitable love”. This altruistic dimension of LOVE/CARITAS did not exist in Pagan Rome.
IN JEWISH CULTURE
The Hebrew word AHAVA means intimate or romantic feelings and relationships, including of course the sexual dimension. But AHAVA can also be used to denote divine love.
Alongside CHEN, describing grace
And CHESED, loving kindness and compassion, that is altruism and empathy, which impregnates the commandment of treating your neighbor as you would want him to treat you. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR LIKE YOURSELF (Leviticus 6:5)
Ah Ah… So we must first love ourselves in order to love others… Self-hatred can only produces more hate…
TZEDAKAH, or “charity” is part of Chesed…
DEVEKUT represents spiritual orgasm, a mystical experience one cannot learn in a book…
The Biblical SHIR A SHIRIM, SONG OF SONGS, The Book of Solomon is an extremely erotic book of love, passionate, sensuous, but it is a metaphor for divine love. From the earthly to the divine…
IN CHRISTIAN CULTURE
Christianity used the Greek AGAPE to mean charitable, selfless altruistic and unconditional love.
Christians also used PHILEO to mean “brotherly love”.
EROS, or sexual love was never used in the New Testament.
Christianity has somewhat succeeded to severe the link between the body and the soul. And all earthly pleasures have been condemned as dirty and evil.
Christians used the Roman CARITAS to mean CHARITY.
It is the unlimited loving-kindness toward all others, the ultimate perfection of the human spirit. It reflects the glory of G-D, being divinely infused into the soul.
Self-sacrificial, Charity is considered the only way to salvation.
IN ISLAMIC AND ARAB CULTURE
The Islamic view of life as universal brotherhood refers to God as the AL WADUD, The Loving One, and also sees God as being “full of loving kindness.”
IN THE ISLAMIC MYSTICAL TRADITION OF SUFISM
God is THE LOVER, THE LOVED ONE, and THE BELOVED.
Through Love, humankind can get back to its inherent purity and grace.
We encounter TARIQAT, the spiritual path to Love, as the intention to go towards the Truth by means of love and devotion.
Isn’t it uncanny that the word TARIQAT sounds like CARITAS…you just change the order of the consonants….
MAHABBA is Divine Love.
HUBB is romantic love.
The Sufi believe that LOVE is at the core of the universe and that we need to feel love in all we do.
A Rumi poem says: “When I come to Love,
I am ashamed of all that have said about Love”
And a Sufi saying warns us against material greed:
“The one who dies for the love of the material world, dies a hypocrite.”
IN PERSIAN CULTURE
The Persian word for LOVE is ESGH.
In the Persian culture, everything is linked to ESGH, from earthly love -loving one’s friends and family, husbands and wives-
to divine love which is the ultimate goal.
Over 7 centuries ago, the poet SA’Di wrote:
“If you have no sympathy for the trouble of others
You are not worthy to be called by the name of “man.”
IN CHINESE AND SINIC CULTURE
There are 2 philosophical traditions of love:
1- Confucianism, which emphasizes action and duty,
A core concept of Confucianism is REN, or benevolent love.
“ren” also means “man” or “woman”
WO FAGUO REN “I am a French woman”
Which means that being a man, being a woman includes the dimension of benevolent love
2- Mohism, which extols universal love.
In Chinese, the word “love” is “Aï”
How uncanny again, that the same phonetic sound AIE, in French,
is something you say when you get hurt :
Aie! when you fall,
Aie! When you get bruised,
Aie when you prick yourself with a needle
“Aie Aie Aie” when you have problems…
Coincidence… or the magic wisdom of language!
I LOVE YOU = I AM HURTING FOR YOU!
WO AI NI means “I love you “
but is not often said in a romantic way…
When a Chinese person says “Wo ai ni” it carries a very specific sense of responsibility, commitment and loyalty…
The calligraphic character for AI is made of three interconnected designs.
The outer design is the character for PERCEPTION
The second inner design is the character for ACCEPTANCE
And the inner core design is the character for HEART
The 3 together mean LOVE
Perception…acceptance…heart….LOVE…What a journey….!
AI is seen in Buddhism as selflessness…
Selflessness is the key to enlightenment…
The word KAMA is sensuous, sexual love, and it is an obstacle on the path of enlightenment. We’ve all heard of the KAMA SUTRA…the ancient Sanskrit text on human sexual behavior, offering practical advice on sex.
SUTRA means “a line or a thread that links things together.” It links the body and the soul, it links pleasure and spirituality.
KARUNA is compassion and mercy, it reduces the pain of others.
Uncanny again that “karuna” sounds like “carina,” ROOT “CARE”, somebody dear, somebody we care for, which comes from “caritas”
ADVESA and METTA are benevolent LOVE
Notice the near homophony between ADVESA and ADVICE, AVIS in French
The word METTA comes from the Sanskrit MAITRI,
which means “loving kindness, friendliness, benevolence, good will”
Love of friends, family, but also strangers, enemies and all sentient beings
METTA is against greed,
against anger and violence
The aim is to attain LOVE
META BHAVANA is a meditation that helps calm down a distraught mind,
METTA BHAVANA is an antidote to ANGER
There are six stages in the practice of this love meditation
Cultivating loving kindness towards:
2- a good friend
3- a neutral person
4- a difficult person
5- all 4
6- the entire universe
“May all beings be free from enmity, affliction and anxiety, and live happily”
KAMA is pleasurable, sexual love, personified by the god Kamadeva, holding a bow of sugar cane and an arrow of flowers, riding on a parrot…
PREMA or PREM refers to elevated love.
KARUNA is compassion and mercy.
BAKHTI describes a loving devotion to the supreme God.
THE MAYAN AZTEC GODDESS OF LOVE
The Mayan word for love is
As a noun: YAAH
As a verb: YAAKUN, YAAKUNSTIK
I LOVE YOU: IN K’ÁATECH
The Goddess Ixchel /Xochiquetzal
Ixchel, "Lady Rainbow" and the wife of the supreme Mayan deity, was the Mother Goddess, the Goddess of the Moon, and the Goddess of Medicine… The caring dimension again…
Over the ages, her roles changed and she was transformed by time and adopted by the Aztec, who called her Xochiquetzal.
Lady Xochiquetzal was the Goddess of love, fertility, flowers and pleasure; the Goddess of the fruitful and flowering surface of the earth.
She was the first mother of twins in the cosmic order.
She had many duties:
Xochiquetzal was the patron of weavers and other fine crafts, and guardian of pregnancy, childbirth and young mothers. She was an intimate friend of Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent. Unlike other gods and goddesses, Xochiquetzal never aged, and her beauty never faded.
Xochiquetzal was so appealing that she lasted down through the age of the Aztec, through the terrible times of the Spanish Conquest, and even into modern times.
As the symbol of the earth, Xochiquetzal is still honored by offerings of marigolds in graveyards on the Day of the Dead in Mexico.
Xochiquetzal is associated with red and yellow flowers.
IN THE FRENCH LANGUAGE
The word AMOUR, love, shares the same root as AMI, friend.
The sound root AM… means AME, THE SOUL
In trans-linguistic sliding, the French root AM also recalls the English AM, to be
We can fully be only when we love.
Love is the quintessence of being.
AM also resembles the Buddhist “OM”
The consonant M represents the matrix, the mother of all, the maternal care, the openness of birth and life, giving birth and life to another being
THE SAME HAPPENS IN SPANISH
AM is the tuning fork to harmony…
With this very succinct cross-cultural and etymological trans-linguistic journey
We can see that LOVE is indeed a multi facetted “thing”
Clearly divided, in all cultures, between the Earthly pleasures of the flesh,
The Spiritual pleasures of the soul
Always involving the OTHER,
The first other being ourselves.
We have to love ourselves
in order to love others.
A little bit like in an airplane. When there is an oxygen problem, we must first put the oxygen mask on ourselves, and then we can help others…
We all come from an other,
from two others in fact… papa and mama
LOVE is a polarized word
conciliating the spiritual and the physical
harmonizing our dreams and our appetites
One last language game…using the process of phonic sliding and permutation of letters, practiced in Midrashic interpretations…
If you change the vowel “o” f
or the vowel “i”
You transform LOVE into LIVE
And here we go again
LOVE AND LIFE two facets of the same “thing”, or one and the same thing?
And I would like to posit here that
LOVE is LIFE
And that LIFE without LOVE is not life…
and I do not mean romantic or sexual love…
Is LOVE a physical adventure where the heart does not have much to say…
A spiritual adventure where the body does not have much to say?
It is both, separately and simultaneously
Is LOVE a word that lies…?
Or a word that tells the truth…?
IT DEPENDS WHO INHABITS THE WORD…
Used, Misused, Abused,
a word that may hide other agendas than kindness, care, and compassion…
It is a word that celebrates the marvelous diversity of life, the complex array of human emotions in all their bivalence…
Don’t’ we say:
A love declaration… A War declaration…
Remember the Hippies from the Sixties?
MAKE LOVE NOT WAR
LOVE became a political force, a social tool for PEACE
Did you know that in 450- 380 BCE, Aristophanes wrote a timeless play, Lysistratus,
a story of sex, love, war, social upheaval, political strife, violence,
in which an Athenian woman, Lysistrata, organized a sex strike to stop the wars among the Greek states.
But also, Athenian women were asked to make love to the enemy soldiers…
and there was no more time nor energy to wage war!
In any case…
the companion of whom the heart is never sure…
this invasion of the self by another…
This kind of love has tormented, tortured millions…
Because Romantic Love plays on all polarities
Anger, jealousy, hatred
War and peace
An infinity of possibilities
Most of the time, when you ask people what love is, they all speak of romantic love and sexual attraction.
Romantic love as an ideal of fusion,
a hedonist self-imposed servitude,
serves the flesh and dictates a new psychic economy in which orgasm is the supreme goal.
Millenaries of love poetry, love songs, novels, operas, theatre, music, movies, books… - all tending toward a long story of mostly deceived, hurt, wounded, betrayed, disappointed lovers-
Millenaries of human artistic creations have made ROMANTIC LOVE
THE ULTIMATE HUMAN AFFAIR
And we did not talk of passion crimes, killing for love! Number one cause, world wide, of homicide!
ROMANTIC LOVE IS NOT THE FORM OF LOVE THAT CAN SAVE US.
We need another kind of love to live and survive life. A love that is not a pathological affection
I MEAN ALTRUISM and EMPATHY
Altruism comes from the French “autrui” which means “other people”, from “autre” meaning “other”, from the Latin “alter”
Unselfish regard or devotion to the welfare of others
In the animal world, altruism describes the behavior of an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself, but that benefits others of its species… But we know now, that this kind of behavior goes beyond and across the barrier of species…
ALTRUISM IS AN ENERGY WE CAN ALL HARNESS
The most powerful one
It can move mountains, like romantic love, but it does not kill, it does not imprison, does not make you feel sick, or insane, like romantic love.
ALTRUISM IS THE ENERGY WE NEED MOST TODAY
to fight greed, and prejudice,
to repair, to mend our torn society
Like one trains one’s body, lifting weights to work the muscles
Our soul can be exercised too
Because it is a question of AME, a question of soul
We can cultivate altruistic love
if we choose to
And quench the thirst of our wounded humanity
IS A COSMIC TRANSFORMER
BOTH ALCHEMY AND ALCHEMIST
Altruistic love can indeed transform a negative into positive and allow us to reach harmony.
ALTRUISM IS A MEDIATING FORCE
Between the physical and the spiritual, between the flesh and the soul…
Altruism does provide a DEVEKUT,
a spiritual orgasm
It does feel good to help… If people can get addicted to anger, as science has demonstrated,
why cant we train ourselves to get addicted to do good…
Altruism is a mediating force between human beings, a language, a conversation, an exchange…so we feel less lonely, less anonymous,
Like a caress on a wounded body, on a wounded soul
ALTRUISM IS A BINDING CEMENT
To build anything
A roof, an irrigation system, a school,
an hospital, but also
human bridges, to facilitate the dialogue
But to feel and exercise Altruism one must first understand and feel EMPATHY
In our fundamental quest for HAPPINESS and HARMONY
EMPATHY is a primordial ingredient…
How is it possible to keep one’s honour
While our world loses its humanity?
WE MUST REBUILD OUR HUMANITY
Based on EMPATHY
The word “empathy” comes from the Greek “em” meaning “with”
And “paschein” meaning to suffer
To empathize….“To suffer with”
Empathy is the identification with, or experiencing of another person’s feelings, thoughts, and suffering.
The Webster unabridged dictionary states that
“Empathy is more enduring and valuable than romantic love.”
“Compassion” comes from the Latin “compassion” meaning “suffering with”
In Latin, “con” means “with”, and
“Passion” from “patere” and “passio” means to suffer
The “patient” suffers and goes to the doctor.
Patience comes from there too…
If you can put yourself in the place of the other, and feel his joy, his pain, feel how he/she feels, you might be able to act differently… and make this person better…
By making one person feel better,
you change the course of things…
you save one person
and you save a whole world.
We need to re-create a balance…
So many human actions are taken solely for personal benefit dictated by greed…
Empathy can cure this narcissist onanist disease.
Instead of ME ME ME, instead of feeding this insatiable never satisfied ego of ours, let’s say US US US,
How can we be together
and help one another?
Imagine our society is like a human body…
Believing in our arrogant western civilized ways, that we are the head…
What insane heresy to think that what happens to the foot is of no importance…
Let’s imagine your foot hurts, it’s been cut or something…
You do not take care of it,
it’s just down there…
If you let the foot go bad… “necrosed” by lack of blood/oxygen, gangrene invades, then you have to cut the foot, so it does not contaminate the rest of the body…
Then, you cannot walk
And slowly the whole body goes…
This blood/oxygen life essence is love/empathy
THE ULTIMATE FORM OF LOVE IS INDEED ALTRUISM,
ACTIVATED BY EMPATHY
TO LOVE THE OTHER IS AN UNCONDITIONAL IMPERATIVE
If we cannot do that…we are doomed…
THE METAPHOR OF THE CARESS
WE MUST LEARN, RE-LEARN TO CARESS
A CARESS IS AN ACTION OF ROMANTIC LOVE,
BUT ALSO AN ACTION OF ALTRUISTIC LOVE
TO CARESS IS A FORM OF CARING.
Same root! CARE
THERE IS A FORM OF ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE CALLED HAPTIC MEDICINE
“Haptic” comes from the Greek “haptikos”
“able to grasp or perceive”
It comes from the verb “haptein,” to sense
Haptics is a branch of psychology that investigates cutaneous sense.
Haptic medicine investigates the role of maternal touch to support human health.
A study, known as MAVAN, is undergoing in Canada right now, and scientists have discovered that the effects of maternal touch include:
- modifying the expression of genes
- regulating stress
- helping neurons in the hippocampus region of the brain to develop
tactile sensory stimulations, like caressing, change hormonal patterns…
There is such a thing as “pet therapy” too. For highly stressed persons, to caress a pet help them soothe their hyperactivity…
Charity is a form of caressing… soothing somebody’s life
Remember…CARITAS in Latin…
If we had loved our planet,
if we had caressed her,
cared for her,
instead of pillaging her, ripping her apart, polluting her,
we would not be in the mess we are in today…
It is greed, hedonism, and ignorance that have created the murderous disequilibrium in which we live today.
We must re-create an equilibrium
And for that…
WE MUST CHANGE OUR NOTIONS OF SUCCESS.
Success does not equal dollars, euros, pesos, yens, yuans…
SUCCESS IS HARMONY…
It is being able to get up in the morning looking forward to the day and all the opportunities to help something or someone get better,
and then going to bed, able to shake your own hand, knowing that you have indeed brought some joy to some… That is success.
Altruistic love can and will help us survive the world crisis brought upon us by greed and lack of care.
ARE YOU GOING TO FEED?