Many centuries ago, there was a celebration observed throughout Celtic Europe called Beltane, held in spring, with big bonfires built on hills, celebrating the end of winter’s freezing temperatures, confinement and liberation brought by the coming of spring, bringing forth May flowers. It was a licence for joy, a time when a young man’s fancy turned to thoughts of love.
And tradition had it, indulgence in sex was freely granted, with no stigma attached to the infants who resulted, called Beltane-got.
As no one could be quite sure in those days, months after the event, who the father was, the child just became a part of the family into which he or she was born, increasing the tribe and therefore their numbers, which, in the economies of those far-off days, was welcomed.
St Valentine had not been born then, but things changed culturally hereafter with the concept of romantic love.
As time went on, the Greek culture evolved as one most articulate to explain the importance and the power of emotion.
Greeks chose the medium of art – attracting people through dance, song, poetry, sculpture, architecture and drama – much of it lost to us now as subsequent military action wiped out those values, replacing them with a focus on power and control gained through finance, politics and status, within commercial and religious organisations.
St Valentine, born in 200 AD or so, was beheaded, possibly in 240 AD, for sympathies unapproved by politicians, now celebrated on his special day.
The Greeks, experts at emotional discernment, did not make the mistakes that are so frequent now, as management is defining normal stages of emotional growth as mental illness.
Much of the disciplinary grievance-handling people experience at work is tracked initially through dysfunctional family relationships, currently seen to result in dysfunctional relationships or attitudes inappropriate at work.
Interpersonal attraction is seen as indiscipline and can result in disciplinary action, particularly at an executive level in multinational firms, causing sensational headlines in the American press.
I spoke today with a retired employee of BWIA, who described nostalgically the family-type bonding BWIA employees enjoyed, asking if I knew of any other company in TT where employees enjoyed that biblical philia as much as they did: years after BWIA’s closure, birthday cards are exchanged, annual get-togethers continue, deaths of former co-workers are shared and mourned, and one former BWIA staffer, seeing another across a crowded bank, will exchange greetings and "ole talk," reliving what they now realise were some of the best days of their lives. Organisational pragma is rare and precious.
The ancient Greeks noted six different emotional categories that affect our lives, all of which are relevant to the topic, and it is true that people often marry someone they meet at or work with, which is true of people in many employment situations and of many during mid-life crises as well (break-up and remarriage peaks are in the 35-55 age brackets, according to HR statistics).
If people were taught in secondary school about these categories of relationships, they would be prepared for shifting periods of emotional maturity as they age and be prepared to deal with troubling attractions, not slide into damaging reactions, which then end up in the weekly scandal sheets.
The Greeks taught us what to expect:
– Eros: The pleasure of the senses: the physical enjoyment of touch, sight, taste, sound of a voice, the erotic pleasure of anything sensual – which includes all that is included in the celebration of Carnival. It stretches from the sheer joy of being young, strong and healthy to the enjoyment of sex, and one’s own physical fitness or the compassionate love of self.
That is different from
ludus, which is the playful, flirtatious love experienced by those who move from one relationship to another, enjoying the attraction but never able to commit to anyone permanently.
– Storge: The love of family and community, knowing the solidity of unquestioned, undeniable belongingness. This is very different from erotic love. It is the bonding that makes you know when there is nowhere left to go, you can go there. The advertisement on billboards saying "Welcome Home," plays on this.
We know you can take a person out of Trinidad but you can’t take Trinidad out of the person, and TT will always be home.
– Philia: This is different. It is closeness of friendship, brotherly love, the love of equals. You don’t have to even like the other members of a team you play on, but you will have their back.
If you are a member of a team that you practise with weekly, whatever your age, you will probably be familiar with this kind of bonding, as close as or closer than family bonding. Mothers of boys without resident fathers often speak of the deep gratitude they have for the men who weekly coach their boys in the discipline of football, and hence of how to be a man. For a girl, it may be a dance or drama leader who cherishes her when she most needs it.
– Pragma: A true-love relationship which goes past the excitement of eroticism. It may start there, going past "falling in love," which is intense but often short-lived, and matures into "being in love," a loving which can last forever, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, language or culture.
– Agape: The ultimate. Universal, selfless, undivided and infinite. The love we want to believe the deity has for us, the love that sometimes mothers have for their children, the love one pundit explained to me we should have for Atman: loving God as you would love a baby.
May you enjoy a happy Valentine’s Day.