Tag Archives: philos

Quiet Love

There was a thing I loved with no name and another love I knew with no words.

The writer’s task is to use words to express what could never be expressed with words. So I describe the things I lived so that you may feel what I felt.

An electrophile is a substance that seeks electrons. We say such stuff has an affinity (or love) for electrons. Nonmetallic elements are electrophilic, elements such as Chlorine and Oxygen. Fortunately, the universe consists also of metallic substances eager to part with their electrons and compounds are born. Fortunately, also, many electrophiles are willing to share electrons—else there would be no carbon based life.

Similarly, hydrophilic substances have affinity for water, attracting and holding it.

I have an affinity for dirt. I love soil, water, and rocks—and the things that grow in and upon them.

There was a little farm in Dane County, Wisconsin, that called me and I answered. For a few years we got acquainted and fell in love. I used to watch the boats go by on Saturday morning on their way to Lake Koshkonong while I had dirt sticking to the sweat of my body, farming for a hobby.

It was a tired little farm with a ramshackle house but a tidy little barn. And I loved it. But, I never named it.

The day came way, way too soon that I had to let it go. I clung to it as though it was some security, some friend, something special that I could not explain.

Because of divorce, I had to let it go. And, so the day came for the closing.

My dad came and helped me close the holes for the perk test—because the new owner wanted a place for a new house. We stood in the kitchen of the soon-to-be destroyed little house and signed the papers.

My dad watched. He didn’t say anything. He was just there.

I learned something important about love that day—from my father, and from my little farm.

Dad is gone, now, and that little farm looks very different thirty-five years later. Far to the north, though, is another piece of rock, soil, water, and life that has adopted me. This time I had the good sense to name it. When I found a few charred remnants of the old growth trees cut for lumber and stained by fire, I thought of calling in Pine Bones.

The land had a better idea. We call it Lonesome Pines, in honor of the few red and white pines remaining (although more are growing) and the memories of the grandfather trees that once stood there. I love that land, and it loves me. I hope that makes sense to you because I hope you have felt that kind of unconditional love, that acceptance, which Nature provides.

And I hope you have felt or will feel the kind of love my father shared. When my daughters need me, I don’t often have much to say, but I show up. I am there. Thanks, Dad. You always were my greatest teacher, and you did it without me even knowing.

R – E – S – P – E – C – T

“I’m glad you were born.” That is what I told my wife on the day I met her, her 30th birthday. She liked it. Still does.

Wishing someone a happy birthday or a happy any day is an affirmation, a validation of their right to air. It is an expression of our willingness to share life with them. That is a very powerful kind of respect, and all we want is a little respect.

Yesterday, I enjoyed birthday wishes from many people on Facebook, some who have never seen my face. I got calls from my daughters, and my teenage grandson talked to me for several minutes. Nancy made my favorite dinner. It was a good day.

The first step in healing scars of trauma may be the simple act of validation, an affirmation of humanity. Happy birthday, good morning, or an honest smile may be all it takes. It is easy and cheap. Why is it so rare?

For those afflicted with invisible wounds (most of us), there is a double problem. First, we believe people are more dangerous than lions, tigers, or bears. We have great difficulty trusting people. Second, we have trouble feeling worthy so that any perceived slight is taken as gross disrespect.

Road rage is a problem—even inside the supermarket.

A simple kind of love soothes us. It might be a form of philos, the love of our fellow human beings, that encourages us back to social and emotional health. When someone takes the time to wish us well, even without words by offering us help or encouragement, it validates our humanity. We feel bigger, more worthy, and less wounded.

A colleague stopped by my office, yesterday, just to ask me if I had enough work to do. That was a validation of my efforts to move our program development along, an acknowledgement of my worth.

Another invited me to participate in his class even though I had too much to do to go. He gave me the materials to read on my time. That is professional respect.

I am a fortunate man.

Our world is full of angry, ill people, and we have developed a habit of pointing out faults of the other. We feel like others, us and them, and so we become enemies when we are really all the same. We all want a little respect.

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Breathe all the air you want, today, and have a great day. I’m glad you were born.

Gump Shun

Forrest Gump is a Vietnam Combat Veteran who knows how to love. “I am not a smart man, but I know what love is,” he tells Jenny.

Forrest is able to tell Jenny that he loves her, freely, and without reserve. He does not have symptoms of PTSD.

Jenny does.

Do you know what love is?

A couple of decades ago, I heard a little sermon on love at my nephew’s wedding—three kinds of love, in fact: eros, philos, and the third kind I could not remember. So, I asked the minister after the service and wrote it down. Agape.

Eros is the erotic and/or romantic love of fame and film. It is young love, eager love, love of troops returning to an idealized mate back home (whom they may or may not have yet met). It is Cupid love.

There is more, much more. The point of this blog series taking us through most of 2013 is an exploration of that much more.

Some psychologists (Ashley B. Hart II, PhD) refer to different kinds of love, also. Dr. Hart even separates erotic love from romantic love because they seem to describe two different kinds of feelings. Ancient Greeks referred to the three mentioned in the sermon, and because I have been thinking about these for twenty years, this is where I shall begin.

Eros get’s us home. It helps us make it to DEROS, our date eligible to return from overseas. It motivates us to endure, and that is a very good thing.

It is not enough.

Back home, many Combat Veterans feel a tremendous void even when they have wives or lovers waiting for them. Erotic love is real and important, but it does not fill the holes in our souls.

About one year after returning, I joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard. I thought it was for the money, but it was not. It was to fill the hole, to find the camaraderie I missed.

Combat beats the ideology from our hearts, and eros can carry us only so far. In another movie, Tom Hanks risks everything to save Private Ryan, not for any ideal, but to do whatever would get him back home to his wife. Okay, that might be eros but is probably more.

The real lesson comes from Private Ryan who chooses to stay with his live brothers trapped in combat rather than going home. Tom Hanks stays, too. It is the thing to do. This attachment, this mortal loyalty to our brothers on the field, is an example of philos, brotherly love. It is a form of mutualism quite different from eros. One committed to a Western philosophy of hierarchy may even consider philos more powerful than eros.

I can tell you, personally, that the trust in a fellow Combat Veteran is different than the trust in a spouse or lover. The Vets in my group who make the most of PTSD recovery seem to have both.

Agape is a godly love. It is my intent for this blog series to get there before Veterans’ Day.

PTSD makes love more difficult and more necessary. It’s why Jenny has trouble in relationships. It’s why she shuns the love of Forrest Gump.

Forrest never loses his pre-trauma self. Lt. Dan does. Maybe there is something in expectations, but I think it is just a story. However, Lt. Dan recovers, and I believe it is through philos and agape.

Forrest Gump knows how to love. Do you? Because, if you love a Combat Veteran, love matters. Jenny and Dan had to learn to love. Someone had to love them back.

Is that someone, you?