Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The 4 Ways of Saying "I love tango"

This is part II on the four distinct ways of saying "I love you" in Ancient Greek.

If the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning had danced tango, this perhaps would be the way she would have started off her famous poem:

Tango partners ...
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

The poem, given in full below, tells of a love that is deeply diverse.  Had Elizabeth Barrett Browning written her poem in Ancient Greek, surely she would have used four different words for "to love." 
Perhaps too, if she had danced tango socially, her poem would be may not have been to one ideal partner. Maybe she would have addressed a group of favorite dancers and friends.  In English and other modern languages, practicing polyfilia or polyamory (the love of many) is relegated to sexual partners. Ridiculous!  If we are lucky we love many friends, family members and spiritual partners.  Even correctly understood, we have many loves with poly-éros because we are drawn, as Plato and Socrates used the word "éros," to many types of beauty, including beauty in nature, music and spiritual awe. Tango dancers may not have the word for it, but we truly love to dance and fully express our love in more specific ways to our many dance partners.   I am lucky that my wife, my all-time favorite partner in life, is also my favorite partner on the dance floor.  We worked hard on the second part.  Our mutual adoration only recently came to be.

In Part I, I presented éros-love. Below are the three remaining ways to express love in Ancient Greek for tango and for your partner:

  • Agápē (ἀγάπη)   More recently, many have heard about "agape-love" from Christians wanting who more and  more want to know about the original language of the Gospel.  Unfortunately, ágapē is often esteemed as the "highest" love.  But, I hope you will see that it is not more important or "higher" than the others. It's just different. S'agapo (Σ'αγαπώ) means "I love you." In Ancient Greek, it often refers to an altruistic, spiritual or unconditional love.  Imagine a tanda in which  you give yourself fully no matter who your partner might be. If you have assented to dance with someone and practice ἀγάπη-love with them, you dance as if they were young, handsome, from Argentina, rich and the best dancer in the world. For me some of my best moments in tango have been dancing with ágapē-love.  Once an elderly dancer who suffered from Alzheimer's Disease came to a milonga.  Her daughter took her out many times because her mother started to do so much better when she danced.  Her mother, who once loved to dance, remembered my name each week, and we found out that her doctor said that she had regained feeling in her feet and her reflexes were returning.  Also, her depression was cured--the power of agape-love and dance! Another powerful experience for me was with a woman who danced so poorly that I focused just on being present with her as a person.  I was hit with this vision of a very heroic person before me, and upon asking about what brought her to the US, I was dumbfounded that the gut feelings I had were confirmed.  She was indeed a heroic, brave woman.  How often do I fail at dancing in awe of the person in front of me? Too often!  But when I do, I am touched with a spark of the divine.  Divine but not rare.  This practice of is ágapē-love is not so esoteric!  I know three different people on different continents who suffer from Parkinson's Disease, and many people dance with them out of agape-love.  Dancing is very therapeutic for those who suffer from Parkinson's Disease.  Another group of people who give unconditionally to the community include some DJ's and organizers, who are helping the entire community is a selfless way--often with no or little remuneration.
  • Philía (φιλία) I would call this type of love a "balanced lover" or perhaps even better, "balancing love." Tango (and most relationships) need this sort of love. There is a time for a love that grows through reciprocation. The other types of love may be void of reciprocation, but φιλία needs it to be watered and nourished Also, the other types of love need balance through philía!  People who are too much into unconditional love can forget themselves. People too much into eros-love can become selfish. Philía is the type of love that enjoys the back-and-forth of any good friendship. Philía likes interaction, much like the play between children on a teeter totter.  Tango-philía-love is maintaining a playful give-and-take instead of being passive,  just on a "tango ride" for the rol feminina, or for the rol masculino requiring one's partner comply to everything offered.  Philía may not be your style or desire in tango, but I think it is best to know if your partners like their love this way. 
  • Storgē (στοργή) is the affection we feel for bloodlines, especially family.  In tango I see this type of connection with people who have bonds through the same language, culture or national origin.  So in tango we sometime adopt others as if they were family.  My wife points out that στοργή is what we have experienced in Newport News, Virginia.  Susan, a women whom we had never met, has invited us into her home a few times now, and from the start we felt like family members.  Sometimes even an embrace feels like home.  
How do I love thee, tango?  Let me count ways!
*Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem (below in the full version) touches on all of the elements of the four ways of loving mentioned above.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men might strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,–I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

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Photo credit:  4 Loves TattooReformatted by Sybille Word.

Further reading:
C.S.Lewis has presented the four loves (from Greek) very well.