“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.”
We’ve all wondered what causes that feeling of complete euphoric happiness coupled with the sensation of being utterly miserable. You know what I’m talking about: love. To call it a feeling or emotion seems to be dismissing it a bit. It drives us to do the craziest things but also cripples us from getting to some places we wish we could be. Love is as beautiful as it is destructive. Just ask the Arctic Monkeys. Pretty much every song they’ve released is about love, or at least the illusion of it.
But there’s more than just one version of love. According to the ancient Greek philosophers there were about four definitions, each with its own specific traits. At times it gets confusing to tell them apart because they’re all built on the feeling of caring deeply for someone else. Lucky for us, one famous writer dealt with these terms and brought them down to earth. C.S. Lewis, the man who created Narnia, released his musings in the fifties to a prudish society that was horrified about him talking about sex like it was.
However, it’s been about sixty years since his book came out. If Alex Turner can write entire albums about sex, then Lewis’s explanations –which are quite tame in comparison– can come out into the light again. So now let’s open the floor for these two seemingly opposite characters to explain love’s many faces and transformations.
Storge – Affection
I’m not a fan of the word affection, which reminds me of couples who stay together too long to the point where there’s no spark. But when I read Lewis’s explanation, this version of love takes me on a vision of mornings full of kisses, giggles, and pancakes. It’s that’s sensation of wanting to smother someone with emotion before putting them in your pocket to carry them around everywhere. This kind of love is not reserved only for a lover. It can be the way we feel about our friends when we’re out partying with them. It comes out when our family, despite our differences, stands with us when we need it the most.
Lewis compares it with alcohol, which we’ve all loved at one point or another:
“As gin is not only a drink in itself but also a base for many mixed drinks, so Affection, besides being a love itself, can enter into the other loves and colour them all through and become the very medium in which from day to day they operate. They would not perhaps wear very well without it.”
Not to be outdone, the Arctic Monkeys capture it so perfectly in their song “Potion Approaching”:
Yours is the only ocean
That I want to swing from
Yours is the only ocean
That I want to hang on to
There’s a lyric in the song “Black Treacle” showing us what it feels like when we don’t have the people we love around us.
Somebody told the stars you're not coming out tonight
And so they found a place to hide
Philia – Friendship
What does it mean to love a friend? It means to have family where there are no genetics involved. We meet people throughout our lives who leave their mark, regardless of whether this relationship lasts until we’re old, or it’s only intended for a passing moment. They make the hard times seem less horrible, while creating spaces of euphoric instances in our memories. C.S. Lewis explained that, unlike other kinds of love, friendship is about coming together and even bringing other people into your bubble of joy.
“Lovers seek for privacy. Friends find this solitude about them, this barrier between them and the herd, whether they want it or not. They would be glad to reduce it. The first two would be glad to find a third.”
The band from Sheffield also puts it in a similar way:
But over there there's friends of mine
What can I say, I've known them for a long long time
And yet they might overstep the line
But you just cannot get angry in the same way
Agape – Charity
This is a tough one because Mr. Lewis had plenty to say about the divine sort of love. He was an active member of the Anglican Church after he returned to the faith of his youth in his adult years. However, none of the Arctic Monkeys, not even their very vocal and candid lead singer, have ever raised anything on the subject. There’s never been a claim to atheism nor has there been any big statement about God and religion.
When we read Lewis’s views on this kind of love, we can see that there’s more to it than just a relationship between human and divine. In the writer’s perspective, to love God is to love humanity and all the world’s creations:
“God, as it seems to me, bestows two other gifts; a supernatural Need-love of Himself and a supernatural Need-love of one another.”
The song “505” depicts how you can love someone to extremes, knowing that loving them will destroy you, yet you couldn’t care less.
I probably still adore you with your hands around my neck
The aptly-named “Cornerstone” is about searching for a lover, but at one point it almost seems like it’s the question anyone has asked themselves when thinking about a greater power in the universe.
Tell me where's your hiding place
I'm worried I'll forget your face
And I've asked everyone
I'm beginning to think I imagined you all along
Eros – Sexual
Now we’ve reached Mr. Turner’s specialty. If any tune is able to set the mood for this carnal form of love, it’s an Arctic Monkeys song. But before we get to that point, the man from Narnia also had plenty to say about how sexuality is its own form of language. One that often blinds us from reason or any other distraction:
“Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give. No lover in the world ever sought the embraces of the woman he loved as the result of a calculation, however unconscious, that they would be more pleasurable than those of any other woman.”
Not to be outdone, the Arctic Monkeys demonstrate the feeling of wanting someone, not just anyone, in the best way in their song “Reckless Serenade.”
Topless models doing semaphore
Wave their flags as she walks by and get ignored
Illuminations on a rainy day
When she walks, her footsteps sing a reckless serenade.
It’s also quite poetic when it gets to the last song of their album AM, with “I Wanna Be Yours”:
If you like your coffee hot
Let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots babe
I just wanna be yours
Who said love has changed at all in a thousand years or more? If the ideas of ancient Greece can collide with the academic frankness of a twentieth century writer and the lyrics of four dudes from Sheffield wearing sunglasses and smirks, then I guess this means humanity has always wanted love and wondered why it causes the inexplicable insanity it leads to.
The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
Arctic Monkeys Lyrics