An Artist's Quest

♥ Shaped Love in Four Acts

I got a lot of responses this week to Monday’s post, and it seems (no surprise to you) that love, as Frank would sing it, is a many splendored thing and complicated!  I did a little research this week and found a wonderful and extensive article by Ian Gately from Lapham’s Quarterly a magazine of history and ideas, I highly recommend reading this article, find link below.  To summarize the article tries to explain how the heart shape, ♥, came to equal love. Mr. Gately points out that the ♥ is the most commonly recognized symbol on the planet after the cross and the crescent.  But how did this symbol come to represent the physical organ the heart and how did the heart come to symbolize love an how did the heart come to be represented like this> ♥?  Aristotle reckoned that the heart was the seat of reason;  early Christians, along with a their Jewish forefathers , held the heart was home to our feelings.  Pagan tribes of Europe who adopted Christianity in the dark ages connected the heart with courage and Vikings related it to the god Odin and battle-madness.  Courtly love, an notion of damsels and heroes on bended knee, was discovered (ironically) by pillaging Crusaders in their travels in the Islamic world.  The heart shape ♥, which these knights borrowed from the classical Greeks ivy leaf symbol of steadfastness and constancy, became the symbol of choice on shields and banners of knights.  The catholic church tried to wrestle the ♥ shaped out of romance into the sacred and launched a ad campaign to rival any by Nike or Coca Cola today.  The iconography of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was born.  This symbol has had great success of course and is still a prevalent image in the church but crasser players were soon to grab hold of it.  With the advent of the printing press in 1480, and the mass production of playing cards. ♥’s quickly replaced grails as the symbol of the church suit on playing cards and have remained there ever since. Fast forward to today we cannot pass a day without seeing the ubiquitous I ♥ New York, or my poodle or…. fill in the blank.

Now somewhere through the centuries of battle over the symbol of the ♥ the meaning of LOVE has been scrambled.  In a response to my Monday post, Julie wrote about an experience her 8-year-old son had passing out Valentine’s at school.  Some boys in his class told him that it was inappropriate to write “Love Elliot” on the card to boys!  Julie pointed out that we seem to have forgotten that there are four kinds of love.  In our society today, where sexuality runs rampant and vulgar language and suggestive dress (I sound like my grandma) are essentially required for coolness.  My friend Stephanie, who is a high school health teacher, reports that the girls in her class see their sexuality as tool to use, and even that there is no better option for power and status.  How sad.  Could it be that the problem is a linguistic one?  The Greeks had four words for love: Philia is love between friends, Eros is the sense of being in love what we associate with romantic sexual love, Storge is affection, love of family, Agape is unconditional love.  It is said that the Inuit language has 100 words for kinds of snow, how is it then that we have only one word for love?  One ♥ shape to hold so much meaning.  So let’s get out there and use some new, old words… spread a bit of Philia today and don’t forget to call your mother and give her a bit of Storge.  Well that’s all for now, I love you…opps I mean sending Philia your way, or should I say Storge to you and your…well maybe this will take awhile to get off the ground! I think I’ll just stick with XOXO!

A Heartshaped history by Ian Gately from Lapham Quarterly http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/roundtable/a-heart-shaped-history.php

Four kinds of Love by Brian Tubbs from Suite 101.com http://www.suite101.com/blog/briantubbs/the_four_kinds_of_love

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4 responses

  1. Mary Thorpe

    …love your image and all the loving words. Is the heart in the center of your work, the heart shapes rock the was Leonora’s?

    XXOOOXX

    February 18, 2011 at 10:00 am

    • The heart shaped rock in the center was Leonora’s! good eye!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:44 am

  2. Pamela

    I had to read the last blog late. I was very moved. With much effor,t may we all have Philia, Eros, Storge & Agape in our lives?

    February 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    • indeed! 4 ways to love and be loved! What could be better

      February 20, 2011 at 9:44 am

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