My theology teacher once explained to my class the four types of love, according to C.S. Lewis: agape, storge, eros and philia.
Agape is described as the love that is unselfish, unreserved, unconditional. It is willing the good of another; it is self-sacrificial. Agape is the love that one might feel for one’s God or one’s children.
The second type of love, storge, is the love one feels for his country, or for his favorite novel, and or for a really delicious slice of pizza. It is affectionate love and doesn’t delve much deeper than that.
Another type of love is eros, the love of romance — the passion felt within a couple. It is an intimate love, the pull between two people that causes a desire for an amorous relationship.
The last love my teacher described to us is philia. This love is the love that one friend feels for another friend. It is felt and expressed between two people who call themselves equals, two people who enjoy each other’s presences.
This teacher continued to refer to philia as the chosen love, the most unnatural of the four. He did not mean that it is unnatural to have friends or to know people on a platonic level, only that the bond between two companions is the only bond of the four that is hand-picked. But does this choice, this decision to love someone in this way, make it less important than any of the other loves?
Surely not. After all, “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” We are born into families, and maybe a love arises within that family. It is beautiful when such a love exists, but it doesn’t have to. There’s no requirement that two brothers love each other or care about each other. It is not always inevitable that a mother and child get along. Many people find themselves leaving home when they turn 18, never to return. Those individuals must find a new family, a new covenant with a stronger foundation, a bond thicker than that of bloodlines.
Philia, when perfected, may be stronger than any love we know. The love between friends might develop into that sacrificial “agape” love. There will come a day when you are on the ground, and it is your friends who pick you up — a moment when you call for help, and your friends come running. There will come an instant where you’re the happiest you’ve ever been and your cheeks hurt from smiling and this chosen love between friends is the most perfect love and couldn’t be traded for anything in the world.
So maybe my theology teacher was right — there’s nothing natural about the love that requires looking at someone and saying, “Hey. I like this person. I hope he likes me too and will be there for me when I need him.”
At the same time, there’s something so natural about discussing the point of life at one in the morning while lying on your best friend’s basement floor. There’s something so right about sitting in a room with someone whilst you two do completely different things, only speaking to discuss a joke you thought of when looking at your math book but feeling perfectly comfortable in the silence that rests between you two. Do those blissful seconds of unbridled happiness with your friends, your acquaintances, those whom you have chosen to love, make it the strongest love of the four? I can’t know for sure, and my theology teacher might not think so. Philia is a love that many don’t consider the be-all and end-all of human existence. And yes, maybe we do not need such a love to live, but it is a love that I do not wish to live without.