Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Dan Coshnear
The ancient Greeks had 6 words for love: Eros> (sexual passion, desire), Philia (friendship), Ludus (playful, childlike), Agape (love of everyone or selfless love), Pragma (longstanding, emphasis on giving love), Philautia (compassion for self).
If you're unfamiliar with these terms, you might say, cool, I'm going to remember them. But, if you're like me, you won't. Eros is easy, think of Valentine's cards. Philia, think Philadelphia, city of brotherly love. Agape sounds like uh-gop'-eh, but it looks like "agape," which means "mouth wide open." Someone says, "Try to love everyone," and your jaw descends rapidly. Everyone? Really?
From here it gets more difficult. Pragma sounds like "magma," liquid rock, or like "dogma," hardened rock. Philautia, forgive me, sounds like "fellatio," an act of love, at least sometimes, but rarely committed upon oneself. Ludus? I draw blank.
Combinations? Permutations? There are 63. Eros-Philautia, for example. That's amusing. Ludus-Agape-Pragma. Bends the mind.
I'm not sure 63 covers all the possibilities.
A few years back, I prepared to drive to the dump with garbage and recycles in the bed of our fickle Mazda pickup. The hard work of loading was done. When I turned the key, the truck started, a tablespoon of relief. The day, as I remember it, was breezy, late spring, every shade of green. The dump sits in a hole near the crest of Pocket Canyon; the end of a pleasant drive on a serpentine stretch of Highway 116. I set off with the windows open, evaluating the suntan on my left forearm, and the look of me in the driver's side mirror, lightly whiskered, in sunglasses, hair blown back. I thought, this is about as handsome as I'll ever be. I could spread myself in any direction across the broad front seat. I felt expansive. I had room to think, and my mind was popping with memories of people and places and songs I thought I'd forgotten. For example, I'd forgotten that years and years before I'd lived in NYC and rode the subway every day, sometimes so crowded I couldn't scratch myself. Once a man, unwittingly, I think, parked his briefcase between my cheeks. More years back, I hitchhiked, everywhere. I was often the grateful guest in someone's passenger seat, but not at home. Not at home like this—a wish fulfilled. I felt happy, with a simple sense purpose that made me freer, happier. I was getting rid of crap.
But that's not my point.
Dear Ancient Greeks, every once in a while, I love my life so much it hurts, or to be a little more precise, what hurts is the impossibility of holding onto the feeling and the fear of letting it go, but really, really what I'm talking about is the overwhelming desire to share the feeling. To share it with someone on the big front seat of a Mazda pickup on the way to the dump. I'm going to call this sensation #64. It might also be called the impulse to write.
Daniel Coshnear – firstname.lastname@example.org – lives in Guerneville, works at a group home and teaches writing, primarily through UC Berkeley Extension. He is author of Jobs & Other Preoccupations (Helicon Nine 2001) and Occupy & Other Love Stories (Kelly’s Cove Press 2012).
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