Rebecca’s Note: Mark Dursin joined the 10-Day Corona Chronicles writing challenge in April, 2020. On Day 8, the writing prompt was: “I love…” What follows is Mark’s post in answer to the prompt. After which, he thought, (and I quote…) “huh… this has some legs.” So he shined it up, added a little here, cut a little there… and sent it to the NY Daily News. They accepted the piece and published it the next day. You can find the link to the published article at the end of this post.
I love lots. I love my wife, my sons, my family. I love my friends. I love my dog Chowder. I love my students (not in a creepy way). I love watching wrestling and talking about the 80s. The problem with English, of course, is that we only have one word for all these different kinds of love. Now, the Greeks, they have many different words for love. There’s eros, which is romantic love; philia, brotherly love (think: Philadelphia); storge, family love; and agape, which is the love you are supposed to have for everyone. This is the unconditional/Golden Rule/“Love thy neighbor” kind of love– and it can be tough sometimes. How can I love someone who is homophobic or racist? How can I love someone who gunned down schoolchildren?
This whole self-quarantine thing is an act of agape. I haven’t gone anywhere in weeks. And sure, it’s partly self-preservation; I don’t want to get sick, but I’m a pretty healthy guy, so I’m reasonably confident I’d get through it if I did get sick. But it’s not just that I don’t want to get sick; I don’t want to be responsible for someone else getting sick. That’s why we’re ALL doing this; to keep safe the most vulnerable among us– the elderly or the immunocompromised. That’s an act of agape.
And agape is an act. Eros can be a chemical reaction. Philia can be the result of circumstance and inertia; your Mom got you and your friend into a playgroup when you were five, and you’ve stayed friends ever since. But agape is a conscious action. You don’t fall into it; you have to choose to look out for someone else.
The crazy thing is, this act of agape is happening despite the country being so polarized. Just think about it: just a few months ago, we were in the midst of the impeachment– pretty much the most un-agape event I can imagine. Whenever anyone appeared on television and said something contrary to what I believed, I felt my blood boil. I hated some of those people. And right on the heels of that menagerie of bile and rancor and division comes the Coronavirus Era. And now we’re being asked to show how much we care about one another. (Of course, we have to show we care about each other by staying apart, but that’s a paradox for another time.)
The truly miraculous thing is that this agape approach may actually be working. As author David Wallace-Wells said in a recent article in New York Magazine, it is “breathtaking” that so many Americans are “embracing punishing, restrictive quarantine-like isolation for the sake of the country as a whole.” Says Wallace-Wells, “This is solidarity I simply didn’t believe was possible in this country anymore and under any circumstances, and it has arrived in the space of just weeks, in the midst of national political chaos with tribal partisanship still boiling at a feverish peak.” Maybe the best news is not only that agape exists at all, but that agape is going to get us through this.
Submitted by Mark Dursin
Corona Chronicles, April 13, 2020
Mark is an English teacher at Glastonbury High School in Glastonbury, CT. The published article can be read by clicking here.