Love Redux

So last year I made a post on Valentines day that happened to be about love.

I wasn’t happy about that, as I’ve got a strong iconoclastic element in my personality. And writing about love on Valentines day is just… it just feels so fucking Hallmark.

But something happened a couple days ago, and it’s been spinning in my head ever since. When that happens, I have to tell a story about it, because that’s just how I’m wired.

So. I’m writing about love again, not because it’s Valentines day, but despite that.

I just want to make it clear this isn’t going to be a yearly thing. Okay? Okay.

*     *     *

A couple days ago, my baby boy smiled at me. A little crooked smile, a smirk.

Cutie - 8 weeks

(The onesie was a gift from a fan. Honest.)

A few days before that, I got my first smile. Today I got several. He also said, “goo” a couple times. I’m not even kidding. It’s amazingly cute.

Here’s the thing. He also smiled at the ceiling fan. He *really* likes the ceiling fan. Given the choice between the ceiling fan and me, the fan will win 3 times out of 4.

But you know what’s strange? I don’t mind. I really don’t.

I don’t mind that he smiles and coos at his mom more than me. It doesn’t make me sad that the ceiling fan takes second place, and that almost any window with a sunlight behind it is a close third.

I’m fine being fourth in line for smiles. I’m just happy to be on the list.

Standing there, holding my new baby, I had a strange sort of revelation. I was feeling a type of love that was in no way jealous.

I think this might be the purest type of love.

*     *     *

Here’s the thing, I’m not a fan of LOVE as a singular concept. It’s a ridiculously broad term that can be applied to pets, sex partners, or Oreos. When a word accretes that many definitions, it becomes virtually nonsensical.

If you’re hunting for more specific words for love, Greek is a good language to start with. They have Eros, Philos, and Agape. Those three do a pretty good job of breaking the great multifarious monolith of LOVE into slightly more manageable pieces.

I’m assuming you know about them, but just for reference:

  • Philos is friend love. Family love.
  • Eros is “I want to bone you” love.
  • Agape is… tricky. Some people call it “unconditional love.” I’ve heard it referred to as “True love” “God Love” or “That love which instils worth.”

There’s also lesser-known storge: “Kindness love.” Which is the sort of love you feel for something that’s dependent on you. Like an infant or a dog.

So. I’m standing there, looking at my sweet baby, and he’s smiling at the ceiling fan. And I realize I don’t mind. I’m just happy that he’s happy. I’m just happy that sometimes he smiles at me. I’m just happy he’s around.

This is a strange and wonderful sensation. This is, I feel, a different type of love.

Now it might seem like I’m talking about agape-style love here. Or storge. But I’m not. This is something different.

What I’m talking about here is love-without-expectation.

*     *     *

We need to stop for a moment and make a word.

If I’m going to spend some time trying to describe a largely unfamiliar concept, I need a name for it. Love-without-expectation-or-desire isn’t going to work. It’s not elegant. A newish concept needs a newish name. It needs its own space to grow. You grok?

Plus I just like making words. It’s kind of a thing that I do.

From what I gather the Hebrew concept of “חסד” is pretty close to what I’m looking for here. And it’s one of the Sephira, which gives it extra gravitas. Unfortunately, it’s not going to work because when you transliterate it, it’s spelled “chesed” and that looks too much like “cheesed” to me.

Fuck it. I know it’s not linguistically sound, but I’m going to call it Eleutheria.

*     *     *

Remember where we were? Me. My baby. Ceiling fan.


(In his defense, it’s a really nice fan.)

I simply love him, and I expect nothing in return. This is strangely, delightfully freeing. I don’t feel bad that if he pays more attention to his mom. I don’t mind that he smiles at the fan or his big brother.

I don’t mind if he falls asleep. I don’t mind if he throws up on me.

Elutheria – Love which demands nothing. The love that expects nothing.

This is an odd concept for me. Because I am a creature composed almost entirely of expectations.

This isn’t entirely a bad thing. The ability to anticipate, desire, and plan is important. It gives us control of our lives. It gives us the ability to see forward in time a little. It gives us the ability to steer our destiny a little so we can avoid wrecking our lives against the rocks.

Not always, of course, sometimes your ship is going to wreck no matter your best efforts. Shit happens. But if you’re able to anticipate the future, you can at least brace for impact. That’s better than nothing.

Without the ability to predict and therefore exert control on the future, we are helpless. Subject to the constant random battering of a largely entropic universe.

The ability to predict and anticipate isn’t bad. The desire for control isn’t bad. If you put those things together with a love for language and a vague compulsion for storytelling, you get The Name of the Wind.

If you combine these characteristics with a love of charity and a desire to make the world a better place, you get Worldbuilders.

If you combine them with a relationship… it’s not so good.

Because trying to control the people you love isn’t good.

For one thing, people don’t like it. (For the most part.) But also because controlling someone means hanging expectations on them. And if people don’t live up to your expectations, you’re disappointed. And disappointment leads to frustration and anger. This spiral continues down to the dark side of the force.

How much nicer would it be to simply love someone? If you expected nothing from your beloved, you could never be disappointed. Nothing could jeopardize that love. It would be unassailable.

This would be Elutheria, the love that expects nothing.

*     *     *

What I’m talking about here, is the diametrical opposite of selfish love.

Selfish love demands things. It demands attention. Most of all, selfish love demands love in return. Typically it usually demands ALL the love in return. It demands primacy. Exclusivity. Ownership. Control.

What I’m talking about here is what’s commonly called “Romantic Love.”

Romantic love is championed as being awesome in our culture. It’s the sort of love you’ve seen a thousand times in movies and literature. You’ve seen it the lives of your friends and family members. You’ve probably experienced some version of it yourselves.

It’s the sort of love where you where you fall for someone, and they don’t love you back, and then you kill yourself. (Actual results may vary.)

It’s the sort of love where you see you girl talking to another guy and you feel jealous.

It’s the sort of love where you see your guy looking at another girl and you feel angry.

It’s the sort of love that makes you think it’s okay to consider someone “your girl” or “your guy.” As if you owned them. As if they were under your control. As if your affection made them somehow beholden to you.

And as I stand there, smiling at my baby, (who is smiling at our ceiling fan) I am perfectly happy. And I wonder to my self, “At what point did loving someone become an excuse to be a greedy asshole?”

*     *     *

I bounced my idea off a couple people over the last week or so. Love without expectation. I explained about my baby and the ceiling fan. I talked about the chains of desire….

“Well,” someone said. “It sounds nice, but I don’t think that’s something that could exist in an adult relationship.”

Several people said this, or something very close to it. These comments came up almost compulsively, in a knee-jerk way.

I think people have this automatic response for two reasons.

First, I think they feel attacked. As if I’m telling them they’re loving wrong.

I’m not. That’s not what this is about. When I talk about how much I’d like a Tesla, it doesn’t mean I think you’re a dick for driving a Prius. I’m not trying to start a fight here. I’m looking to discuss an idea.

Second, I think people react badly because Elutheria a profoundly unfamiliar concept. We all grew up reading stories about Lancelot and Guenevere (or permutations thereof.)

The Arthurian legend is one of our mythic cornerstones. It echoes through the last 1000 years of our art and literature. Well… 800 years, if we’re talking about Lancelot. You see, he wasn’t in the original story. The French added him in the 1200’s.


(Yeah. I know that’s not Lance and Gwen. I just really love Waterhouse.)

And you know what? It’s a better story with Lancelot in it. More drama. More tension. More universal appeal.

The downside? Lancelot and Guenevere are generally held up to be the villains of the whole Arthurian schtick. They ruined Camelot. Their dirty, dirty lust wrecked the golden age.

But the truth is, if Arthur hadn’t been such a douche about the whole thing, there wouldn’t have been any problem. If Arthur had just gotten over himself and admitted that Lance was pretty hunky, it could have been cool. If he’d just wanted Gwen to be happy, he should have just stepped aside. Or at least turned a blind eye.

Either that or jumped into the sack with both of them. Because… y’know… hunky.

Imagine the glorious world we’d be living in if *that* was one of our mythic cornerstones, folks. Imagine a world where slash fiction didn’t exist because we were, all of us, constantly living the dream.

Okay, back on track here.

Generally speaking, everyone agrees that Arthur overreacted. But Lance and Gwen? They’re traitors. It’s their *fault*. Traitors deserve the lowest, darkest circle of hell.

Arthur was a little hot headed, sure. But it was justified, right? Lance and Gwen, their actions were a betrayal.

What were they betraying?


*     *     *

Those of you who have studied any Buddhism are probably nodding along by this point. Believe me, I’m very aware that the more I roll the concept of Elutheria around, the more similar it seems to the four noble truths that lead to the eightfold path.

For those of you who haven’t studied Buddhism, here it is in a nutshell:

  1. There is suffering.
  2. Suffering comes from thwarted desire.
  3. Therefore, if you eliminate desire, you eliminate suffering.
  4. Profit. Moksha.

There is an unassailable simplicity here. There’s a reason I’m fond of Buddhism.

*     *     *

I wish I had a strong closer for you, but I’m not really making an argument here. I’m not heading for a conclusion. I’m merely working out my thoughts in text. Writing things down helps me understand them better. It helps me knock the rough corners off my new ideas. (It’s my attempt at “Right Understanding,” the first step of the eightfold path.)

But is Elutheria something a person can realistically achieve?

With my baby, the answer seems to be yes.

But then things become more complicated. You see, I have responsibilities.

My older son is four. And while it would be pleasant to simply love him and let the chips fall where they may, if I were to do that, I would be failing him as a parent. I need to provide guidance and discipline. I need to control his base monkey instincts with the hope that he may eventually rise above them and become a fully-formed human being.

There’s that word again: Control. It’s my job to control him. It’s my job to have expectations.

Still, I think discarding Elutheria entirely would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There are certain expectations that are essential. I expect him to be polite. I expect him to be honest. I expect him to be mindful and kind.

Those are the requirements for being a good human being. It’s my job to guide and coach him until he gets there.

Any expectations beyond that, I should be wary of. I shouldn’t expect him to be all those things *all* the time. I shouldn’t expect him to be tidy. Or quiet when I’m trying to work.

I shouldn’t expect him to be straight, or a democrat, or a painter. I shouldn’t expect him to love books.

Oot and book

Expectation is a trap, you see. There’s nothing to be gained from it. I don’t feel *more* joy seeing him read because I hoped for it. I only leave myself open to disappointment if he doesn’t.

Similarly, my relationship with Sarah consists of more than simple love. We are engaged in the partnership. We maintain a household and the purpose of that household is to raise children that are physically and emotionally healthy.

Her cooperation in these things is essential. I expect it.

But other things? Should I expect her never ogle the pretty college boys on the track team who jog around town every spring? No. Foolishness. Should I expect her to want to organize the kitchen the way I would? To want the same color paint in the dining room? To have dinner cooked and ready for me when I come home from work?

Should I expect her to always love me best, and most, and only?

No. I think not. I think that would be selfish and self-centered.

The more of these expectations I can let go of, the happier I will be.

But it’s hard. Oh it’s hard. It goes against a lifetime full of training. It goes against my obsessive desire to control. It goes against my meticulous nature. It goes against what so many stories told me was true.

Inconclusively yours,


This entry was posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, Cutie Snoo, love, musings, naming, the longest fucking blog ever. By Pat98 Responses


  1. Posted February 15, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    Upon reflection, “The Threeway Path” would have been a much catchier title for this blog.

    • brotheroflogan
      Posted February 15, 2014 at 10:48 PM | Permalink


    • Sean
      Posted February 16, 2014 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

      It was a path of three parts….

    • Paige
      Posted July 21, 2021 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

      A few weeks ago a friend asked me if I knew the Yiddish word fargin. I did not. I haven’t read through all the comments here, so someone may have suggested it to you already, but I think it’s a word you need. As I understand it, fargin means wholehearted or ungrudging happiness on another’s behalf, which I would argue is that special kind of love you’re describing. My friend happened to ask me about fargin (if it was happenstance) the day after I’d had an interesting experience: I’d had dinner with some old friends who were living pretty much exactly the kind of life I had hoped to be living when I reached this age, and were clearly happy and thriving. I was SO happy for them. In fact, I was so happy for them I had to kind of step aside and marvel at my own happiness. Why wasn’t I envious? It was as if there was so much joy in my heart, on my friends’ behalf, there was no room left for anything as cluttering as envy. Now, I’m not really sure that’s what fargin means, but since the word came my way just as I was seeking a word to describe my feeling, that’s what it means to me, and I offer it to you.

  2. Kara J
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 2:55 PM | Permalink

    Hear, hear Pat. You have such a fantastic way of looking at things, at wording things, and of explaining your thoughts as rambling as they may seem to you. It’s very thought provoking. :) Thank you.

  3. Posted February 15, 2014 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

    Well, Elutheria (can’t help noticing a certain elusiveness in the word) is very familiar to a Greek (yeap, yours truly) since it looks and sounds most probably like “eleutheria” the word for freedom which means freedom and liberty (

    So, point.

    • Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

      Yeah. But the vast majority of my readership (on this blog at least) is English, so it’s a blank slate of a word for 98% of my people.

      Also, English has a proud tradition of stealing Greek and Latin roots for our new words. “Submarine” “Euphemism” “Epic”

      Plus, going back to Latin and Greek makes me feel all classically educated and posh. Even though I’m not. Very not.

      • Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Permalink

        Well, sure. Though now that your books ARE translated into Greek, (finally…) your readership will start growing! :-D

        Oh, and you are most certainly entitled to shout Eureka to the world for adding such an amazing word to it! I just thought it was great that it made a very good connection for me, you know, that of love being able to fly free with a smile turning its face to the sunlight! :-)

        (Hey, I resort to Latin and Greek, sometimes for no apparent reason… It is just so great to see how people’s eyes glaze over…. and yeah, I’m somewhat evil… :-D)

      • magisterwarren
        Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:55 PM | Permalink

        Don’t make too many assumptions about your readership. I’m an American born and raised, but I know Latin (teach it for a living) and know Ancient Greek, along with French. I knew that Eleutheria meant freedom, and you actually spelled it that way the first time in your post, though you dropped the ‘e’ before the ‘u’ in subsequent spellings. I’m a huge lover of languages and especially enjoy seeing how much has come into English from Latin and Greek roots.

        As a lover of language, I simply revel in your use of English. You have a knack for finding the exact right word to use in the right place. You never use a ten dollar word where a one dollar word would be more appropriate and vice versa. Whenever I read something that does a hatchet job on the beauty and power of the English language, I will read a portion of The Name of the Wind or Wise Man’s Fear to wash the bad taste out of my brain!

      • casper hileman
        Posted February 23, 2014 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

        Pat. I am a pedantic language guy. Philosophy is the Greek term for love of knowledge. Philemon is the type of love I think is more appropriate. I greatly enjoy, your insight and humility. Hopefully the baby sleeps throughout the night. Illegitimate-non carborundum Estes. Casper Hileman.

        • casper hileman
          Posted February 23, 2014 at 3:14 PM | Permalink

          Stupid auto correct. Phileo is the Greek term.

  4. Miralys
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:04 PM | Permalink

    I don’t think proper parenting (including expectations) and Elutheria are exclusive: If my daughter throws a fit because she has to put away her book for dinner (as happend a couple of days ago) I don’t love her less. My love for her is not tied to the expectations I have as a parent.
    Also I totally know the feeling you’re describing! It’s the most overwhelming feeling I’ve ever had.

    • MRK
      Posted February 15, 2014 at 4:04 PM | Permalink

      Also, as far as words go, what Pat’s calling “Elutheria,” I think of as “unconditional love.”

      (And sorry, Pat, as a Hebrew speaker familiar with sephirot, I can tell you that while חסד is definitely a huge part of parenting, it isn’t really love. More of an endless giving, which hmmmm… Doesn’t translate as love, but I see where you’re coming from.)

  5. ImaginatoEstVito
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:07 PM | Permalink

    Perhaps replace the word “control” with “management” as in self management. Then if you self manage and teach your son to self manage he will become all those things that are effective in a human and not ineffective (instead of good and bad because those words indicate an implicit judgement which hints at believing things should be a certain way and should implies an expectation). Then no expectation is ever necessary and true Elutheria is reached. :) The idea is fantastic though Pat. Sorry about the wordy reply, I have a semanticist for a dad.

    • Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

      The world would be a better place if all of us had semanticists for dads….

  6. Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:09 PM | Permalink

    This is very well put. I’d have to agree with your friends that it isn’t feasible in an adult relationship. Not because it’s wrong in any way, but because most people can’t let go of their desires and expectations. I don’t think it’s greed that makes us expect a lot of what we expect from relationships, but insecurity and a lack of self-worth. If our partners look at other people too much, or become involved with other people we wonder what we aren’t giving them. Even people in open relationships have lines that are set. I think the sadness and anger is deflected from our own sense of inadequacy toward the person we feel is responsible for those feelings.

    • Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:24 PM | Permalink

      I think you’re right about pretty much everything. But saying it isn’t feasible in tantamount to saying it can’t be done.

      Things like this are hard, yeah. But eating healthy is hard. Getting enough excessive is hard. Lots of things are hard.

      That doesn’t mean they’re not feasible.

    • pacifist
      Posted February 15, 2014 at 7:22 PM | Permalink

      there’s nothing wrong with striving for something that can’t be done, by the way.

      Unless you start expecting to achieve said something (expectations are dangerous)

  7. Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:09 PM | Permalink

    Interesting post. I agree with what Kara said, you’re ridiculously good with words. Also, the tags for this post are top notch.

  8. cageo
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Permalink

    This. I needed this today. Thank you for bringing clarity to a situation that I’ve made unnecessarily complex and messy in my head.

  9. Posted February 15, 2014 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

    Have you ever read anything by Brad Warner? His first book was Hardcore Zen but he’s written a few since. I think he’d be amused at your summary of the four noble truths. :)

  10. Posted February 15, 2014 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    Pat, what you’ve touched on is what I feel at the core of my being. It’s why I’m Polyamorous.

    When you find Elutheria in everyone you meet monogamous relationships become tricky things. I forgave my ex-wife for a lot of things that I should have ended our relationship over because I didn’t understand the nature of my heart. I mourned vast losses that no one in a healthy relationship would have, but I always forgave her and tried to make it work until she hardened my heart to her.

    My current wife and I recently went through a very difficult period. We have two sons together & we want more children (we make awesome babies together), but she’s a lesbian (mostly lesbian) so while I have “Eros” for her it isn’t returned, but we still have “Philos” for each other and something deeper, it could have been “Agape” or your newly coined “Eleutheria”.

    We both wanted the other to be happy, even if we aren’t the person they’re happy with, so we decided to migrate into an open marriage. Shortly after that I met a dear friend who was Polyamorous and she gave me a word I hadn’t heard before, compersion, the equal and opposite of jealousy. It was amazing to me how a word could shape my reality so completely. It let me realize that all of the love I have for people is compersion, or Elutheria. It explained who I was and why growing up I felt so different from everyone.

    I had always been told that you could only have one romantic love, so I was restricted by society’s norms; growing up I was told that I was too trusting, loved too quickly, cared too much about what others though, but once I opened my eyes to the compersion in my heart, I knew that I’d always been Polyamorous. I imagine that if I had the power to see the true name at the heart of myself and spoke it, this is exactly how it would feel. The realization shattered the stone I had encased my heart in and it will be one of the defining moments of my life, the moment when I found the person who I once was had been sleeping inside of me waiting to be named.

    Elutheria is a beautiful word, for a beautiful idea and I believe that you can hold that kind of love inside of your heart while still holding expectations. I think the storyteller is the most frequent recipient of Elutheria. We love you for the worlds you create and the stories we experience in them, even when our expectations are dashed onto the rocks and you leave us in tears.

    Yes, Pat, I think that adults can have this love in their relationships. I talk with thousands of people every day who agree. It isn’t mainstream and it isn’t always easy, but it’s about open honest communication, setting expectations, and Elutheria.

  11. Lady Gwen
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 4:27 PM | Permalink

    I recently lost my grandmother, she simply bowed out, in the best way you could hope for after she knew everyone she had spent good loving times with everyone over Christmas.

    I believe our love was based in elutheria. Everything she did inspired me and I wanted nothing but to continuously show her how much she was loved. I suppose she wasn’t perfect, near the end people had said she was cranky and stubborn but I couldn’t see any of it. All I saw was a person who was so incredible to me that everything she did was just a facet of her unique, strong personality. We shared a love that expected nothing. She expected nothing of me and I gave her that in return. I suppose some would see that as not caring, but it was so much greater than that. It is a kind of love that I don’t share with anyone else. No expectations. Just total love. Utter joy every time we met, nothing else in our lives could get in the way of that. We couldn’t disappoint each other. It really was so nice and wonderful.

    This is a kind of love I will treasure for the rest of my life. And when I play with my nephew I want to give him that same kind of love. I want him to know that he can fail, and make mistakes and it doesn’t matter. My love for him is eternal, he doesn’t have to even love back. I will always be there.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  12. Camelica
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 4:43 PM | Permalink

    Not to say that you are wrong or try to put my words on your feelings. But to me, who moves around in christian circles and have a deep faith in God – agape is the unconditional love from God to us. What you call elutheria. And I do believe we can have that kind of love too. I’ve felt it and what you described was just that. To me that feeling has always been agape. To you it might be elutheria. Either way, no matter what we call it. Don’t lose it, don’t forget it. Too receive that gift, that love, from a person is beyond measure. Keep on loving, Pat. You are a beautiful person!

  13. Alessa
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 4:44 PM | Permalink

    You, Mr. Rothfuss, are pretty darn amazing. :)
    For one, I’m really glad I’m not the only one thinking that Guinivere should have convinced Arthur and Lancelot to try that threesome thing. (I think one of the first movies about the Camelot saga that I saw was “The First Knight”, and nobody can deny that both Sean Connery and Richard Gere were pretty hunky in that one…)
    For another, I’ve always headed that kind of love that you describe with AGAPE, but you come up with the nicest words, I really like Elutheria. And I agree with thekingofcats. Adult people can have this kind of love in their relationships. I do. I strive for it in friendships, too. That’s not to say that I don’t also go for PHILOS. And EROS, on occasion. ;) I guess most love is made up of lots of other component feelings. Friendship. Liking. Happiness about being together. Caring. Attraction. Being interested. Having the hots. And Elutheria. :)

  14. Posted February 15, 2014 at 4:57 PM | Permalink

    I feel compelled to mention that in The Mists of Avalon, Arthur does try to get into the sack with Lancelet and Gwenhwyfar…in fact, he’s the one who urges them to get together in the first place. If you haven’t read it, I’d hate to give away one of the biggest plot points regarding the love triangle going on there…but it’s a very different interpretation of the familiar story.

    I’ve always preferred Marion Zimmer Bradley’s version over the original legends anyway. :)

    • Oatmeal
      Posted February 15, 2014 at 5:21 PM | Permalink

      I second this recommendation as I adore Mists of Avalon, and all of hte other books in the series. It’s my favorite interpretation of the Arthurian legends.

      • Posted February 15, 2014 at 11:00 PM | Permalink

        I’ve read it. But it’s been a while, I was in the 6th grade….

        • Posted February 16, 2014 at 1:15 AM | Permalink

          I read it when I was young too, then revisited the book when I was older. A lot of the more subtle themes of sexuality and subtext were over my head the first time, but became much more pronounced when I had more life experience.

          Maybe it’s worth a re-read. I should add it back to my TBR pile as well…

  15. Sandhya
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 5:49 PM | Permalink

    Ah! You have hit the nail on the head. You are describing that “thing” that yoga’s have been striving for centuries. What if all god is, is an ocean of unconditional love and what if all we are trying to do is return to that ocean.
    I am so very tickled that you have felt this love. It is so hard to stay in that space. How many times have I wanted to climb up the mountain and go find a cave. And, I think, the ultimate is when you feel if for yourself.

  16. Posted February 15, 2014 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

    Thank you for this, Pat. I should probably reread this before commenting, but I need to leave to go pick up my dog from the pet hospital. She’s in the pet hospital because I let her have some of the trub at the bottom of my brewing tank after I bottled this ale I just brewed. Turns out spent hops are incredibly toxic to dogs though they’re harmless to humans. Like malignant hyperthermia toxic. Like 2 degree increase in temperature every 5 minutes until she dies of preeclampsia-like seizures and muscle spasms toxic. So yeah, I took her because it was my dumbass fault and I really didn’t have any expectation back from her. Glad you mentioned storge because I never really expected to feel so much for a pet. I used to hate pets, oh the irony of life. Anyways, she’s fine and ready to be picked up.

    So back to my unsorted thoughts:

    1. You seem to know an abnormal amount of Greek and Hebrew for the average fantasy author. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on using this for some lame analysis like I did a few years back, but as someone who has studied these languages for years, I wonder if this knowledge comes from one of your dabblings or from the actual overflow of a deep well as a linguist/philologist ? You are a huge fan of Tolkien and Lewis after all…

    2. I would push back a teensy bit and say that although αγάπη doesn’t capture the full essence of חסד, there are many, many times where it’s directly translated that way *by Jews,* which makes the case for proper usage in terms of meaning. I’m not just talking the kind of Jews you’re probably thinking of, but also ancient writers like Philo and Josephus. So there’s probably an argument there for that, but you’re right, we need more words in English and this is why we need good poets: the creation of language.

    3. There are some philosophical systems as simple as Buddhism that would argue desire can be fulfilled through suffering for another without expecting back and therefore suffering self-destructs like Shelob who eventually kills herself from eating too much light or Sauron whose power of binding within the ring basically implodes once the hobbits reach Mordor. In other words, suffering can be a weapon to defeat suffering if self-centered desire is suspended for a higher desire — like personal profit suspended for a no-expectation love for an infant child or anxiety over a fundraiser endured for the sake of poor Somali children who cannot give back or even with higher examples. It’s not enough to eliminate desire, but it would be enough to transform desire into a suffering whose sting has been neutered for the sake of a greater desire: that of vibrant life that’s endless and yanked beyond the threat of death. Or, as Gaiman said in this year’s Worldbuilders, the desire to “save the world.” But literally. And permanently. Of course for this to work, you would have to have a logical and grounded basis for belief in the supernatural. “Magic,” as many of us call it. But then again, if you believe in the existence of reason, that’s actually not a big leap at all, even if you’ve never seen “magic” with your own eyes. But you probably already know that Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton all wrote about these things. And I’m assuming you’ve read those books, particularly “Miracles” by Lewis and “The Everlasting Man” by Chesterton…

    4. The reference to Lancelot called up more than just my namesake, but called up verses from an old Tennyson poem…

    5. An easier way to say all of that would be by quoting a teacher who lived around the time of Buddha: “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even hateful people love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even hateful people do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even hypocrites lend to hypocrites, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”

    6. Thanks. For this post and for bringing a depth to blogging that few authors bring. Your blog is the most approachable metaphysics (in the old usage) blog out there as well as the most unorthodox family/life blog out there. That’s a great thing for someone like me. When you throw in the books you’ve written, well then…. double thanks and *hug*

    7. Off to get my now-detoxed puppy. I will now know how to suspend my desire for ale when my puppy’s around because her life is more important than my beer. Oh the hard life lessons a brewer learns…

  17. Karaminxe
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 6:56 PM | Permalink

    Pat, what book is Oot reading? Just curious.

  18. SporkTastic
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 6:59 PM | Permalink

    Quick note:
    (Pointed this out in the other place, but that might not be the place for the pointing-out of such things.)
    I think this sentence is missing a verb:
    “This would Elutheria, the love that expects nothing.”
    Probably some form of “to be”, which is irregular in every language.

  19. pacifist
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 7:32 PM | Permalink

    Every time I type in, or use the link on top of the site, I get a blank screen and the message “No site configured at this address ”

    Am I alone in this?

    About the blog, I feel the urge to say two things, that are completely unrelated. I’ll probably wish I hadn’t said either when I wake up again in the morning, but that’ll be tomorrow’s problem I guess…

    1) Challenge accepted!

    2) Stop wasting time on writing book 3, and finish your next blog already!(imagine this written in caps lock, with an undisclosed number of exclamation marks at the end)

    that one is another example of how setting expectations can lead people down to the dark side of the force.

  20. mgshredder
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 8:04 PM | Permalink

    In the end I think most love starts out as eros or philos and, if it survives at all, morphs into something close to what you’re describing. Except for the love of your child, in my experience, and apparently in yours too. When you say “best, most and only”, I’m assuming your carving out an exception for the love of your children. I know my wife loves me because she tells me and shows me all the time, as I do for her. I also know she’d throw me under a bus if she had to in order to save our son. And I’m ok with that, because I, like you I suspect, would give up just about anything I can think of for my boy.

    I’m not saying this works for everybody, but if you start out with eros, and the philos follows soon after, don’t most of us become different (and often better) people than we were before? Don’t most of us amend our behavior to accommodate the other not because we feel the weight of the expectation that comes along with their love, but because we want those we love to be happy? To feel our love in return? Today I trudged out into 3ft of snow to fill my wife’s bird feeders, for instance. And then I went grocery shopping. I did all that when there was a hockey game on I wanted to watch instead, but I did it because the birds make my wife happy and they don’t come around if we don’t give them a reason to, and because my wife was sick and needed things from the store to help make her better. Neither of those things are particularly profound acts, but my wife embraced me when I came back into the house, and the warmth of her hand on my neck delivered more of a message than the words she spoke when she said “thanks hon”.

    Those are small things, and both she and I have done more profound things for each other not out of expectation, but out of a desire to help and support one another. Isn’t that Elutheria? And if so, is my choice for my wife to be my “only” Elutheria too? And if she makes the same choice, is that the product of my expectation, or her expectation free love? We’re fairly boring, traditional folk. We met in high school, married in our early 20’s, and have been together for a couple of decades now. I made promises to her when I wasn’t much more than a kid, and she made the same ones to me. I don’t expect my wife not to be attracted to other people, but I can’t pretend I wouldn’t be hurt if my wife’s choice changed and she acted on that attraction. I can’t pretend I wouldn’t be jealous. But doesn’t the sort of love you’re talking about involve willing, loving sacrifice too? And if you make those sacrifices, is that the sort of love you’re talking about even if jealousy is possible?

    I don’t know. I’m pretty sure all of this is over my head anyway, although I know the feeling you’re talking about when I look at my own child. A child, by the way, who also loved ceiling fans. His second word was fan (after Mama), and his earliest phrase that I can recall was “Fan on?”, a request he made every time he saw a fan that wasn’t spinning, because why the hell would anyone have a fan and then not turn it on. My heart breaks a little every time I think of how long it’s been since I’ve heard “Fan on?”

    Thanks for the thoughtful.

  21. Gorewolf
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 8:59 PM | Permalink

    Elutheria – I like it! Best word to describe how I generally feel in relationships. The only problem I’ve found with this in adult relationships is that the other person tends to have the expectation that you will have expectations. For some reason, just being happy to be with that person expectation free leads to them thinking that you don’t care at all. Maybe it’s just me and I’m shitty at expressing emotion, but its what I’ve found.

    On a similar note, as a junior primary teacher I teach children how to read and write and English is a bloody stupid language. Words that sound the same but are spelt 3 different ways. One word spelt the same way that can mean 5 different things depending on when and how it is used is very confusing for a five year old.

    I’ve had this conversation fairly often with colleagues and friends and found that German tends to be a good language to find words that express complex difference between emotions (my favourite is Schadenfreude, the feeling of joy you get from the misfortune of others). Where German fails however, we’ve taken to creating our own words. Most recently a feeling I tend to inspire in my best mate fairly often. Disgustride – an emotion experienced in reaction to a situation or action that causes both disgust and pride.

    • Niccolo
      Posted February 16, 2014 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

      You aren’t shitty in expressing emotions or else I’m too, because I’ve had similar problems. I’m pretty much happy as long as my partner ist happy but they kept asking if their behaviour was alright. And after getting asked quite frequently I start thinking about what I might expect…

      As a German I have to disagree about German to be a good language to find words that express complex difference between emotions. I have to use German to express my emotions and I’m regularly at a loss for words. Of course there might be some emotions other people/languages just didn’t think of creating a word for, but English has words I miss in my own language, too. And quite a lot of them.

  22. ocac
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 9:15 PM | Permalink

    Stimulating. Thoughtful.

    A query: You seem to couch your relationship with Cutie Snoo as having acceptable expectations and those best avoided. I think the one’s you can expectations aren’t really.

    With some confidence, you can say that Cutie Snoo will want to have had a life of appropriate nurture – probably long before that can be articulated. Sure, that could be phrased as an expectation of an expectation; but I think to do so would be giving up empiricism and the responsibility it brings (and I say that as a philosopher, or “lover of muddying the waters”). You’re meeting a responsibility to a whole set of possible Future Snoos. I think that helps articulate eleutheria here too: It’s not for you, it’s not about you.

    Your examples like democrat or avid reader…I think they are beguiling risks of expectation of your own preferential satisfaction that you’re doing a really good job apprehending.

    The tie to Buddhism (and the jest of the fourth fold) is incisive.

    All very enlightening, but I still I am no more certain of what love is. Parental love, friendly love and even familial sufferance. I get these well. That other thing though…

    • ocac
      Posted February 15, 2014 at 9:18 PM | Permalink


      All-nightering. Probably other faults, but that I had the pain of noticing.

  23. jayh
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 9:29 PM | Permalink

    I liked the way Guy Gavriel Kay handled the Arthurian menage a trois at the end of the Fionovar Tapestry.

  24. brotheroflogan
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 10:55 PM | Permalink

    I can promise you that as time goes on the temptation to control the little guy will be strong.

    But that good memory of his smile will last, especially since you shared it with others.

    I know that romantic love can exist with love you speak about. I’ve had both kinds of relationships and thank God I am married to the one I felt both kinds of love towards.

    I think that Arthur is not wrong to at least feel betrayed by Gwen. Marriage, especially for a dynasty, is very important. The fact that Gwen’s son might be Lancelot’s has a lot of import for Arthur and the kingdom. I would ask, Mr. Rothfuss, how would you feel if a scientist came and showed you evidence that your son would do better in a different family and then took him away? I have the feeling that you’d “overreact.” And more power to you.

    It is hard not to feel a sense of rejection when the one who is supposed to love you loves another. There are very few, even Buddhists, who can stare that down without flinching.

    • Posted February 17, 2014 at 4:01 AM | Permalink

      “when one who is supposed to love you loves another.”

      Woah. Someone out there is *supposed* to love me?

      I know in the past there are people I’ve *wanted* to love me. And when they didn’t, yeah, it was hard. It sucked.

      But just because I want them to love me, doesn’t mean they’re supposed to.

      Absolutely not. That’s the very definition of entitlement.

      • jimmyb
        Posted February 18, 2014 at 5:33 AM | Permalink

        Pat, I could be wrong but I read this a little differently, there are two definitions of suppose (pasted below for reference) and i took it to mean the first which would make the statement read more like

        “when one who you thought or assumed loved you (without proof or certain knowledge) turns out to love another”

        rather than the second definition which it sounds like is the way you read it.

        think or assume that something is true or probable but lack proof or certain knowledge.

        be required to do something because of the position one is in or an agreement one has made.

  25. emgray
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 11:18 PM | Permalink

    Besides this blog, loved the Waterhouse pic! He is one of my favorites too!

  26. christie
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 11:34 PM | Permalink

    Ok…I haven’t finished reading the blog yet because wow…

    I think the word for the unconditional type of love is “parent”.

    Simple but true. No greater love exists. You never know how much it is possible to love someone until you are a parent.

    And now to read the rest of the blog.

  27. ChaosAthena
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 12:53 AM | Permalink

    This blog, as usual, is oddly in tune with what’s going on with me today. You see, today I had the opportunity to be a part of a documentary speaking out against one of the most violent and controlling forms of “love”–female genital mutilation.

    I was able to use my voice to tell the story of Miriam, a young woman who was forced through FGM by her parents at the age of 11 “for her own good” so that her future husband would be ensured a virgin wife, and so her family would be able to hold their heads up in their community. Selfish reasons. Basically, all of the sex are belong to him, a man to whom she was already engaged at age 11 and had never met.

    Reading her story and getting ready for this ducumentary by researching female and male circumcision, I couldn’t help remembering a blog you wrote some time ago about your decision not to circumcise Oot, how you basically said fuck that noise when you saw the little board to which they strap the babies.

    It stymied me how these parents did not make the same decision. How this could happen to a girl in New York across the bay from Captain America’s hometown for fuck’s sake (sorry about all the f-bombs). How she could reopened, married, and raped by her husband on the same day at age 16 with her whole family standing outside the room. How he wouldn’t stop because “they would say he was not a man.”

    So, you were on my mind not just for your blog but because I was surprisingly surrounded by the Geekiest of fellows at the production in Atlanta today. I should not have been surprised; Geeks are the best sort of people.

    So, when I say you are among the Geekiest of people, I trust you understand what I mean.


    P.S. As a Buddhist, I appreciate this post. =)

  28. AtheistPreacher
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 1:15 AM | Permalink

    Lovely post. I think bringing in Buddhism is important. It’s kind of a cliche for westerners to be fascinated with eastern religion, but I’ve never let that bother me, and I think you hit the nail on the head in terms of why a lot of Americans find it speaks to them. Our consumer culture is all about acquiring more and more stuff. Then Buddhism comes along and says that such an attitude is exactly the wrong way to go about life. Of course, Christianity has elements of this (“easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God,” etc.), but it just ain’t a central tenet. For Buddhism it is. And for Americans in particular, I think it’s a good counterbalance to the culture we live in.

  29. SporkTastic
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 1:40 AM | Permalink

    I do believe, sir, that you could host some truly great philosophical debates. You could, perhaps, become one of society’s great gadflies – prodding us to wisdom.

  30. ModreztheWeird
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 8:08 AM | Permalink

    Thank You.

  31. charlie
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 8:54 AM | Permalink

    Dear Pat,
    thank you. Just for writing things like this. Or writing at all.

    my thoughts to this particular subject… it can’t be done. It’s just can’t. Because, we are human. And humans are jealous and egoistic… and this doesn’t mean that we are bad. It’s just how we are. And that’s why it’s so beautiful when we do something entirely not selfish and loving…
    I think just the idea of it… just the fact that someone would like to be like this is beautiful. And in some way… maybe sometimes it makes you reflect on your actions and try with all your strength to be like this ideal. And that’s human too.
    (p.s.: sorry for my bad spelling. You have readers all over the world:)

  32. Enurunner
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Permalink

    Yesterday I watched a documentary about a couple that had a very open relationship, where they were free to fall in love and start new relationships with other people if they wanted. There was a bit of jealousy from a few of those involved, but it wasn’t a complete disaster and it was a good watch and very thought provoking. Then I went online and found your blog about, basically, the same thing (I recently discovered The Name of the Wind and finished it just last week).

    As I see it, they were searching for Eleutheria, a love without expectation, trying to break the yoke of society’s expectations. One of the involved compared it to the love between good friends. You don’t get mad at a good friend if she meets and spends time with another friend, you feel happy. You don’t saddle them with heavy expectations and schackle them with rules to abide by. You expect them to be good friends. Now, there’s a lot more to it than that, of course, but it’s a concept you can work from.

    I discussed this with my wife, and while I found I had no trouble thinking about this in an abstract way, I also found that I would have some serious issues if she were to find another “friend”. :)
    Society plays a huge role in how we view romantic relationships. We are expected to get jealous if a partner “cheats” on us. It’s difficult to say how we would feel if we had not been subjected to these views, like it is difficult to know if a knitted hat looks good on you if you are without a mirror. That’s why it’s important to have a mirror, or someone like you. Someone to reflect our preconceptions. Maybe that hat doesn’t go that well with this sweater…Ah, sorry for rambling. Exciting topic. :)

    One of the people involved in the open relationship:
    And a few TED talks, cause you can never get enough of those. ;)

  33. BooksinHD
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

    In other words:

    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

  34. Posted February 16, 2014 at 1:30 PM | Permalink

    Your writing is so good that even your blog posts make me cry. Like, a lot of the time.

    What a mastery over sentences.

    I’m glad you exist.

  35. frostycricket
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 3:01 PM | Permalink

    Elutheria reminds me of a definition of Agape I read once. Agape is love that desires the good of the beloved.

    Elutheria sounds better.

  36. Posted February 16, 2014 at 5:11 PM | Permalink

    Thank you so much for sharing this. You were able to put words to some things that have been swimming around in my head for a while. As I am exiting yet another failed relationship (We broke up at 12:08 am on Valentine’s day – coincidentally), I am coming to realize some things about myself.

    I, too, bought into the romantic love model – The Arthurian Legend is my story of stories, after all. It hatched in me a love for fantasy and for that, I will love it always. However, much like Hollywood love stories, I think it just puts all the wrong ideas in our heads of what love is.

    To me, Arthur never would have taken actions against Gwen and Lance. It doesn’t mesh with his character for me. It’s not who he is at all He loves them both – I don’t think he would have made them betray him. It just doesn’t ring true – it isn’t something that makes sense when you put it together with every other thing he stories say about Arthur.

    On a more personal note – as much as I have hungered for romantic love my whole life, I have come to understand that perhaps the whole monogamous mating for life thing just isn’t going to work for me. That perhaps the soul mate concept was sold to me, bit by bit by the expectations of society and the stories of Hollywood and even most of the fantasy stories I have read.

    Polyamorous? perhaps I am. But that means I still have to let go of that selfishness within myself that is not a part of love.

    Thank you again – for writing this. The timing could not have been more perfect.

  37. UrsulaK
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

    This is the second year in a row you’ve written about love, and my life, it seems.

    A habit you should continue. Your words are a comfort.

    Cheers to you and your family.

  38. katie
    Posted February 17, 2014 at 1:57 AM | Permalink

    My reply to your post is going to be rather simple in nature because it is 2:50am and my brain can’t quite compute everything that was said. But why am I groggily reading blogs at 2:50am? Because I’ve got a ceiling fam loving 10 week old boy who’s awake. His very first wonderfully delightful smiles were at his friend the fan (I was so fortunate to be taking pictures and captured it…was I less then thrilled when I realized he wasn’t smiling at his mom? Not a bit, it just endeared him to be even more). My husband and I have theorized that babies smile as one of their first social cues as a reward to their sleep deprived parents. You will forget all the stink, goo, tears, shouts, screams and smells when you get a smile. Pretty ingenious of them.

    Also we think there needs to be children’s book about a ceiling fan.

    • Posted February 17, 2014 at 4:23 AM | Permalink

      I keep wanting to make some sort of joke about “being a fan” or “fanservice” or “Fandom”

      But I’m not going to. Because I’m better than that.

      • katie
        Posted February 17, 2014 at 8:41 AM | Permalink

        Better than that? Or massively sleep deprived and can’t make the joke work?

        • Posted February 17, 2014 at 11:05 AM | Permalink

          Can I be both? I’m picking both.

          • katie
            Posted February 17, 2014 at 9:13 PM | Permalink

            Well…ok…but only because I just read the grammar and spelling of my sleep deprived post. So much shame.

  39. Jsherry
    Posted February 17, 2014 at 11:17 AM | Permalink

    Pat, if it’s any consolation, I have referred back to last year’s post on numerous occasions, as I think you hit on at least one idea that many of us have experiences but haven’t articulated as simply: “It is a terrible thing to be unloved. But in many ways it is worse to be loved and feel unloved.”

    And, while I’m not typically someone who peruses the “self-help” aisle, someone else pointed me to a book by Gary Chapman that builds upon the concept that we might each give and receive love in different ways:

    Reading the synopsis of Chapman’s book reminded also reminded me of you having said, in that same post, “For me, love is doing. Love is service. Love is caring for someone and tending to their well being.”

    • Jsherry
      Posted February 17, 2014 at 9:07 PM | Permalink

      *have experienced

  40. Posted February 17, 2014 at 12:26 PM | Permalink

    It is definitely best to minimize expectations. I’m not going to pretend I don’t have some, but communicating them clearly and honestly is important. I generally think that’s the tie that makes “adult” relationships work. Not everyone has the same expectations, but since adult relationships are kind of give and take, I think it’s rough, to make them 100% non-selfish in some situations.
    There is nothing wrong with, in my opinion, having expectations for your life. As you state, your personal expectations drive you to work harder, to achieve more, this is generally the human condition.
    Some expectations are petty though, and those are what you should remove. I love going to the movies, my partner hates it. If it’s my birthday, he’ll probably go because he cares about me, but for me to expect that is selfish and not the kind of love I support. I’ve learned I enjoy the movies just as much going alone, because it is my personal prerogative to enjoy going to the movies and it’s really not that important overall for anyone specific to be sitting next to me.
    You have to narrow down what is REALLY important to you, what you simply cannot abide and what you simply must have to be happy in the narrowest and most specific of terms. Then make that clear from a relationship standpoint right at the getgo so the other person can say, Yes I can do this, or No, not for me. That’s an acceptable form of selfish from my viewpoint, because being happy is basically the point of being alive in my opinion.
    I don’t think it’s the having expectations part that is bad, I think it’s the forcing them on people who have different expectations and then expecting them to accept it happily that is bad. If someone cannot meet your most specific and base needs, it’s just stupid to force a relationship with them. Relationships are not something you should have to force.
    That’s why you should make your expectations clear, so you can find someone with mostly similar expectations for their own life and make it mesh.
    I generally think the problem is most people don’t spend enough time figuring out what they want and don’t want specifically, and how by their own initiative they can make that work. Piling expectations on another person is, in my opinion, how most people subvert self reflection of their own failure to meet their own personal expectations.

    okay…i’m just rambling…I’m leaving now.

  41. sophiona2
    Posted February 17, 2014 at 2:08 PM | Permalink

    Hmm. Having read your blog and mulled it over for a bit, I have to say that while I appreciate the sentiment (who among us couldn’t benefit from some serious reflection on our expectations of ourselves and others?), I find that I must substantially disagree with the premise that expectations are the root of relationship unhappiness.

    I know the feeling you mean, I think, when you talk about loving someone wholly, without reservation and without wanting anything from them. And it’s wonderful- it’s heart-singing and soul-nourishing. And I can also understand wanting to feel this way more often, maybe always. But I have to say, when we’re talking about anyone but an infant or a wild animal, that kind of love isn’t enough. Or rather it is- elutheria/agape/pure love is always the goal- but it’s only possible to have it where there is TRUST and trust is harder to achieve than control.

    It’s weird if you think about it, because there is no one in your life that you will ever have more control over and less trust in than your newborn infant. You feed him, dress him, clean him, pick him up and when you put him down behind the bars of his crib, you likely turn on a monitor because you can’t even trust him to keep breathing. It’s easy to love him purely, because it’s so difficult for him to break your trust- he’s just so helpless that you don’t have any. You don’t need to trust him, because you control him, and that control makes you feel safe enough to love with your whole, joyful, heart.

    So far, I think we’re on the same page. It would be awesome to feel this whole, pure, accepting love for older kids and grown-ups, too, but it’s harder to get to that place. Here’s where I think we differ, though. I don’t think that the answer is to try not to have expectations. That’s neither healthy nor reasonable. Reduce the number of petty, selfish, unrealistic expectations, sure. But the love that one has for a partner or a friend or even a child can’t ever be free of expectations, because expectations are the foundation of trust.

    Think of it this way. I can love a tiger. I can appreciate him for who he is- his strength, his grace, his beauty, his ferocity. I can watch him hunting deer and relish his freedom and happiness. I can even understand that the tiger doesn’t love me back. I can accept that he’d likely kill and eat me and love him anyways. I can love a tiger, but I couldn’t live with one. A tiger has too much power to hurt and kill and destroy- and since he can’t be trusted, the only way to live with one would be to keep him in a cage.

    In some ways, my partner is like a tiger. He is powerful, clever, and free. Like all free things, he is potentially dangerous. When it comes right down to it, I can’t MAKE my partner do almost anything. I have almost no actual control over him. But I CAN have a life with him, because unlike the tiger, he can be trusted.

    Building a life together requires trust. And trust requires expectations. Not just one or two, either. Many. I trust my partner to be kind, to be honest. I trust him not to gamble away our savings or set fire to the house. I trust him to keep his word and tell me the truth when I ask for it. I trust him to try hard and to do his best. I trust him to respect my feelings and honor my wishes. I trust him not to rob liquor stores. I trust him not to beat me. These things, and a thousand more, I expect of him. I try to be realistic about my expectations. I try not to focus on trivial things, and I don’t expect perfection.

    But I don’t think that I need to give up my expectations in order to love my partner, either. Patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion are all wonderful values; beautiful goals to strive for. That pure, delighted, heart-swelling feeling of pure, accepting love is a thing to strive for always. But it doesn’t only happen when we surrender our expectations- it happens also when we are able to trust. Trust is what makes it possible to love a dangerous creature.

    I’m not going to lie. Trust is hard. Especially for those of us inclined to be controlling. It might seem easier to just relinquish our expectations. But that, frankly, is neither healthy nor entirely possible. Different people are going to define their expectations in different ways, and yes, many of us would benefit from loosening up a little, but we all have them. We have to. If we came home and found our partners torturing the dog or molesting the neighbor kid we have to be able to say ‘No. I will not accept this.’ We have to be able to say that even if the situation is less extreme. Even if it’s about having sex with someone else, or ruining our finances, or being unkind. Adult relationships require trust, and trust requires expectations.

    • Daate
      Posted February 18, 2014 at 2:30 AM | Permalink

      Beautifully put.

    • Elle
      Posted February 24, 2014 at 4:16 PM | Permalink

      Yes! Wanted to do a reply along these lines, but my sleep-deprived brain works slow (I have my own Cutie-Snoo) and you have expressed it so well I don’t need to! :)

  42. Posted February 17, 2014 at 2:12 PM | Permalink

    Dear Pat, what a beautiful contemplation. Sincerity is such a moving, rare, and beautiful thing, it’s always a joy to experience it in another as it helps one find it within one’s self as well. A sympathetic resonance can be established between one living in a true way and another who sees and recognizes it as such — that is a true (loving/elutheric(?)) blessing. That, to me, is love. Not necessarily in a personal sense (because you and I are not really face-to-face here), but love as an attribute of being and consciousness that resounds with a pleasing melody and harmony, rather than as a moral or ethical principle, which would be mechanical, dry, and not particularly pleasing.

    Personally, I experience love as an energy, a peaceful inner calm and certitude, a whole and unconditional participation in a greater reality that teems with joyfulness and consciousness. I believe that active love comes from that or else it is conditional and, as you describe, controlling. Personal love need not be conditional. In fact, your lovely term, Elutheria, to me, would be something that comes from that conscious energy I’m trying to describe. It would be a natural expression of pure beingness. Loving wholly another comes, perhaps, from being wholly one’s self, beyond all conditions. In the case of your son, such love would necessitate a desire to guide in an unattached but dedicated way any individual whom you might wish to have the experience of a fuller life, having experienced for yourself the joy of this inner love of beingness and having witnessed its value and power to transform and make whole and complete (and of course, such love/elutheria would necessitate allowing another to have the experiences that they must have to grow, however one might desire to cushion the blows that, sometimes, have to come). So, guiding another need not be a moral or rules-laden act. It may be a natural outpouring from the inner condition you call Elutheria. A quality of one’s own soul, if you will, or beingness. Realizing the quality of one’s own nature, I feel, truly means that love becomes one’s nature, one’s natural flow, if you will. Elutheria, in short, is a natural expression of the TRUE condition of who one is in soul, in being, and something that can be consciously known while not verbally or conceptually quantified (or commidified).

    What a beautiful contemplation you have shared. I truly enjoyed reading it.


  43. Jabe12
    Posted February 17, 2014 at 2:30 PM | Permalink

    I have my problems with this blog post and I’m not sure why. Do you know the feeling, when you know there must be a logical error, but you can’t pinpoint it? I need a word for that. Maybe ‘confused’ will do.
    Me, personally, I can’t divide loving from caring. If I love somebody, I care about his / her wellfare. If I pledge myself to someone – be it privately in my own heart or before god or any which way – and receive a promise in return – then it’s not only about love, it’s about honor and steadfastness and PROMISING. If I break a promise, I break a bond. Gwen and Lance both broke promises. Gwen discarded the things she promised in her marriage vows, Lancelot broke trust. Maybe Arthur broke things too – but love doesn’t seem to be the underlying principle. Or is it? Did they simply stop caring about each other? Were they influenced by societies expectations, acquired behavioral patterns? Is elutheria love without the intrusion of social, moral or worldly principles? Then it must be unattainable.

  44. rotivator
    Posted February 17, 2014 at 4:09 PM | Permalink

    Here I sit agape, it’s all Greek to me.

  45. Mariana
    Posted February 17, 2014 at 7:58 PM | Permalink

    Dear Pat, as I can tell as a daughter and sister is that I love my family. The thing is that I realized that in a certain age I accepted the control of myself, and my parents could not do anything about it. They raised me to be honest, kind, responsible, all to become a good human being, but the “final choice” is in my hands, thats the freedom that all people have, mmm, well, maybe the most of them. I can decide between the good or bad path. Regrettably not all humans have the same idea of love, so in my opinion, to share your thoughts and write about your sons the way you do is the biggest show of affection, and I love that, I really do.
    I hope your sons never forget the things that you do for them, because as a human, we sometimes forget those things that we live for, so If someday you need to refresh those memories you just need to read your blog and be happy :)
    I wish you the best of the best.

  46. JWOO
    Posted February 17, 2014 at 9:09 PM | Permalink

    Okay, I admit it. I’m a little jaded on the concept of unconditional love. Not that it does not exist, because it does. I have three children ages 2, 5 and 7 and believe me I know what it’s like to just look at them and feel a swelling of something that is really too big of a sensation for just one word. But let’s just go with what we got: Love, Agape, unconditional, forever and ever world without end ect, ect, ect.

    That’s the love that (mostly) sane human parents have for their children. I know that they will grow up and do things that disappoint and hurt me. It will happen, but they will always have my love. I hope they feel the same way about me when they–many, many years from now–lay me in the ground.

    Now let’s talk love between adults.

    I love my wife. Let me count the ways. (This is where I make a list of all the things I do that shows how much I love my wife.) It’s a big list…really. It should be too because love is action as much as feeling. I know that rubs some people the wrong way, but for me it’s true.

    I do expect things from my wife. I can assure you she expects things from me too. Do I care if she looks at other men? Nnnn…okay a little but that’s small potatoes and the level of caring(in this and similar cases) is small– almost nonexistent. Almost.

    My wife expects me to be faithful, to help her raise our children in a loving home, to be kind…and to watch at least one chick-flick a month.

    The thing is I want those expectations from her. Why you might ask? Because it makes me *feel* the love. If she expected nothing from me I’d feel diminished, less somehow. I know that, even though I’ve never been there, never done that, hope to never be there. I feel pretty confident that I’m good in that regard.

    I promised to love her for life; she did the same for me. I know how uncool I am. That’s okay, I pretty much proved that when I started typing on my favorite fantasy author’s blog on (or near) Valentine’s Day. It’s all good though, and I understand people can experience love in different ways and maybe that’s the problem in trying to quantify it. It’s a slippery thing to try and grasp. For me, love with expectations is okay. It’s how me and my wife roll. I don’t see that changing.

    On a side note. I dated this girl in college for a while. Nice person, pretty smart, rich (just saying). We where talking about our parents and she said. “My Mom loves my Dad but she is not *in-love* with him anymore.” She said it like it was the expectation of all married couples or life partners.

    I looked right at her and said, “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.”

    And it was.

    That was our last date.

    Enjoyed your post Pat. First time poster, long time reader.

  47. Posted February 18, 2014 at 1:18 AM | Permalink

    Trust Pat to say it best. I really wish there were more words and variations for love/like in every day use.

  48. Daate
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 2:27 AM | Permalink

    I have some thoughts/questions about this post too. I definitely appreciate the thought and agree with much of what you’re saying. But I couldn’t pinpoint at first why it concerned me a little, but I think the answer is maybe as simple as this: there are many, many, many traumatized people who translate the “love without expectation” or “unconditional love” into “I must allow people to walk all over me, because it is selfish and unenlightened for me to expect people to treat me a certain way.” Partly for that reason, I don’t agree that expectations are a bad thing. For one, this whole subject is so nuanced and there is such a spectrum in terms of “expectation” that when people start to talk about stuff like this, it is very important to get down to the nitty-gritty to clarify every word. I’ve also known many, many people who use polyamory or “unconditional love” as a dissociative defense against intimacy, self-reflection, and vulnerability. And accountability. I think it’s a great chance to get to know ourselves and face our own demons (and joyful vulnerabilities) when we allow ourselves to be committed to a romantic partner. And then, I guess it’s around words like “committed” that we run into the trouble. Does it mean control, expectation, etc? I don’t think it does. I don’t know that the answer is to condemn expectations in intimacy, because we all have them, we wouldn’t interact with one another if we didn’t. We expect those around us to behave with societal decorum on a basic level—we expect people not to attack, not to do hurtful and frightening and careless things. If they do, we remove ourselves. If you (you in general) are a fully integrated person in terms of not being dissociative in your practice of “practicing no expectation,” then fine, you’re coming from an empowered place—though I’m still not sure how it would work. I know it’s a beautiful thing to feel that opening of love that can happen with a child—where you’re not inserting yourself into the equation the way we so often do in many areas in life. In that way it’s a totally fearless love. But with love between two adults, both of whom need to practice healthy boundaries and expectation of being treated well and with honesty and respect, I don’t know how it works to let go of those altogether. I know the degree of hurt a person feels when his or her partner is doing something they don’t like is relative to their own experience, so some jealousy or possessiveness is pathological while another can be considered more normal. I don’t know, I guess the only conclusion I have is that I think it’s very important to include psychological nuance when talking about this stuff, because too many people don’t have the psychological bit down before they delve into the philosophical, and if they skip the developmental step of having every right to expect to be treated well and with vulnerability from an intimate partner, what is intended as a thought-provoking philosophical debate becomes an encouragement to avoid being fully known or seen.

  49. Richard
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 2:32 AM | Permalink

    Pat, thanks for the post… interesting aspects of an important topic. The world would probably be a better place if more people spent time thinking about love, rather than thinking about money, or looking for things to be offended about.
    That said, two things you made me want to add some thoughts.
    One is the Buddhist approach, in general. To me, it sounds too much like, “well, if you don’t like losing, don’t play the game.” But how dull, not to mention miserable, would the world be if everyone just minded his business without ever aspiring for anything, just because failure would mean disappointment? If you don’t *want* anything, why bother getting out of bed and working your ass off for it? If you don’t *expect” anything from anyone (including yourself, probably), why bother striving for, or rewarding, excellence? Yes, you risk disappointment… but you forgo the satisfaction of saying, “wow, that was difficult, hard work, but we pulled it off. We deserved that success.” Passion isn’t bad, even though there’s a good reason it derives from the Latin word for “suffering”.

    Second, even if you don’t attach any expectations to your unconditional love, you still set yourself up for suffering. If you love someone, you want that person to be happy – that’s what it means, right? You can’t say, “I love her dearly, but I actually don’t care if she lives or dies.” The flip side is necessarily that the loved person’s misery becomes your misery… and that’s something you have no control over, especially if you consciously stay away from any attempt to influence the person. As the great philosopher P. Simon put it, “If I’d never loved, I never would have cried.” – and I’m pretty sure that applies to any kind of love, except maybe some detached general benevolence that some Buddhist monks may or may not achieve. Then again, passion isn’t necessarily bad, if you can put it in the proper perspective when necessary. Love is worth it, even if it comes with disappointments and suffering.

    So… please don’t go Buddhist on us, and don’t feel bad about having desires, and aspirations, and expectations.

  50. trunuyawkr
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 9:06 AM | Permalink

    Hi –

    I hope I am not coming across as overly trite when I type this, but I just kept hearing this in my head as I read your blog:

    If you love something, set it free

    I could go on for many paragraphs about how to me this encapsulates everything you were saying, but I am too busy admiring the 1970’s free love spirit and imagery currently playing about inside my head. :)

    Hugs to Cutie Snoo and Oot!

  51. jgsky
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 1:34 PM | Permalink

    Not sure if you noticed, but the original spelling of the word you created was “Eleutheria.” In every instance after, you spelled it “Elutheria.” Just want to make sure people know how to spell this new word!

    • jgsky
      Posted February 18, 2014 at 1:36 PM | Permalink

      As a side note, if you ever want me to proof read any of your books, I am here for you! :)

  52. Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

    I mostly just want to point out the distinction between having expectations of people and having your love be conditional on those expectations. And the existence of polyamory.

    We all have expectations of the people around us, starting with ‘they won’t stab me in my sleep’ and working up from there. It’s what makes our society work. It’s good for us, it’s good for our relationships, and it’s probably good for the expectee, assuming that what’s actually good for them has any relationship at all to what we think is good for them. Certainly in a parent–child relationship that’s the case, since the child has very little knowledge of what’s good for them, to the extent that they’d probably not make it in the world if left alone to do everything they wanted to do.

    But those expectations don’t have to be tied to your love for them. And that’s what I’ve always understood agape to be — the basic, innate love for someone or something you feel, regardless of how badly they might violate your expectations. It’s the thing that makes you smile at strangers on the street in the hopes it will brighten their day, or feel bad when you think about murderers getting the death penalty.

    On the romance side of things, it strikes me as a little odd that we should regard the proposition that ‘I love you so much I’m going to leave you if you should dare seek any kind of happiness that involves someone other than me’ as anything other than crazy-talk. Biologically I can see where it’s coming from, but as rational beings looking to maximize happiness for everyone concerned? Polyamory.

  53. Neville Longbottom
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 5:07 PM | Permalink

    Pat, you youngin! (OK, I’m 13 months older than you, if your wikipedia entry is correct.)

    In all those years of college, did you never hear “Eleutheria” by Lenny Kravitz? One of my favorite songs of all time.

  54. justinefay
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 2:53 AM | Permalink

    Hi Pat,
    Love the Waterhouse picture! An interesting read on the subject of jealousy and traditional relationships etc. is Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

    My favourite part of the book is were they discuss how children are raised in some hunter gatherer societies that still exist today.

  55. Tenebrous
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 1:18 PM | Permalink

    I do not know if anybody will read this but here are a few points.

    1. Any role in society or family comes with expectations and duties. It is what keeps society and a family together as units working towards a common goal for the common (more or less) good. That is a great “capital G” Good, IMHO.

    2. Fulfillment of a role is not, in and of itself, selfish. Raising a child so that he or she can function in the world is an act of sacrifice, and yes, love.

    Curbing a child’s “monkey instincts”, as Pat puts it is a matter of love and caring because if he grows and goes out into the world and acts that way the world will punish him for it, plan and simple.

    Also, if one has negative emotions while acting in a role, it is not a function of the role or even the expectations, but of the person who is having those emotions.

    But expectations in a relationship needs to be tempered to what that relationship is, e.g. your wife will not always (not often for some) agree with you about wall paper, dinners, friends, etc.

  56. Max H
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 3:03 PM | Permalink

    Lots of people already said lots of good things on the subject, I will just add a couple of points:

    1) I think all REAL love (no matter which Greek word you use for it) is unconditional and without expectation. Everything is else is merely a parody or an approximation (of varying quality). And there is unfortunately quite a bit of fake love out there in the world today. And lots of people being way too loose and easy with the term.

    2) Love is not enough for a family. Not that this somehow makes love any less wonderful. But besides (hopefully) being a unit of love, a family is a also a unit of social order which operates based on a set of shared responsibilities, and (as an earlier poster pointed out) relies on mutual trust between family members to carry out those responsibilities. This concept is completely orthogonal to love, independent of it. My 6 year old daughter will often ask me whether I love her right after we have a fight (as a result of some kind of broken expectations). My answer, no matter how mad I might be, is invariably a resounding “yes”. My love for her is real, and therefore – see bullet 1. And it has nothing to do with breach of family responsibilities. In fact, this unassailable love is exactly the thing that makes it possible for us to ultimately forgive our loved ones their transgressions in the trust or expectation-based aspects of our lives. This, to me, is the secret to a successful family – separating your love from all the other “contracts” of the family structure, and making it into an unassailable bastion that can outlast and outmatter everything else.

    2) Love (the real kind – see bullet 1) is TOTALLY possible not only adults among, but even among non-lovers. It requires a kind and open heart, but it is definitely possible. I have two friends in this life that I am lucky enough to have that kind of relationship with. Years worth of broken expectations between us notwithstanding :)

  57. isaiasw
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 9:13 PM | Permalink

    I’ve struggled with this concept a while back too. Loving doesn’t mean owning someone. I mean that relationship kind of love that you spoke of. While wondering about this, I got to the conclusion that “real love” or “true love” is not about ourselves at all. That’s why you felt weird when you realized it that was what you were feeling. It’s a bit far of our reality indeed, as you well putted.
    Things are usually about making us happy. Satisfying our desires. Or maybe satisfying our expectations, since that’s the word you used. However, I’ve come to conclude that love is about making the one you love happy. Again, this relationship kind of love, not the other kinds. This Eleutheria of yours. Making someone ELSE happy. Making someone else a priority.

    There are similarities in our conclusions, as you may notice. I’d say the greatest difference is that instead of a lack of expectations (which was your solution – and I’m sorry if this is sounding kind of aggressive, that is not my intention…) I make a change of expectations. I expect I can make the person I love happy. Unfortunally, it’s not so easy in a adult relationship as it is with a baby. If a ceiling fan would work, that would be quite easy. But that’s not the case, we can’t make another adult happy that easily. Not always. Sometimes it’s easy, though. When you demonstrate you are thoughtful, for example. When you remember something the person said ages ago, and it got stuck into your mind because you felt that was important (not to you, but to the other person).

    So, if we can’t get rid of expectations (I’m not saying we deffinetly can’t, I’m just not sure about it), we can, now for sure, change them. Care more about others and a bit less about ourselves. That’s what you been doing with your baby, I think. That’s what you been doing with WorldBuilders too, I suppose. So, to summarize…maybe changing our expectations is the first step into Eleutheria. Because thought I’m not sure, I don’t think any functional human being can expect nothing. That sounds a awful lot like apathy. I think “hope” and “expectation” are well related cousins. And we need hope. Including hope in someone. For example, a parent would expect his children never go into drugs. Is it bad that they expect this from his kids? I don’t think so. I believe that the human being is largely dependent on expectations. We work expecting money (most of us). I will not assume I know why you write, but if I had to guess, I’d say you expect, deep down, a sense of satisfaction, of sharing your story, of connecting to the minds of a lot of different readers. It’s just a guess, though.

    This got way longer than I had expected. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear enough (I’m not that used to writting in english). I’m sorry if I sounded cocky, that was never my intention, but whenever I try to share my thoughts, for some reason I sound a bit too over confident, even though I’m not.

    Finally, thank you for sharing this and making me reflecting on it. Like you, writting helps me mold my thoughts. Pleace accept this bro hug *hugs*.

  58. auriismyhero
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 11:15 PM | Permalink

    Speaking of love… Are you aware that you have many loving fans of tumblr? People post fan art, their favorite quotes, and also hilarious comics. There is quite a fandom out there of people who adore your work. Just thought you should know :)

  59. rudnosiukas
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 6:35 AM | Permalink

    so Elutheria is somthing like this watch until the end :)

  60. OpponsPush
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 8:55 AM | Permalink

    I love the way you think things through and are able to present them written with so much clarity and depth of thought Pat. Have you read any of Peter Kreeft’s work? He does a lot of similar thinking with a resurrected Socrates dealing with current issues.

    While I understand the idea of Eleutheria it seems to be rooted in the same idea as Agape love. While it might seem that there is an expectation reciprocity in “God love” I believe that would be a misunderstanding. Agape is a love for all people that doesn’t care about our shortcomings but only for what is best for us. It is totally selfless and you can show it to murders and orphans alike.

  61. Soren
    Posted February 22, 2014 at 4:57 AM | Permalink

    Now I think of it, maybe a character from a comic I read has that kind of love…
    If that means doing whatever is necessary for the person you love, without demanding anything in exchange, except your company.

  62. Posted February 24, 2014 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

    Elutheria . . .

    My family is pretty twisted. Very twisted. Everything I know of real love I learned from having dogs, and a couple of cats. And my Filas (not the shoes). That is elutheria. We are who we are, they and I, and, well, Nothing Else Matters.

    Mostly, humans don’t seem to grasp it, and after devastatingly painful experiments in the “being in love” relationship line of existence, well, I understand Felurian — what Kvothe realized about her and her aloneness and isolation — all too well.

    Eutheria, though, what an incredibly gorgeous way to live, what a gift to another soul.

  63. Powderis1337
    Posted February 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

    Works of Love by Soren Kierkegaard. Anyone who enjoyed this blog post would also enjoy this book. Works changed my life completely, and I consider it a must read! I wonder if Pat has read it?

  64. gruksh
    Posted March 1, 2014 at 1:39 AM | Permalink

    Dear god. Your writing just makes me love words even more. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what kind of love it is, there’s definitely expectation, judgement, pride, but that’s more to do with the users of said words as opposed to the words themselves.

    Regardless, I just found this blog and although I’ve already happily touted your books as the best I’ve ever read, this is like a breeze trickling over the balcony while you’re sipping a whiskey. You’re already happy, but it adds a little something extra.

    Please excuse me while I go back and devour x amounts of previous entries.

  65. sunlady27
    Posted March 9, 2014 at 4:19 AM | Permalink

    I love (eleutheriate?) Waterhouse too, but the painting you posted is actually not by Waterhouse. It’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Sir Francis Dicksee, another awesome Pre-Raphaelite painter.

  66. lauralae
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 8:11 PM | Permalink

    Mightn’t the definition of Elutheria that you’re looking for be “love *in spite* of expectation” rather than “love *without* expectation?” Because as you mentioned, once things become a little more complex than the relationship between a parent and an infant, there are undeniable baseline expectations that occur, and which aren’t necessarily harmful or self-centered. The way I see it, Elutheria is love that keeps on going even when reasonable expectations are unmet (and I’m acutely aware that the phrase “reasonable expectations” will mean different things for different people in different relationships.)

    For example, I’m also a parent. I have a hilarious and adorable one-and-a-half year old daughter. One of the reasonable expectations I have of her is that she not hit people in the face. Particularly me ;) However, as I see it, Elutheria means that even if she doesn’t live up to this reasonable expectation, I still love her. That love goes unchanged. It is love in spite of expectations.

    A more complex example: I’m married to an equally hilarious and adorable guy (What can I say? Our kid takes after him.) One of the expectations we’ve together decided on as reasonable is that we won’t be intimate with other people. Elutheria means that even if my husband were to fail to meet this expectation, committing what in our society is often viewed as the cardinal sin in a relationship, I wouldn’t stop loving him. Again, love in spite of expectations. I think the words grace and mercy, while they’ve gone out of fashion, do a lot to make sense out of the concept.

    One last thing before I stop babbling: a few folks have mentioned polyamorous relationships as being the fulfillment of the concept of love without expectations. I disagree. Somewhere along the line, someone will have expectations, even in a polyamorous relationship. Take the Adem in The Wise Man’s Fear–while their culture is to all intents and purposes polyamorous, they still hold the baseline expectation that others will be honest about disease and abstain from intimacy if afflicted. The only way we as humans can interact on a meaningful level is by both holding expectations for others and meeting the expectations of others. I’d never walk out my door unless I held the reasonable expectation that the other people I come across aren’t going to kill or maim me without extreme provocation.

    That’s why I argue for a definition of “love in spite of expectations” rather than “love without expectations.” You touched on the concept of “chesed” which I’ve heard defined before as “love marked by strength.” And a love in spite of expectations has to be strong–strong to weather change and yes, disappointment and hurt, and to not only weather those things, but get through them unshaken.

    Thanks for letting me play with your fancy new word :)

  67. Posted March 21, 2014 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

    Not going to comment about the difference between caritas/agape and moksha, as well as the nature of romance. It’s something that I think about a lot, and would love to chat about over beer with anyone who knows more about Buddhism than I, but meh. The internet doesn’t have time for my inconclusive questions.

    As per the Arthur stuff, however, Malory’s interesting here. In Malory, it is clear that nobody (except Galahad) lives up to Christian sexual ideals. It is also quite clear that Arthur either knew or pretty much knew what was going on. Interestingly, it is Mordred and his ilk who are blamed for spreading rumors about what was actually going on, and thus disrupting what was otherwise a more-or-less stable eroto-political setup. Then there are laws about cheating on the king that Arthur has to enforce (though he is reluctant to do so), and even though Arthur actually may want Lancelot to rescue Guinevere, Lancelot also kills a lot of wonderful people in his rescue, and everything goes beautifully tragic.

    I know you were just using Lancelot and Guinevere as an example, and even in Malory their happy ending involves them renouncing sexual passion for each other to live as friendly monk and nun, but still. Pedants must pedant, and I think I am justified in saying that the actual legends are often much more interesting than our simplified versions of them.

  68. legiononomamoi
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 6:08 AM | Permalink

    The thing about words is that they are, in general, polysemous. Take חֶסֶד (actually, take “take”, which here is used to mean “use as an example”, similar to uses such as “take a hint” or “take it for what it’s worth” but not as similar for the nonetheless abstract senses conveyed by “take a while”, “it takes time”, “it takes one to know one”, “take up arms”, and very dissimilar from the more literal (embodied) senses involving physical grasping and removing of some physical thing). חֶסֶד means something like loyalty/devotion, but both more and less (see e.g., Bosman’s Biblical Hebrew lexicology and cognitive semantics: A study of lexemes of affection”).
    The Classical Greek στέργω (stergo) often means more or less “love, feel affection, freq. of the mutual love of parents and children”, but also “to be fond of, show affection for” and “to be content or satisfied, acquiesce” (LSJ). However, we find it used to describe the love between friends, between lovers, even the love dogs have for their owners. ἀγάπη (agape) is found rare outside of Christian texts (and abounds in Paul) generally is most frequently used (like חֶסֶד) in relation to religious bonds (either between god and worshippers or the non-literal kinship/familial bonds between fellow Christians). However, it was also used to refer to a religious feast.
    φίλος (philos) is by far the most interesting as it can connote everything from “dear” or “beloved one” to inalienable possession (e.g., the kind of possession one has for one’s own arms and legs). It can mean friend or darling, family or neighbor, fondness or ownership.
    ἔρως (eros) often refers to erotic love, but more generally to desire. It can also connote passion, but again we find uses where it does not refer to passionate love of a human but to one’s homeland, one’s world, for speech, or (in e.g., Plato’s Laws) to mean a certain joie de vivre.
    Also, although not to the extent one finds in German (or in languages, like Navajo, that consist almost entirely of “verbs” with adfixes, clitics, etc., tacked on) Greek readily makes use of compounds such as συμφιλοκαλέω (symphilokaleo- “I join in the love of the beautiful”) or ἀλληλοφιλεῖν(allelophilein- to love one another). Such is the nature of language. Some languages, however, extend the meaning of words rather than coin new ones (in Greek, the same word that means “untie” can mean “free” or “destroy”). English, more than most, tends not to incorporate neologisms rather than do this, and thus a new word that finds utility, such as one that can denote in alone a kind of love that would otherwise take a blog post to describe, is what makes English in particular fascinating. Eleutheria has a beauty to it in sound alone.

    • legiononomamoi
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 6:11 AM | Permalink

      Sorry- that should read “tends not to do this but to incorporate neologisms”

  69. wardenshotrun
    Posted November 6, 2016 at 4:07 AM | Permalink

    I love this post. My thoughts are that perhaps there’s a distinction to be made between expectations and conditions. Your love of your children might eventually require that there be expectations, but it will likely never require conditions. If your children don’t meet your expectations, you’ll still love them. I don’t have children, or a partner, and I’m of an age where each passing year makes both significantly less likely. But my view of love, in any sphere, is one of reduced expectations/conditions. The people I love, I also trust. I trust them enough, that if they don’t meet my expectations, it’s because they are real people, with real lives, that don’t revolve around me. And I love them, and I want them to be able to look after their own lives without feeling beholden to my expectations. I try not to turn my expectations into conditions. I feel like real love, again in all spheres, is a balancing act of expectations, trust, and conditions. There should be a lot of trust, there should be a fair amount of expectations (that aren’t necessarily conditions), and there probably does need to be some conditions, though I’d say the conditions need only be sufficient enough to maintain a healthy level of trust. With offspring, as I understand it, this largely gets muddled completely, even when they’re fully grown adults, with their own logic and agency. Expectations run rampant, but trust and conditions almost get completely thrown out the window. That kid WILL hurt you, and you’ll love it anyway, and probably knowingly let it hurt you again. I’m a bit of a fuck up, but I know my Dad loves me anyway. I could very easily take advantage of that love, but I don’t, because somewhere along the way he taught me how to love him back, and that means not pressing the boundaries of his love for me. I think the ultimate (and only?) condition of love should be empathy. I think the real difference between the love of family, and more dramatically progeny, and love of anyone else is that we require proof of empathy to give love to a normal person, but we give love to a child until they prove they don’t have empathy. So, teach empathy, which I’m sure you’re already doing, and the expectations won’t matter.

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