By Jennifer Allen
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” ~ E.E. Cummings
Over the years, I’ve regularly chosen to examine the subject of Love for the February issue. It seems fitting, does it not, when one of the most celebrated (and commercialized) holidays of the year pertains to that very concept. It is, after all, one of the fundamental emotions by which a multitude of species are able to interact with each other.
Ancient Greek philosophy further deconstructed each conceptual type of love; eventually breaking it down to six different forms: Agápe (divine love), Éros (intimate love), Philia (friendship or brotherly love), Storge (familial love), Xenia (hospitable love), and Philautia (self-love).
The last of these terms is oftentimes misinterpreted as narcissistic, as loving oneself first and foremost can be seen as wholly unhealthy. Yet in more modern times, particularly in the 21st century, the perception of self-love has shifted considerably. While there are still those who take a vainer approach to their wellbeing, the general populace has embraced the more encouraging mindset of Philautia.
The true paradox we now face in this modern world is the delicate balance between the desire for our own individuality and a need to be accepted (or even celebrated) by others for/in spite of it.
An ever-growing part of our global social media syndicate is instantaneous praise by means of ‘likes’, ‘clicks’, and ‘comments’. If you say or show something a majority of people don’t agree with, your reputation could be irrevocably tarnished. People are now losing their jobs due to videos posted online depicting unacceptable behavior.
The conceptualization first vocalized by Frederich Nietzsche that our world is made up entirely of personal perceptions is so on the nose when we are besieged by smart camera angles, widely available editing tools, and emerging AI technology to recalibrate any and all media to suit the creator’s intended intention. You can’t go anywhere in public without someone suddenly having a smartphone in hand ready to record anything and everything within that person’s perspective, and even then, that recording may not be completely accurate once shown to the public.
In fact, every generation believes that it must battle against its own unprecedented pressures of conformity; that it must reach higher than its predecessor to reclaim some sense of integrity in which selfhood emerges. Some of this stems from the habitual conceit by which society becomes blinded by its own cultural bias. But much of it in the century and a half since Nietzsche is an accurate reflection of what we continually reinforce in our present informational climate… a Pavlovian system of constant feedback, in which common opinions are rewarded, and discerning ones are more readily punished by the unthinking mob.
So then, how can one practice Philautia within such an unforgiving retinue anywhere and everywhere you look?
Since many of us can’t just simply tune out or ignore the internet due to job obligations or means of communication with loved ones, the only method left is to pick your battles with the countless, faceless horde. Those who seek to harm through spiteful rhetoric are often lashing out to obfuscate their own lack of self-love. Fueling their remarks with more hate not only spirals their own self-worth down even deeper, but it also impedes your own emotional growth; a ‘no-win situation’ as one would say.
I tried to avoid most social media after a particularly bad situation commenced on Facebook in late 2014, and only within the past few years have gradually expanded my online presence. Additionally, I have taken it upon myself to only submit positive responses and brush off others’ negative comments. As an empath, my goal to achieve Philautia has forced me to enact a substantial amount of poise and self-discipline.
Pessimists will always be there to share their views, but one small beacon of light could potentially counteract their words and help them also discover self-worth.
We welcome the Year of the Dragon; a sign often described as full of vitality, goal-oriented yet idealistic and romantic. Often people born under Dragon know exactly who they are due to possessing the keenest sense of self. Let this mythical creature’s influence help encourage you to be a better person. Society could use a bit more love in all its forms, and achieving self-love is just the tip of the iceberg.
Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer, Graphic Artist, Gamer, Martial Arts Practitioner, and an all around Pop Culture Geek. You can reach her at [email protected].