December 7, 2021

"Agape"

Nate LeBlanc

Pausing to find meaning

So I was out and about on the town one cold morning and I happened to stumble across an interesting piece of graffiti tagged on a closed and boarded up Walgreens. The word was “AGAPE” in all caps.

Walgreens "AGAPE"

The first thing that came to mind was the Greek word agapē (“uh-gah-pay”), one of the four words for different kinds of love in Greek. A great work explaining the intricacies of each of these is The Four Loves By C.S. Lewis.

Agapē means “the highest form of love, charity” and is used frequently in referring to the love of God for man. It is an ultimate love.

Then I remembered that most people don’t bring up Greek in casual everyday conversation. I certainly don’t. Agapē is one of the few Greek words I know; thank you, Mr. Lewis.

The other way to read this spelling is agape (“a-gape”), as in having one’s mouth open in wonder, surprise, or shock.

Comparing both of these usages, I see an immense openness. In the first case, when we think of the highest love it is open to all, no matter the circumstances. It is understanding and patient. It seeks the best and gives without considering the cost. In the second, the mouth, something that is usually closed, is held open.

I suppose a lot of emotions could cause our mouths to be held agape, but I would encourage all of you readers to remember a wonderful surprise or gesture given by a loved one or cherished friend. Was there a brief moment when you were so awestruck by their gesture you were agape? I can think of a few in my life, and I consider myself blessed.

A decaying world in need of care

Sadly though, many of us might have a hard time remembering such a loving gesture, especially when there are signs of hardship and struggle all around us. That closed and boarded up building with the outline of what was once once bright red lettering light fixtures on the surface no longer receives any care, and I fear will soon start to decay. Even worse, a homeless man was asleep on the sidewalk, just outside of the frame picture I took for this post. I wanted to offer him some water or a snack, but at that moment I had nothing, and did not want to disturb his rest, not to mention any questions I had for my own safety.

Juxtaposed next to these visions of sadness, the text “AGAPE” loomed large. Who is the artist, and what were they trying to say? What love or gesture needed to be shown to the other characters in this scene? To the sleeping man? To the building? After pondering these questions for another minute or two, I continued on my way. A quarter mile down the road I saw another “AGAPE”, this time on an overpass. Then another tag in an alleyway. Those were the only three I found. Perhaps there are more along that stretch, I’ll keep an eye out.

It occurs to me that this was planned and deliberate. Tags usually are, and they are put in specific places for specific reasons. I’m curious to see if there is an “AGAPE” movement happening in the city. It’s definitely something I will investigate and I hope to have answers to share with you, readers, in the future.

"AGAPE" in the alley

Remembering our duty

For now, I’d like us to focus on the man and the Walgreens. Both of them need love, whether it’s medical care, shelter, food and water, or companionship for the man, or maintenance and customers or tenants for the property. People could say we have a moral obligation to help the man, or to keep our surroundings beautiful and vibrant, not boarded up and closed. While obligation and duty is certainly present and valuable, I think it can miss the mark.

With the dignity to have our own opinions and make our own decisions, I believe a person with merely a duty can, at times, go through those responsibilities begrudgingly. Sometimes if that is our attitude we are apt to cut corners or do the minimum.

Is the minimum what the homeless man really needs, though? Doesn’t he need more to truly live, not just survive? And for our property, whether it’s a home or a car or a kitchen appliance, doesn’t preventative maintenance, high quality materials, and care help it achieve its designed purpose to the best of its capacity?

Lewis sums this up nicely, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”

Pursuing the ultimate good

It is genuine care through love that removes the burdens and inconveniences of these choices and responsibilities, and searches for solutions to manifest the ‘ultimate good’ Lewis writes about. I recognize that we are not able to love everything in the world with maximum attention and effort - there’s just too much for one person to love. That’s why it takes all of us to love. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asserts this when he says, "Agape means recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated."

With the benefits of agapē in mind, I invite us all to consider how we can best show love in what we do for the people, places, and things that hold value in our lives, whether it’s family, or work, or a special purpose. This love brings out the best in both the giver and the receiver. It transcends barriers and binds and heals old wounds. It creates inviting spaces and allows things to function as they were designed. It is a special love that -- when embraced -- has the power to transform lives. In the process, we just might make the world’s jaw drop.

Post Summary

Dissecting street art and recognizing that there is meaning in everything around us

This article was written, edited and published by members or collaborators of the Doorward Team. Doorward Inc. maintains a positive outlook on the inherent dignity of each: their singular ability to reason and create, to choose and likewise be responsible for their decisions. We defend their best intentions and affirm each person’s freedom to express their own thoughts and opinions and experiences, and to engage in civil discussion regarding them.

This article is meant to be thought-provoking, and is not intended to be specific direction for the topic of this post. Please do your own research and consult the appropriate people for guidance before making a decision related to the topic of this post.

Pausing to find meaning

So I was out and about on the town one cold morning and I happened to stumble across an interesting piece of graffiti tagged on a closed and boarded up Walgreens. The word was “AGAPE” in all caps.

Walgreens "AGAPE"

The first thing that came to mind was the Greek word agapē (“uh-gah-pay”), one of the four words for different kinds of love in Greek. A great work explaining the intricacies of each of these is The Four Loves By C.S. Lewis.

Agapē means “the highest form of love, charity” and is used frequently in referring to the love of God for man. It is an ultimate love.

Then I remembered that most people don’t bring up Greek in casual everyday conversation. I certainly don’t. Agapē is one of the few Greek words I know; thank you, Mr. Lewis.

The other way to read this spelling is agape (“a-gape”), as in having one’s mouth open in wonder, surprise, or shock.

Comparing both of these usages, I see an immense openness. In the first case, when we think of the highest love it is open to all, no matter the circumstances. It is understanding and patient. It seeks the best and gives without considering the cost. In the second, the mouth, something that is usually closed, is held open.

I suppose a lot of emotions could cause our mouths to be held agape, but I would encourage all of you readers to remember a wonderful surprise or gesture given by a loved one or cherished friend. Was there a brief moment when you were so awestruck by their gesture you were agape? I can think of a few in my life, and I consider myself blessed.

A decaying world in need of care

Sadly though, many of us might have a hard time remembering such a loving gesture, especially when there are signs of hardship and struggle all around us. That closed and boarded up building with the outline of what was once once bright red lettering light fixtures on the surface no longer receives any care, and I fear will soon start to decay. Even worse, a homeless man was asleep on the sidewalk, just outside of the frame picture I took for this post. I wanted to offer him some water or a snack, but at that moment I had nothing, and did not want to disturb his rest, not to mention any questions I had for my own safety.

Juxtaposed next to these visions of sadness, the text “AGAPE” loomed large. Who is the artist, and what were they trying to say? What love or gesture needed to be shown to the other characters in this scene? To the sleeping man? To the building? After pondering these questions for another minute or two, I continued on my way. A quarter mile down the road I saw another “AGAPE”, this time on an overpass. Then another tag in an alleyway. Those were the only three I found. Perhaps there are more along that stretch, I’ll keep an eye out.

It occurs to me that this was planned and deliberate. Tags usually are, and they are put in specific places for specific reasons. I’m curious to see if there is an “AGAPE” movement happening in the city. It’s definitely something I will investigate and I hope to have answers to share with you, readers, in the future.

"AGAPE" in the alley

Remembering our duty

For now, I’d like us to focus on the man and the Walgreens. Both of them need love, whether it’s medical care, shelter, food and water, or companionship for the man, or maintenance and customers or tenants for the property. People could say we have a moral obligation to help the man, or to keep our surroundings beautiful and vibrant, not boarded up and closed. While obligation and duty is certainly present and valuable, I think it can miss the mark.

With the dignity to have our own opinions and make our own decisions, I believe a person with merely a duty can, at times, go through those responsibilities begrudgingly. Sometimes if that is our attitude we are apt to cut corners or do the minimum.

Is the minimum what the homeless man really needs, though? Doesn’t he need more to truly live, not just survive? And for our property, whether it’s a home or a car or a kitchen appliance, doesn’t preventative maintenance, high quality materials, and care help it achieve its designed purpose to the best of its capacity?

Lewis sums this up nicely, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”

Pursuing the ultimate good

It is genuine care through love that removes the burdens and inconveniences of these choices and responsibilities, and searches for solutions to manifest the ‘ultimate good’ Lewis writes about. I recognize that we are not able to love everything in the world with maximum attention and effort - there’s just too much for one person to love. That’s why it takes all of us to love. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asserts this when he says, "Agape means recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated."

With the benefits of agapē in mind, I invite us all to consider how we can best show love in what we do for the people, places, and things that hold value in our lives, whether it’s family, or work, or a special purpose. This love brings out the best in both the giver and the receiver. It transcends barriers and binds and heals old wounds. It creates inviting spaces and allows things to function as they were designed. It is a special love that -- when embraced -- has the power to transform lives. In the process, we just might make the world’s jaw drop.

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