The ancient Greeks had an interesting concept of four different kinds of love. There’s obviously romantic love, and brotherly love, but the one that seems most interesting to me is “agape”, a sort of undirected love for everything. It’s kind of the purest form of love, since it expects nothing in return. I conflate it with concepts like altruism, or generosity, or being kind to strangers for no real reason.
I admit it’s going to be hard to get people emotionally invested in this post. Unless you’re currently experiencing this sort of all-encompassing caring about everything, it almost seems like it can’t exist. Beyond that, breaking down concepts that people treat as so un-breakdown-able doesn’t really work too well. But it seems clear that there are things we can learn from attempting to understand how to create agape, especially if those methods are repeatable and generalizable.
Hopefully it’s clear that love doesn’t have to be romantic. You can love your life, or your friends, or a good piece of music. People seek out related feelings in all kinds of ways: taking drugs, meditating, hanging out with great friends, racing down the highway blasting a favorite song.
It’s nice that love-for-everything isn’t nearly as bittersweet as romantic love can be. The majority of romantic relationships end eventually, but agape doesn’t have to depend on another person, just on the way you treat the world. Romance can involve a lot of pining, and missed connections, and one-sidedness that agape has built-in. It doesn’t expect to be requited, so can’t be disappointed when it isn’t.
I’ve never taken anything like DMT, but people I know who have report feelings that sound almost like flipping on the agape switch. All the sorts of feelings I’ve heard associated with it—gratitude, undirected caring, empathy, oneness—can be had without drugs, but I don’t know how those feelings might differ in terms of depth or overwhelmingness.
If you’re interested in increasing your feelings of agape, it’s probably worth finding a way to practice. There are kinds of loving-kindness meditation that focus on engendering these feelings. It might also be worth sitting down with pen and paper and brainstorming ways to feel more connected and more caring about others. What makes you feel the way most similar to this now? How can you extend that feeling to other realms, when the environment isn’t as conducive?
In my experience, it’s shockingly easy for humans to deeply care about each other, if they really try. The hard part is the trying, or the caring enough to try in the first place!