Feb 8: while I was driving back to home from my work (after a hectic night call while caring for neonates), I happened to listen to Christopher Phillips on Brian Lehrer show at NPR (National Public Radio, New York). Christopher is considered what we call “public philosophers” (for details visit http://www.philosopher.org). His ‘Socrates Cafe’ is a way of going to public and generating ‘democratic communities of philospohical inquiries’.
He describes 5 types of love:
1. Eros Love (erotic love) 2. Philos Love 3. Family love 4. Agape love (unconditional love) 5. Xaneo Love ( I hope I heard the right word!): love for strangers.
Coming to Philos love which means ‘friendship love’. Love for country is also included under this category. Now in today’s world- which is fast loosing its boundaries in the era of electronic communication- there are also increasing polarizations! Taken in that context, love for country has two sub-sets: a] Compassionate love: where the citizen is cognizant of the fact that his/her actions (and thus the country’s) will impact the world outside! b] Xenophobic patriotism: “we are the best and other (countries) are hostile to us” kind of attitude! This is of course not a desirable kind of love!
Love for country is also manifested in many way. Do not think that our rabble rouser politicians who cry hoarse on public platforms are the only people who love the country! Many people love their motherland yet may feel kind of uncomfortable feeling passionate about it (so called silent lovers!).
Christopher says that xaneo love is little understood and often less talked! This means love for strangers (xenophobia is hate for people/strangers). Do not we many times feel compassionate about someone whom we do not know much and have met him/her very little! Christopher cites an example of a family in a border town in Arizona (which borders Mexico). This family- who have a big farm- have a tradition of having an extra plate at dinner table for a stranger. It has so happened with them that they have often been visited by strangers who having crossed into their country from Mexico have knocked at their doors in desperate times!
This reminds me of a story which I have read in Hindi literature. In a village ,there used to live an old couple who were very poor. But their doors were always open for the people! Once in a night time, a stranger knocks at their door and asks if he could stay at their home overnight as he had lost his way and could not reach the destination in time. The poor man welcomes him, but is perplexed as to how to serve his guest because the food which they had prepared for the dinner was hardly sufficient for two. The couple serve the food to his his guest first and go to bed without eating!
In the morning when this guest leaves, he offers them a small utensil as a gift. It so happens that the old lady cooks the food in this utensil later on and so discovers that as soon as she empties the container it fills up again! Thus they realize that God himself had visited their home the previous night and had awarded this gift to them!