When my daughter was born I knew I was going to be in the delivery room, and I thought I understood what that experience was going to be like. It would be a moment of unbridled joy and abject happiness. Having been around the joy and happiness block a few times I looked forward to a repeat of the most positive emotion I could possibly feel. Imagine my surprise then, on August 29, 1997 when a squiggling, squalling, squealing miracle arrived at 8:21 am EST and I, so sure of my steady old heart, had a brand new feeling, something I had never experienced before or since. I will be specific:
Real love is always a process: you meet someone, you like them, you like them a lot, you think you might love them until you realize that you do. “I love you,” you say aloud, and the process is complete. It may take a minute, a day or a year; but it is always a process, never an event, a wonderful journey from nothing to everything.
When my daughter was born there was no process, there was only event. There was no journey; there was only arrival. It was like mainlining love in a psychic artery, and the results were an instantaneous effect. My heart beat faster and I broke into a sweat. Like stars in a warp drive all my dreams receded and were suddenly far away. There was only this dream here, this moment now, and this squealing bag of bones, blood and beauty that instantaneously claimed my soul. I held her close. I would not just die for you, my little one. I would kill for you. I would lose my soul for you. Everything I ever wanted, everything I ever learned was nothing compared to what I discovered that day. This Brand New Feeling would now rule my life.
The Greeks have a word for everything, and they had three separate words for love.
Physical attraction and the wonderfully stupid emotions that come with it was called “Eros” and was personified as Cupid. Profound friendship was “Philos” the root word of philosophy and philanthropy. But the clever Greeks recognized the unconditional emotion between parent and child as the highest, most spiritual and most evolved form of love that a human being could know. It was fully separate experience, an emotion all its own, a brand new feeling: According to the Greeks, when my daughter was born I was Agape.
I looked at Dylan slack-jawed and startled, filled with agape, knowing that no struggle would be too hard, no sacrifice too great…
And then I realized that meant that I’d have to get a real job.