More Philia, Please.

April 8, 2023

More Philia, Please.

May 29, 2023

I was on a bender of speaking events, workshops, and media interviews a short while back. Reflecting, I had a micro-ah-ha that the act of putting oneself out there, up there, and on stage contains a paradox of both separation and intimacy.

From whatever stage we’re on in life, we stand, deliver, and if we’re doing it with some artistry, we speak from the heart while sharing something significant of ourselves. Speaking, done this way, becomes an act of generosity and service. And when doing so, we create a connection and a bond through intimacy in the moment. We are literally giving of ourselves in these moments.

In a conversation with the poet David Whyte, he shared that when he speaks from the stage, he is simultaneously giving the talk from the heart and leaning into his intuitive self to feel the room for what they, the collective, are calling for.

I imagine this like an energetic wave, going back and forth, to and from all sides of the room (and beyond), that feeds both the giver and the receiver, the speaker and the listener. To feel intimacy amongst our fellow human beings is one of our great treasures and vital callings. Feeling the love of people whom we love fuels a virtuous cycle. Abraham Maslow places this sense of belonging as a near-primal and essential human psychological need.

As the poet Pablo Neruda puts it, “But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses — that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.”

David Whyte echoes this profound idea in the following expert from his poem Refuge:

“Then in Galicia, it was a breath of warmth
from a kitchen door, palatial with light
and a daughter’s smile, the family behind,
asking you in, as if to say, of all shelter,
traveler, you’ll ever find on the road,
even with those you know,
the stranger’s love is best of all.”

This “stranger’s love” doesn’t tend to appear while watching nearly any network TV, scrolling Facebook, Twitter, or the headlines in nearly any news media publication.

But if we look closely, or rather widely, all of humanity is somehow, mysteriously or not, deeply connected. We are tethered together by our common oneness. A connection that has been there since the beginning of time and will persist, regardless of our actions and differences, until the end of time.

The Greeks called this form of love “philia.” It is the bond of love of human brotherhood. Philadelphia is close to where I grew up and went to graduate school and is dubbed the city of brotherly love.

Part of the entomological story of philia comes from the word “philanthropy,” which means love of humanity. To lean into this love and its power is to lean into one of humanity's greatest strengths.

In this day and age of heightening tribalism, political sides being drawn and nastily fought for, global environmental urgency, and religious finger-pointing divides taking place, we could, as a planet and a species, use a heavy dose of philia.

Of course, these issues are real and need thoughtful inquiry, discussion, and open discourse. But, doing so, let’s not forget the essential truth that we’re all in this together.

So, for me, I’d welcome a quotidian dose of philia in my life. I wish this for you, too. When emotions are high when we’re called to lash out and draw sides, to remember the primal, essential connection between us all; to remember to love.

From surfing to creating artwork to beekeeping, Steven Morris is an ever-curious brand and culture-building expert, author of "The Beautiful Business," and seeker who's served 3,000+ business leaders at more than 250 companies — discover more at: https://matterco.co/

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