Re: Eros, Philia, Agape

In “Eros, Philia, Agape,” by Rachel Swirsky, Lucian is a robot purchased by Adriana to be her lover. His brain is filled with the knowledge of famous poets and physicists and gardeners etc, and he is designed to change his personality so he will be in love with her. After they marry, Adriana and Lucian adopt a little girl, whom they name Rose. Over the course of the story, we see why Lucian feels he must give away all his possessions and leave the ones he loves.

Adriana is a spoiled, rich daughter of privilege. All her possessions, from her house to her books are signs of her entitlements. Everything has to be the most beautiful, the most precious. And she deserves every bit of it because Daddy abused her. All that matters is her precious self. Her sisters are zeroes in her mind because they try to get her to look away from her navel, to get over her father, and connect with the rest of her family. A married gay couple she calls her friends become a dumping ground for her problems.

Her story is a tragedy of the failure of all three kinds of love in the title. Her green cockatiel, Fuoco, is hopelessly, madly in erotic love with her, complete with insane jealousy against all rivals. But he is only a bird, and therefore doomed to dash himself to pieces. Between her adopted daughter, Rose, and her abusive father, Adriana fails to give or receive the filial love between child and parent.

The love she expects from Lucian could be called agape, because he is literally selfless. His personality has been shaped entirely by what Adriana wants. But as his personality forms, he becomes consumed by doubt that he is, or can be, his own person. Humans learn what it is to be human from other humans, but he decides to go into the desert alone to “find himself”. Nor is he wise enough to know how badly his departure will hurt.

This beautifully written story makes me think about the nature of love and how it is connected with possession, the nature of selfhood and how it is constructed by us and for us. Who is anyone, really?