I’ve been thinking a lot about Love recently.
And I started to feel hard done by that we only have one word for it. Compared to the Greeks’ eight or nine this seems paltry.
I started thinking that we mustn’t take Love seriously in our culture and language to only have one word. The Inuits have dozens of words for snow. Surely if we cared more about Love we’d have a wider range of vocabulary?
Our English word Love is ancient. It pre-dates the Norman Conquest of England and finds its roots in the Old Germanic, then middle English, ‘lufu’.
So it survived Latin and French, and was unperturbed by amore or cherir. Far from not taking it seriously, it feels to me like we defended its unique meaning to the hilt.
But what is that meaning? Doubtless in medieval times people knew exactly what they meant when they spoke the word. These days I’m not so sure. It has so many meanings and so many contexts. Predominantly these days in common parlance it refers to romantic and erotic love rather than love for friends, family, off-spring, nation, self or God.
But it’s still just One Word. There are dozens of other words signifying states of mind which might lead us to Love: like joy, or appreciation, or creativity, or truth or gratitude, or freedom, or even anger, but still that single, ancient, honourable word endures.
And now I’ve come to think of this as utter linguistic, cultural, spiritual and epistemological genius. Because of its multi-layered, multi-faceted nature it is the ultimate “all things to all men” notion.
We can each choose individually how broad its scope is for us. We can confine our best love for our beloved, our family and at a pinch our closest friends; or we can surrender our egos to universal loving compassion in the style of Buddhist monks.
We can recognise the emotions of Love and we can also consider the values of it too. We can be human about it, or we can touch the Divine through it. It is basically the quickest and most effective vehicle to get us wherever we want to go.
So whatever definition of Love rings true for you, get curious. Are you defending it with all your might? Are you dismissing it? Taking it for granted? Are you living it fully and intentionally, to whatever level you choose? Or are you cheating yourself?
It’s One Word. But we make of it what we will.