Friday, July 2, 2010

Labors of Love

George Washington's Masonic temple in Alexandria, Virginia.

A friend and I were talking about love recently. She was saying that the word itself is inadequate to explain all the different strains of love in the world. She mentioned that Arctic indigenous people use 37 words for snow. Seems to her that we should have at least 37 words for love. The people I know use adjectives in front of the word to further define it: romantic love, motherly, brotherly, etc. I have to agree with her that none of these attempts to put words to the situation of love are in any way up to the task. Thirty seven words for love? Might as well have 37,000 or 37 million. Right?

Of course I've prayed for guidance around love many times in my life, because encountering love is always strenuous. It's possible I've tried to figure it out at least 37 million times, maybe more. I'm not the first, nor am I by any means the last, to try to understand the mystery of love. My heart has felt the force of love many times, so many times. I have loved people I'm not supposed to, failed to love people I should love. I have tried hard to make myself love (that never works) and have also tried to NOT feel love. Sometimes I feel love for a person the second I meet them, sometimes love grows slowly. Is it any wonder I can't wrap my mind around it?

One thing I know for sure is that no one can control love. I often think of it as a force of nature, like the wind. Who can control Brother Wind? Please. All those phrases like falling in love and swept off her feet refer to its power. No one can control the way love flows or the emotions that come up around it. Sometimes love is blissful, other times it really hurts or creates intense sensations of hunger, thirst, longing and lust. I have experienced love that's like a huge emptiness (both the "good" and "bad" kinds of emptiness) but I've also felt love as a sublime fullness - sometimes simultaneously. Love stretches the heart and renders us more humane. Is that true? I hope so.

Don Shapiro, a writer with an interactive fan page on Facebook, says, Love is a spiritual state, not an emotion. He had some other thoughts about love, but it's the above that caught my attention. Taking love out of the emotional range, lifting it up into the realm of spirit, is a really intriguing way to think about it! Thanks, Don.

Love, love, love. I am soaking in it these days, feeling love 37 different ways, minute to minute, for friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, animals, this beautiful, wounded city, stars and planets, guides and God, for the Sufi acupuncturist, my soon to be ex-housemates and my dear deep soulmate as well. I don't get it, but I feel it, I do. All I can say is: wow.


Jo Floyd Lucas said...

Don says that love is a 'spiritual state.' I like that idea, but it sounds too inert to me. I look at love, rather, as a 'spiritual POWER.' But then, you know my translation for the word 'LOVE', don't you?

It is, I believe, the greatest power on earth or in the universe, for that matter, and deserves at least 37 million descriptions!

As he rightly states, once it enters your soul, it is there forever. Thank Goodness.

Feel the LOVE. hmmhmm.

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm feeling the love, I am. Resistance is futile. If you can't beat it, join it!!

Much love to you, sister and friend!

Steve said...

Some of the most painful times in my life have been when I've been smitten with someone -- and also some of the best times. I agree a single word is inadequate to explain the range of possible types of love (hence all those modifiers). My least favorite modifier is "unrequited." Been THERE!

In any case, relish this time, Reya. You are perhaps more deeply in touch with your humanity now, and all the wonderful and terrible things that go with it!

(I think that thing about Eskimos having so many words for snow is an urban myth, isn't it?!)

mouse (aka kimy) said...

love this post and love you reya!

by the way, here's some academic skinny on the eskimos and words for snow for all the curious cats out there.

don's notion of love being a state strikes a chord in my soul!

ellen abbott said...

Ah love. So indefinable. So necessary. Without love we become hard inside.

John Hayes said...

This is just beautiful! Love being a force like the wind!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Nice post, Reya. I'll be reading "Life is a Fork in the Road". Interesting that finding love many times depends on which fork in the road is chosen.

Mrsupole said...

Love the "love" post. I think it shows that love makes the world go round.

I also agree with Jo in that it is more of a spiritual power.

But I do wonder if sometimes we focus too much on "how" to love, when we should be focusing on "who" to love. Such as love thy neighbor and maybe we should focus on acceptance of the neighbor that we love. And then probably the most important person that we should love is ourselves, because if we cannot love ourselves then we cannot truly love anyone else.

Another question is whether we can only love living things or can we also love inert things. Does one truly love chocolate? If that piece of chocolate died, would a part of you die too? I think we would just go get another piece of chocolate. I really doubt that we love inert things. We can like them but there is no true love.

But I am not sure if we can love a concept or just like it, because we always seem to love your posts.

I am thinking that love is a truly confusing subject and is subjective. Sigh.

God bless.

Reya Mellicker said...

Kim the link is excellent! I'll be reading and re-reading it this weekend when the temperatures once again soar up to the century mark. Very cool!

Nancy said...

The best of times and worst of times, for sure.

Mary Ellen said...

I hadn't stopped to think about the word "love" for quite awhile, though it flits through my head pretty frequently. I've always separated out as distinctly different - states? actions? afflictions? - romantic love, the tender, affectionate love caring-for (e.g. children, animals), or the love that is commanded by the Big Commandments (e.g. charity, compassion). But of course they are all mixed up, too. My big fear is that I'm a cold-hearted - or luke-warm-hearted - person, really. I fear this quite a lot.

Reya Mellicker said...

Mary Ellen: you are not!

Elizabeth said...

Love this.

Elizabeth said...

This was also referenced in the wiki entry previously linked by Mouse:

indicating that in some native languages there are merely 10 and in other 49 variations of the word for kinds of snow...not apparently an urban legend...;)

The analogy holds I think.
I love the posting its like new snow for the heart.

Meri said...

I think trying not to love is an almost impossible task. The same with letting go of love.

Reya Mellicker said...

Resistance is futile. I surrender!!


Steve Reed said...

Thanks for the link, Kim! Most interesting! :)

Elizabeth said...

Last night I dreamt of snow. It reminded me of your blog about it and the comments afterward. Last week serendipitously I also discovered that it was Margaret Atwood who is quoted as saying "The Eskimos have 52 words for snow because it is special to them, we should have that many for love." I don't recall reading this before and feel the need to offer the attribution.
Then I thought, and this is why I bothered to post this comment so many weeks later...let us ignore the way that has been interpreted as slighting the native people, or whether there are that many words for snow in the Inuit language, and instead focus on language in English for love.
We should dozens of words for love...the love between a mother and her child, between new lovers, between old lovers, a word for love as it passes from one thing to another, from passion to something different, deeper and more meaningful, the transitional love, the obscured love, the amorphous love, the distant love, the passing love, the love between people who are saved by each other, the love between people who forge a team and accomplish great things together, or the love between people who endure terrible things together. There should be these dedicated love words for these many meanings. Then I imagine we could express ourselves more clearly and more lovingly to ourselves and to each other and maybe there would be more room for these fierce emotions to exist. Then I realized that even without a dedicated name they exist -- the same way the Inuit phonemes expand on the word for snow -- so you can't say one word you use several strung I just did.
Then, I thought what if we just strung the two of them together snow and love to create terms like "love that falls on the ground and can easily be walked on", "slushy love", "hard packed snow capable of bearing heavy loads," "a light dusting of love," "an icy broken patch of love," "an artic clipper of love," "a sudden overnight squall of fresh love that appears in the bright light of morning covering everything new again," "a blizzard of deep love," "a wintry mix of love," "a love glacier that melts every spring," then more funny concepts like "love boarding," and "loveball fights." The possibilities are endless.