“Sanskrit has 96 words for love; ancient Persian has 80, Greek three, and English only one. This is indicative of the poverty of awareness or emphasis that we give to that tremendously important realm of feeling. Eskimos have 30 words for snow, because it is a life-and-death matter to them to have exact information about the element they live with so intimately. If we had a vocabulary of 30 words for love … we would immediately be richer and more intelligent in this human element so close to our heart. An Eskimo probably would die of clumsiness if he had only one word for snow; we are close to dying of loneliness because we have only one word for love. Of all the Western languages, English may be the most lacking when it comes to feeling.” – Robert Johnson, “The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden“.
With that being said, I wonder how the English language can only have one word for love? In one breath I can say I love nachos and in the next, that I love my kids. At some point, I began to believe the word ‘love’ was inadequate in some situations and thrown around too casually in others. In an attempt to understand the depth and nuance of the love given and received in my life, I’ve been guilty of minimizing it without even realizing it. I’ve tried to label love: first love, puppy love, last love; more, best, most love; biological, familial, relational, friend, cultural love; free love, easy love, complicated love. You name it I’ve categorized it and in doing so minimized it by trying to quantify it.
The problem with this is that it backfired because in an effort to quantify love, I began to question the love that was given to me. All of this labeling led to quantifying which led to wondering if the love received was real or strong enough, or it left me wondering where I stacked up in the hierarchy of love. If only I had had the vocabulary to discern between the various forms of love, perhaps, I wouldn’t have gone down the rabbit hole:-)
What I’ve learned: Give love and receive love. Don’t overthink it. Don’t over analyze it. Just experience it, feel it, know it. Love is a force; it can be expanded and contracted both consciously and spontaneously. When we label love, what we are really doing is labeling the emotions or the circumstances that surround this force. Love just is and it comes in many different forms yes, but when we start labeling it we minimize that which is exponential.
I wish the English language had 96 words for love. One word for love contracts this force; 96 words expands this force. How much more in tune with our hearts would we be if we had an expanded vocabulary for love? Maybe love would be more easily accepted and freely given. People like me wouldn’t over analyze it and rank it because we only have one word. Love is a life-and-death matter. I know how to minimize love: give it only one word to go by.