It occurred to me long ago that the single greatest failing of the English language is that there is only a single word to describe the range of emotions we call "love". There are at least five separate and distinct emotions which we lump under the word, which I present here:
First, there is the unique love between a mother and a child. I have known people who claim not to love their mothers, and I have no doubt that some of these claims are true, but where such love does exist -- and it is widespread -- it is unique in the people's lives and binds the two together in ways unrivaled by any other bond.
There is also the love between a father and a child, which from my exclusively male perspective seems to be largely a matter of pride as one's child grows and matures beyond expectations. It occurs to me that perhaps these positions are switched when the child is female, but I do not know. For simplicity's sake I therefore group these two together, and call them Parental Love.
Second, there is love between siblings. It is undeniable that beneath the numerous rivalries which arise between siblings, there can usually be found an underlying bond which is all but unbreakable except in the most exceptional of circumstances. In some cases the bond is more visible and open, but when worse comes to worst, both prove to be powerful links. This I call Brotherhood.
The third is probably the least ever admitted form of love, yet often the most openly displayed: that between friends. Simply put, close friends care deeply about each other in ways which can truly only be described as love. These are the friendships which last a lifetime, and the friends who can be relied upon in times of need, and times of celebration. This I see as the true source of respect. This love must be felt between any two people who try to share any other form of love. This is Friendship.
The fourth love is Passion. We've heard it said that the flame which burns most brightly burns for the briefest time. Truly happy must be those lovers who sustain such an energy throughout their lives. This is the love which leaves people daydreaming about each other. This is the love of courtship, and of early marriage; though it alone cannot sustain an extended relationship. However important it is, it can not stand alone.
The fifth I call the Gentle Love; others call it True. This is the love that can sustain a husband and wife happily throughout their lives. It is the most powerful emotion a person can experience, and those who find it are truly blessed. Often subtle in its display, it is at its root the most stable and obstinant of the forms of love. The best marriages, and the truest bonds are those based in this simple, powerful emotion.
I have heard that the Inuit in Alaska have over a hundred words for what we call "snow", because it takes so many different forms that the distinctions need to be made in their everyday conversation. In our lives, (if we are lucky), love surrounds us in numerous forms, many of which we neither recognize nor acknowledge. Parental Love, Brotherhood, Friendship, Passion, and the Gentle Love: There is no greater good I can wish upon another than that they experience and recognize Love in all its forms.
A presentation of Striderweb -- http://striderweb.com/
Copyright © 1995, 2001 by Stephen Rider
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