20 April 2009

Failing 'Love' - Part 1

I have talked about it before, namely here and here, but i think there's still more to say about the destruction overuse and misuse causes to language.

Specifically, we overuse and misuse the word 'love.'

Think about it. This is the word vaunted at weddings, given center stage with bride and groom, used as a descriptor of their connection, as well as a reason for their decision.

Yet this is the same word we use when we talk about how much we enjoy eating pizza, or what that band makes us feel, or how a certain smell (napalm in the morning, maybe?) affects us.

Love is either more versatile than other words, or just overused.

I argue that it's overused. A monkey wrench is versatile, being able to work with bolts large and small equally well. The word 'love' does not work equally well with every use. It's obvious the difference between the 'I love you' said at the altar and the 'I love it' said at the movie premiere. One holds life-long commitment; the other displays temporary approval and enjoyment over something.

Where using the word 'love' fails is when we describe two different things non-relationally. So when i say 'I love this movie' and when i say 'I love pizza,' i fail to properly express what each of them makes me feel. The movie might connect me to my childhood, it might tell a compelling story that moves me, it might just be a well-written, well-acted movie. However, the pizza is a purely sensational connection. When i enjoy pizza, when i love it, it is purely because of sensation. It fills my belly and satisfies my taste buds.

The first is more intellectual, even where it delves into visceral sensations. The second is purely sensation, entirely built upon how good it makes me feel.

The Greeks do a better job at this than we do. They are five Greek words for our one equivalent: storge, philia, eros, thelema and agape. The wonders of wikipedia. Growing up in church, i'd always heard about four words, but there are actually five. What do you know. The language is deeper than i thought.

Storge describes affection, like a familial bond between brother and sister, or mother and child.

Philia is a word that means friendship. It conveys with it a sense of loyalty.

Eros is passionate love, generally used for the sensual relationships between man and a woman, but it could also be used platonically for a relationship that goes deeper than philia.

Thelema is a desirous love, the selfish desire that speaks of a selfish personal fulfillment.

Agape covers them all. Ancient Greek uses it to convey a general sense of affection. Primarily is used to testify the feeling of being content or holding someone in high regard. The New Testament uses it in the sense of self-sacrificing love.

There is diversity in these words. You can convey more exactly what you mean, with less confusion.

There is more than i have to say about our failure with 'love' but i don't want to write too much at one time. I hate reading posts that are too long, so i won't put that on anybody else. So this has become my first two-part post. Hope none of you mind. There should be enough to think about and discuss here, for starters.

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