My dear friends of the interwebs,
Today I feel inspired by love. But I am at the same time jealous. Jealous because my mother tongue, Kikuyu, just like my two national languages, English and Kiswahili, have only one word for “love” in all it’s forms, colors and presentations. This is unlike the Greek language, which has eight different shades of “love”.
That love that made Emperor Shah Jahan of India to build the Taj Mahal, a monument that took twenty two years and twenty two thousand workers to build, as a memorial and resting place of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died during childbirth.
That love that made British Lord Maurice Egerton build, in ten years, a majestic castle in Nakuru, Kenya to impress the love of his life, an Austrian lady whom he had deeply loved for seven years and to whom he wished to become engaged. He built it after she refused to stay in his six-bedroomed house, saying it was too small for a person of royalty like her.
That love that made Kenyan Jared Otieno to land in Meru, Kenya with several choppers and a huge motorcade of expensive cars to pay dowry for his girlfriend and later spend lots of money in a colorful wedding ceremony.
That love that made a Beyonce to buy a private jet for her husband, Jay, for fathers day. Or the one that made Akothee to buy her daughters expensive cars for their birthdays.
English dictionaries define “love” as “an intense feeling of deep affection. This makes the word “love” to be an umbrella word that covers many types of emotions that include deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment, devotion, adoration, doting, idolization, worship, passion, ardor, desire, lust, yearning, infatuation, romance and friendship.
The Greeks, however, in their pursuit of self-understanding, found eight different varieties of “love” that we all experience at some point.
The Greeks found “Eros or Erotic love”. This love was named after the Greek god of love and fertility. Eros is passionate and intense love that arouses romantic feelings and sexual desire. It, however, does not last long.
The Greeks found “Philia or Affectionate love”. This love is friendship. It is just love between equals, shared goodwill. Such as companions who have endured some hard times together. Mutual companionship, dependability and trust with no physical attraction.
The Greeks found “Storge or Familiar love”. This love closely resembles philia in that there is no physical attraction, but it refers to the fondness born out of familiarity or dependency such as the love amongst family members or people who have known each other for a relatively long time. It is a natural form of affection that flows between parents and their children, and vice versa. It is the love that knows forgiveness, acceptance and sacrifice. It is unconditional. It can also be found around childhood friends.
The Greeks found “Ludus or Playful love”. This is playful or uncommitted love, such as the affection between young lovers, “players”. The focus is on fun. The feeling we go through during the early stages of falling in love with someone, flirting, teasing, dancing and seducing. The relationships are casual, undemanding and with no strings attached.
The Greeks found “Mania or Obsessive love”. This is a type of love that leads a partner into a type of madness and obsessiveness. It occurs when there is imbalance between eros and ludus. It is experienced by partners with little self esteem, who want to be loved so that they can find a sense of self-value. They can become very possessive and jealous, feeling as though they desperately need their partners.
The Greeks found “Pragma or Enduring love”. This is a love that has aged, matured and developed overtime. It is beyond the physical, it has transcended emotions, and is a unique harmony that has formed over time. It is the true commitment that comes from understanding, patience, compromise and tolerance, such as in married couples who have been together for a long time, or in friendships that have endured for decades. Unfortunately, pragma is rare. Unlike the other types of love, pragma is the result or effort on both sides.
The Greeks found “Philautia or Self love”. They understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This is self-love can be healthy or unhealthy. It can be unhealthy when it leads to an inflated sense of one’s abilities, status, or accomplishments when accompanied by arrogance and self-obsession that is focused on personal fame, gain and fortune. We can only love others if we truly love ourselves and we can only care for others if we truly care for ourselves. That is the healthy self-love. You cannot share what you do not have.
The Greeks found “Agape or selfless love”. This is universal love, such as the love for strangers, the nature or God. It is a selfless unconditional love, love that accepts the recipients regardless of their flaws and shortcomings. It has infinite empathy, such as God’s love for us. A love that gives without expecting anything in return. It is pure and it comes straight from the heart.
Now you may see why I feel jealous of the Greek language. It has a name for each of the varieties of love. But be that as it may, I cannot speak Greek and therefore I will continue using the word “love”, or “upendo” in Kiswahili, or “wendo” in Kikuyu, to cover all those varieties, and let the chips fall where they may.
Oh yes, “love” is just a word, until somebody comes and gives it meaning. Just like in the love stories of Emperor Shah, Lord Egerton, Jared Otieno, Akothee and many others. In these stories, it is clear that when one falls in love, the brain wakes up and becomes more creative and energetic than usual. That people have more capacity when they are in love to go further in expression, whether physical or spiritual.
But when all is said and done, it is great to display “love”, regardless of it’s variety or color, with everything that’s available: time, attention, money, patience, bodily and mentally. It is also great to express the depth of the feelings by speaking romantic and poetic words.