I am back to thinking of those friends who are facing end-of-life issues, about whom I wrote recently. Now two more in our blog-circle have joined that group, and I have just read about several more of whom I didn’t know before.
This is a very sad time. So sad, in fact, that a commenter on one of the blogs even seriously questioned, for those of us who are especially susceptible to this pain, whether it’s worth it in the first place to love our animal companions.
I can understand that question, but I can’t stand to think of it.
So I want to turn my broken heart to the love part of loss. Love is the only thing I can stand to write about now.
If something’s important enough, you’d think we’d find words to differentiate, to express nuance.
Snow is so much a part of the lives of Eskimos and Aleuts that it’s become a cliché, and maybe not even true, that they have a thousand words for snow. Maybe it’s truer that the Scandinavians have a thousand words for reindeer.
As for us? We have just the one word – “love” – to stand for everything from the way we feel about our animal companions to the way we feel about our newest pair of shoes. Roman Krznaric notices that these days, we’ve got more words to order the exact caffeinated beverage of our choice than we have of expressing which kind of love we’re feeling.
So I feel better when I think about different words for love.
Krznaric says the ancient Greeks had six words for love’s varieties. For sexual passion, Eros; for deep friendship, Philia; for playful flirtatiousness, Ludos; for universal loving-kindness, Agape; for longstanding love, Pragma; and – those Greeks were brilliant – for self-empathy, Philautia.
Five of those six words seem perfectly suited to my own feelings for my animal companions.
Playful flirtatiousness, for all the mock ambushes and multiple massacres of feather wands.
Deep friendship, for a toasty cat-cluster up against my back through these long winter nights.
Long-standing love, which has survived the thug-stage and has mellowed into mutual accommodation and – if I may be so free with the facts – actual understanding.
Self-empathy, for the grief I feel every time I think of Fang and his passing.
And universal loving-kindness, for all of us who have grieved, are grieving, and will grieve, at the lip of this bottomless chasm that, in the end, separates us from those with whom we play, grow into, stay warm, come to understand –