Friday, 14 May 2010

The Three Loves

Along time ago in China there were two friends. One friend was a harpist the other was so captivated by his music she could sit and listen to it forever.

When he played the music of the mountains, or sang about the mountains, she would say, “I see them as if we were walking in them.” She would then paint the mounts that had been stirred in her mind.

When he played the music of the rivers and seas she would say, “I can see the waters and feel them on my toes.” She would then paint beautiful pictures of rivers and seas.

One day the listener fell sick and the illness resulted in her death. The harpist cut the strings of his harp and never played again.

Since that day the cutting of the harp strings has been the symbol of true and intimate friendship.

Now compare this to how we use the word love for just about anything. Oh I love a good burger from that burger bar. I just love them so much I have to have one. Or I heard somebody speak yesterday of her love of some particular fan magazine. “I just so love the gossip, I cannot live without my daily doze of it.” Truly this is a quote from her.

We use the word love so loosely it has almost lost its meaning.

The ancient Greeks had three separate words for love. There was Eros, the love of things and lust, the love that wanted and wanted more and more. Then there was Philos, the love one has for friends and family. It is the love that gives and takes, the love that we share freely to those around us. Then there was Agape, the love that gives and goes on giving never ever asking for anything in return.

I used to shock my students by telling them that love was not a word we should use. They were never able to comprehend my thinking. I used to tease them ruthlessly, about how they used the word love for anything and everything.

At first they would say, “Mr T you are nuts, you have totally lost it.” Arguments would pursue about my love of children. Eventually we discussed the use of words.

I “loved” that spark of light I saw coming on as the understanding kicked in. From then on it was easier to make them think before saying anything.

This blog is linked to my other wher I speak of the art:- Love Explodes Into Life


  1. Wonderful story. Maybe artists have found many ways to describe "love" and may we be judicious in its use.

  2. I remember having to write a personal essay as classical music played in the background. We were to write on the images or thoughts the music evoked within us. I so loved that assignment. Reminds me still of an old cartoon I saw of Peter and the Wolf that was set to music (or vice versa)...A Russian cartoon, I believe it was. Still, it was gorgeous. As to the love and its usage in language. Much could be said of similar usages of words such as 'tragedy,' 'hate,' 'need...'

  3. Hi Ralph, I am late here today! This guy with cancer has been working! It is all fun and I am loving it. I am thinking that part of this issue on "Love" could be a simple evolution of language thing? What was groovy and out of sight for us became Rad and now Bad! Times have always demanded a dictionary while speaking with youth, when we were there and now. That is part of it.
    The other is a devaluation of emotions so as we flit from here to there and change channels we have to find words without commitment because we have lost that entirely. This allows us to "love" this and that or him or her without obligation or any work involved. Maybe children really do learn from their parents who suffer a 50% divorace rate? It is a sad world and I feel a little guilty. It is the world we created for our children.

  4. The overuse of the word "love" has corrupted its meaning. It seems that we are in the age of language simplification. People speak and write and (shudder) text message one another in the style of graphic novels. Everything with an exclamation point! We are shouting at one another, it seems. And saying little. Because our language is a weak dilution.

    I am going to watch my language. Thanks for the reminder.