I've been thinking a lot about love lately. We have a tendency to quantify and qualify our love. We rate it. We love our kids more than our spouses who we love more than our parents who we love more than our pets.We'd die for them in one order or another dependent on how we value their status in our lives.
Love is love. It grows, expands, fills holes, heals wounds and enriches our lives. Who are we to say how one should value those we love? Why do we evaluate it? I might save the dog and kid before the spouse but only because I have an expectation that the adults can save themselves. I don't love my niece more than my nephew because she's a girl or consider Stashaholic* a better friend than McB* because I've known her longer. I love all four of them. No qualifications or comparisons necessary.
Do we love based on gender, religion, politics? I love my friends whose politics who send me recoiling in fear. I love my friends whose religious beliefs demand they convert/kill/ostracize me for my different beliefs. I love the dog who turns himself inside out with joy whenever I enter the room. I love the cat who draws blood when he skitters away in fear. Mutual affection clearly doesn't influence my ability to love another being.
I continue to love my grandparents and great-grandparents long after their deaths. I continue to love friends and lovers who are no longer part of my life. Their love and mine for them continues to fill my heart regardless of their presence.
Love is eternal, not constricted by physical limitations, convention or even the act of living.
Love is everywhere.
Plants and animals grow and thrive in healthy, loving environments. The same is true for humans. But love survives and grows in environments where conditions are less than ideal. How many abused children grow into loving parents? More than convention would suggest. Time and again I've watched abused animals respond to patience and love. It exists inside them all. The only lesson required is how to express it.
Hate and fear are no excuse for responding in kind. I used to tell my nephew a story about defeating monsters with a kiss. It was a nice little fairy tale to deflate the monster beneath the bed. Then Monsters, Inc came out and suddenly I was a genius.
A recent episode of MI5 featured an asset turning the terrorist away from his "destiny" by focusing on the love in his life, in his culture, rather than the hate he'd been fed.
Both examples are of fiction but they were timely reminders for me. The world is not black and white, love and hate, good versus evil. There are many shades of all in each of us. It's the choices we make to honour one over the other that make us.
I choose love - in all of its many forms.
*To prove my point about qualifying, I feel the need to mention that I picked those two because they both have their aliases out on the Internet not because they come to mind faster than any of my other friends :)