Look up the etymology of the word LOVE. There seems to be a lot of conversation about this particular word in the English language, so it's origins must be important. You might be surprised to learn where it comes from and how it's meaning has changed over time.
As a verb:
Old English lufian "to feel love for, cherish, show love to; delight in, approve," from Proto-Germanic *lubojan (source also of Old High German lubon, German lieben), a verb from the root of love (n.). Weakened sense of "like" attested by c. 1200. Intransitive sense "be in love, have a passionate attachment" is from mid-13c.
As a noun:
Old English lufu "feeling of love; romantic sexual attraction; affection; friendliness; the love of God; Love as an abstraction or personification," from Proto-Germanic *lubo (source also of Old High German liubi "joy," German Liebe "love;" Old Norse, Old Frisian, Dutch lof; German Lob "praise;" Old Saxon liof, Old Frisian liaf, Dutch lief, Old High German liob, German lieb, Gothic liufs "dear, beloved"). The Germanic words are from PIE root *leubh- "to care, desire, love."
To fall in love is attested from early 15c.; to be in love with (someone) is from c. 1500. To make love is from 1570s in the sense "pay amorous attention to;" as a euphemism for "have sex," it is attested from c. 1950. Love scene is from 1630s. Love affair "a particular experience of love" is from 1590s. Love life "one's collective amorous activities" is from 1919, originally a term in psychological jargon. Love beads is from 1968. Love bug, imaginary insect, is from 1937. Love-handles is from 1960s.
is that the original meanings were purely about a relationship to "other" and consisted of two parts, either sexual/romantic desire or the ability to sacrifice one's own self-interest for another. The idea that "you have to love yourself first" (a quote from Lucille Ball) is actually very modern, and while Ms. Ball was a wonderful actress, she may not have been the best choice as a spiritual guide.
As Americans have focused on more loving ourselves, spurred on by a heavily commercialized self-help industry, our ability to love others has declined significantly. is it any wonder that there's also a lot of conversation about narcissism? The resulting isolation has become one of the most prominent features of modern life.
At the same time we've lost something previous generations took for granted: the certainty that life will continue. The potential that humans could damage the living ecosystems of the Earth to the point of making them uninhabitable is another prominent feature of modern life, and the combination of these two features has created an intense longing among many for more meaningful community.
That is the trauma of our time, and the grief associated with it is quite real. But it's also a tremendous gift, because it's pointing us back toward the most uniquely human of all human traits: the ability to love another more than oneself.
That's what grief always reminds us.
"Even now," she thought, "almost no one remembers Esteban and Pepita but myself. Camilla alone remembers her Uncle Pio and her son; this woman, her mother. But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning." [Thornton Wilder, "Bridge of San Luis Rey," 1927]
Ed Preston is the Founder of The Grief & Trauma Resource Center, an online directory created to provide more accurate information to the general public about grief and trauma. His own decades long journey with grief has lead him down many paths. He holds a degree in Cultural Anthropology, is a scholar of the Orphan Wisdom School, and a breath meditation teacher.