There are many types of love, different in their objects, in their intensity. “The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them,” wrote Margaret Atwood. “There ought to be as many for love.” But we only have one. This is perhaps the greatest confusion of language.
Among the many expressions of love, there is a sublime one, aspired by all. This is True Love (or “llove”). Most loves are mixed with other emotions, with jealousy, with resentment, with hatred. A complete, total love is rare.
Young people, wrote Rainer Maria Rilke, bewildered and impatient in their love, escape into one of the many conventions that society has put up in great numbers like public shelters on this most dangerous road. “Since society preferred to take love life as an amusement, it also had to give it an easy form, cheap, safe, and sure, as public amusements are.”
There is hardly a man who has thought of love and has not come to a similar conclusion: true love is not common. It is much simpler to be satisfied with amusements. Erich Fromm wrote: “No objective observer of our Western life can doubt that love – brotherly love, motherly love, and erotic love – is a relatively rare phenomenon, and that its place is taken by a number of forms of pseudo-love which are in reality so many forms of the disintegration of love.” And British philosopher Simon May observed: “Everyone needs love; many find it; but few live it.”
Almost everything that is meaningful in our lives, we need to learn to do, and we devote considerable time and effort to this. But loving, we think, is a natural ability. Therefore many tend to not take it seriously. But if we want not only to find love, but to live love, active efforts are required. Nietzsche likened it to music. Any person, if not deaf, is capable of receiving sounds. But really hearing is another matter. He wrote:
“First one has to learn to hear a figure and melody at all, to detect and distinguish it, to isolate it and delimit it as a separate life; then it requires some exertion and good will to tolerate it in spite of its strangeness, to be patient with its appearance and expression, and kindhearted about its oddity:—finally there comes a moment when we are used to it, when we wait for it, when we sense that we should miss it if it were missing: and now it continues to compel and enchant us relentlessly until we have become its humble and enraptured lovers who desire nothing better from the world than it and only it.— But that is what happens to us not only in music: that is how we have learned to love all things that we now love. In the end we are always rewarded for our good will, our patience, fairmindedness, and gentleness with what is strange; gradually, it sheds its veil and turns out to be a new and indescribable beauty:—that is its gratitude for our hospitality. Even those who love themselves will have learned it in this way: for there is no other way. Love, too, has to be learned.”