The word love as it is used by so-called lovers is most intricate and intriguing. A word that is full of many definitions, meanings and applications. It is a word that has engaged the thoughts of philosophers, the clinical analysis of psychologists and the preoccupation of many creative bards. The word is alluring and very romantic. But what does it mean?
I will probably not go that route as we talk of loving, giving and caring. Love to me is a so-much-abused word with a result that I can safely say I am not sure what it means. But I know what it connotes. I know the obvious signs of the word, and I can recognise the practical, tangible part of its expression. The bit I am not sure about is when people glibly say ‘I love you’.
There is the affection of a father or mother to a child. I know and recognise the love grandparents have towards their grandchildren. I know how much I dote on mine, and how much of my thoughts they occupy. That is the loving that I feel comfortable to speak about. But the love a man professes to his wife or partner and can take the advantage of it to maltreat that wife or partner is the one I find most confusing.
Stories abound of men and women who murdered their so-called ‘loved’ ones because of money or thirst for power. I find it difficult to believe that a man who could butcher his wife and cut her body into pieces and wrap them up and put in the freezer ever loved the woman he claimed to ‘love’. This is the dilemma I have when it comes to using the word ‘love’ to describe the feeling one professes to the other.
Love, therefore, remains in the mind, in the thought. But giving, even if it is an expression of the thought or feeling of love is visible. You give your time to some one who means a lot to you. You visit. You spend time together. You spend time writing letters. You spend time on the phone. And on a bigger scale, you exchange gifts.
Giving is in itself a divine idea. The more you give, the more blessed you are. Every culture, every tradition and every religion recognises and appreciates the value and virtue of giving. A person who is miserly or tight-fisted is hardly respected in/by any culture. In fact, every culture has a derogatory word for the miserly.
Giving comes from the soul. And it is the most practical way of showing affection to another person. In man-woman relationships, it is advised and recommended that both the woman and the man should imbibe the virtue of giving. A woman should not expect that each time she goes to the movies or to a restaurant, it is the man who should foot the bill. It is good and respectable if the woman also gives her lover/friend/partner/husband a treat, fully paid for by her.
And men who take advantage of the affection women have for them and by so doing allow the women to always foot the bill must recognise that they are mortgaging their pride and dignity. Sooner or later the women in their life would leave them after branding them ‘a sucker’ or ‘sponge’!
Caring is most certainly a virtue and expression of affection, either for a given person or for generic humanity. As I said about having difficulty pinning the word ‘love’ on specifics, the word caring is very explicit. It is also action-laden. It is not just a thought. It is not intangible. A caring person is too easy to recognise. By simply giving up one’s seat in a bus to the elderly, or a pregnant woman or a woman carrying a baby, one has demonstrated an act of caring. Caring comes from the kindness of the heart.
The Ijebu, a sub-culture/sub-ethnic of the Yoruba race, places more value on care than money! ‘Aajo j’owo!’, caring is of more humane value than just giving cash, they claim with air of finality. If a friend is performing the final funeral rites of his or her mother, that friend is more likely to appreciate the contribution of a friend who sacrifices time to be with him or her than the friend who merely sends tonnes of money.
My 85-year-old auntie popularly called ‘Face’ by her admirers is fond of telling any invitee to her ceremonies that ‘it is your face I want at the party, not your money. Face, you hear? Face!’ and that was how she became known as Madam Face!
Of the three words loving, giving and caring, caring is about the most endearing. It behoves all of us to give and care. As to the expression of love or its being, its abstractness has rendered it indeterminable.
- Adeniyi, a veteran journalist, lives in Lagos.