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InnerNet Weekly: Inspirations from

Ninety Six Words for Love
by Robert Johnson

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The first difficulty we meet in discussing anything concerning our feelings is that we have no adequate vocabulary to use. Where there is no terminology, there is no consciousness. A poverty-stricken vocabulary is an immediate admission that the subject is inferior or depreciated in that society.

Sanskrit has ninety-six words for love; ancient Persian has eighty, Greek three, and English only one. This is indicative of the poverty of awareness or emphasis that we give to that tremendously important realm of feeling. Eskimos have thirty words for snow, because it is a life-and death matter to them to have exact information about the element they live with so intimately. If we had a vocabulary of thirty words for love ... we would immediately be richer and more intelligent in this human element so close to our heart. An Eskimo probably would die of clumsiness if he had only one word for snow; we are close to dying of loneliness because we have only one word for love. Of all the Western languages, English may be the most lacking when it comes to feeling.

Imagine what richness would be expressed if one had a specific vocabulary for the love of one's father, another word for the love of one's mother, yet another for one's camel (the Persians have this luxury), still another for another's spouse, and another exclusively for the sunset! Our world would expand and gain clarity immeasurably if we had such tools.

It is always the inferior function, whether in an individual or a culture, that suffers this poverty. One's greatest treasures are won by the superior function but always at the cost of the inferior function. One's greatest triumphs are always accompanied by one's greatest weaknesses. Because thinking is our superior function in the English-speaking world, it follows automatically that feeling is our inferior function. These two faculties tend to exist at the expense of each other. If one is strong in feeling, one is likely to be inferior in thinking -- and vice versa. Our superior function has given us science and the higher standard of living -- but at the cost of impoverishing the feeling function.

This is vividly demonstrated by our meager vocabulary of feeling words. If we had the expanded and exact vocabulary for feeling that we have for science and technology, we would be well on our way to warmth of relatedness and generosity of feeling.

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Ninety Six Words for Love
How do you relate to the notion that superiority in one function only comes at the expense of the other? Can you share a personal experience where you gained insights by seeing the impoverishment of either function in your life? How might we balance the thinking and feeling functions?
Kristin Pedemonti wrote: Here's to creating new words for love. I am one who feels deeply and yet much of what I say are "thinking" statements. I tend to rationalize my feelings with thinking. Thank you for pointing out a la...
Jagdish P Dave wrote:  The contradictory way of perceiving the reality is bothersome to me. The either -or mind set- instead of this and that is closer to perceiving the reality. In Jainism, it is called syadvada-the...
Abhishek Thakore wrote:  At one level. having multiple words surely allows for greater nuance and precision....but then again, words are merely pointers - in fact they can end up becoming cages, keeping us from the sea...
Nilam wrote: You said it beautifully......!!!!Deepest of our experiences are beyond words!!! If somebody truly loves you don't need them to say it loud can just feel it in your heart!!!!  ...
david doane wrote:  What a fascinating article.  I never knew that various cultures had so many words for what's important to them, and English is so impoverished in words about love and feeling, though it ma...
Jyoti wrote: Yes, a richer vocabulary for love is desirable and would enrich our world. Everyone says Sanskrit has these words, but why do not share some of these so we can start using them? I am ready. I do not ...
Jyoti wrote:  Your words nicely explain the limitations of words ! ...
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