"I love you." These are the words, more than any others, that we crave to hear. If only they are meant from the heart!
When a word can be used in so many ways to mean so many apparently diverse things, it becomes questionable whether it means anything at all. Would it be better to go the route of the Greeks? They sliced the pie of love into a number of pieces, and gave separate names to each. Agape: the pure and selfless love of God that we are asked to imitate, however imperfectly. Eros: best translated, I think as "in loveless." Storge: domestic love. Philios: love of friends. Epithumia: lust. And I am sure that they had some additional term to deal with broccoli, though I'm not sure what it was. In English all this is called "love." Is there a common denominator beneath the plethora of mental states that go by the name love that justifies the use of a single term?
The wisdom of the Greek language must be respected. There are reasons for making distinctions. But the profundity of the English language deserves equal respect. Love, this most ambiguous and troublesome of all four letter words, should be preserved in all its murkiness and glory. Love overflows every definition that could be found in any dictionary. It finds its full meaning only amidst the confusion and clutter of all the baggage it has collected in hundreds of years of use by philosophers, by saints, by simple hard working honest folks, by lechers, and by criminals. It is the yellow and white water lilies glowing on the surface of a sparkling lake. It is also the muck in which their roots are embedded and from which they draw their sustenance. It is what God does to each of us. It is what some of us do to broccoli. It is the Alpha and the Omega of our lives. To sanitize it, and separate it entirely from muck is to lose it.
Once we have acknowledged, even celebrated the irreducible murkiness of love, we must, almost in the same breath, affirm with the Greeks the need for definitions and distinctions. Without definitions we cannot talk meaningfully at all. Without making distinctions we cannot negotiate a path through the wilderness of love without being swallowed up.