Photo by me.
I retweeted a generic meme on my twitter timeline recently, rare for me, caught before it was lost to the bottomless void beneath my screen… “Measure your life in love” ~ RENT, it said.
I had been pondering about how we measure love, rent aside.
Can love only be measured by actions? How far do words count, especially beyond the human world? Words are for human to human communication, although some other species will learn some spoken words. I think we are generally very poor at understanding their languages, though I would encourage all to try.
Picture this. I may stand in a wood beneath the canopy-glo on a sunny day and speak outloud, in my English, that I love this wood. I don’t need to shout, mindful not to disturb others. This is not my home. I would not impose, uninvited, by being intentionally loud. The sounds gently echo back from the tree trunks, through my head and into my brain cells. I am telling myself that I love the wood, and it seems to work as an affirmation. That maybe of some value to me. But what about the community of individuals of the woodland realm? Do they respond? Are the trees, the birds, the reptiles, the soil amoebas and the hyphae responding to being told they are loved?
We now know trees are sentient, but I am uncertain, spirituality aside, if they really understand exactly what I am saying. There are more humans than not, who wouldn’t understand what I am saying. So, maybe, I think these words do not matter so much…
Now that my love is affirmed, what about actions? In making moral judgements, emotions and rationale (verbalised, either internally or externally), motivate us to act. If I were to protect those trees, understorey and all dependent life from a bulldozer, to educate people to respect the woodland as community, to fence it from deer overgrazing, to leave woody debris for roots to gain nutrients, to water it in drought, would they understand those actions I take, rooted in my love for them? Still, I am unsure. Most Westerners might consider there’s no consciousness in a wood. Perhaps, to remain open-minded…
I might, of course, be incorrect in suggesting the wood be fenced, for example, as such an action might restrict the passage of individuals, granivores, to and from their home. This is something I need to investigate first, to be sure that prior evidence is weighted in my decision making. I might be damaging the wood in the name of love, so I need to double check. This is why we need to be consequentialist in our understanding. Evidence is needed to support our actions, to guide us to a likely outcome, but, this also is rooted in love. It is a loving thing to do.
So, actions rooted in love can be empirically measured as love.
Next, go back to those words. “I love this wood”. How do actions compare to strength of feeling, or words? I am highly motivated, morally, to protect this wood. To protect it is the right thing to do. The voracity of my actions are measurable not in how loud I shout about it, but in how good I am at researching and implementing the best possible action to take. A good photo of this same wood, or a painting, or a poem, may help me to strengthen that affection of the real community they represent. I may also tweet about that love. Others may read what I tweet and discuss with friends and family. I have read the conservation evidence written by others, of the good (or bad), of certain actions compared with others. I try to look for a consensus. I may not get things right every time. But still, the love can be measured, in the protection of that wood, from all the words communicated to me, the words I affirm to myself and extend to others, the actions I take and the results.
So, I can’t find any real divide between love’s actions and words, at least when they are genuine. Maybe, I knew this all along. But I had to check.
Love’s actions and words, like everything else I try to tease apart, are connected. More, it is similar for all species that communicate in some way, via sound, vibration, chemicals and touch and other methods we may not yet be aware. This is intrinsically fluminism. Actions and communications ~ a flow between all individual entities for ‘good’, from within to without. Fluminism is a very powerful form of love.
In conclusion, I think we can measure all life in love and love by life in its diversity and abundance, breadth and depth. Love-life. Life-love.
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