By Elizabeth Anne Hull
Consider the substantial reality of an abstraction like love. We see the sacrifices people make for one another every day in the name of love as evidence of love’s existence. But what we mean by love varies a lot by context.
We all know that loving pizza and loving power are quite different, both in quality and magnitude; likewise, brotherly love and sexual love are quite different (unless your brother is your lover). Love doesn’t even have to be reciprocal, at least not to the same extent. I love my dog and cat, but not equally; they both love me, but not equally. Ain’t Love Grand?
Mother love is the sort of love we as a culture get most mushy and sentimental about, especially unconditional mother love. If you were lucky enough to experience this, you certainly miss it when it’s gone. My mother loved me unconditionally (my father, not so much). I consider myself very lucky. She’s been gone more than 13 years, but I still think of my mother every day.
We gush about mother love even though not all mothers seem to love their offspring instinctually. But we’ve made up our minds; don’t confuse us with the facts!
The love of a mother for her child and the love of a child for a mother are among the most powerful motivators we know, far stronger than even money, power, or prestige. Research has shown that when babies are not kissed, patted, and talked to as their diapers are changed and bottles of milk supplied, the lack of “mothering” can result in mental disorders, lowered intelligence and even death for the unfortunate child. Failure to thrive, in medical terms.
It works both ways. How many elderly mothers molder away in nursing homes neglected by their offspring? Such social isolation leads to death. Old people with regular interaction with their children and loved ones live longer and stay healthier in both mind and body.
To paraphrase Robert Frost, neglect and apathy can be as powerful as either fire or ice, and will suffice — to end the world. Ignoring what’s going on around us in the natural world as well as the political world won’t make it any less potentially deadly.
Why isn’t our love for Mother Earth strong enough?