Corinne Berzon

100 words for love

Launching a counterstrike against those who, with their hateful cruelty, can be described in one word: abomination

Some days I feel like the world is drowning in a sea of misery, hate and negativity. The brief glimpses of the sublime that nourish my soul and pull me back from the edge of despair remain obscured and out of reach. Today is not one of those days for me, but it is for my sun-scathed land. Today my land is one of soured milk, of bees with honey-tipped stingers. In our eternal capital bloodstains bake under the scorching heat and venom drips from bearded lips, whispering: “Abomination”. Cruel, evil words hurled like weapons — destroying and incinerating their targets.

I am far, far away from my home in a place of breezy easiness. Canada is way more chill than Israel in July. Literally and figuratively. When I woke up this morning, the morning of my 35th birthday, the sky was filled with dark rolling clouds and a sweet, grassy breeze misted over the lake. Heavy rain splattered perfect, rippling circles across the water, and as I dove in for a solitary swim, the cold drops washed away every doubt and every pain. In the quiet stillness of the deep, floating on my back, I looked up at the churning sky, listened to my breath echoing under the surface and felt wonderfully and truly blessed.

And then, when I came back inside, I opened my computer. That sleek Pandora’s Box with all of its gifts and curses. Today, on the eve of the fifteenth of Av — the Jewish day of love — no trilling doves or tendrils of roses poured forth from the screen. Instead, self-righteous venom. Instead, a word full of hate and ugliness: “Abomination”. So rather than slam that box shut, I am unleashing a counterstrike. From across the world I want to blow a cooling breeze to calm those fetid flames. I want to rain cleansing love down on that desert of hatred. I want to pour kindness onto that inferno of rage.

There is a common misconception that the Inuit have one hundred words for snow. They actually have far fewer, but still many more than we do in our European languages. Certainly more than Semitic languages, which instead sing the names of winds with lilting gutturals. That is the way language works: we have names for the things upon which our lives are built. Our words are the cornerstones of our reality. Today our shared home needs to be built on love; we need to speak the words for love today. In retaliation against the seething on my screen, I am writing down my words for love. These are mine, but each of us have our own. Some of them we share, some we hold close for ourselves. Each one is a necessary foundation upon which our homes are built. Each one describes something completely different, and yet entirely the same. Like the wet snow that sticks or the blowing snow that drifts across the ice, love has many words. Each one perfect, each one complete.

Dignity and sadness are the words for loving my grandmother. She is gone, and there is an aching space where her smell and touch and voice used to be. She is always my hero.

Honor and gratitude are the words for loving my mother. She built her life around me. She is my forever home.

Admiration and compassion are the words for loving my eldest daughter, my mature and kind child. She made me a mother and for that I owe her the world.

Tenderness and wonder are the words for loving my middle daughter, my fairy child. She is like sun glinting off dew.

Laughter and embrace are the words for loving my youngest daughter. She smiles like the full moon lighting even the darkest sky.

Intimacy and trust are the words for loving my husband. He and I have built a home together, callouses and splinters and scrapes have only made it that much more beautiful. He is my best friend of all.

Appreciation and respect are the words for loving my family. Together my husband and I are made strong and secure by them. They are the ground holding us up, the force of gravity that keeps us from floating away.

Kinship and support are the words for loving my dear friends. These women I have met along the way, each one perfect, each one a whole world unto herself. Each one invaluable to me in her own unique way.

Adoration and humility are the words for loving my Creator. In my deepest sorrows and greatest joys, I am made whole by the knowledge of this Presence.

Passion and vigilance are the words for loving my land. She is complicated and harsh, but never anything less than everything.

Pride and sacrifice are the words for loving my people. I would stand and die for my people.

My people who today sling arrows at each other, but would drop their bows to unite in our never-ending battle for survival. My people who have grown thorns that strangle and tear the sweet blossoms blooming on the self-same vines. My people who whisper and shout words that are not words of love: “Abomination.”

In the face of these scalding words, these cruel words, these stabbing, cutting, painful words, I say this: we have a hundred words for love. Let these be bricks we build our home with.

About the Author
Corinne Berzon is currently getting her PhD in bioethics. When she is not reading dense philosophical texts or dancing around the house to dubstep with her three daughters, she teaches yoga, runs in no particular direction and watches inappropriate television with her husband; Corinne loves Israel, but remains deeply and darkly cynical because it is more entertaining than the alternative.