The indigenous translation below is an example of how cultures and therefore languages draw their word meanings from their ecology. The Cree people covered a vast area on the northern prairie but they shared a relationship to the land.
From @emilyjaneriddle (Canadian Cree) via Twitter.
“The nehiyaw term for love (sakihitowin) is directly related to our term for a plant sprouting out of the ground (sakikin). for us, loving someone means supporting their growth, giving them space to sprout.
“This actually aligns quite well with bell hooks definition of love: “as ‘the will to extend one’s self for the the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth’.
“My favourite term for partner in our language because it’s romantic and gender neutral: niwikimakan. If you take the literal translation it means “the one i live with” but it really means “the one i tend to the fire with”.
For contrast, here is a neuroanatomy quote (observation of neural cells in the brain). Very few people ever have a look at a hypothalamus, dead or alive, and it tells us nothing about what it does or why, though some feel it may suggest why some people prefer sexual interaction with the same gender as their own. It also justifies the idea that people’s interest in sex wanes as they age.
Because only specially trained people have access to this knowledge except as they pass it to the rest of us, so it can’t be checked for assumptions based on culture. As comparison, how many people can understand the Cree concept of “the one I tend the fire with”? Or even have planted something and watched it grow, protecting and supplying nutrition.
“The sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN) is an ovoid, densely packed cluster of large cells located in the medial preoptic area (POA) of the hypothalamus which is believed to be related to sexual behavior in animals. Thus far, for all species of mammals investigated, the SDN has been repeatedly found to be considerably larger in males than in females. In humans, the volume of the SDN has been found to be 2.2 times as large in males as in females and to contain 2.1 times as many cells. The human SDN is elongated in females and more spherical in males. No sex differences have been observed in the human SDN in either cell density or mean diameter of the cell nuclei. The volume and cell number of the human SDN considerably decreases with age, although the decrease in cell number is both sex and age-specific. In males, a substantial decrease in the cell number of the human SDN was observed between the age of 50–60 years. Cell death was more common in females than males, especially among those older than 70 years of age.”
The cells studied in this example were “ovine” — sheep. These domestic animals are selected to be heterosexually fertile, according to performance. And yet, like most mammals, a certain percentage always prefer the same sex that they are. Is this a glitch of development? Why isn’t it selected out when people cull their herds?
Do sheep fall in love? The term “love” is so corrupted and misunderstood that sex and love are two terms that constantly become more distant, though in terms of fertility morality, that which does not reproduce is bad and should be eliminated. I prefer a different kind of morality, based on the ecosystem, in which case fertility may lead to destructive effects like overpopulation or forced legal situations.
Ecosystem morality does allow for “attachment,” the development of emotional relationship to other people and the environment. Attachment is a complex development from experience, often requiring time. It naturally develops from the conception and gestation of mammals inside their mother, who must care for her newborns with cleaning, feeding, and stroking — possibly talking and singing. Eventually, when the baby is old enough to become adult shortly after puberty, the problem becomes one of separation from the mother. At this point sexual development enters the morality of sex, the drive to exploit the ability of the body for arousal and even ecstasy.
If the impulses developed from attachment experience and the addictive qualities of sex are coordinated in a specific culture in a way that allows growth and tending, “keeping the fire going,” then the likelihood of a successful family and life in general is high. Both the failure of caretakers to nurture and the failure to sustain positive “love” that helps the other are situations that will prevent survival, as individuals or as a society.
Once society is organized into being a demographically defined nation and begins to build laws, it usually uses fertility morality: that is, laws that promote expansion and ownership, legal status and trans-generational practices like wills. At that point criminality is invented, defined by what the society thinks prevents order and wealth. But many forces arising from attachment or neurophysiology can interfere and cause people to do criminal things anyway.
Fertility morality and legal ownership are often at odds as people try to treat one gender or the other as products to be “owned” whether it is a husband who demands that children are defined as “his” though he only triggered their creation, or a wife who demands that a husband support her children because they are “his.” This is much complicated by DNA, but the physiological nature of conception and gestation are often at odds with the government’s desire to keep order. Anything out of the ordinary has to be dealt with somehow whether in court or by other means, most wrenching perhaps the surgical altering of reality.
Our media today are using fertility morality to make money: mom, home, alimony, preventing conception, forcing conception in a lab, sex outside marriage, children outside marriage — they are all translated to metaphors like chocolate, red flowers, lacy missives, jewelry, young seductive men or women. Orgasm has become a spiritual goal.
A morality of ecosystem has not really been thought out. It is particularly complex because ecosystems are dynamic. What is caring for the fire today — in other words the warm that preserves life — is not so easily described. It may be a matter of who pays the electrical or gas bill. Time to work on it. I thank Emily Jane Riddle for helping us.