I recently read a list of 10 characteristics of love that grabbed my attention. In asking what it means to deeply love a person and what it means to love a place, Kathleen Dean Moore (2005, p. 35) found that the answers converge.

 “To love—a person and a place—means at least this:

  1. To want to be near it, physically.
  2. To want to know everything about it—its story, its moods, what it looks like by moonlight.
  3. To rejoice in the fact of it.
  4. To fear its loss, and grieve for its injuries.
  5. To protect it—fiercely, mindlessly, futilely, and maybe tragically, but to be helpless to do otherwise.
  6. To be transformed in its presence—lifted, lighter on your feet, transparent, open to everything beautiful and new.
  7. To want to be joined with it, taken in by it, lost in it.
  8. To want the best for it.
  9. Desperately.

“Love is … not a choice, or a dream, or a romantic novel. It’s a fact: an empirical fact about our biological existence. We are born into relationships with people and with places. We are born with the ability to create new relationships and tend to them. And we are born with a powerful longing for these relations. That complex connectedness nourishes and shapes us and gives us joy and purpose.

“I knew there was something important missing from my list… Loving isn’t just a state of being, it’s a way of acting in the world. Love isn’t a sort of bliss, it’s a kind of work, sometimes hard, spirit-testing work. To love a person is to accept the responsibility to act lovingly toward him, to make his needs my own needs. To love a place is to care for it, to keep it healthy, to attend to its needs as if they were my own, because they are my own. Responsibility grows from love. It is the natural shape of caring.

10. To love a person or a place is to accept moral responsibility for its well-being.”

Lee (1973) lists six types of human love: Eros (passionate togetherness), Agape (self-sacrificing), Pragma (intentionally choosing a relationship), Sorge (familial), Mania (needy/ecstatic) and Ludus (playful hedonic). (Missing is Philia, friendship, a key form for CS Lewis and for philosophers such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.)

Using Lee’s (1973) list of love types, Moore seems to be describing a combination of Eros (passionate togetherness) and Agape (self-sacrificing), what I will call deep love. But she is applying it not only to humans but to the natural world. Love of natural places is not in Lee’s list (though CS Lewis, 1960 mentions it as appreciative love).

Deep love comes naturally to mothers towards their babies when all goes well and it likely “trains up” the baby for similar loving later. It also emerges normally towards the natural world for those raised in close cooperation with it (see Turnbull 1983).

Whether deep love is towards a baby, to whose needs you give your all without judgment or resistance, or towards the land for which one is steward, the actions of deep love seem similar.

To get to Moore’s deep kind of moral love, I think it requires practicing surrendering one’s ego, submitting to reciprocal vulnerability in the relationship, letting oneself be equally influenced by the other (mutually responsive orientation that Kochanska, 2002, describes of responsive parenting which leads to great outcomes for kids). One acknowledges and honors the power of Life within the Other (a sense of reverence towards their deeper self). On a day-to-day basis, one must forgive and forget past slights and continually reopen one’s hospitality (as mothers do after the baby spits up on their favorite dress).

Now of course there must be a caveat. One must wisely decide when putting one’s own love interest first is warranted and when the broader common good and concern for Life (human and non-human) should take priority. To determine this, more than deep love is required and perhaps the Agape aspect emphasized. Human communal imagination is needed. Our heritage here draws the scope of caring relation and responsibility more widely--to the rest of the entities in the natural world with whom our ancestors lived sustainably. It takes some practice to return to this mindset too.

For more on these matters see Narvaez, 2014.


JA Lee (1973) Colours of love: an exploration of the ways of loving. Toronto: New Press.

CS Lewis (1960) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Loves

KD Moore (2005) The Pine Island Paradox, Mpls: Milkweed Editions

C Turnbull (1983) The Human Cycle. NY: Simon & Schuster.

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