What Love is…

31 Aug


I read on Sulekha a number of writings on love and related stuff. I had not consciously thought of it so far. It did not occur to me to look at it and examine it, in order to understand it. The exercise meant like looking into one’s own eye. I do not pretend I understand what this is all about, despite the years.

I hesitate to articulate on this. I cannot talk unreservedly and with comfort. It is not because of an inhibition. There are voices within vying;each one  yelling it is the true one. There is also a taciturn skeptic, in a state of suspended judgment watching and laughing in half mock. I am not sure which one to give expression. Nothing appears to make much sense. Yet, I am reluctant to let this pass. I may not have much time left.

There are those who poke fun at love as a naïve and romantic construct of our culture milieu, dismiss it as an affliction, and will tell you it is impossible to love and be wise. Others wax poetic and sing “love is all; love is the bird call and the glint in a young girl’s eyes on a summer night.” Some will be dogmatic and pronounce emphatically “God is Love.” And, some, out of their experience, teach, “Love is a strong emotional attachment to another…”etc. There are those that never thought of questioning love, much less defining it; and object vehemently even to the suggestion that they at one time doubted the wisdom of it. To them love is not to be pondered, it is to be experienced.

Similarly, the single whom we mistakenly take to be lonely and suspect that their status might be due to their lack of knowledge  or experience of love, will tell you they too have a concept of their love.
Matterhorn, Switzerlandmoon reflection
Some of them will tell you it is like a tranquil pond reflecting, as if dreaming, a distant mountain peak; as like the moon reflected in the still waters. The moon does not get wet and the water is not broken, yet both enjoy a tacit relation.
In addition, there are those in vast numbers that sleepwalk through life unmindful of what surrounds them.
Surely, there are yet more views and attitudes I am not aware. All of those may be true to some degree, but to assume that any one is best or comprehends all there is to love, is rather simplistic. Each one of us lives and experiences love in his/ her limited sphere, supremely unconcerned with the seeming confusion surrounding its definition. Each has an understanding, an experience of her/his own life and love, and goes by that. Definitions and opinions matter little.
J .Krishnamurthy in a way summed it up, when he said:
Put away the book, the description, the tradition, the
authority, and take the journey of self-discovery.
Love, and don’t be caught in opinions and ideas about what love
is or should be. When you love, everything will come right.
Love has its own action. Love, and you will know the
blessings of it. Keep away from the authority who tells you
what love is and what it is not. No authority knows and he
who knows cannot tell. Love, and there is understanding
In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful and an idealized understanding of love and friendship- Anam Cara “Soul Friend.” It is soul love, connecting and bonding souls. The loved ones’ recognize the inner light and beauty in each other. People, it believes, are like stained glass windows; they sparkle and shine when the sun’s out, but when the darkness sets in, it is then their true beauty glisten brightly in vivid glory – only if there is light within.
This concept is beautiful but is elusive like a moonbeam you try to clasp in your palm. When you find an Anam Cara, you are blessed. Does it ever happen? ; Rarely or  perhaps never.  Is it Attainable? I am not sure.

I am incapable of grasping a mystical or idealized love as Hafiz or Mirdad or even Tagore as in his later years did. It is a yearning for the distant one; often one-sided. One of the paradoxes in romantic love is that it never produces human relationship as long as it stays. People never seem to settle into relationship with each other as human beings and as friends, until they are out of the romantic love saga and until they love each other instead of being in love.

I find the Indian view warm and human. It enjoins to cherish each other in happiness and sorrow, share the burdens and pleasures; make mistakes and yet be friends caring for each other. It teaches to care about everything; the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You are saying ‘Let us walk these steps together .I watch with love every step we take. I am witness to your life as you will be mine. I stand beside you as partner and friend. You are the cause of my life. Let us cherish each other in sorrow and happiness.”

Most of us lead quiet, unheralded, uneventful lives as we pass through this world. This does not mean we should reject the idea of ideal love. We cannot and we should not .Yet, we should progress from romantic love of songs and legends to sharing, loving and living.

It is not always possible to love the best person, even if such a one does exist. You love a person for the best you see in him/her (or you think so).If you could find someone to love you for what you are, that would be ideal. That rarely happens. Consider yourself blessed if it could bring out the best in both.

It is not about perfection either. The perfect ones in the world as snowflakes or stars are either dull or too distant. We come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. We learn to accept the other as truly as the other is. We are not here to make things perfect, but to live a life as well as we can despite angst, broken hearts, shattered dreams and loving wrong persons. It has also a lot to do with forgiveness and gratefulness.

What is to live well is a matter of understanding, aspiration and fulfillment. It is woven around your work, knowledge, emotions and your values, in order to give life a meaning. None of it makes sense if love, actual care for persons, is not present. Your life, your love needs expression with those who share it.

There were times when I was scared , unable to let in someone’s love. I even  tried pushing it away, finding it difficult to open to love or let it all the way in. Looking back over the years, I now realize I could have been gentler and understanding.


It is now no longer important whether anyone loved me or not; more important now for me is to love all; that brings greater happiness. Pablo Picasso wrote, “In life, you throw a ball. You hope it will reach a wall and bounce back so you can throw it again. You hope your friends and loved ones will provide that wall.”

As we grow older, we learn from the ebb and flow of life. As Anne Lindbergh said, when you love someone, you do not love him or her constantly, all the time, in exactly the identical way, from instant to instant. Each moment is not identical with its next one. It is just as a river, each ripple, each drop, resembles its predecessor and its successor but it is never the same ripple or drop. It is impossible; it is hard even to pretend to replicate chosen moments of life. Yet, this is exactly what most demand; not realizing life has a rhythm and vitality. We seldom recognize continuity is possible in life, as in love, only when there is growth, fluidity and freedom. It offers you at each moment, opportunity to make new choices, to live afresh and grow, instead of trapping you in an endless loop.

“We spend nearly a lifetime attempting to define who we are and then spend what ever time we have left trying to undo the mess. We do not get to start over but we do get another opportunity to make new choices about new directions every moment of our lives. That will never change but we can.” as Wei Wu Wei said.

Very often, the sense of possession, fear grip and strangle the relationship. We leap at the flow and fear at its ebb. We desperately hang on to an experience and try in vain to relive it .We are afraid it will never return. If you realize that all things change, you will try not to hold on to the past but live in the present and accept it as it is now, within their limits; for each moment has something to offer. That is what keeps life alive.

Appreciation of each other is important. Appreciation is the understanding, quiet amazement and gratitude. The basis of love is that appreciation, respect and trust which provide space for affection and friendship to flourish. As the poet says, Seasons turn, feelings churn, passions burn, spirits learn, seeds take hold and turn to gold.

When I said providing space, I meant being responsive to other’s feelings and letting the other feel whatever he/she needs to feel without fear how it might be perceived within the relation, and express it. She may need to express her anger, grief, silence, protest, pain, and seek a little solitude or even ask for comfort, to hold hands. It requires humility, care, understanding and the ability to step out of the way with grace; and honesty to appreciate that whatever that is causing hurt is certainly not above our relationship and us; and it can be put away. Two solitudes protect, touch and greet each other. You serve as a container for the overwhelming feelings; that is a gift of love.

What seems to grow fairer to me as life goes by is the love and the grace and tenderness of it; not its wit and cleverness and grandeur of knowledge – grand as knowledge is – but just the laughter of children, and the friendship of friends, and sight of flowers, and the sound of music.

Lao Tzu (c.640-540 BC) said it with remarkable clarity and simplicity what love meant in day to day living: “Why not simply honor your parents, love your children, help your brothers and sisters, be faithful to your friends, care for your mate with devotion, complete your work cooperatively and joyfully, assume responsibility for problems, practice virtue without first demanding it of others, understand the highest truths yet retain an ordinary manner? That would be true love, true clarity, true simplicity, and true mastery.”

Lewis Carroll says the same but differently; “Oh, tis love, tis love, that makes the world go round!” Somebody said. Alice whispered, “that its’s done by everybody minding their own business.”

Love, happiness and well-being are spoken in one breath as if they are inseparable. Many times, I think, they are not even related. A lot of that does not necessarily feel good. It is a bouquet of feelings of various hues and shades. Had I thought that love was about only feeling good, I would have missed many things in life.

Anne Lindbergh wrote,” Don’t wish me happiness. I don’t expect to be happy all the time…It’s gotten beyond that somehow. Wish me courage, strength, and a sense of humor. I will need them all.”

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the poems, legends and the sagas that idealize pain and suffering as if it is all that is to love. To them, sorrows are seeds of loving , to love is to die like a thorn bird that searches for the perfect thorn to impales itself singing the most beautiful song ever heard , as it dies. I am not sure of that either. You live that you may learn to love. You love that you may live to learn, as Mirdad said. I think love is an attitude; it is about life. Love is about living.

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme love.
: Lao Tzu said
A longtime friend whom I had not met in years wrote this. It in a way sums up what I was trying to say.

Love is not all a bed of roses.
Some times it’s washing dirty sox,
 Sometimes it’s getting no sleep with a colicky baby,
Sometimes it’s putting your needs last,

Sometimes love is keeping your mouth shut,
Sometimes love is fighting and making up
Sometimes it’s dealing up with in-laws or extended family,
Sometimes it’s moving away from everyone you’ve ever loved except your mate,
Sometimes it is insisting that your needs come first this time,
Sometimes it’s holding your beloved’s hand as they breathe their last


Watching her beloved die in her arms, her shriek in pain was a natural and an intense expression of love gushing forth like a geyser from the depth of her being. No matter how much it hurts—and it may be the greatest pain in life—grief can be a pure expression of love.

As years pass, the companions who loved , cried, fought, shared , laughed, witnessed wretchedness, drowned in ignominy, sang verses over the autumn moon behind the shifting clouds , are going or gone . Only their mute images remain. And, we survive among the dead and dying. The old grief passes gradually into quiet, tender longing love.

I love without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;

-Pablo Neruda
lotus red



Posted by on August 31, 2012 in General Interest, Speculation


Tags: ,

8 responses to “What Love is…

  1. sreenivasaraos

    March 22, 2015 at 4:11 am

    this is the most touching blog i have read recently. a complete dissertation on love. but the last line made me sad. —————————————————————————————————-i recalled my mom wating alone at my father’s death bed.———————————-she knew it was the last night. was extremely tired– was painful to see his last moments but she wanted him to see he had his beloved ones till the last moment.

    Bijaya Ghosh

  2. sreenivasaraos

    March 22, 2015 at 4:12 am

    you have tried to touch all the aspects of love. great!!
    my favourite quote is:
    “dhai akhshar prem ka pare so pandit hoi”
    love is the ultimate lesson of all religions.
    it is spontaneous.
    the more one loves the more one has the capacity to love.

    great blog
    thanx for posting it

  3. sreenivasaraos

    March 22, 2015 at 4:12 am

    yes, love is something simply complex and difficult to understand when it can be defined in so many ways , by so many people.a good attempt by you indeed to sort out what love is a spectrum of many wavelengths., sometimes discernible, sometimes not!
    but love rules all our activities, sometimes insensibly

  4. sreenivasaraos

    March 22, 2015 at 4:14 am

    dear sir
    that was a comprehensive love digest

    the basis of love is that appreciation, respect and trust which provide space for affection and friendship to flourish

    i think this is the essence of love.

    great blog

  5. sreenivasaraos

    March 22, 2015 at 4:16 am

    yes it is difficult to define luv though you have made a good effort to cover all the aspects.

    especially liked these sentences …

    we come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. we learn to accept the other as truly as the other is.


  6. sreenivasaraos

    March 22, 2015 at 4:16 am

    dear bijaya ghosh

    thank you.

    that was very touching. i know and understand the pain you talked about. i have seen it . i am sorry if the post disturbed you.

    yet,no matter how much it hurts—and it may be the greatest pain in life—grief can be a pure expression of love.

    please keep talking

  7. sreenivasaraos

    March 22, 2015 at 4:16 am

    the way you have analyzed love is superb. there are so many posts about love and each has their views. it is a subject that doesn’t tire us to talk about or read about or write about.

    i loved this,

    i find the indian view warm and human. it enjoins to cherish each other in happiness and sorrow, share the burdens and pleasures; make mistakes and yet be friends caring for each other. it teaches to care about everything; the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day.

    this is the beauty of the love.

    excellent post .


  8. sreenivasaraos

    March 22, 2015 at 4:18 am

    Dear Shri bharatheeyan , Welcome and Thank you. Wow… you have escalated the discussion to a very high level. What you observed is remarkably abiding. I am grateful.

    But, here it was mostly in the context of human living-experiences. It was a mundane attempt, perhaps a feeble one. The otherday, I explained to Shri Vikram Karve how this blog came about. Let me reproduce here an extract of that.

    ‘That was in response to a suggestion or as a belated attempt to answer a question which I could not answer either readily or honestly. It had a certain background. A couple years back, while in Bombay, I chanced to see a childhood friend whom I had not met in ages .It was like a mild shock or sort of déjà vu. As children we were both from the same village; and she was the only girl I had spoken to. No, no that didn’t make her a ‘girl friend’. Such term or concept did not seem to exist then. As we conversed (she of course did most of the talking) I learnt she had gone through rough and tumble of life with some lovely moments sprinkled here and there. She narrated her pain of seeing her husband die in her arms. Then, all of sudden, she looked straight into my face and asked ‘Do you know what Love is?’ I was lost and clueless. To start with, I was taken by surprise, and then I realized I had not, at anytime, thought of the question, nor felt a need to define it. Then I slowly mumbled ‘ I think I know. I have read something of that’. Then she smiled unhurriedly and said”I was asking You .. how You felt ”. As we left, she asked me to write down what I had read and see if it helps. She came back after walking down a couple of steps, took out a piece of paper from her purse and asked me to read it after I reached home.

    After writing it down, as suggested, all that I could understand is – Love is an attitude; it is about life and living.

    I am sure lots of other persons know better, lived better and explain better.’



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