How I discovered what love is
Love is the rose-scented memory of the mother you lost too early. Love is the tight, sudden hug of your son.
- Total Shares
First time in the last 18 years, Musa, my only son, is away from home on these last days of the year. Far, far away in school in the cold, covered in tinsel and cheer of Christmas, New York, enjoying the solitude of his winter break away from the hectic franticness of studies, and with most of his friends home for holidays, my 18-year-old son, happy and self-contained, makes me laugh every day when we talk on the phone. As I miss him every moment and beyond, what keeps me going is the knowledge of his happiness in his home away from home: his dorm room at his college in NYC.
Life is just that. There is something that is beyond your individuality, beyond your awareness of being, beyond your status of you without any prefix, any suffix, any otherness. There is a feeling of a sense of completion in connection to another person, or more than one person, the notion that your identity is shaped by relationships you have, the way those who matter the most make you find pieces of you through their love, their validation of the feelings you have for them, the coming together of you through the bonds you have. You are you. And you are also because of something beyond that.
You are because they are. I am because my son is. Or is it the other way around? He is because of me? There is no one question that untangles the mystery of the love that holds it all together. There is no single answer as to why we unravel when that love seems to transform into something else, perhaps more, maybe less. What is hard to understand is how the very definition of us through the glass of that love, so fragile, so beguiling, keeps changing as we grow older, harder, weaker, more brittle, ready to break. But we don’t.
There is something that is beyond your individuality. (Photo: Reuters)
Human resilience to go on no matter what happens is how I, you, we, them survive the bizarre cards that crazy little thing called life hands us. You watch your dreams break, your hand to your mouth, eyes ashen with tears that feel like unseen shards of glass, as you sleepwalk through one day into another. There is a test every step of the way, there is a false hope each day you open your eyes, there is much to do and nothing to add. Life that hurts, life that snatches, life that disappoints, life that stabs like a serrated knife, life that makes you lose the direction, life that kindles in you the hope that is a lie, life that seduces, and life that dupes, as you fumble for that light within you that humanises you even when there is only the feeling of aloneness that is like a dark, short-legged, scary monster under the bed. The slivers of your being dance like flecks of light around you, while you watch silent, numb, without moving.
Love that is the sunny smile of a child. (Photo: Reuters)
And the door, creaking, slowly opens, and love enters. Love that is not all that you know it to be. Love that is the sunny smile of a child, love that is the clumsy jumping-on-you embrace of your dog, love that is the artless laughter of a teenager, love that is the glowing beauty of a niece who you talk to every day, love that is the 4am text of your best friend, love that is the help you needed but never asked for, love that is the gorgeous smile of that man you have known for ages but can’t get enough of, love that is the many calls your sister makes to you every day even when you grumble half-asleep at 2pm, love that is the leftover Chinese food your brother sends you at 1am, love that is the rose-scented memory of the mother you lost too early, love that is the tight, sudden hug of your son. Love that is unconditional, love that is good, love that is selfless, love that is kind, love that just is.
It is all around us. Notwithstanding the enormity of the bad that happens all around us; the intensity of the violence human beings unleash on one another, on animals, on the planet; devastation of war, natural disasters, poverty, disease, hunger, terrorism, displacement, murder, rape; sexually abused children, blinded children, starving children, maimed children, displaced children; people going missing, people in pain, people divided by faith, race, faith, border, bigotry, classism; issues of unnecessary borders, othering, alienation, inequality, injustice, persecution, harassment, cruelty of speech, propagation of the untruth, binaries, endorsement of propaganda, and prevalence of hatred, what is always there is the power of love.
Love sees right through the bullshit. (Photo: Reuters)
Love that cuts through the rubble — it finds its way through the pitch dark, it weaves through chaos, it sees right through the bullshit. It doesn’t care about the subtleties, it makes its own rules, it marches to its own tune. Love that is unconditional, love that is selfless, love that is good, love that is kind is what keeps humanity alive in a world under attack in more ways than it was possible to imagine the lowness mankind could sink to.
Love is to live. (Photo: Reuters)
Love keeps the earth moving on its axis for everyone who loses bits of themselves, the physical presence of those they didn’t think they could live without. Human kindness that trumps human propensity to inflict pain is what changes, for the better, one day from the other. It is the kindness that is the gift of those who have love within themselves, who despite having been through hell and back believe in being good to those they are connected to through blood, through friendship, through solidarity, and through humanity. Those who love are kind. Those who love know there is no life without being connected to one another. Those who love understand there is nothing that is impossible to mend. Those who love see that destruction is not forever. Those who love believe that distance is not absence of being. Those who love know death doesn’t end it all. Those who love live.
As I write these lines on a 4-degree December pre-dawn darkness in Lahore, gentle snores of my two darlings, Pearl and Summer punctuating the silence, watching through a mist-covered window pane the languid, grey-blue light of the second last day of the year, I smile thinking about my son’s laughter. Musa’s laughter that is love. Musa’s laughter that is life.
A very Happy New Year to all who love and live.
And those who someday will...