Piece on love in Elle India, Feb 2010

Elle India Feb 2010

Love by Any Other name

Pheromone overload in the presence of a member of the opposite sex (who may or may not be biologically opposite) – one of the most illogical, frequently occurring, meanest and most fleeting of emotions, institutionalized into marriage and made the very foundation of society – is that love?

Or that feeling of nurture and protection we feel for our own young and the young of other species – puppies and kittens – sometimes to the point of doing violence and risking bodily harm in order to protect the helpless ? Instinct? Or love?

Then there is the awe of the unknown All Powerful and the fear of purgatory, hell, afterlife or another life, our existence or non-existence in the hands (Hands?!) of a higher power. That religious fervor or superstitious terror, or reverence for Him who created this complex system we call love, life, and the universe – is that it? Love?

And what about the feeling of delight and desire that fills us at the thought or sight of some perfect stranger – a movie star or a quarterback perhaps – for whom, given such a chance we would leave our partners, children and even cats – and on whom we heap our good wishes and good luck and for whom we worry and fret, and from whom we need nothing at all but for them to be them? Fanatic infatuation? Or love that is actually so pure that it does not even need reciprocity?

Or is it that perfect feeling right after the sigh and right before you drift into sleep in your lover’s arms – the feeling that has no direction or object really, it could be for that person holding you at that most vulnerable of moments, or it could be for yourself, or for a perfect moment of life itself, and nothing more and nothing  less. Sexual fulfillment?  Love, surely?

Or is it the grown up love for a partner of decades, co-parent of your offspring, co-habitant of your nest or cave, co-payer of bills and co-cleaner of toilets (someday, you hope), the consistent feeling (liberally peppered with daily annoyances) which prevents you from acting on pheromone rushes for someone other than this partner, the feeling that binds you to each other for all eternity – or at least for this life? Entitlement? Ownership? Love?

Or is it the strength to lend your shoulder for tears, your hand for support, your time and energy to the despondent, the old,  the sick, the dying?  Is it empathy? Sympathy? Duty? Love?

Attempting to interpret or analyze this world of emotion and cause and effect – to which we have given this paltry label  – feels like listing the ingredients of night: darkness, fireflies, fear, sounds of moonlight and smell of starlight. Inadequate.

The limitless, complex, beautiful, ugly, indifferent, violent feelings we feel  all spring from love – like hours in a day, like people in a city, a million forms and expressions of it, impossible to divide or define.

Love is just a name for nothing and everything – for the substance of the soul.

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