What Is Love? What Is Love?

What Is Love?

By Isabella Gillespie

What Is Love? What Is Love?

“Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone who can understand what we are saying in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved.” 

Alain de Botton, On Love

In the goings and comings between the dawn and dusk, we masque the mystery of the subtle with a sense of the mundane. We often forget that devotion to the small, is the art of living. That life may be marked by significant events, but the masterpiece is painted by a procession of small moments. Like our bodies, our memories are made of mostly empty space. The space between the moments that define us. And yet, where does this store house of experience go? How does the tangible and fleshy things of our bones and bodies lie testament to the knowledge that we are mostly; not here at all. If I were to rewrite the Noble Truths of our paths to realisation, the first would perhaps be the simple truth that life is strange. And yet what is strange, but the distance between what is unknown and yet to be realised.


Still, heavy is the house of all our internal happenings, weighted to the skin of earth by some translucent and invisible force of gravity. It seems, much like our memories; that most of what makes us alive is hidden in the invisible, empty space of our own magnetic and mysterious nature. The silence is all knowing, dwelling in our centre and yet slightly out of reach. Perhaps we are only instruments of an orchestra, music, of a language we cannot yet read? 


I am a believer in many things. Most of which, dance between thresholds of conditioned abstract fears and fantasies; and the seemingly impossible, grander and existentially unlimited possibilities that span across the mind of this modern mystic. Living sentient, as a flea upon a planet within a constellation of stars, as cells upon some greater body, with its own world of friends and ancestors; whose web of existence, energy and light never dies but is always changing form. And so we  spiral, we do not climb. 


Perhaps if we are to re-emerge as an conscious species, language will be, and is, the first stepping stone of understanding. Language is the cornerstone of our existence. If we cannot learn to communicate between the species of earth, how will we manage, if and when, we meet our future of intergalactic brothers, sisters and distant cousins. 


Language is the cornerstone of connection. Our every day words, used so much and in so many ways, that much of the magnificence pulsating at the centre of expression has been sucked out like marrow from a bone. 



Love is a body, a house of an entire language of its own. The indistinguishable breath that shades all other words with its presence or its absence. 

Love is vibration, the sun of our existence. It is a word and yet wordless, it is defined and yet undefinable. It moves through us reaching for the things around us; and magnetising things to us. 

We harbour so many of our questions, our longings in the house of love. It is woven by the fabric of the most existential mysteries emulsified in the four letters of longing. To love, and be loved. To see, and be seen. 


The Sanskrit language has 96 words for love; ancient Persian has 80, ancient Greek has 4 and English has only one. 


It is no wonder we are confused. When the core impulse that drives our thoughts, words, expression and meaning of life; is hidden in a labyrinth of loving. The way we feel is eternally changing yet love, this word, always wears the same coat. I believe it is in the wordless ways of loving that its most essential qualities are celebrated. 


Where we are at a loss in our language of love, and so reflects the poverty of awareness and recognition of the significance of feeling in our world. It is, in the way of zen, the middle road we must walk; between the realms of feeling and thinking, doing and being. 



How do we go about reclaiming our language? 


Telling someone you love them should carry the kryptonite to our hard casing, de-armouring and bridging the inextinguishable loneliness that coats the human heart. For the second Noble Truth I would scribe, is that we are alone in this world. It is our world, an internal world, in which we are bound that inhabits only one; and no one can truly know the full and complex magnificence of that world that we each are. And so, we remain a mystery; even to ourselves. 


Until we accept this truth, and understand love can only speak from this place; we are bound by the illusion that someone else will complete us. By honouring ourselves as sovereign, the virgins of our untouchable presence, we can foster the authenticity of partnership in deep respect and understanding. A commitment to the unknowable in one another, a surrender to the inevitable loss and discoveries the depths and mysteries of who we each are, were and eternally becoming. 


Love is not the falling, but the pilgrimage. All great love is rooted in Friendship. And David Whyte sums it up beautifully.


"FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die. 

In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves. The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence.


But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone."


We need to broaden, open, peel back and receive love where we find it. Regardless of our differences and in spite of our contexts, when people walk into your life who see you, who challenge you to your greatness and accept you for your worst; walk with them, laugh with them, let them into your deepest and most protected places. This is the art of living, this is the art of love.




  • Words of the heart ,. Understanding with an open heart

    Kell Belle on

  • Sooooo beautiful! I love everything about this post.

    Selene on

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