05 January 2023

Signatures in the seasons of love

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Scroll down for previous articles]  

Love, Khalil Gibran wrote, has seasons. In the collection ‘A Tear and a Smile,’ Gibran describes the spring, summer, autumn and winter of ‘The Life of Love.’ Now one may read it as the way Gibran sees how relationships evolve over time, from the first flush of love to those end-days when passion is spent and what remains is the assurance of familiarity and knowing, tenderness of enduring companionship and perhaps mutual dependency simply because the rest of the world has no time. He has not titled it ‘The Life of a Relationship.’ It’s love.

How long is the lifetime of love? How long does a moment last? Are these things measurable in seconds, minutes, days or years? Gibran refers to the beloved he addresses this poem to as ‘the companion of my full life.’ It is easy to imagine it’s all about a love or a relationship that has lasted a lifetime, but if love is what counts then any time that love has not touched cannot be called life. Full life is then nothing more, nothing less, than love’s course, however long or short, and it will always contain all seasons.  

But what of length and longevity, for we are concerned here about signature!

Many centuries ago, chancing on this book and opening randomly to ‘The Life of Love,’ a line touched me. It also grazed the love of that time which, looking back, was already in its proverbial winter but was nevertheless taken to be the spring.

Feed the lamp with oil and let it not dim, and
Place it by you, so I can read with tears what
Your life with me has written upon your face.

Things get written on the hearts, minds, eyes and even faces by what’s said and done. It’s an invisible ink that does its work quietly. It’s so surreptitious that no one even notices that their lives inscribe things on the particular person who is loved or, more likely, the person who loves them. So this is probably why Gibran wants both light and proximity. They make recognition easier. They allow us to read.

It’s not just about love and lovers, though. We leave evidence of our passing. Sometimes they are visible and sometimes they are not. The impact can be measured in certain things, but not all. For example, carbon footprints, a term derived from the concept of ecological footprint, developed by William E Rees and Mathis Wackernagel, University of British Columbia in the 1990s.

‘Carbon footprint’ is a measure of how much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of an individual, organization or community, for example, through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance, and the production and consumption of food, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services. We do not need a lamp or a close-look to find out how and how much we contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases.

If we really put our minds to it, we can reduce our carbon footprint. Now we know that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. We know that China, the United States of  America and India account for half the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. We can play the game called ‘Let them do it first.’ We can do our bit. For we all leave a mark, then, carbon and otherwise.

What do we take when we leave? Nothing. What do we leave behind? Much. We leave scratch-marks or deep rents on people, collectives, things and processes, knowingly and unknowingly. Since most of it cannot be measured, we can all escape censure. But we know, don’t we? We don’t acknowledge, do we?

We don’t say ‘sorry,’ we don’t ask for forgiveness and we don’t change the way we do things, we don’t stop ourselves from uttering a word that hurts, we don’t break our silences to console. If we held a lamp closer to the world and people around us, we could perhaps see how we’ve disfigured even as we’ve sprinkled some delightful colours upon the relevant surfaces, planted happy seeds in relevant hearts.

If there’s a lamp, if we can get closer, we’ll see what we’ve etched on others, but perhaps as or more important is to bring face and lamp closer to a mirror for we ourselves write upon our faces and our words can be seen as distinct from those written by others. We may find reasons to weep, but surely there will be cause to smile. And then, there’ll always be some way we can with touch, word and silence make more beautiful or less sad the countenances we encounter.

We are in the early spring of our love. We are also in the winter of togetherness. There’s a lamp that can be fed with oil so it won’t dim. There’s a face awaiting a gaze determined to read the sad and happy poetry inscribed upon it. Before this moment passes. Before the seasons are done.

Other articles in this series:

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart The allegory of the slow road