As a young man, Siddhartha was in love with a young girl in the beautiful valley where he grew up. She was a pretty girl some two or three years younger to him, slender, fair and delicate. His love for her was his secret and he never told anyone of that love. Anyone, including her. It was a silent love, a kind of silent worship. Every evening as the oil lamps in the temple at the heart of the valley were lit, she would go to the temple, fresh from her evening bath, in fresh clothes, her long, dark, shining hair open and loose. Siddhartha loved everything about her. But what he loved more than anything else was the serenity that surrounded her. Her movement had a kind of stillness about it. It was as though she floated towards the temple rather than walked. The whole evening had a quality of stillness and she moved as though she was the very heart of that stillness.
Siddhartha waited for her under the peepal tree near the temple every evening. Usually there were other young men with him there – his friends. On those days she ignored him completely – as though the peepal tree and the boys under it did not exist. On the days when he was alone under the tree, she would look at him and give him a smile. A smile that that blossomed on her face and in her eyes like a flower blossoming on a young plant. The smile lit up her beautiful face. It was as though a lamp has been suddenly lit up in a tiny shrine, its light bathing everything in its glow.
They had known each other from their childhood.
Siddhartha loved the feeling her presence gave him. It made him light. He felt as though he could fly. His inner world was lit up by her presence. On days when he could not see her, his world would be different. On those days, his world was cloudy. Filled with clouds that did not bring any rain, but brought only gloom. A vague, nameless gloom that he could not put words to.
Years later Siddhartha would wonder. Was it with the young girl he was in love? Or was it the feeling that she gave him that he loved? Was he in love with her, or was it with the lightness that her presence gave her that he loved, her smile gave her, that the thought she loved him gave him?
Do we love the people we love because they give us such beautiful feelings, or do we get such beautiful feelings because we love them?
Perhaps both are true. Perhaps truth is not one, there are different truths. A poet’s truth and a philosopher’s truth. And many others. The poet’s truth tells us that we get beautiful feelings because we love. And the philosopher’s truth tells us that we love because that gives us beautiful feelings.
“I love you not for who you are, but for who I am when I am beside you,” says Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Perhaps this is only the philosopher’s truth. It is the philosopher in Marquez speaking. The thinker in Marquez. When he speaks as a poet, he would speak differently. When he speaks as a writer, he would speak differently.
Marquez is one of the most powerful writers on love ever. I have loved several of his books, including One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera and A Demon Called Love, in all three of which his love is more demoniacal, obsessive and compulsive than the tender love the poet sings of.