I never thought I’d ask myself what love is, but after so many failed attempts at trying to love myself and others, I’ve reached the crossroads. I look to the left and right and see hate; I look forward and see an unpromising future filled with regret; I look back with bitterness.
All my life, I’ve striven hard to be a better person. I’ve tried everything: Medication, counselling, religion, self-help books, mindfulness and yoga. But I’ve failed in every sense. I’m hardwired to anger; prone to destruction and addicted to self-loathing. I’m a lonely man with a mind that has fallen into despair. I want to be different; I want success; I want beauty and truth, but I’m slowly coming to terms with failure.
Depression is my mistress. She comes to me unexpectedly and beds me when she feels like it, and I’m henpecked. There is no equilibrium in our relationship. There’s just chaos and debauched awkwardness. There’s sadomasochism. Leather, whips and a depraved dominatrix. I’m the crying boy on a leash, and she’s the older woman who takes the keenest pleasure in barking something like: “Sit! Now that’s a good boy!”
In my life, I’ve been a dreamer, but never the optimist. Perhaps that makes me the realistic dreamer. The guy who knows he’s falling into a gutter, but still thinks of purple sunsets and halcyon days. “Qui n’avance pas, recule!” You’ll find me forever regressing; getting worse by the day. Sure, I’ll tell you about my dreams. I’ll say that I’ll finally get a grip, and hell, move one step forward and dream about it, but I’ll never do it. I’m fighting a strongman named Fate. He despises me; floods my mind with eight streams of thought that prevent sleep and give me the most debilitating stress; fills my heart with rage; troubles every iota of my soul and makes sure that I never pick myself up.
I’m a horrible person. I hate the people who love me. I claim that I love them, but my words never translate into action. I’m always angry; I’m forever playing the victim, and I have no love in me. Perhaps losing naivety has something to do with not loving anymore. When I was naive, I had a heart. I was foolish and extremely idealistic, but I cared. Now, I’m a sceptical, dubious man who judges everyone and everything. I’m vindictive, rough and callous. I’m edgy and apprehensive. I hate myself for it.
Today, I’m twice the son of hell my father ever was, and it appals me. My temper, my self-loathing and my love for drama revolt me. I’ve become a deceitful, angry young man who uses Machiavellian manoeuvres to get what he wants. It’s so sickening, but enough complaining! There must be a way out! And after a lifetime of introspection and madness, I’ve realized that I must find two things: Love and inner peace.
Coming back to my first sentence, what is love? Is it emotion backed by action? Is it obedience and discipline? Is it recondite truth known to a few? Is it empathy? Is it sympathy? Is it saccharine, lachrymose longing? Is it unconditional support? Is it a puritanical obsession? Is it forgiveness? Is it trust? Is it passionate amour? Is it lust? Or is it all the above?
In my brief stay of 31 years on this planet, I’ve learnt many things from both real and imagined experience, but I still don’t know what love is, and that makes me the greatest failure there is. If tomorrow, I was to wake up in a Leprechaun’s pot of success, and still not know how to love, I’ll be worse a failure.
I’ve written so many love poems and short prose pieces, but a gush of emotion is all that inspired them. They may or may not have depth, and they may feel real or ‘to-the-bone,’ but you can throw your tomatoes now and boo me off stage because I’m a peddler of dishonesty. I’m a bigger hypocrite than the people I call out so aggressively. I don’t know how to love. I’m stoic and emotionless most of the time. I used to feel sadness, but these days, I feel numb. There’s a hard heart within me. It’s heavy and weighs me down, and I want it to soften and love and care. I want it to feel again. I want it to know beauty and hope and truth. I want it to be crazy about the people who care about me.
Doesn’t time make us the greatest cynics? We look at society and its charlatans, and we all become George Carlins. At least he constructively criticized society. We, on the other hand, end up isolating individuals and making their lives miserable. But when you look at the big picture, we’re all sociopaths and narcissists. We’re all proud and ambitious. We’re all addicted to our stories. Nobody is good. It doesn’t matter if we’re optimists or pessimists; if we laugh at people’s misery or cry with them. In the end, if given a choice between good and evil, we’ll choose evil in a heartbeat.
“Oh, precious light! Oh, look towards the beautiful light! Oh, look within and change and then look yonder in peace and happiness!” Sayeth the inspirational poet.
I ask, what light? What happiness? What peace? What on earth are you rambling about?
“You’re too engulfed in darkness, and you want the light! It’ll never be yours!” Sayeth the new age prophet who is probably a secret occultist.
Define it, man! Tell me what the light is! Express it clearly! Don’t make it some Delphic, Gnostic nonsense! Bring it to layman’s terms and tell me what it is! Don’t laugh and say, “You’ll never know!” because if you do, I’ll laugh at your defence mechanisms. I’ll laugh at the madness of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll laugh even if you were to explain it eloquently because I know what you’ll prattle about. Yes, you’ll go on about ‘energy.’ Why do I laugh at something so beautiful as ‘energy?’ It’s simple. If quantum mechanics hasn’t found the energy you’re talking about, then all your bracelets, charms and mad theories are hogwash. And if it’s hogwash, then you have no light. And if you have no light, you have no love.
So, I come back to the meaning of love without answers. Now, some of you might ask me about traditional religion. Well, monotheistic religions preach a wrathful God. Polytheistic religions only give you metaphysical postmodernism; enlightenment is spiritual obscurantism, and Jiddu Krishnamurti has a self (whether he likes to admit it or not.) In the end, I find no ladders leading up to heaven’s door; no rivers that I must sail across; no roads that I must travel upon and no one to hold me in the desert.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2020)
Nitin is a grumpy poet who blogs at There will come soft rains. You can follow him if you’re into self-loathing, bitterness and shit.