The moment life first entered my body, it wasn’t much of a body, just a single cell with mom and dad encrypted inside.
A few decades and trillions of cells later, I relived this moment in a dream. As you can imagine, in this pre-sense, pre-brain stage of mine, it wasn’t much of an experience. The only thing my primary cell remembers from its first environment is the love – love flowing around and filling the space where I came to life.
”Nice welcome,” I thought in my sleep.
Then a voice said, “This is how it started. Where are you now in the circle of love?” And then I woke up.
That morning I began my research on the evolution of love in a lifetime.
Here’s what I found.
While a baby, you’re always the center of gravity.
Everybody wants to hug you and protect you. Your helplessness, combined with those inhumanly cute proportions of yours, evokes gurgling and goo-gooing tenderness even in adults thrifty with emotions. There’s no effort on your part whatsoever.
If you start weeping, they cocoon you with compassion. If you start laughing, everyone in earshot gapes in blissful smiles. Each fairly coordinated move of yours is greeted as the scientific breakthrough of the century. They arrange a special celebration for your first step, applaud each new syllable, each poop in the potty, each successful blowing of your nose, stuff like that.
However, once you get too tall to walk upright under the table, things slowly begin to change. It takes greater and greater achievements to get a bravo. Hugging becomes rarer and rarer. It gets harder and harder to steal a smile from a stranger.
Paradoxical as it may sound, the bigger you grow, the fewer people notice you. One day while walking along the street, you find that adults don’t even look at you – just like they don’t look at each other. You’re no longer the center in the circle of love at home, either.
Your folks are always running about, always in a rush for something that’s more urgent than your needs. Should they pause, they prefer communicating with the TV. Well, it is indeed the most docile family member: flick – makes them cry, flick – makes them laugh, flick – shuts its mouth. The TV talks to them whenever they want – as much as they wish, providing whatever they feel like listening to. And, unlike you, it wants nothing from them.
But you’re a kid, so you adapt. You learn to want less. Sometimes you wish they’d hug you, but you say nothing about it because you don’t want to act like a baby. You miss them looking directly at you, at only you, with both eyes; but it would sound dumb if you say it bluntly, so you provoke them with pranks, screams, rebellions – whatever comes from within, and they just shake their heads, cluck their tongues like angry timepieces, and attribute everything to puberty.
The sensation of something taken away rankles you increasingly. You don’t know what it is exactly because it comes from the vague memories of early childhood, but you’d bet it has to do with loving. Back then, they used to love you unconditionally, no matter what you did. Like they were living with the sole purpose of loving you. And now they live to work, grumble and lecture you. They do love you but in some tough way – in passing. Sometimes they remember how to love: say, when you pretend you’re sleeping and mommy walks to your bed and strokes your hair gently, careful not to wake you up. Or when you get sick, and they get scared. Adults are weird – they love the best under fear.
Will you grow to be like that? Will your circle of love shift and fade?
You revolt against this prospect. You commit a lot of follies against it. Then, someday you forget to revolt and – imperceptibly – become the same: temperately noticeable, temperately loving, temperately happy.
Except when you fall in love. That’s magical – as if your senses suddenly awaken and grow razor-sharp. You feel incredibly alive because you are the center of somebody’s gravity. You turn into an airy, winged, sweet devotion that makes you whole again, eager to smile for no reason and convinced you can do anything. It’s almost unconditional love but with a small difference – the “un-“ is missing. Maybe that’s why it rarely turns eternal. Infatuation lasts for a few months, a couple of years tops. Then, little by little, the feeling cools down. You get used to it, and once people get used to something, they stop enjoying it.
So, this takes you back to temperate latitudes, though if anyone asks, you’d say – and believe – that you’re happy.
That is, until some precious, gurgling creature comes along in your life to remind you of boundless love, all-consuming tenderness, raw happiness, stuff like that. And you’re back in the love club.
However, when your baby grows up, you gradually forget again.
And again, you feel rankled by the sensation of something taken away – something to do with loving. Your circle of love is changing.
Meanwhile, there’s always someone to admonish you: “Learn from kids, they don’t need a reason to be happy!” And you feel miserable because happy-for-no-reason seems so unattainable.
Don’t, dear! Don’t torture yourself. It’s easy for kids. Everybody can be happy when they’re absolutely loved. “Absolutely loved,” after all, seems to be the happiness synonym.
And you? You’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to get a hug without an invitation, a smile without a pretext, a pat on the back when you’ve done your best, a straight lingering look into your eyes…
Completely forgotten, aside from that little voice from early childhood that whispers to you sometimes – when you get quiet enough to hear it – about the greatest kind of love: the love with which the world welcomes every wanted child, instinctively encoding in its subconsciousness the secret of the absolute human power. It’s the love your whole life revolves around, though you don’t even realize it, and the love that means more than anything you’ll ever accomplish.
Can you feel it? It’s fluttering and goo-gooing deep inside your stomach – right where the butterflies of your most intimate joys are born. It can hardly wait for you to discover and unlock it … and start hugging without an invitation, smiling for no reason, looking at people with both eyes, loving them like you want to be loved. Finding the happiness of knowing that love makes life meaningful when you receive it – but even more so when you give it. Give it to yourself first, then, naturally, to others.
When I discovered and unlocked it, everything changed; the circle was complete. I have all the love I need now. It’s part of me, like my face.
Since then, the pieces of my life started coming together. It feels like every person I met and every experience I had were meant to be.
The same goes for The Happiness of Knowledge project: the answer to my wishes to be part of something big and meaningful. It was a chance to join a community of people who dare to deep dive into the mysterious geometry of their souls and explore the invisible strings that connect them to one another. My kind of people.
So where are you in the circle of love?