Usually irrational, often born of impulse, but always brave, love is not a safe place but it is one we return to despite everything. The first time I fell in love I asked them to hold on because all I’d ever known was how to let go, seeing my parents revolving doors of love had disarmed my belief in a one-true-love scenario.


Today I asked the latest AI system named Alexa, what is love? To which they replied, the Dalai Lama says that love is non-judgement. A suspiciously diplomatic response, I thought. But then again, I was the one asking artificial intelligence for emotional advice. Perhaps love really is being in a state of non-judgement. Or maybe love is what Zen Buddhism refers to as being in the present moment with someone. 

Or perhaps love is less virtuous that, love can be blind and superfluous. It can be a moment of aesthetic arrest driven by pheromones and oxytocin, the body’s natural love chemical. My friend who is a sex educator told me that it takes just six seconds of sustained intimacy to become chemically bound to someone. A theory yet to be affirmed in practice but I’m working on it.

Of course, there is no one universal type. Writer and philosopher, Alan Watts, describes instead a spectrum of love, suggesting that you can have an erotic relationship with the external world. He says, the whole organism – physical, psychological, and spiritual – is an erogenous zone. In other words, you can develop a romantic relationship with the world at large if you desire. 

And I guess desire is at the core of this enquiry. What kind of love do you desire? And when you find it will you be satisfied, or will you always seek something else? Because this is a paradox we have all encountered before. Unlike the love story propaganda that has been sold to us, love does not fulfil our entire being and it shouldn’t have to. 

Instead it can serve us as our friendships do, and if you’re a friend of mine you will know this is the highest comparison I can make. Love can be respected for its autonomy, admired for its freedom, and looked upon as a rare and precious jewel that we expect nothing from other than the impenetrable and fleeting beauty that it besets upon us. 

What kind of love do I desire? For now, this question carries more weight than the answer, because answers can only be lived, and so I continue to live my way into an answer. Some meaning is better understood when leaning over its edge. Whatever it is, I have resolved to let love stay veiled, something closer to feeling than understanding, closer to poetry than knowledge. 

After all, it’s not one-true-love I want, it’s another thing that shines at the bottom of all longing like a possible diamond in a cave one may reach; a love that is tremulous, one that rushes through you like a procession of faded silks and does not questions why or how it came to be.

Words & Photography
Shannon May Powell