“You just look around, look into the eyes of a child, or into the eyes of your beloved, your mother, your friend - or just feel a tree. Have you ever hugged a tree? Hug a tree, and one day you will come to know that it is not only that you have hugged the tree but that the tree also responds, the tree also hugs you.” - Osho

A certain lady asked me, “What is the ultimate thing that truly matters to you?” Being enamoured with her and being an apologetic poet, I immediately began to craft an attempt at an eloquent answer.

I wanted to impress her. I wrote a witty response. I wrote a poem. All of it betrayed my initial and immediate response. The ultimate thing that truly matters to me is love.

It is not just Eros. It is all love. Love of family, love of friends and even love of complete strangers – it is that embodiment of compassion, of selflessness and that giving away parts of you. It is the feeling of being connected to others, outside you and part of the larger organism that is everything.

Since I am a shameless romantic and a bit of a letch, romantic love occupies an inordinate amount of my personal concern. I enjoy being in a relationship, when I have that intimacy and exchange of being able to make someone else the centre of attention. I have a tendency to deluge someone in flowers. I learned how to cook specifically because I enjoy working over a hot stove to serve someone a candlelight dinner accompanied by a tailored music selection. I have been known to show up unexpectedly with a picnic basket lunch topped with a gingham table cloth or clean out service stations of every stuffed frog. I like being in love because it allows me to focus on making someone else happy and important. Love is united in the dissolution of the self.

As I have grown older, I have become aware of the other forms of love. My mother and I have become as close as we can. This renewed relationship allows me a small opportunity to repay all those years she spent raising me and enabling me to become the person I am. I have rebuilt the blown bridges with my siblings as our difficult childhood and distance of years sapped any closeness. All of this required significant effort, significant letting go of a lot of personal grievances and assumptions. Love is freeing in this letting go.

When I endured difficult times, I relied heavily on my friends. They suffered through late night phone calls and sob sessions. I am humbled by how much I needed them and by how much they were there for me. My arrogance had been stripped away in an instant and I realised I would be nowhere near as strong without their continual buttressing. Now, I am slavishly attempting to return the favour. Rather than feeling indebted, I feel honoured. When your love carries the lantern for someone, you illuminate two paths.

The love of strangers is the hardest. It’s often easy to be kind to partners, family and friends. They are, after all, at the locus of our lives. To step outside yourself, your comfort zone and to extend the same compassion to people who you have never met, whom have no reason to thank you, who suffer for reasons you cannot begin to understand. If I can manage to love them, then I will have succeeded in the ultimate thing that truly matters – love.