An elderly, cultivated couple had once sought my help in Nepal to dissuade their daughter, a winsome doctor, from following her ‘crush,’ as they called it, and fly to the US to be with a visiting professor she had met for just two weeks in Kathmandu. Gently but firmly, I sided with the daughter, who I felt had the right to pursue her passion to the end of the earth, should it even turn out to be a chimera. To the parents’ disgust, I even gave her a visa. I cited to the perturbed parents the old saying that the whole world loves a lover – even a hard-nosed consul. In hindsight, I still believe I took the right view, though years later I found out that the relationship had not lasted.
Forty years ago, I was visiting my brother’s apartment in Kolkata when he showed me a calligraphic poster he had picked up at Russell Exchange, the famous antique dealer. He had loved the poetic words and wondered if I knew where they came from. He was taken aback when I said that they were from a letter sent from Turkey to Southern Greece 2000 years ago. The words had seemed very contemporary to him. I confessed I knew them only because they were in a notable scriptural book. What touched my brother touches me still, and I offer my own updated translation.
“Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not proud. It does not humiliate others, or look out only for itself, or lose its temper. It keeps no record of hurts. Love finds no joy in evil but celebrates the truth. It always protects, believes and hopes. Love never gives up.
“Love never fails. Predictions will fail; eloquence will end in silence; knowledge will prove transient. We know things only in part and we anticipate events only in part, but when we see it all, the parts fade. When I was a child, I talked, thought and argued like a child. When I became a man, I left my childish ways behind. Still we see imperfectly, like a reflection in a mirror; in time we will see clearly. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, and others will know me fully too.
Only three things last: faith, hope and love. And the greatest is love.”
The letter writer was right. What endures after all is love, in your life or in your heart.