“I think Pearsy loves me”, said Sam, shaking Gerstrause off the stuporous resignation with which he had immersed himself into the scenery he was painting. He was adding strokes of blue to the white stream of waterfalls that occupied the left half of the canvas. Sam was sitting on a boulder a bit away from the foot of the waterfalls to the right. He and the boulder would make the centre spread and stretch to the right merging with the tall trees of willow that he had planned to speck the lateral extremes of the scenery with. His lips stretched into a smile as he heard Sam.
Gerstrause let Sam indulge with his thought for a while and then said, “U mean that blonde cousin of your’s who visits you family in Summers?” Gerstrause had known Sam since his birth. He and Sam’s dad had attended college together. While Sam’s dad graduated in philosophy and went on to become a priest at the monastery, he pursued his hobby of painting. Sam now being 5, was a cheerful chap he had borrowed from his mother to paint in his scene.
Sam giggled and replied, “yes, that beautiful blonde! She is a nice girl, right uncle.” Gerstrause had met her but once and Pearsy did seem a mannered little child. He peppered Sam saying, “well yes, she is beautiful indeed. Now my dear lad, what makes you say she loves you?” Sam chuckled at the thought. He made an animated face and said, “why wont she uncle, am so handsome and brave you know. She fell in love with me at first sight!” Gerstrause suppressed his laugh and looked up at Sam from the side of the canvas. He was sitting as he had postured him to on the boulder. ‘Nice lad’, he told himself. And the juvenile thrill on his face brought to his mind his days of childhood, and the little fair dolls that he had friends as. He chuckled at the thought and returned to the painting.
It was sometime before Sam spoke again. Gerstrause had almost started wondering what had gotten into this talkative lad. He picked at Sam, “what is going in your mind young man?”. And as if it was just the spark of inspiration he was awaiting, Sam shot back, “uncle, what’s love?” Gerstrause beamed. He did not expect this coming. Gerstrause asked in reply, “Do u love Pearsy, Sam?”. “Well why yes. I do love Pearsy. She is so beautiful, nice and fair. I like her lot.” Gerstrause immersed the brush in the paint brown for the boulder and said, “well then, u must already know it young man, what love is!” Sam had a surprised look on his face.
It seemed like a revelation. Why, well of course. If he loved Pearsy, he must obviously know what love is, isn’t it. How can one do something, without actually knowing what it is. But yet, why wasn’t he consciously aware of what love is! “She smiled at me and gave me a daisy the other day. That’s why I love her.” Gerstrause was marvelling at Sam’s perspective. He said, “why Sam, have none else before given u a smile and a daisy?!” Sam crooked his eyebrows and counted on his fingers, “why yes. Bert gave me once. Loona too. And Micky gave a daffodil instead. What makes you ask this?” Gerstrause had the got the right shade of brown for coloring the boulder, he looked up at the canvas and said, “then why don’t u love them too? This Bert, Loona and Micky as well?”
Sam was aghast. It had never occurred to him. Why yes, Gerstrause was so correct. Even they had done the same think which he stated as the cause for him loving Pearsy. But then, why didn’t he love them! Was it like, there is something else about Pearsy that made him love her!? Or he loved Bert, Loona and Micky as well just as Pearsy!? Or he actually loved not Pearsy either!? He crooked his eyebrows as if in deep thought. He wanted to solve the dilemma. He knew for sure that the answer for at least one of the three situations was ‘yes’, with that for the other two being ‘no’. Or was it?!
He voiced his dilemma to Gerstrause. As Sam finished saying, Gerstrause blinked with his brush stilled for a moment. He had not expected this piercing analysing by a kid. He now was thoroughly relishing the conversation just as the scene on the canvas was coming to life. He answered saying, “what if all are true as well as false.” Sam flinged his arms in air and Gerstrasue gave Sam a reprimand. He went to Sam and adjusted the pose back. He said, “be quiet. Its you that I next am painting. Don’t move a muscle.” And saying so, he moved to his canvas. Once back, he immediately softened and while mixing the colors for Sam’s lush dark hair he gave Sam a knowing smile. Sam endeavoured, “uncle, what did u mean? They being all true as well as false!”
Gerstrause said, “Sam, do u like the grilled tuna that your mom makes?” “But answer me first uncle, all true and false. How ?” “Am coming to it Sam, first tell me. Do you like the tuna your mom makes for you?” Sam visualised the dark biscuits of roasted tuna that mom grills at noon in the open sun. The smell would come wafting to his room and he would come running to request him mom to let him replace the firewood under the grill. He liked the crackling noise that the wood would do in the fire, spewing sparkles off about. But as time went by, it no more gave him any joy. So did neither the taste of tuna. “I used to like it. But now I don’t think I do.”
Gerstrause chuckled. “There lies your answer. Maybe you loved Bert, Loona and Micky too when they beamed a smile and handed u the flower. Its just that now u feel all your affections directed towards Pearsy. Its just the days in between that separates the two. Just as the days in future will separate this again from something else. We don’t decide what to feel Sam. It just happens. Half the time we just wonder and keep guessing about why we feel so. And the irony about all this is, those very same implicit feeling are not evergreen either. They wither like the leaves of the willow in the autumn, the question being, the autumn of which year is the fateful one.”
“And what about it all not being love? U said even that is possible right!” ‘This kid is observant’ thought Gestrause. “Listen Sam. What’s what u call love! Words symbolise idea. But how can I be sure the idea that the word ‘love’ enshrines in my mind is exactly the same as that which u mean by the usage of the same word. We may in fact, be talking about two entirely differently notion under the garb of the ‘love’. Also, we use words to focus our thoughts. So when we sit lone and analyse, words don’t succeed in capturing the finer details in the idea that’s going through our own mind. Thus, ur love for Bert, for Loona, for Micky and for Pearsy may be quite different in actuality, but u tagging it as ‘love’ obviates that fine difference in. It may all be love, but love of a different kind, while all being not love at the same time.”
“Uncle, u confuse me!” complained Sam. Gestrause smiled, “u will understand it all Sam, in due course. Things happen in their own time, so does the dawn of understanding about something.”
Sam gave a low whistle as if mocking Gestrause and giggled as Gestrause feigned an annoyed look.
‘Never thought of it’ thought Sam, ‘that words aren’t absolute entities. They are just mere symbols. Symbols of ideas. And these ideas are also not rigid. They have a morphing quality. Words don’t mean the same to each. And even in our own thought, while we try analysing something, giving words to ideas is actually compromising on some subtle shade of its meaning. But isn’t it that it’s the small subtle differences that actually matter. Don’t small difference make a big difference in the long run. May be short run too.’ Sam gave a big smile as it starts making sense to him.
Gestrause had finished painting a fair bit of Sam. As he mixes the paint his mind wanders into the conversation he has just been having. The thought breaks into many branches bringing in an exodus of notions. But with a big smile, he brushes them all aside and tests the shade of orange for Sam’s shirt.
Just then, Sam clears his throat. Gestrause suppresses a smile as he is aware there’s more in store for today. And Sam ventures, with a glint in his eyes, “Uncle, words are not absolute. They symbolise an idea. But are those ideas absolute? What is the nature of absoluteness? Why does absoluteness and significance seem to go in hand? Is all that’s absolute definitely significant? Is what’s not absolute not significant? Is the idea conveyed by words which aren’t absolute significant? Is the idea conveyed by the word God, absolute or not? Significant or not? Is the idea conveyed by the word life, absolute or not? Significant or not? To begin with, what is the idea conveyed by the word life? What is life?!”