Love on Mars

In a sea of headlines, many promising far more than they deliver, Mars Rover Finds Stronger Potential for Life stands out for its understated directness. The headline writer was clearly confident that the story had no need for hype or embellishment. And they were right. The story reads like science fiction and boggles the mind with possibilities.

The author's clear and economical writing style is the perfect counterbalance to the out-of-this-world subject matter. One sentence in particular mesmerized me.

Curiosity does not carry life-detection instruments, in large part because there is no consensus on what such an instrument might be.

There are many twists and turns in those few words. First, a respected writer in a respected publication is chronicling the potential discovery of life on other planets. Second, there are the wonderful rewards of naming the rover "Curiosity", which toys with your understanding when you read the sentence quickly.

But the highlight is the discovery that there is a debate amongst scientists about how to detect life. As written, it reads less like a scientific question than a philosophical one.

How do we detect life? What are the signs? There are cells and breaths and heartbeats, of course, but when I search for life, I search for love.

It's found around every corner, in strange and obvious places. It shines through spontaneous conversations and shared playlists. It appears in huge, unexplainable smiles and huge, unexplainable dreams. We chase it when it's missing and share it when it's found.

The steadfast, unquestioning love of a friend or partner is the comforting safety to be who you are and a well-timed push to embrace the best version of yourself. It's a potent mix of security and adventure, freedom and grace.

This nourishing love is expressed in a myriad of ways, from a favorite song turned up with the windows down to sitting side by side in warm silence; hilariously ill-conceived texts exchanged at late hours and as many hours in waiting rooms as it takes. It's threaded through our unforgettable and entirely forgettable moments.

Above all else, it is not finite. Love lies undetected all around us. Our most profound friendships are often with the most surprising people, sparked by small acts of unexpected kindness.

There's another sentence that's become a favorite. It's found in a print by the artist Hugh MacLeod that hangs on our wall.

A story without love is not worth telling.