“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness, but in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
In this excerpt from his book The Four Loves, literary legend C.S. Lewis is not only talking about protecting ourselves from the pain of loss and disappointment inherent in relationships, romantic or otherwise, but the heartbreak that can come when we open ourselves to all of life. If we “wrap it carefully round,” we may escape heartache, but we will never experience the joy that can come from loving the simple things of life.
In his opus entitled “Aimless Love,” poet Billy Collins writes about falling in love with, among other things, a wren, a dead mouse, a bowl of broth, a hot evening shower, and a bar of soap; it would seem that there is medication for such a one! It may be crazy to fall for such ordinary things, but it may also be crazy not to, for there is so much to be smitten by, so many things that can quicken our hearts; our life is diminished if we are insensitive to the stunning significance of the ordinary.
What Lewis encourages and what Collins experiences is vulnerability to the common, everyday reality that is life in the world. When, in the same poem, Collins claims that: “…my heart is always propped up in a field on its tripod, ready for the next arrow,” he is saying that he’s ready and willing to be wounded by the simple beauty that surrounds us and is present even in those things and people that may not be beautiful.
Allowing ourselves to fall in love with life is not a matter of being “head over heels,” but “heart over head.” The former is infatuation, it is run-away emotion, while the latter is an honoring of emotion, the choice to lead with our heart rather than protect it. Living in this fashion will surely result in heartbreak from time to time, but this is a small price to pay for the joy of being fully alive.