The other day, I was thinking about how love works. There are, some say, many different kinds of love. Parental or ‘paternal’ love is one. Romantic love is another. The love between friends, the love between siblings … all real, all serve to soften the edges and warm the heart as we traverse the predictably rocky path of life.
I like the way M. Scott Peck talks about it:
“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
There’s a kind of love that keeps us going … in pursuit of a dream, pursuit of justice, pursuit of a passion. Sometimes even pursuit of a relationship. There’s the warmth of camaraderie between people who share interests — in music, theology, writing, art.
C.S. Lewis describes the recognition between kindred spirits:
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
The backside of love is the broken heart. Love and heartbreak are two sides of the same coin. We jump off the “love cliff” and fly for awhile – months, years, decades – but eventually experience the crash of loss at the end. Sometimes it’s the soft landing of age and knowing that it’s time. Other landings are sudden, unexpected, hard. Unforseen crashes leave our heart in pieces.
Somebody said it, though I can’t remember who … one of my favorite philosophers, I’m sure. He said the beautiful heart has been softened by being broken over and over again; it has been turned to grains of sand.
I love that analogy. For a heart to be in that state, the person has chosen love every time, knowing the crash always comes.
Those who jump off that cliff again and again are valiant. And yet, what are the other options? What would life look and feel like if we stayed away from that jagged edge, safe and secure, never jumping at all?
According to C.S. Lewis, we have that choice:
“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.”
So yes, to love is a choice. And yes, it is a brave choice; we step into our own vulnerability when we open ourselves to it. But, given what Lewis describes as the alternative, it’s really the only choice to make, isn’t it?
Here’s what it comes down to: it’s love that keeps us glued together inside our own skin. It’s the connective spark that pulses through us, the flame that puts the light in our eyes. it’s the sweetness that makes everything else worth breathing for. It’s what we’re made of. And it’s the stuff of Who made us. Love and dust. So, really, what do we have to lose?