Humans are social animals. We wither on the vine without interaction or companionship. And yet, what wounds us more deeply than these same things, without which life is awful? It’s a terrible truism, but a truism nonetheless, and one that I’ve been turning in my mind these past few days, for a variety of reasons. It puts me in mind of a wonderful passage from C.S. Lewis:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. 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.”
What nourishes will always wound; humans are imperfect. What we need we will always ultimately lose; humans are mortal. It is a far lovelier truism that the nourishment outlasts the wound, and that our mortality does not drain the memories and impressions we gave to others. Let us bide with each other, then, while we are here. Let us be vulnerable.
“Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, und der Tag hat sich geneiget.
Bide with us, for evening shadows darken, and the day will soon be over.”
In memory of Nancy Harris Smith.