Friday, November 8, 2013

To love is to be vulnerable. I have read about it sometimes before and this notion has certainly left a mark in my mind. I have even said it out loud to my friend, who later tweeted it and gave the credit to me. Well, just to be clear, it was not me who started it. Rather, it was a poet by the name of C.S. Lewis.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possible be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglement; lock it up safe in the casket of coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation..." - C.S. Lewis

And these words are so beautifully turned into illustration by Gavin Aun Thung in his famous website, Although, in my opinion, his illustration limits the meaning of love into serious relationships between men and women, it gives a soul to those words. I can better understand the essence of what Lewis wanted to convey through those words. Really, to develop a feeling towards anything - person, work, movement - is to let ourselves to be attached to it. And thus, that would make ourselves vulnerable. Vulnerable to all the shortcomings that come in package because nothing is perfect.

I don't have any difficulty in accepting that idea. That to love is to be vulnerable. However, not everyone can accept it. At least, not without a struggle. Some people live to fight vulnerability. To outsmart vulnerability. Vulnerability is the source of shame and fear. It really is. By letting other people to get to know us, we are opening a chance for them to use their knowledge to attack us. So, how are we going to love if love makes us vulnerable while vulnerability is the reason why we stop loving.

Brene Brown, a research professor at University of Houston, has dedicated a part of her life to study vulnerability. She thinks that vulnerability is 'the core of shame, fear and our struggle of worthiness.' Therefore, by outsmarting vulnerability, we can overcome all those things. But it appears, through her years of studies, that vulnerability is also 'the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging and of love'. And that really took her down. She cannot accept that her struggle to overcome vulnerability brings her to the fact that, to love, we need to be vulnerable. And the struggle to accept it became yet another journey in her life.

So, what am I trying to convey here? It is not about vulnerability and love. It is about struggle. Some people can just accept everything that they have been told about and move on. It is not like they don't care about it. Instead, it has become their view and principle. That happened to me. I can accept that to love is to be vulnerable. I always think about it. It has become a part of my view about relationship. And I didn't struggle to accept it. I have no idea since when did I hold it close but it is now already embedded in my mind.

And Brene has quite a long struggle before she can really accept the whole idea. In 2012, she published a book about embracing vulnerability. Her talk about the power of vulnerability has become one of the most watched video on I can say that she has managed to overcome vulnerability by actually embracing it.

People have different stories in their lives. Some people have been nurtured to accept a certain idea since they are small. Some people have already had the idea somewhere in their mind, so that when they are told about it, they have no difficulty living their lives accordingly. Some people have never encountered such idea before in their lives, but when they are told about it, everything just make a perfect sense and they also have no problem living their lives accordingly. And some people have to struggle a lot before they can accept the idea, before they can internalize the idea and make it a part of their lives. To be in any of these group does not make us any inferior than the others. For me, what really matters is the next stage: to turn the idea into a reality.

May Allah make us the people who listen to the words of admonition and follow the best of them.