It's Valentine's Day. You're bound to be one of three things: out with a loved one, in with a loved one, or doing both by yourself. Whatever you're doing tonight, it's best to remember that while the not-so-official romantic holiday may seem to be aimed at making single people miserable, it's also a celebration of love, and no one puts love into perspective better than C.S. Lewis.
While the Irish born author, poet, and critic became wildly popular for his Chronicles of Narnia series, he also has quite the affinity for love. In his book The Four Loves, published in 1960, Lewis explored the nature of love by dividing love into four categories: affection, friendship, eros, and charity. While the nature of this article isn't to explore each of them one by one, the take away from the book is that denying love would be a damning choice.
Sometimes, after being hurt in the past, it's easy to stay guarded about love, and put up barriers. Love requires vulnerability, and after being vulnerable with someone who has taken both you and your open heart for granted, locking your heart away seems to be the easiest way to prevent more heartache. The trouble with that though, C.S. Lewis says, is that while the heart is turned to stone and impenetrable, it also becomes irredeemable, and that "the only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell." Essentially, no good can come of shutting out love.
As far as love is concerned, Lewis writes:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly 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 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. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
By far the best illustration of this quote is on a site called Zen Pencils, drawn by freelance cartoonist Gavin Aung Than. It was his illustration, after all, that was the inspiration for this article.
So for any of you struggling with ideas of love on this Valentine's Day, or reflecting on past loves, remember not to oust it. If the only other option is Hell, I'd say love is the better choice.