Photo Credit: David Goehring
This little lyrical beauty (the title quote, that is) has been swimming around in my head for a few weeks now. As I’ve said before, my husband loves country music, and while on vacation, I got my fair share of it.
I’ve heard this song before by Lady Antebellum (“Need You Now” – and it’s not a favorite of mine; I object for reasons of morality and stupidity), but this particular line popped out:
“I’d rather hurt than feeling nothing at all.”
I wondered if I agreed with that. Is it really better feel hurt and pain than to feel nothing? Really?
And it reminded of all sorts of other things written on the same subject. I thought of that book The Giver, the story of a utopian society that has eliminated pain – but also eliminated any kind of emotions in the process as well. No feelings – all of them thrown out with pain in one fell swoop. It reminded me of Spock, from Star Trek, who is all head and no heart. I thought of the quote by Tennyson: “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Is it really better to love and feel – knowing that there is an inevitable risk of pain and a likely probability of it as well – than not to experience that slippery emotion of love at all?
This blessing and curse of our emotions.
I can remember when I disagreed. I can remember my feelings, just on the heels of an awful break-up in my late twenties. We weren’t super, super serious. We had only dated for about 9 months. He wasn’t even the greatest guy in the world. Objectively, I certainly was better off for the break-up – and I was even the one who broke it up. But for reasons I still to this day cannot explain, I was devastated. I mean, devastated. Crushed.
I’m embarrassed to think of how I couldn’t keep it together. I remember sitting in Friendly’s with my mom for lunch, and I just started crying out of nowhere. I remember being at the dinner table at home – the same thing. I remember going into the bathroom stall in between teaching classes and sobbing. I couldn’t even think about it with becoming a pile of tears. I was a wreck. And I wasn’t 17. I was 28.
And I can remember standing by my classroom door, picking up my phone for some reason and thinking about this quote by Tennyson – maybe I had just taught it. I remember thinking that this mad poet must have been out of his ever-loving mind. This was, in no way, by any exaggerated stretch of the imagination, better than not loving at all. Not by a long-shot. I would have rather kept my feelings to myself than feel what I was feeling.
Now, you could argue that what I felt for my ex probably wasn’t love and that I was mourning probably more for selfish reasons, and in retrospect, I might be obliged to agree. But in my heart, it felt like love, and at that moment, I didn’t think the pain was worth the love.
No thanks, I’ll pass.
think hope I’ve grown a little since that experience, and hopefully I don’t look at life with the same melodramatic eyes. But I will never forget the pain I felt from that experience.
It wasn’t my first heart-ache or crush or break-up, but for whatever reason, it was the first time I ever felt the frightening emotion of despair. I seriously was scared I wouldn’t bounce back.
Well, that was 11 years ago, and I’m all well and good, but I still can feel that vague twinge of pain even now when I think back on that.
So, is it better to love and lose, than not to love at all? Is it better to hurt than to feel nothing at all?
My answer is yes. I can give you lots of reasons why, but I’m going to quote my most favorite author, C.S. Lewis. I think he says it best:
“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.”
That’s why. That’s why I say yes.
To choose not to love is to take away what makes us human, what makes us alive. If we don’t even hurt anymore, it’s like we have almost become soul-less. Dead inside. Zombies. To hurt means that you are alive.
Love always is a gamble. There is no safe, guaranteed, sure-fire way to play the game of love to make sure you always have the emotional upper-hand; in fact, to love I think you willingly give up your upper-hand. There is always risk. Always. Even when you are smart about it.
Love and pain are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have love without the potential of pain. When you love someone, the loss of that person will inevitably produce pain; the residual pain is the proof that love existed.
To spare ourselves from pain, we hole up, and the same bricks we use to barricade ourselves from pain also barricades ourselves from love.
Better to love and lose? Yes.
Better to hurt than feel nothing at all? Yes.
Better to be alive and human and passionate than to just exist safe, guarded, closed-up in a prison of our own self-protection? Yes.
Yes to them all.
Lady A, I think you got it right this time.
Photo Credit: BK