It’s not easy to live with an open heart.
An argument could be made that we aren’t meant to so live, or shouldn’t try it. Open-heartedness, it could be said, belongs outside the realm of the rational. It’s inefficient.
Except that argument is crap.
As humans, we feel. We feel all day. We feel fear, hope, happiness, dread — to list a few I’ve tried on already this morning, before my first sip of tea. We feel when we expect to having feelings (such as while consuming entertainment), and, often, when we don’t or would rather not (at work). Even when we don’t want to, think we can’t possibly, or desperately wish to stop…we always feel.
As children, perhaps, we accept this. Even as, at the same time, we don’t as fully understand it.
In adulthood, though, we often forget. Don’t we?
Either we forget that we’re emotional beings, with deep biological biases towards certain behavioral reactions, rooted in millennia of evolution — or we chose to or are coerced towards ignoring the fact.
I find this a bit ironic, and sad, considering how reliant we have become on fear — as a motivator for “efficiency” or “safety”. Similarly, it seems to me, we turn to fear for evidence to support sameness, to protect on the macro and micro level against unknown change.
But fear doesn’t do much more than that, does it — keep us “protected” from change? Excepting cases of actual, evidenced personal or social danger. Instead, it leaves us in stasis, or, worse, moving essentially backwards as we stand still and the world (as it will) moves on.
Still, as we age, we close our hearts. We grow up out of childhood, perhaps begin to feel more deeply, at the same time as we find ourselves able to consider — if not grasp — larger ideas, and as this goes on we learn to close our hearts.
Self-protection is not useless, to be clear. But close-heartedness as a default? I tried that approach for a long time. It exhausted me.
We don’t only feel fear. It’s not only bad things that happen in the world — though one would be forgiven for believing that, in absorbing the “news” of the day, and in considering much of contemporary entertainment.
The subtext to all this “reporting”? That danger lurks behind every turn. That disaster is imminent. In between, perhaps, we’re fed an occasional example that provides just enough hope-stuff to keep us going another day.
This. Cycle. Is. Exhausting.
It’s not reporting. It’s not entertainment. It’s a confidence game, wherein we are the marks, the currency is cynicism, and the reward is control.
Life is at least more robust, more balanced on average by beauty, than the narratives of the day would have us believe. This imbalance, in my view, generates and sustains much of the closed-heartedness with which many of us approach life.
We might keep our heart’s door open just a crack, from day to day, but not much wider. We might then swing it dangerously wide open, in private, desperate moments, with no intention to keep them that way as drunken nights give way to hangover mornings. And thusly a general default to close-heartedness is sustained.
We just can’t afford the risk of a more consistently open heart. Or so we think.
I would advocate for more open-heartedness. I would recommend risking a little more pain, not necessarily because it brings more reward, but because the ongoing experience of living through a fuller range of authentic emotion has the capacity to ground us more completely in our own humanity.
Such a way of life dissolves the artifice of a flat risk-reward lifestyle. It defangs fear’s claim as the ruling emotion. It leaves us dealing more readily with actual reality, versus the realities of others, fed to us with just enough of the real stuff mixed in to support direct or suggested claims that the truth isn’t being cut with lies.
After a period of adjustment, open-heartedness is much less exhausting than this addiction to fear and distress. Fear, despair, sorrow — these “negative” emotions will always be a part of our lives. It’s true that they often burn through, deplete us, as they work their way through our lives.
But this burning, this rendering-down, left alone to work naturally, will give out and give way, to make room for growth. It can’t (and doesn’t) last forever.
We don’t need to throw more fuel on the fires of fear and woe, to keep them burning. To do so leaves us only half-human, half-alive. A low-simmering fear of everything stops us from doing anything that might divert our energies away from the systems that depend on our compliance. It prevents any sort of sustained personal growth.
It’s all a delicate and maddening process, to do things differently, I know. It requires constant questioning, vigilance, much failure and re-wounding and faith. No switch exists, that we can flip.
There can be more animus to contemporary life, though, I think.
If only we could open our hearts a little wider, more often. We’re stronger, and can take a little more naturally occurring pain, than we think we can. The alternative, to numb ourselves with constant streams of antiseptic artificial woe, delivered to us externally, robs of us of the very vitalness of being alive.
We deserve more, in life. I believe that I do.
So, this is my goal for the day. In the midst of seeing to my general safety, as is practical and warranted, I will seek to keep a more open heart.
This is part twenty-six of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh
Day 05: On The Future of Labor
Day 07: The Word for World is Earth
Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder
Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo
Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit
Day 16: The Waiting Place
Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next
Day 25: A Light Chill Wind in Early Fall