In 1923 the Lebanese-American artist, poet, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931) published his masterpiece, The Prophet, which endures as a timeless classic meditation on living.
The essence of his brilliance is captured in the section on love.
So much of meaning in life comes from the willingness to lean into things that make us vulnerable.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned about being the friend that my friends deserve, is that I have to put myself out there. It’s the exposure of the self, not the protection, that creates meaning.
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
A few sentences later, he hits on the need for vulnerability.
[I]f in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter and weep, but not all of your tears.
As for finding love, we cannot direct the course.
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
As for your desires, turning into vulnerability, Gibran, who echoes Alfred Lord Tennyson’s sentiment when he said ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,’ writes:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged hear and give thanks for another day of loving.
Love is process, not an outcome.
In The Prophet, Gibran goes on to explore the tension in love between intimacy and independence. Complement with Richard Feynman’s beautiful Letter to his wife Arlene.