The heart of the matter

How heavy the days are.
There’s not a fire that can warm me,
Not a sun to laugh with me,
Everything bare,
Everything cold and merciless,
And even the beloved, clear
Stars look desolately down,
Since I learned in my heart that
Love can die.

The above is by Herman Hesse, German-born Swiss poet and novelist best known for the novel Siddhartha.
I’ve shared this poem with hundreds of people, mainly my students and most importantly my two kids. Their first reaction is typically: Why? Why expose us to something so dark, so sad?
Because, I tell them, it’s the most valuable lesson you can ever learn. For until you know in your heart that love can die, you can never truly love.
Part of the problem with Valentine’s Day is that we run the risk of trivializing love. We reduce it to a clever card or a box of candy or a bouquet of flowers and overlook the heart of the matter: that love, real love, is an everyday commitment, a fragile flower, if you will, that must be nurtured over and over if it is to survive.
The Little Prince, in the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, comments, “It’s how you take care of your rose.”
On The Little Prince’s native planet, his rose is all he has. It’s everything to him. And all that matters comes down to how he takes care of it.
It’s for us to determine what, or more likely who is our rose. And then do everything we can to take care of it. We do this best when we know in our heart that love can die.

Ed Ackerman