“When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”
― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
It is perhaps unusually appropriate that my choice for Valentine’s Day is C.S Lewis; he is, after all, my first love.
Not in a romantic sense; it would be better to say he is my first literary love–but that does not quite get at it.
He was the first writer I read that made me think, “Here; I am known, after all.”
With Lucy, I was consumed with jealousy for Susan’s beauty; with Susan, I longed to grow up and felt guilt for leaving my first love. With Edmund I shared the dark petty desires that destroyed me and felt the remorse and cleansing of forgiveness. With Peter I acknowledged my inadequacy and fear of failure.
It is in Orual, however, that I most keenly see myself. The jealousy, grief, longing, the pettiness and pretence. Her self-righteousness masked as hurt and her desire for what she thinks is justice–these are my own sins. Her selfish longing for Psyche, her self-loathing, her mask, her ugliness, within and without–I am Orual.
Now, you may be asking what all of this has to do with love. This is supposed to be a Valentine’s Day post, after all. To answer that, I will pose my own question.
Who knows your darkest secrets?
Who would you share them with?
After all, to be totally known–for the babble at the center of our souls to be revealed–that is a shameful and terrifying thing. We can never truly escape the fear that once we are truly known, those we love–and those who love us–will leave us forever. For “who could love a Beast?”
Until we are fully known; until we have a true face, not just another mask; until are seen in our naked ugly truth, it is not we who are loved, but our mask.
Orual spends the entire book protesting her love for her sister, but learns that it was never truly her sister she loved. Orual never thinks that she can be loved, and so she hides herself behind a mask and becomes a terror and a mystery, but it is not till all of her masks are truly stripped away that Love can come to her. To be known is to be vulnerable.
But to be loved, we must be known.