FINNERAN K. MUZZEY, MA
I once read somewhere that a “soft soul requires a hard heart.” Don’t ask me to cite it because I truly can’t remember where I read it. I just know that the phrase occasionally finds its way into my brain and gets stuck there for a bit. I suppose this phrase pops up in my life during times in which I wish I had a hard heart, because I certainly have a soft soul.
During these times, that are admittedly a bit rough, I lament the fact that I don’t have a hard heart, that I feel too easily, that my feelings confuse me, and that I wish I could just put up that metal shield around my heart. Certainly, I think to myself, life might be easier. But then I remember that life wouldn’t actually be easier with a hard heart. Life would kind of suck for me.
I like having a soft soul. It requires contemplation. It requires self-reflection. It requires new experiences. It requires wandering and beauty. A soft soul allows me to accept new experiences, to seek out new experiences, and to hang on to those wonderful memories.
A soft heart, on the other hand, is a bit troublesome. It makes me feel and feeling doesn’t always feel good. A hard heart blocks the feeling. It stops feeling from manifesting too deep inside the soul; from manifesting inside our memory. With a hard heart, we can experience new things, but never quite get a hold of them, thus protecting us from the things that could potentially harm us.
But a hard heart also stops us from gaining the good stuff too. It stops us from being able to see people beyond what they project to us and instead see them from the totality of their lives. A hard heart may protect us from harm, but it also stops us from having empathy, unconditional love and compassion, happiness…
I don’t wish to have a hard heart, even in times that are rough. I like my soft heart, and my soft soul. I like the pain because it reminds me that I’m human, that we’re all human. It reminds me that I love hard and I like that I love hard. I like my soft soul that seeks out new and diverse experiences, and I like that I have a soft heart that allows me to experience them deeply, authentically, and passionately.
I think being a social science researcher requires having a soft soul and a soft heart. A soft soul requires us to seek out new questions, new methods, new experiences and to embrace those with a soft heart, one that is open to feeling, connecting, empathizing, and loving the people we work with to try to make it so that everyone can live their best possible lives.
Crap in life will attempt to harden my heart. But I’m not going to let it. I’m going to stay open to pain and vulnerability, to chaos and heartache, to joy and happiness; it allows me to see the colors of life more brightly.