Eros. Serious business.

February 26, 2008

Well, maybe a little too serious. Here’s the passage from C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves which I mentioned the other day.

But, it will be replied, [sex] is serious. Yes; quadruply so. First, theologically, because this is the body’s share in marriage which, by God’s choice, is the mystical image of the union between God and Man. Secondly, as what I will venture to call a sub-Christian, or Pagan, or natural sacrament, our human participation in, and exposition of, the natural forces of life and fertility – the marriage of Sky-Father and Earth-Mother. Thirdly, on a moral level, in view of the obligations involved and the incalculable momentousness of being a parent and ancestor. Finally it has (sometimes, not always) a great emotional seriousness in the minds of the participants.

But eating is also serious; theologically, as the vehicle of the Blessed Sacrament; ethically in view of our duty to feed the hungry; socially, because the table is from time immemorial the place for talk; medically, as all dyspeptics know. Yet we do not bring bluebooks to dinner nor behave there as if we were in church. And it is gourmets, not saints, who come nearest to doing so. Animals are always serious about food.

[…]

[Venus] herself is a mocking, mischievous spirit, far more elf than deity, and makes game of us. When all external circumstances are fittest for her service she will leave one or both the lovers totally indisposed for it. When every overt act is impossible and even glances cannot be exchanged – in trains, in shops, and at interminable parties – she will assail them with all her force. An hour later, when time and place agree, she will have mysteriously withdrawn; perhaps from only one of them. What a pother this must raise – what resentments, self-pities, suspicions, wounded vanities and all the current chatter about “frustration” – in those who have deified her! But sensible lovers laugh. It is all part of the game; a game of catch-as-catch-can, and the escapes and tumbles and head-on collisions are to be treated as a romp.

For I can hardly help regarding it as one of God’s jokes that a passion so soaring, so apparently transcendent, as Eros, should this be linked in incongruous symbiosis with a bodily appetite which, like any other appetite, tactlessly reveals its connections with such mundane factors as weather, health, diet, circulation and digestion.

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