Friday, May 4, 2012
Filled with Desire
Andrew Lomas, regular Ink Desk reader, poses some intelligent questions here on issues of Eros and Agape.
So it's a minefield.
This brings me to the crux of Andrew Lomas' question, which is, in so many words, "If the Church demands from us Agape - that we love our neighbor disinterestedly - then where is there room for Eros?"
That's a great question, and the Holy Father answers it in his encyclical. I would only add this - why does Jesus tell us "blessed are they who mourn" and "blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness"? Mourning, you see, is an expression of Eros - a heart-breaking desire for someone who's absent. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is likewise "Erotic" - it can be a flame that keeps you up nights, and we see it in the gleam behind the eyes of saints like Joan of Arc and poets like Hilaire Belloc.
For this is what Eros is. It's not "erotic" in the sense of strip clubs or porn sites. These are but the parodies of Eros. In fact, D. C. Schindler in an essay on Deus Caritas Est writes about "the boredom, the self-protectiveness, the banality, the absence of a sense of mystery and adventure, and the general disenchantment, that characterize a 'de-eroticized' world such as that of contemporary America."
That's right, our contemporary culture, steeped in a parody of the erotic, is actually lacking Eros. In fact, in my day one of the dangers of "sleeping around" was that you might fall in love with somebody, or she might fall in love with you. This appears to be a danger that the young folk of today's "hook up" culture seem to have avoided - but only through the emasculation of Eros.
Pope Benedict writes, "Desire is not truly desire unless it is also generous, and generosity is not truly generous unless it is also filled with desire."
And with this I can't help but think of the typical suburban Mass, where everything is contrived, everything seems artificial. The music expresses anything but desire, the homilies are usually about the vagueness of good intentions, the fellowship rarely goes beyond being nice. Yes, we might hear about Agape, about generous love - but we don't hear about desire, about mourning, about hungering for righteousness, about the Fear of God which is the Desire for God which is the first step, without which we cannot see His face.