Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bad Boys and Eunuchs

Eros - looking more like himself than the domesticated Cupid he later became.
One of the things that has caught my attention the last week or so has been a remarkable essay by D. C. Schindler on Pope Benedict XVI's Deus Caritas Est, in which Schindler points out the Holy Father's Magisterial assertion that Love is One (as God is One) and that Eros - the love that is jealous, interested, invested, eager, lively, passionate, a love that possesses and that takes pride in its object - and Agape - the love that is disinterested, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, altruistic, condescending (in the best sense of the word) - are simply two sides of the same coin, two aspects of the same unified thing: Love, viewed from different angles.  Indeed, Eros without agape becomes demanding and destructive; but Agape without Eros becomes clinical, dehumanizing and condescending (in the worst sense of the word).

I am convinced that a deep mystery is here, one that offers a key to much of our modern malaise.

For the problem with the modern world is not too much Eros but not enough Eros (as Allan Bloom pointed out a generation ago in The Closing of the American Mind).  The hook-up culture is not about love or jealousy or even interest.  It's about a terrifyingly disengaged manipulation of other people.  Hearts no longer get broken; people f*** and move on.  That's a symptom of a privation of Eros: the loss of passionate, jealous, caring love.

And I would say that the Unreality we see in the modern Church is also a symptom of the privation of Eros.  We see it in the contrived music, the sappy homilies, the artificial queerness of most church goers.

And we see it in relationships, even among devout Christians - especially among devout Christians, who are perhaps more tempted to suppress Eros than secular people, in order not to be overcome by the "erotic" (i.e. sex).  One of my actresses recently described the relationship her sister had with her one-time fiancee.  "She was his keeper," she said.  "She led him around and made sure he didn't say anything offensive, made sure he minded his manners."  More of an adult babysitter than a lover, it would seem.

How many young women I've known who enter into relationships like that, relationships devoid of passion!  Now, of course, passion, interest, excitement, being drawn out of yourself - these things have their limits and are not in themselves the ingredients of a good marriage, as J. R. R. Tolkien points out in a letter I quoted at length earlier today.  And every guy on earth has noticed that many beautiful and intelligent women are for some reason drawn to dangerous and irresponsible men - "bad boys".  That's because, at least, the "bad boys" are exciting.  "Eunuchs", by contrast (which is what many modern men are) are safe, and are more like pets or children to be kept by a "keeper" rather than men who draw out and engage that dangerous kind of love that stirs in a woman's heart.  And women these days don't have it easy, since most men, either "eunuchs" or "bad boys" are simply "losers".  Or if not "losers", they're unavailable.  Another actress of mine once described the various types of unavailable guys as being "The Four G's" - either Gay (homosexual), God (a priest), Gonorrhea (a scamp), or Gamos (Greek for married).

Well, the course of true love never did run smooth and all that.

Meanwhile, I think Tolkien's long letter on sex and love deserves some parsing.  Stay tuned.

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