2. REAL LOVE IS MUTABLE
Where sexual love manifestly uses the approach and separation rhythms to transfer body secretions in the closest sensory circle, Eros is less wound up in physical intimacy. It lives and breathes in the prov-ince of emotion. Physical approach and separation is carried by emotional changes. Like sex, Eros uses all the senses to move through all four social distances, but the interest centers in Hall’s personal distance range. Here what counts most is voice timbre, glow of the skin, close eye contact, glances met and averted, small touches full of feeling, caresses, holding hands, listening, and making conversation.
Eros seeks an exclusive and unique connection with a particular beloved. Because of this desired intimacy, we want to get to know the other, but a knowing based more on mimesis, empathy and emotion than on intellect. In Plato’s Symposium, Diotima the Priestess explains that the defining characteristic of Eros is the completion of the self in the other. Two incomplete half-souls come together into a whole soul. The philosopher Robert Nozick describes this sensibility very well in his essay “Love’s Bond”. He writes, “The intention in love is to form a we and to identify with it as an extended self, to identify one’s fortunes in large part with its fortunes.”11
Like sexual lovers, erotic lovers enter each other’s being through rhythmic sharing and modulation and find marvels of attraction and mutuality there. When there is mutual engagement in Eros the approach and separation is not only desired, it carries meaning: the bond says I am wanted, I belong, and I have my place in another’s heart. Lovers even believe they are thinking the same thoughts at the same time.12
But Denis de Rougement, a mid 20th century French Catholic thinker, argued that romantic love actually seeks opposition and repulsion because it cannot stand its own unremitting intensity. He argued that “the erotic process introduces into life an element foreign to the systole and diastole of sexual attraction – a desire that never relapses, that nothing can satisfy, that even rejects and flees the temptation to obtain its fulfillment in the world…”13 Eros relieves itself from its own relentless intimacy by creating crises.
De Rougemont only experiences union and completion in God’s unconditional love. It takes Divine fiat to deliver us from the maelstrom of human love. Only with its help can we hold on to an ideal family life, resistant to change, based on fidelity, balance, obedience and wholesome caring.
“A fidelity maintained in the Name of what does not change as we change will gradually disclose some of its mystery: beyond tragedy another happiness waits. A happiness resembling the old, but no longer belonging to the form of the world, for this new happiness transforms the world.”14