Over 2,400 years ago, a young man, immersed in the upheavals of the last years of the Peloponnesian War that was destroying the old order of things, made a dazzlingly eloquent speech with one basic idea: people should give their favor to non-lovers rather than lovers, that is a standard desire and enjoyment without love.
The speech, startlingly modern, is found in Platon’s dialogue Phaedrus. J. Pieper, a Catholic philosopher, comments on the dialogue in the following manner.
What is so bad, in fact inhuman, about this attitude is not the craving for sensual gratification, but the deliberate, systematic separation of sensuality from spirituality, of sex from love. “Utility in the most sordid sense of the word” in the words of A. E. Taylor. The lustful are calculating and efficient, they see clearly, they know what they want, they “have their wits about them”. The almost technical objectivity of mere sensual gratification (a woman is “taken” as a glass of water is drunk to quench thirst” is presented as something ethically valuable, as prudence, good sense, “virtue”. They are complacent with their clean efficiency. All of which presents itself as so pleasingly uncomplicated.
Take a look at the following video, Sight, and see what elements you can discover. For our original post on the video click here.
Now, let us offer a different vision of things. Why separate sex from love? Because true lovers are sick, and they know themselves to be so. Amore langueo, “I am sick with love” (Song of Songs 2,5).
We see that more than moving towards, he is moved by. He goes not to satisfy a need, but rather to embrace a promise. “Beauty is not so much performance as promise,” said Goethe. For the lover, the sight of the beloved, the sight of beauty appeals to the sense.
Yet, if his is truly receptive, a passion is awakened that cannot be satisfied in the realm of sense–which is to say, cannot be satisfied in what at first seems the only appropriate way. He does not know what exactly he wants from the other, but the encounter wounds him.
As Ratzinger says, “Beauty wounds, but that is precisely how it awakens man to his ultimate destiny.” It shocks him, shattering his anterior frame of life, blurring his vision. Yet, if he is willing to embrace the wound, then eros becomes purified by agape. Only now does he truly see.
The following video is called Nuit Blanche, for our original post click here. How does it compare with the anterior video?
(Many of the phrases used here come directly from J. Pieper’s book Enthusiasm and Divine Madness.)