C. S. Lewis presents us with two seemingly contradicting views of Love. The first is that of seriousness. Often we speak of love in hushed tones, with tightly held voices and whispers in our ears. We treat sex as a sacred rite, only for those who have attained the holy status of marriage. Rightly so, we do this. But, our fault perhaps lies in our in our secrecy of the issue. The church can often be too silent, allowing public institutions and locker room conversations to introduce young boys and girls to the birds and the bees. Sex and love is serious. It requires commitment, faithfulness, selfless giving. Love between two people is Eros, a romantic love that can experience at certain times the pleasures of Venus. It is the fact that a woman is a woman does not matter to a man. He simply desires to be with her. He longs for her person, not her as an object. This unity and commitment models that of Christ and his church. It is here that we find deep meaning and solemnity. Eros becomes serious, but only to an extent.
The second view of Eros is that of foolishness. Its physical act represented by Venus serves as a goddess who laughs at us. We seem to play a game of catch as catch can. Perhaps the foolishness of the Venus within Eros is that God has created our desire for Venus, the carnal side of love, as an appetite. It comes and goes. We are made fools chasing one another around, the moment right for one, but wrong for the other. Our appetite for sex perhaps reveals God’s playfulness in the matter. We are not meant to hide Eros in a closet and shove it under our beds. Rather it must be present and modeled in our lives. We must enjoy the Romantic side of Eros as well as the Venus side as an appreciation of Eros. God wants us to delight in each other within our marriage relationships.
C. S. Lewis points out some of the dangers of love, most specifically that of idolizing Venus. Our appetite for sex can make us worship sex. We become solely carnal creatures looking for the next opportunity for pleasure. We are so given into our physical passions that we forget the Romantic side of love. We forget that we are interacting with another human. Venus becomes selfish. We focus on receiving versus getting. We want our own moment of pleasure. This is when we are mistaken. By removing the seriousness of love and treating it solely as a game or all-consuming desire, we hurt ourselves and fail to represent true Eros. We are as C. S. Lewis puts it, youths who jump into a pond, but then don’t know what to do once they’re in the water. So, they just get out and find another pond to jump into and the cycle repeats itself. We become enchanted with love. We are in love with the idea of being love. There is no commitment, but fleeting passion, no consistency, but desire. We forget that Eros and love are a choice, not simply desires or a goddess we may worship.
What I found very interesting is C. S. Lewis’s notion of a man and woman in the state of Eros. The man and woman serve as representatives for all men and women. They become “Father Sky” and “Mother Earth,” the ultimate He and She. Both man and woman share equal roles. It is said that the man is considered the head of the house, but perhaps instead of looking at this concept as a symbol of status or hierarchy of power, we should see it as how a man must care for his wife. He must demonstrate love as Christ, the head, demonstrates to his church. It is a sacrificial love. He may be the head, but that does not mean his desires or needs are placed first. Instead, both have equal share and say.
C. S. Lewis compares Eros to a garden that must be tended. Just as a garden must be weeded and pruned, so do our relationships and love lives. This requires time, hard work, and energy. We must invest ourselves fully, not holding back. And, in addition, we must not plant seeds in the garden before the ground and garden itself is prepared. Perhaps C. S. Lewis is hinting that we should allow time for our relationships to mature. We must start as acquaintances, then friends, then partners. The ground must be ready before the garden can flourish, before Eros can occur.