21 September 2012

Friendship, Erotic Love, and Sex



I love the quote, below, by C. S. Lewis:


“Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important.

"... In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets... Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, "Here comes one who will augment our loves." For in this love "to divide is not to take away.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, see http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/349838-those-who-cannot-conceive-friendship-as-a-substantive-love-but


I've commented that some people talk today in a manner that suggests if a person loves someone, he or she must have sex with that person. My comment may seem to be an exaggeration, but I hear this perspective in a lot of statements made by some individuals in my classes at the university, and by others in the media. Indeed, it has entered into the political mainstream.

Lewis' quote is insightful to me because he shows that such people are really lonely. They are using erotic love, or more often just sex, as an anesthesia to cover up their pain. A person who has a real friend would realize how silly it is to assume that the object of love is a sexual act.

Here, I am suggesting that those who imply that love means sex do not even understand erotic love. Loneliness can lead people to such debasement, that even erotic love escapes their understanding. When this occurs, the idea of Jesus loving His disciples takes on a sexual overtone to the listener.

Then, statements by Jesus such as, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13 English Standard Version), become meaningless to the listener. This may be the real target of such attitudes: to make us numb to God's love.