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Eros the Man

Writing a new book makes the mind snap, crackle and pop. So many ideas, so little time to explore each and everyone one. I keep telling myself, when you retire you can get lost in all this mythology. Right now, write. Right?

True, part of my job is to explore myths and their meaning. For the new book, Leading? Read This, that exploration takes me through the meaning of three myths: Theseus, Eve and Psyche. Theseus’ story is about having a plan; Eve is about taking a risk to satisfy the quest for knowledge, and Psyche, she begins the book. With Psyche, we learn to take the hero’s journey.

Where does Eros come in? Eros is Psyche’s husband. Eros, the god of sex, love and desire, is married to Psyche, the soul. It is the perfect match. Indeed, this is the story that gives us the concept of the soul mate.

Moderns do not have a clear understanding of Eros. In the original pantheon of gods, he is listed as one of the creators. That may surprise you, because people think of Eros as the Roman god of love, Cupid.

Cupid is a kid. He is the symbol of the infantilization of sex by the Romans, carried on in Western Europe for far, far too long. Sex is never child’s play. It is too powerful. Moderns, thinking sex is all about their momentary pleasure, do not understand its impact at all. That is reason number one we hear so much about the unhappiness of people and their so-called “love” lives. If one really listens to this chatter, one can figure out that an easy coming together means boredom lies ahead. Like children and a new interest, they lose that interest after their curiosity has been fed.

Growth in a child means learning patience. Maturity is about learning something well. That takes time, effort and focus. As my stepmother would say, stick-to-itiveness.

Of course helicopter parents do not allow that. That might hurt little Sally to have to repeat her math lesson because she didn’t get it the first time. Or little Davy might be scarred for life if he must go over that pirouette a hundred times before he can perform it flawlessly.

Such parents are monsters. What they really fear is that their children will grow up to be men and women and masters of their own lives.

The background story of the myth of Psyche and Eros is this: Aphrodite, Eros’ mother, commits a sin by telling him to kill Psyche. That is, to kill the soul. This goes against Eros’ very reason to be. Eros’ intends to obey his mother’s command, until he lays eyes on Psyche. He then makes an on-the-spot decision to marry her. This marriage must be kept a secret, Eros tells his wife. Psyche, who had trusted Eros, later betrays that trust. This disappoints Eros so much, he goes home to mother. He takes to his sick bed. On her part, Psyche makes amends, thus are the two reunited. They are then openly married in Olympus. The image is of their wedding banquet.

I like this image, painted by Raffaello, in 1517, on the ceiling of the Villa Farnesina, because Eros is portrayed as a man, not that silly Cupid boy/child. Eros is not, and I do repeat myself, a child. He went into a childish snit when he felt betrayed by Psyche, but in reality, it was Eros who made the dumb decision when he kept his marriage, and his disobedience, from his mother. Keeping such secrets from one’s parents invites trouble. Eros, in the story, is not yet fully mature. Well, marriage is not for children.

Now don’t come at me with that, “People got married young back in the day,” stuff. People were married, in some instances, when quite young, but they were more grown up at 16 than most adults are in the modern world at 35. In addition to that, they had different expectations than we do. Divorce and annulment were rare occasions, usually among the ruling classes for reasons of not producing a male heir.

Arranged marriages were advantageous unions because the families shared values. So the couple didn’t need to go through a background check. As for sex, a man was expected to please his wife.

Such a simple concept. Please your wife and she will have more sex with you. Duh.

Eros did please his wife. He just forgot to trust her with the simple information as to who and what he was. Of course, eventually, she would find out.

Trust is a two way street. Both Eros and Psyche learn this lesson the hard way. When Eros brings his bride home, announcing to the gods, one of whom is his mother, that Psyche is the love of his life, and he will not live without her, he gains respect from the group. And from his mother as well. It is his announcement to Aphrodite, to all, that he is a fully grown man in charge of his sovereign life. The lesson is this: say what you mean, mean what you say, and be who you are. That is what growns do.

You can find my telling of this story here.