This post hearkens back to the theme I blogged about here but I want to examine it pre-transgression. In the linked post I delved into forgiveness, and specifically how and whether it ought be earned and why. But that love/entitlement can be used as a sword, as well as a shield.
Ok I wrote those first two paragraphs before going on vacation. As always, when I am in the car for extended periods I turn to CS Lewis for solace and wisdom. There is one professional recording of the author's voice in existence (downloadable from iTunes!) wherein he lectures on his Four Loves essay. It struck me, as I traversed the green mountains of Vermont and sidled into the Northeast Kingdom that the essence of Not-So-Nice's is the perversion of love in the absence of The Love which Lewis refers to as Agape and also categorizes as God's love for us. I also appreciate his distinction between Need-love (typical of a NSN) and Gift-love.
Taking Theism out of it, one can see the ... utility of bringing a divine aspect to mundane matters such as love. As Lewis points out, within each of the loves: storge, philia and eros, is the seed of hate. We see this portrayed in the movies most particularly in the case of eros, whose shadow is jealousy. But we see it, too, in storge, and the unhappy state of most families of origin.
One of the things that struck me to the bone was Lewis' discussion of neurosis, which I think can be fairly said to describe most of the modern mental illnesses, and especially those failings of character knows as "addiction." I've been married twice, the first to a chronic cheater and porn-oholic (literally, the man has never been faithful in his life, a fact he confessed to me on the night of our engagement in a paroxysm of honesty) and the second to a substance abuser. Over and over I was implored to understand, to support treatment, etc. And I did. In the former I did 10 months of marriage and individual counseling (that's two sessions a week!) and in the second I paid for inpatient and outpatient treatment, to no avail. It is not the doctors whom I judge, but the patients. As my wise counselor said, "He could just choose to grow up, Embee." But back to Lewis. Here's what HE wrote:
Firstly, as to neurotic. I do not think we shall see things more clearly by classifying all these malefical states…as pathological. No doubt there are really pathological conditions which make the temptation to these states abnormally hard or even impossible to resist for particular people. Send those people to the doctors by all means. But I believe that everyone who is honest with himself will admit that he has felt these temptations. Their occurrence is not a disease; or if it is, the name of that disease is Being a Fallen Man. In ordinary people the yielding to them — and who does not sometimes yield? — is not disease, but sin. Spiritual direction will here help us more than medical treatment.So Lewis relies on God and more specifically Christ to describe that which is Good, but even he refers to the need of "spiritual direction" that can and does occur without religion per se. Indeed, in each of us there is the facility for goodness as well as evil. We could choose it. Nice Gals do. NSN do not. It is a choice, of this I am certain. Therefore, when you deal with a NSN, you are not dealing with a sick person, or someone who is different; rather, you are dealing with someone who, when presented with the option of caring for others or caring for himself chooses himself. And this is difficult, because we who know how the Good works, and how Love saves want so badly to help and love these people into wholeness. Unfortunately, that is not within our ability. Because the difference between enabling and helping is that helping works toward a resolution of the problem, while enabling simply delays the consequences.
And so the resolution, according to Lewis, is as follows:
Affection produces happiness if - and only if - there is common sense and give and take and "decency". In other words, only if something more, and other, than Affection is added. The mere feeling is not enough. You need "common sense”, that is, reason. You need “give and take”; that is, you need justice, continually stimulating mere Affection when it fades and restraining it when it forgets or would defy the art of love. You need "decency". There is no disguising the fact that this means goodness; patience, selfdenial, humility, and the continual intervention of a far higher sort of love than Affection, in itself, can ever be. That is the whole Point. If we try to live by Affection alone, Affection will "go bad on us."And herein lies the rub with respect to those who have perverted upbringing and have also not examined this upbringing. But all of this speaks most especially to Assmonkey. Forever caught in the maelstrom of FOO discontent. What about the amorist? What about...HeeHaw?
First off let's distinguish - as does Lewis - between love and lust. Eros is that sort of romantic love that can hold a lover's hand and not want a thing more, whereas lust (or Venus, in Lewis' terminology) can want more from his lover at the moment of orgasm. They aren't the same. In my opinion, too many who are afflicted with perverted Eros blame lust or Venus for their transgressions. Not so. It is the failure to purify Eros with Agape...to bring divinity and decency to the marriage bed that causes the adulterer to cheat. This is a far more grave condition than mere lust. Far more fatal than mere addiction.
We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he "wants a woman". Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes). Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give. No lover in the world ever sought the embraces of the woman he loved as the result of a calculation, however unconscious, that they would be more pleasurable than those of any other woman. If he raised the question he would, no doubt, expect that this would be so. But to raise it would be to step outside the world of Eros altogether.No, he does not "want a woman" and therefore the other woman is not, of herself, any threat to the relationship. In fact, the NSN seeks to escape the true love that he feels, and does not control nor has he transcended through the introduction of divinity, with lust. And he always will. To bring divinity into your life requires complete humility. To see yourself as both lovable and hugely flawed takes the kind of grace and strength that does not translate easily into the American marketplace. One would not win sales for such an attitude (but one would maintain relationships, both business and personal). Such a stance does not self-aggrandize.
St. Paul warns against marriage not because of sexual compulsion, but because of the preoccupation with spouse or other that will occur within eros. "Forsaking all others" takes on a a dangerous and even self-destructive tint. And within this exceedingly complex subject I defer again to my mentor, for his words illuminate where mine obscure.
Everyone knows that it is useless to try to separate lovers by proving to them that their marriage will be an unhappy one. This is not only because they will disbelieve you. They usually will, no doubt. But even if they believed, they would not be dissuaded. For it is the very mark of Eros that when he is in us we had rather share unhappiness with the Beloved than be happy on any other terms. Even if the two lovers are mature and experienced people who know that broken hearts heal in the end and can clearly foresee that, if they once steeled themselves to go through the present agony of parting, they would almost certainly be happier ten years hence than marriage is at all likely to make them even then, they would not part. Even when it becomes clear beyond all evasion that marriage with the Beloved cannot possibly lead to happiness - when it cannot even profess to offer any other life than that of tending an incurable invalid, of hopeless poverty, of exile, or of disgrace - Eros never hesitates to say, "Better this than parting. Better to be miserable with her than happy without her. Let our hearts break provided they break together." If the voice within us does not say this, it is not the voice of Eros.
This is the grandeur and terror of love.
It is in the grandeur of Eros that the seeds of danger are concealed. He has spoken like a god. His total commitment, his reckless disregard of happiness, his transcendence of self-regard, sound like a message from the eternal world. And yet it cannot, just as it stands, be the voice of God Himself. For Eros, speaking with that very grandeur and displaying that very transcendence of self, may urge to evil as well as to good.
Thus Eros, like the other loves, but more strikingly because of his strength, sweetness, terror and high port, reveals his true status. He cannot of himself be what, nevertheless, he must be if he is to remain Eros. He needs help; therefore needs to be ruled. The god dies or becomes a demon unless he obeys God. It would be well if, in such case, he always died. But he may live on, mercilessly chaining together two mutual tormentors, each raw all over with the poison of hate-in-love; each ravenous to receive and implacably refusing to give, jealous, suspicious, resentful, struggling for the upper hand, determined to be free and to allow no freedom, living on "scenes".Just so. And as Lewis, I deny any expertise. "[M]y efforts to be clear (and not intolerably lengthy) may suggest a confidence which I by no means feel. I should be mad if I did...If anything in it is useful to you, use it; if anything is not, never give it a second thought."
And so what is this goodness that purifies the worldly loves? What is it that we must summon to the table in order that we not founder?
We begin at the real beginning, with love as the Divine energy. This Primal love is Gift-love. In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give. The doctrine that God was under no necessity to create is not a piece of dry scholastic speculation. It is essential.And so we mark the differences between NGs and NSNs. Givers and takers. Need-love and Gift-love. Again, I feel compassion for the NSN; to be bereft of goodness is horrible. But the resolution of that paucity is simply the election to shift one's perspective. And so while I pity, I also abhor.
It is easy to acknowledge, but almost impossible to realise for long, that we are mirrors whose brightness, if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us. Surely we must have a little - however little - native luminosity?It is this failing in humility that drives the NSN behavior. Because he cannot accept goodness for goodness' sake, he creates a drama, an injury that, if overcome, is indication (in his withered mind) of his worthiness as a man, provider, lover, what have you. He cannot accept the love given that is merely representative of his lover's lovableness. Tragic and lethal. For both parties, but she'll die first.