How does the heart open to the other?
This riddle has long obsessed humankind. In the blink of an eye, Eros’s dart pierces the shield of isolation, and fragmentation is no more. A new question appears: who am I who is so easily smitten? The story tells of the struggle for love and trust…..between Eros and Psyche and the first lesson of the lover is vulnerability.
Acceptance is indeed a work. To allow love to show its beauty, the soul must submit to onerous trials. If we harden our position, and our hearts, into thinking that love is our due and not an earning, then the end of this story is all too familiar. Love turns into its opposite, attachment. The ego may immediately inflate to an even larger size, forsaking the call of integration. The addiction of a Casanova or Don Juan is the self-centered solution to love’s enigma.
Yet if one accepts the “wound” of love, a bridge to another level of being springs into existence. Wholeness, Advaita Vedānta, Nirvana (Hindu, Buddhist….respectively): different traditions express the same mystery of crossing over. In each, the embrace of a non-dual consciousness frees us from the desire of conquest. In this way, we are touched by the mystery in which love blends two into one that yet remain different.
If we accept, what must be accepted is the essential incompleteness of our humanity. In Plato’s image, we once were eight-limbed and double-sexed, but were bisected by gods who feared for their power. Moved by erotic desire, we now perpetually and unsuccessfully seek our “other half.” However the relentless pull is explained, poetry of all ages, celebrates longing for union with the beloved.
Eros, erotic love, finds us unexpectedly, without warning, and instantly we are all attention. Called back from dreams, we are again ready to meet joys and sorrows of the hero’s journey. But what if we find total fulfillment in our beloved and forget the unending role of the hero? Francesca, the most sympathetic figure in Dante’s spiritual journey, speaks of such inner death:
Love, which permits no loved one not to love,
took me so strongly with delight in him
that we are one in Hell, as we were above. (v. 105)
Most remarkable of all in Eros is his mighty force. It is a force with two edges. Turn it one way, and it cuts through walls of separation. Turn it another, and discernment is sacrificed. With what knowledge must we travel to face the hero’s challenge with skillful choice?