Monday, January 12, 2015

Eros and Eris

Eros and Eris are twins, a fact not known to Hesiod, who did nevertheless accurately record Eros' dual birth from the primordial chaos and from the coupling of Aphrodite and Ares. Love from love and war -- indeed. But Eris too was born from the chaos, else nothing else would have been born into the world. Apollo and Demeter -- the constant sun and changing moon; the source of light and light's reflector -- were not the only complementary opposites.

It is easy to love both love, light and constancy, but who's prepared to love strife, shadows, and change? We wish to love one but not the other, but if love were the ruler and the rule, the universe would have collapsed before it began, all attracted to all. Strife pushed everything apart, made everything possible by separating and giving them identity. But strife alone brings us entropy and death. Separated, love brings us together; together, strife pushed us away. When they work together, we get a dynamic push and pull that allows us to orbit each other, stably one and separate, identical with identity. When there are two entities, the two enter a stable orbit -- when there are three, we get chaos.

We miss the presence of strife as much as we do love. We feel the pain of love's absence -- that pain is well known, well recorded in our stories and poetry -- but we rarely speak of the pain of strife's absence. But when we feel her absence, we call her to us as to a lover. A person without problems will create them for himself, or imagine problems not present or as bad as he imagines. Give a man a perfect job, perfect family, perfect income, perfect friends, perfect things, and he will pick a fight with a coworker or his wife, squander money on gambling, mistresses or prostitutes, do drugs or drink to excess, and thus lose the perfection in his life. Or, he will externalize the problems and find problems in the world that aren't there, or magnify flaws in the society that took all his problems away and declare those flaws inherent to that system, and only to that system. People will always find and resurrect strife -- she is much too loved.

And she should be loved. We seek her because we understand, deep down, that strife is as natural a part of the world as love. They are natural partners, attraction and repulsion working together to create dynamic, complex, evolving systems. Without the pair there is neither production nor reproduction, creation, recreation, nor procreation. Art and literature rely on their mutual actions. Politics, society, and economy require both to exist at all. They are one of the paradoxical pairs which constitute beauty itself.

When we deny either love or strife, they return to us in unhealthy ways. Deny love, and you will love the wrong people or things. Deny strife, and you will create it for yourself. Understand the importance of the two, and they will contribute more to your live than you can imagine. Deny them, and they will destroy you.

As love transforms itself from Eros to Philia to Agape, so too does Strife follow suit, becoming ever-less personal. If we can learn to love all mankind, the strife there too much be transformed to be world-society--creative. Can we not criticize with love, desiring through critical strife to transform the ones we criticize? And can we not be open to such criticism ourselves? But it need be from love, for without the condition of love, criticism seeks not to transform, but to simply destroy.
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