Sex is cheap.
We see cheapened images of the feminine everywhere: magazines, commercials, holiday parties, walking the streets…and it’s all cheap. A cheap imitation. Of eros, that is.
Eros: from the Greek, meaning love or desire.
But it has many usages and definitions. Plato saw it as the creative impulse (of love) with a sensual element.
When we are fortunate enough to have an experience of eros, it carries us into a living, breathing experience of the now—of being fully alive.
Eros might be easier to grasp from one of my favorite movies, “The Spy Who Shagged Me.” Dr. Evil explains why his evil plans are always being thwarted by Austin Powers.
It’s because he has mojo. “You know, the libido, the life force, the essence, the right stuff, what the French call a certain…‘I don’t know what.’” He ends up devising a plan to go back into the past to steal Powers’ mojo.
Austin Powers just isn’t the same after that. Not only is he deflated (genitally speaking), but he loses his overall vibrancy for living.
I’ve had experiences of eros way before I knew what it was—an experience of my whole being turned on. Zzzzzzzing! Like a current of energy was suddenly surging through me.
Years ago, I worked at a health food store in Athens, Georgia. There was a barista making a cup of coffee for a customer, and I just watched her—in complete awe. Every action was like a work of art: the way she frothed the milk canister, how she moved her arm in elegant circular motions, causing the machine to make its hot, rhythmic, steamy noises. There was something powerful about the beauty of that moment that sent a shiver through my whole body.
I felt literally turned on. Like a light switch. Not just part of me—all of me, my whole being!
Eros. Such a small, yet powerful word. The rabbis of old told a story about the people in a village who tried to eliminate the Sitra Achra (the side of impurity). The next morning, they woke up and discovered that none of their chickens had laid any eggs!
What happened? In trying to destroy the evil impulse, the rabbis had accidentally eliminated the creative impulse of the universe.
Think about it. When you’re feeling alive, you can do some pretty crazy things—like quit your job in a single moment, tell your relationship partner it’s over, or jump in your car and move to the other side of the country. (I’ve done all three.)
People might even think you’ve become possessed. And in a sense, you have—by eros. It’s just that, for many of us, living soul-sucking, passionless lives has become the norm. We’re like zombies who are only going through the motions of living.
And though technically we are living, we’re not alive in the fullest sense of the word.
How does this relate to sex?
When we connect with another human being on a truly intimate level, it can take us to uncharted lands: feelings we’ve never felt before, experiences we’ve never experienced. When we are just “having sex,” we might as well be using the other person to masturbate. Nothing soul-shattering is occurring. Though part of us, indeed, is “turned on,” our whole being isn’t.
So, how do you invite the experience of eros into your life?
Get connected to yourself again. What makes you feel really alive? Once you find out, do that.
Slow down. See the beauty that is all around you, all the time. In the smallest of things. In the way a person walks. In a smile. In a flower. In the arrangement of clouds in the sky.
Allow yourself to be taken over by feelings of awe, by the absolute preciousness of life.
Go outside and howl at the moon. Sign up for that open mic or karaoke, and dance or sing your guts out. Take a bath with lots of bubbles and sensually caress every inch of your body.
If you want to experience eros with someone else, you’ve got to first be able to experience it in your own body, with yourself, and within the world around you.
Truth be told, we’re all more than a little eros deprived. Our souls need eros like our bodies need oxygen. It’s what makes us feel like human beings (and not robots). Sex is our attempt to feel alive in the world. And there’s nothing wrong with using sex in that way, as a substitute for the real thing.
But if you practice cultivating a feeling of aliveness—of eros—in your everyday life, it will naturally permeate your love life, as well.
To sum up in one simple phrase: learn to fall in love with life again. And then make a habit of doing that again and again and again. After all, life is just one big love affair—with life itself!