This is my last advent post this year, seeing as how the baby Jesus is about to come squalling into the world in all his human particularity. Two more days and I'll be preaching in my pajamas (and a stole) for Christmas morning, before abandoning all pretense of religion and hurrying home to watch my children destroy my beautiful wrapping job.
This fourth Sunday in advent is supposed to be Joy, I have it on good authority. But since I am not preaching advent this year, I have cheerfully abandoned the rules of the game. And anyway, love can be joyful. I have that on good authority as well.
And love can be a gigantic, smothering, exhausting mess. I'm saying for a friend.
There's a book I've been reading in tiny bits and pieces because it's dense and academic. It's the kind of book I was expected to read in a day in grad school, but never could do. I think I'm waiting for this kind of love, although I suspect it's rare. I figure this is the kind of love God has for us, although some of the best theologians disagree. So here's a tiny slice of it.
Eros is awakened by the glimmering and disappearance of beings that remain perennially mysterious...this persistent absence is not a flaw, nor would union satisfy the longing for relationship. In desiring relationship, one desires something different from absorption or union. In desire, it is the unique and mysterious quality of the beloved that is delightful. For Levinas, a metaphysical desire for the absent "true life" is a preservation of infinity and transcendence. Aristophanes' parable of a being split in half by Zeus captures part of the feeling of eros (Symposium 189d-193d). The ego is impoverished. But its hunger and emptiness is not filled by possession. It is filled only by absence. Or to put the case less paradoxically, the kind of reality eros yearns for is not a possessable thing. The abyss within the self cannot be filled simply by pouring more stuff into it. It is eased only in the encounter with transcendence. Relationship, rather than possession, articulates erotic desire because relationship does not abolish but preserves the infinity of others. Eros thrives in this medium in which other beings are simultaneously present and absent: present to conversation, caress, memory, obligation, compassion, and affection; but absent to the consummation that would unify two infinitely separate beings into one. This delight in an exterior other expresses the "non-nostalgic" nature of desire, the plenitude and joy of the being who experiences it" (Levinas, Collected Philosophical Papers, 57).
Eros is not dismayed by the exteriority of the other.
~Wendy Farley, Eros for the Other: Retaining Truth in a Pluralistic World, 77-78