Eros: initial and continuing

Shelley’s notion of marriage is that it lasts as long as love does. It’s easy to be offended by conclusion but agree to the premise, namely that love is something that strikes one at the beginning , and that staying in love therefore requires keeping the force of this strike alive.

It would be stupid to deny that love really does strike at the beginning, for example by saying that the initial crush of love was just “infatuation” or “feelings” or some ersatz love. It would be better to take it at face value as what love is at the beginning, with all the thrills of any initial adventure. In fact, lots of beginnings come with the thrill of novelty and the intoxication of maximal possibilities. It doesn’t just happen with eros but with the first stages of political revolutions, or after your favorite candidate wins an election, or after your NFL team drafts new players.

These guys could really be the answer we are looking for! Yay!

Assume that the guy/ political revolution/ football player really turns out to be exactly what you are looking for. In what sense is this a continuation of your original feeling? None of them would continue the original feelings of anticipation and promise: The original revolution continues by settling down to widespread acceptance, enshrinement in law, children taught from formal textbooks about the glories of the early years, etc; the promising candidate continues his initial promise settling down to work, being wildly successful and being remembered fondly.

So why would Shelley think love is simply the initial thrill of novelty and maximal possibility? Part of this belief requires holding that this initial thrill isn’t for anything, i.e. it cannot be fulfilled or carried on. It can only last as a single dissipating tone, not as the first note of a larger melody.

This is in one sense right: love is the fulfillment promised, not a promise of fulfillment. It is what human beings are for, not some appetizer that gets us ready for the main course. The error comes in thinking that the whole of love could be given in any one experience or stage of experience, and therefore would be finite.

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