Eros and Impermanence in Love

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss, Antonio Canova
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, Antonio Canova

How’s that for a promising intro?

Here’s the thing: if my querents aren’t asking about a work or career matter, they’re most likely asking about their love lives. It’s huge and important. We want to know how to proceed. We want to know what the other person is thinking. We want to know how to “do things the right way.” We want to know, in short, if love is going to happen, going to last, or going to come back. We come to the cards with these questions and expectations.

We expect love to last.

I think something that people oftentimes lose sight of, or don’t consider at all, is that no one said that love is supposed to last. In fairy tales, like the Disney princesses that my four-year-old twin girls are so fond of, one kiss from the prince and it’s “they lived happily ever after.” In Western culture, we grow up with the myth of the Prince Charming who comes along to sweep the woman off her feet and rescue her, carrying her away into eternal happily ever after bliss. One kiss, and the storybook life is ready to begin, and never end. Anything less seems like an utter failure.

While we may think that we’re more mature than that and don’t subscribe to such myths, I’d venture to say that it somehow gets the best of many of us, at least some point in time. There are no guarantees in life that anything, love relationships included, are bound to last forever.

Also, I find that many people tend to “overthink” things once they do find someone that they’re interested in, or once they’re in crisis. Many times, clients come for a reading because they are searching for a way to alleviate the over-thinking they’re doing, because things aren’t turning out the way that they had hoped, or, alternatively, because they don’t see things progressing the way that they want, and so they are stuck in their heads with a thousand ideas about how things may or may not go. In short, our minds take over and start to intellectualize and over-analyze a situation that has to do primarily with the heart: a place that won’t tolerate a rational or analytical approach. Tarot certainly helps us get things out of our heads and literally out onto the table in front of us.

Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Raffaele Morelli has written a couple books on the subject of our over-intellectualizing of love and sex. In his book Ama e Non Pensare (Love and Don’t Think) he talks a lot about the power and spirit of “Eros,” the Greek god of love (whose Roman counterpart was Cupid), as a driving force in the creation of our soul regarding matters of the heart. From a psychological standpoint, Eros is seen as vital life energy generated by desire, as a sort of life force of the soul. Morelli advocates for following the unexpected and unpredictable call of Eros, when feelings of desire are stirred within, rather than favoring and trusting the intellectual questioning and moralizing of the mind. This means not only living in the present moment but also allowing yourself to not know what’s happening, or why things are happening, in terms of love relationships. The presence of love inevitably invites some sort of change or evolution in ourselves, and our resistance to this change blocks the flow of love. Morelli says, “We need to feel like we’re lost in the fog,” and further:

Observing what comes from inside, what we feel without thoughts, opens the door to the reasoning of the heart, to the talents of the soul, and then…waiting, not deciding what will become of your life.

This advice is counterintuitive in Western culture, where reason, logic, and action take precedence over letting go and allowing events to take their course. In matters of love, we often think that if we do everything the “right way,” then we can have what we want. But what we tend to forget is that love is bestowed on us by Eros, in the sense that as much as we think we’re in control, we’re really not. Love comes to us as a gift for the evolution of our souls, as as such, it’s not in our power to direct it, control it, or keep it. When we learn how to detach from our need to direct all of the events in our love relationships, and when we let go of our desire to possess the other person, we free ourselves to experience desire in its pure and essential form, and in so doing, we open ourselves to learning what it wants to teach us.

American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron advocates for embracing the impermanence of all situations in our lives. In her book Taking the Leap, she says:

We’re always looking for a permanent reference point, and it doesn’t exist. Everything is impermanent. Everything is always changing—fluid, unfixed, and open. […] We all seem to be programmed for denial. We have absolutely no tolerance for uncertainty. […] The source of our unease is the unfulfillable longing for a lasting certainty and security, for something solid to hold on to.

The paradox here is that often, clients come to the tarot seeking certainty in an uncertain situation, especially when it regards a love relationship. And yet, the beauty of tarot symbology is that even the stories presented in the cards are always fluid, always changing, always open to interpretation. Nothing is solid, everything is fluid. And so it is in relationships. Even what we perceive to be everlasting can come crashing down.

Rather than seeing these ideas as devastating and traumatic, when we begin to embrace the idea that despite having our free will to choose, we are never totally in control of the events of our lives, we can find release. Letting go of the idea that we are responsible for everyone and everything, including how relationships unfold, and whether love lasts or not, can actually allow us to be more present in the moment and in what is. Tarot readings can give us new ideas about how to approach what we’re facing in this moment, and are a tool to help us learn how to approach life from a collaborative standpoint and work with what is, rather than insisting on having total control over events and what we want to have happen.

In conclusion, I’ll draw three cards at random from the Marseille trumps for commentary on the ideas presented here.

04_lempereur_millennium 19_le_soleil_millennium 13_millennium

Here we see playful partnership squeezed in between authority and control on the one side, and no control, endings, and downfall on the other side. The curved spinal cord of the skeleton mirrors the curved throne of the emperor. The joy of partnership lives there in the middle, always walking the line between being in control and holding everything together, and being in a state that’s beyond our control in which everything utterly falls apart. Even the powerful emperor eventually gets cut down to become just another component of the ground under our feet: everything changes, everything regenerates, nothing is permanent. Rather than seeing this as tragedy, the message is repeated to us through the cards: enjoy and savor the gift of partnership amidst the reality of inevitable change.

 

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9 comments

  1. Wonderfully put and beautifully written. I approach the question from a background in philosophy but reach the same place through another route, where Becoming is privileged over (static, “we know what’s going on”) Being. Furthermore, it’s a futural projection (“where’s it going? How can I make this go where I want?”) where, as you say, noticing or inhabiting the moment is sacrificed to the desire for fixing and stabilizing an Ur-present (certain) meaning. Which can’t be done.

  2. Thanks so much for your kind words, Donna! I’m glad that you enjoyed the post and I appreciate your thoughts from your philosophy background, which I know is extensive having read some of your posts as well. One of the things I think I enjoy most about reading professionally is the privilege of seeing the variety and depth of the questions clients bring. That interaction and exposure has been one of the most personally enriching things for me, because the inquiries are often what inspire these posts and some of the ideas that come from them.

    • Agreed. Also, however handy it is to have a certain background, it’s the near, the proximal and the vulnerable, the sharing of life with a client or an audience, which matters most: that shared humanity. It’s one of the aspects I love about your site. You never lose sight of the “real”, the real person in their specificity and particularity at the heart of any theorizing (and without which no theorizing would even matter).

      • Yes! The shared humanity. That was the concept I was trying to capture. It’s really something, being able to work with people who share their questions with you and being able to, from the standpoint of a reader, see themes and basic human searching for meaning in life (without trying to sound too “high and mighty” I think you know what I mean here). As a reader I get this sense of what sort of binds us all together in our search for meaning, happiness, etc. in life. It’s very humbling and enriching.

      • I absolutely know what you mean (although I’m told I don’t always manage not to come across as high-falutin so need to work on that!) and I couldn’t agree more. Yes, that humbling experience – in the end perhaps what binds us all together is our shared fragility.

  3. Excellent article, and I really think you got right to the crux of the matter. A huge percentage of tarot readings are about love, in all of its’ complexities. I like Morelli’s take on the subject. This article really felt like a breath of fresh air. Thanks.

  4. Thanks for the comment. Yes, Morelli is an interesting author. I don’t think any of his books are out in English. I like his thoughts, on the whole, although sometimes he gets a little bit too “out there” and psychologizes everything a bit overboard for my taste. However his ideas about how we tend to overthink everything when it comes to love and sex, those resonated well with me. He also talks a lot about how we tend to immediately want to have all these questions answered the minute we feel attracted to someone, ie, “Where is this going?” “Is she the one?” etc. and I relate to that because I get a lot of those types of questions from clients, and so in my experiences with tarot, I am very much in line with his ideas in his psychology practice, regarding trying to open ourselves up more to the overall experiences rather than trying so hard to predict everything, which only really brings a false sense of security anyways. Thanks for reading!

  5. I always assure my clients that love`s lives and is always in our hearts. So there must be no fear of abandonment. When we fall in love with another it is about both hearts resonating with each other, sharing the love each one pours in the relationship. You can`t own the love on another, it can only be shared and freely given. No one will be short of love because a relationship ends. The twin touching the heart of his brother in The Sun card is assuring him of that truth.

    • Ciao! That is so beautiful. Yes, you know I did some thinking about how interesting it was here that it was The Sun in the middle and not The Lovers. Also, something interesting, because in the Marseille, The Sun is very unique in this way. While lots of other modern decks have the lone child celebrating, the Marseille Sun has the two children in an embrace. In the end that card seemed so much more appropriate to the theme of this post, especially given the pronounced themes of choice and temptation in The Lovers. The Sun here represents unbridled, no-drama partnership, a simple and honest and vulnerable sharing on equal footing, but most of all, the warm joy of it. Thanks for reading and for your comments! I appreciate your contributions to our discussion!

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