Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 23 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Pio of Pietrelcina
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Just Saying No to Eros

Alles Banane

John Cuddeback - published on 02/12/14

Aeneas’s response is really rather remarkable, though some would say unfeeling and cruel. Virgil is clearly at pains to portray a pious response to this divine intervention. With promptness and conviction, Aeneas pulls ups stakes and moves on. His seeming cruelty is in fact not only a pious response to the gods, but also for Dido’s own good. But understandably, Dido is anything but sympathetic, and she is near the top of the list of fearsome women scorned.

This famous story raises several problems, and Aeneas is certainly not the patron saint of men in love. What a man owes a woman with whom he has had a romantic relationship — and this as conditioned by how he has acted, and what has come of those actions — and other such issues must be addressed. At the same time, I think we can glean a foundational insight by focusing on Aeneas’s rejection, even if belated, of eros.

After Dido has discovered Aeneas’s plan to leave her, she confronts him in a rage. Aeneas, far from being stonily unmoved, is deeply affected. But Virgil writes:

“The man by Jove’s command held fast his eyes


And fought down the emotion in his heart” (IV, 456-57).

Often when a reasonable assessment of the situation demands that Cupid be set aside, a real struggle against one’s own emotions is required. A particular challenge here is in the fact that romantic emotions are experienced as coming from our core. It seems that to say ‘no’ to them would be inauthentic, and that it would amount to a denial of our very selves. (As one song says, “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.”) But, as experience makes clear, reason’s proper assessment of a situation often does not bring about, at least not immediately, a corresponding alignment of feelings. So it can indeed be wrong, even though it feels so right. And being true to ourselves, our loved one, and to our faith demands that we align our actions — even when feelings are recalcitrant — with reason’s judgment.

Often in such a situation, what is hardest and most important is turning back to one’s first commitment: the one from which a romantic attraction threatens to, or already has distracted or removed us. After another encounter with Dido, for whom he still feels love, we read the following remarkably, dare I say, realistic words:

“Duty-bound,


Aeneas, though he struggled with desire


To calm and comfort her in all her pain,


To speak to her and turn her mind from grief,


And though he sighed his heart out, shaken still


With love of her, yet took the course heaven gave him


And went back to the fleet” (IV, 545-551).

Shaken still, he went back to the fleet — the fleet that is his calling, his fundamental commitment. Sometimes the judgment of reason, which can be reinforced by divine encouragement, requires setting aside very real emotions. It was neither out of hardness of heart, nor in hardness of heart, but with fidelity that he acted.

I have a friend of about sixty years of age who just the other day shared something with me. As a young man, he and a young lady fell in love, but her parents did not approve and wouldn’t let them see one another. They each eventually married someone else, though my friend’s wife has now passed away. Just recently, in a remarkable coincidence, he happened upon his old lady friend in a restaurant, and her husband was not with her. It was a poignant moment as my friend, who in fact has never stopped loving her, realized that she too still feels the same. Having given me the account, he earnestly said to me: “What do you think I should do? I wonder if her husband really loves her; he wasn’t even with her…”

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Tags:
LoveValentines Day
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
3
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
4
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
5
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
6
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
7
ORTHODOX COMMUNION
Philip Kosloski
Why do some Eastern Catholics use spoons for Holy Communion?
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.