Invoking Plato’s Phaedrus, Anne Carson’s early book Eros the Bittersweet breaks into a sublimely resigned paragraph:
From the testimony of lovers like Sokrates or Sappho we can
construct what it would be like to live in a city of no desire.
Both the philosopher and the poet find themselves describing
Eros in images of wings and metaphors of flying, for desire is a
movement that carries yearning hearts from over here to over
there, launching the mind on a story. In the city without desire
such flights are unimaginable. Wings are kept clipped. The
known and the unknown learn to align themselves one behind
the other so that, provided you are positioned at the proper
angle, they seem to be one and the same. If there were a visible difference, you might find it hard to say so, for the useful verb mnaomai will have come to mean “a fact is a fact.” To reach for something else than the facts will carry you beyond this city and perhaps, as for Sokrates, beyond this world. It is a high-risk proposition, as Sokrates saw quite clearly, to reach for the difference between known and unknown. He thought the risk worthwhile, because he was in love with wooing itself. And who is not?1
The notion that we might be the clipped and wingless citizens of that dark country of the mind which no longer believes in the future, but believes we are cut off from change living in a merry-go round nightmare world of economic servitude and accelerated inanity is without doubt a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, as we look around us and study the unimaginative leaders of our so called free world bind their wings with economic and political death, enforce unsustainable and illusive wars, live in a vacuum of powerlessness and apathy unable to communicate with each other or move things forward we begin to understand our predicament. That poetry and eros were once aligned to awaken and bridge our desires toward the future rather than this impossible myth of decay and enslavement we live in is without doubt the truth of our moment. As Carson reiterates we need once again enjoin Socrates’s belief in music, poetry, song and dance; as well as the power of that inner daemon of creativity and erotic awakening that seeks to convey us beyond the Land of the known and into the unknown Wilderness of Desire and Difference, where eros once again woos us to become other than we are.
Maybe we need to be wooed by eros once again…
- Anne Carson. Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay. Princeton University Press (July 14, 2014)