I was watching an interview with Stephen Fry at the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts in Wales this past July, and he was asked to speak on the subject of eros, which in Greek means martial love, passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. I thought his response was beautiful and profound, and so I thought I'd share it with you.
Stephen Fry on Eros:
“When you’re a child and you watch films on television, you tend to wonder why it is that the action, the comedy, the adventure stops every now and again for this bewildering, baffling nonsense that is eros, that is love.
And then when you pass through childhood into adulthood there’s a part of you that sometimes questions why there is any other subject in the world. It is all there is to think about and talk about, love. It is, of course, everything within us, and the extraordinary thing about, and of course there are many shapes to it, the Greeks - I alluded to a couple of them,agape and eros and philia, of course there are many others, Greek words for it. There are many nuances of love.
And we know how important it is to us, so much so that we don’t even think about it, because we sort of almost couldn’t carry on living because of how important it is. And our dreams often tell us this. It’s fascinating how often one dreams about a moment of love or someone who is loved or lost or unrequited love will come back 30 years later and you think ‘Oh my God I’m not still... am I? I am.’ And I remember seeing a man of 106 being interviewed on his 106th birthday, he was in Norfolk and he was the oldest man in East Anglia, which we were very proud of. And the interviewer said, ‘Is there anything that makes you unhappy about being old, is it, you know do you [miss] your friends?’ and he said ‘Well it’s not my friends,’ but he said, ‘I still miss my mother.’
And I thought ‘Wow, well of course, of course you would!’ My mother, I’m happy to say, is still alive, but I’m sure I would miss her and I’d miss my father if he went. And there’s no reason why one shouldn’t. If you love someone you love them forever. It does... just because the string is cut doesn’t [...] it doesn’t mean that your emotional concern is cut. And love is, it’s just overwhelming.
[...] The real thing that I’m convinced is true is [...] what’s shocking about love is never the physical part of it, it’s the emotional part of it. It’s not - people may do all kinds of things with their bodies which may or may not disgust or alarm one, but it’s how much of themselves they subsume in another person, is something quite extraordinary. It’s so, I mean it’s the subject of most films and most songs. And yet it’s so extraordinary that we never stop to contemplate how bizarre it is that that’s what we give ourselves to.
And that is the secret of almost every human being you meet. If you meet someone who is an utter turd, and in life you will, don’t do that thing they tell you to imagine them all naked etc, and then you’ll have contempt for them; that’s not the point. Imagine the absolute truth of even the most aggressive, unpleasant, self-regarding, vain, unsympathetic person you could ever meet, and remember that they are not only desperate to be loved, but they are desperate to love. And I’ve never met a human being of whom that isn’t true.
And it’s so astonishing that we don’t even bother to think about it because it’s almost too much for our brains to take in, I think.”