by Jack McLean
Published in Gulf Islands Driftwood (1998)
There once was a man — there was once a woman — who fell in love with the god eros. Well, he fell in love with the goddess eros and she fell in love with the god eros. A strange god, eros was attractive to both sexes. Now the goddess eros seemed to the man to be the most powerful of all the gods and goddesses in the pantheon of divinities and he loved this goddess above all the others.
The man enjoyed the special powers that eros conferred upon him. She made him feel good and gave him a special kind of energy that enabled him to be at one with the whole world. For he had discovered the great secret conferred by the worship of this goddess — he could forget himself and be ecstatic.
The man soon learned that as long as he worshipped eros, he felt happy. And that was all that he desired. For he just wanted to feel happy. After all, what more could one desire? The man felt sure that as long as he remained devoted to eros, he would stay young forever. He did not feel any need to quest about for an eternal fountain of youth as Ponce de Leon had once done in a strange new world or engage in the alchemical discovery of the philosopher’s stone to find the elixir of life. He had found it already.
As long as the man submitted to the powers of eros, he felt empowered to dispense with anything else in the world, for in her own seeming self-sufficiency, eros provided him with all that he needed and wanted. It was a strange kind of delightsome magic. The feeling just happened all by itself. He just was under no obligation to do anything to stay in his intoxicating state of mind …. say no special prayers, perform no special rites or ceremonies, make no pilgrimages, except of course the daily journey to the foot of her beauteous shrine. All that was required of him was to go on worshipping, to enjoy the on-going pleasurable contemplation and adoration of his beloved.
One morning, the man came as usual to the altar of the goddess to taste the heady wine and fill himself with her presence. But this day he sensed that something was not quite right in the picture-perfect scene in which he had stood many times over. On looking closer, the man perceived that the bejewelled eyes of the goddess seemed to have lost their dazzle. A tarnish had appeared spotting her golden halo. He noticed a slight blemish just over her shoulder.
The man was cast down. Worse still, he perceived to his dismay, a growing feeling that the delightsome magic that had filled so many of his days and nights was waning. A sinking feeling invaded the pit of his stomach.
That day proved to be a crude wakening. His beloved dog, Fritz, died. One of his oldest and dearest friends sickened with a dreaded disease. His days were numbered, the doctors said. Creditors appeared at his door demanding a long-standing payment. Work, long neglected, had piled up on his desk and demanded attention. He came down with the flu.
But the worst calamity was yet to be visited upon him. The idol of his heart was growing tired of him. She was casting her eyes about to other men. In a rude betrayal, she suddenly dismissed him from her sight, and went her own way with other lovers. Left alone, and embittered, the disillusioned one grieved her loss.
But in that grieving, something miraculous happened. The reality of True Love began to dawn slowly in his heart. Betrayed by the goddess eros, the One True God of Love Divine opened up His arms and welcomed the man into His bosom.
It would be years yet before the man could extricate himself from the clutches of the goddess with the feet of clay. But as time passed, a new confidence and assurance descended upon him. Serenity and acceptance gradually dawned. His heart began to be filled with love for all creation. The magic he had once falsely attributed to the goddess eros, he began to feel everywhere; he saw, in passing, blissful moments that it pervaded the entire universe.
Gradually, the man became grateful and satisfied. Songs of praise filled his joyous heart. Hymns of joy fell in a stream from his lips. On a moment, he came to realize in his own life the truth of the great Rumi’s saying: “When all of life becomes the Friend, lovers disappear.”