Hello mysterious internet person who is reading my blog. As some of you might know, I sort of like geeking out in my blogs a little, writing about things I’m interested in. This isn’t always wedding photography. One day I’ll make a non-photography blog dedicated to going deeper into the other things I dig. But for now, I’m geeking out a bit here. I’m gong to start with a title that is so geeky that I have to invoke Greek gods.
Eros and Thanatos – Archetypes under the Knife
One of my favourite speakers (Terence McKenna) once told a story about one of his earliest memories. The scene of the memory was when the circus came to his town and he was still young enough that he never left the bonding skin-to-skin embrace of his mother. It’s a miracle that McKenna’s memory stretched that far back. He speculates that he was only about 2 years old.
From his mother’s protective embrace, his gaze directed upward, he could see a wildly dressed and colourfully painted, seductive woman. She walked along a wire, high above the ground. He felt the suspense of the crowd – hundreds of eyes all pointed toward the seductive woman moving slowly across the wire without a safety net. McKenna says that even at age 2 he could understand the event perfectly well—and that it stayed with him—because it was archetypal: here was Eros (the woman) defying Thanatos (death).
Somehow, as humans, we’re born in such a way that we recognize these things way before we have names for them. We don’t need someone to explain them to us—these gods, or archetypes, or whatever they are. They’re the cornerstones of the human condition. They reach into us, and we know them and yet, they’re total mysteries.
Somehow, our sciences do nothing, really, to illuminate them. We can put on a lab coat and measure brain activity or the lack of it, but in all the centuries of inquiry, we still have no clue what it’s like to be dead (if it’s like anything at all).
Thanatos remains a mystery, in all the ways that really matter to us. It’s the same way with Eros.
Neurobiological explanations of love are sophisticated, using words like ‘oxytocin’, ‘dopamine’, and ‘amygdala’. Evolutionary/biological explanations use phrases like ‘sexual strategies theory’, and ‘dynamics of mate selection’. All explanations brush aside any life-enriching meaning love holds for a person. They brush aside any notion of ‘soul-mate’ and all but scoff at the mention of synchronicity that very often accompanies courtship. “Love at first sight” would be written off as neurological fireworks, totally missing the point of the phenomenon.
The narratives of science and explanation don’t make contact with the thing that matters to us: the felt connection and meaning of capital “L” Love; that mystery of what it’s like for somebody else to truly matter to us, and to really matter to somebody else. Our best microscopes can’t seem to focus on that. Our best theories merely nibble at the edges.
It’s like Eros is teasing us. She would, wouldn’t she?
Stories like E & C’s offer a better narrative, I think, to understand Love. They met at a party in the woods one summer and it was, according to them, ‘love at first sight’. To add a bit of weight to that phrase (and challenge into the narrative), E & C maintained a very long distance relationship over the course of the next 5 years! The connection was maintained mainly through FaceTime. Then they were finally able to close the gap, and it’s been great ever since. When we asked them what they want to remember most about what their lives are like right now, they said they wanted to remember how much they laugh and have fun together. “Every single day together is so much fun”.
I’m sure there’s dopamine doing its thing in the appropriate synaptic clefts; I have no doubt that an evolutionary ‘mate selection theory’ would make sense of some of this, but the real thing—the lived experience of being in love—is so much bigger, so much more particular to them.
Here are a few photos from their engagement session, held last summer at the beach. Beautiful people, beautiful setting.