This morning I was driving home from Mass and listening to the radio. They played a song by a Dutch songwriter, Herman van Veen, born in 1945. He sang about a little girl overtaking him on a bicycle. It was a simple song, touching somehow.
There are more such songs, about children just born, the village of one’s youth, the familiar town pub where everyone had fun together. Good songs about memories that allow for some healthy nostalgia, for looking back with gratitude. But such songs seem to be fading from the cultural landscape. We are fast replacing them by an incessant harping on the same theme: romance, love found or lost or hunted for at a party.
Have we lost interest in everything else? That would be bad. The world is full of interesting things which welcome our attention, though without clamoring for it. Songs indicate what is meaningful to us, and if we cannot find meaning or value in the ordinary things, they become indifferent or even hostile. In that cold world, we look all the more for refuge, for warmth – which, the songs tell us, can be found in romance.
But Eros is a volatile and unstable thing, a flighty sort of love, a boy god with wings more fluttery than Apollo’s. We cannot burden him with the whole load of our longing; he cannot carry it, and he has no place to put it. Eros does not build houses.
In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis juxtaposes Eros with Affection. ‘Affection,’ he writes, ‘is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.’ True! So when simple affection goes out of our songs, nine-tenths of our solid and durable happiness goes with it.
Nevertheless, as the poet sings, ‘I’m in if you’re down to get down tonight’. ’Coz it’s always a good time. So says the poet. And the poet never lies.