"When we love one another, anything and everything we do can be a source of shared delight. Everything that is alive is humming with Eros, the god who gave his name to the passage of life that pours through all things. When we reel in delight at the fragrance of jasmine; when we stroke the cat or savor a fine wine; when we gaze in awe at the Acropolis in Athens, at a glorious sunset, or at our lover's face — it is all the trace of the invisible god who brings life and pleasure, the deep pleasure of soul food, to the tips of our fingers and the light in our eyes. Our sighs and gasps of satisfied desire, whatever may cause them, are the prayers Eros loves to feed on.
"With Eros, we bring our love down to earth. Yet there will be times when the flame of Eros will falter and you will feel banished, like the original pair, from the garden. Love's flame may flicker for lack of time and air; when the pressing needs of family, or earning a living, crowd in upon your days. That is just when Eros longs to be invited back. If Eros is neglected too long, and weeks and months stretch into years, the flame that brought us together in the first place will eventually flicker and even die. Then the relationship itself will become a husk, a shell that is lived in merely for convenience or from fear of being alone.
"Shared delights can range from the most exalted and ecstatic lovemaking to the humblest ordinary moments. One couple I know who have lived a lifetime together find a simple and yet profound pleasure in sitting next to each other on their sofa in silence and simply rubbing each other's feet. Stroking, touching, fondling — it doesn't come much simpler than that. The accumulation of small, apparently insignificant acts of love and kindness like this can serve to carry the flame of the relationship down through the years.
"We are mammals, after all, none of us so very far from preening chimps, and touch is one of our basic needs. If you notice you are not touching each other as much as you used to — a hug, a kiss, a hand on a shoulder even — you might see it as a sign that a distance has come between you, a distance you may not even have been aware of. A simple touch can bridge that distance. It can give life again to the flame between you. We human beings need the light of Eros — whose other name is love — if we are to be anything more than a bent penny or a scuffed shoe, as Mary Oliver would say.
"Too often we associate the name of Eros solely with sexual delight, and while it's true that sex is one of the greatest playing fields of the Lord of Love, Eros takes pleasure in all the myriad ways two lovers can share beauty and joy. Whatever we share with our beloved that brings us genuine pleasure will fan the flames of love. A shared pleasure is an intimacy, something that brings us closer than we were a moment before. It may be subtle, it may be thrilling — Chopin or Beethoven, the soft light of dusk or a thunderstorm — but it will never be merely skin deep. A genuine pleasure will move us, stir us, leave a tremor of delight on the tongue, in the eyes, or echoing in the ears. Eros likes whatever is food for the soul — after all, he fell in love with Psyche, whose very name gave us the notion of soul. All he needs is for us to give him the time of day."