Yesterday Galina Krasskova wrote that she finds Aphrodite terrifying. I get that. Aphrodite doesn’t terrify me but she’s not my style. She’s as relevant to me as the World Cup or who cuts Justin Bieber’s hair. Besides, Aphrodite doesn’t care for me and that’s ok.
You see, I’m devoted to Hephaistos, and he and Aphrodite don’t care for each other. They have what is known as a marriage of inconvenience. Zeus had them marry only to prevent war among the Gods, for who would deny beauty to the homely lame smith who crafts their magnificent magical gear? Hephaistos even tried to get out of the marriage by exposing Aphrodite and Ares’ affair, but the Gods found the situation too funny to take him seriously. Aphrodite and Hephaistos have accepted the situation and each do their own thing nowadays.
Why doesn’t Hephaistos love Aphrodite? She is wild, passionate, exciting and very beautiful. She is wherever the action is and if there isn’t excitement in the air she is creating it. Aphrodite is a wildfire and Hephaistos harnesses fire. Aphrodite cannot be tamed and Hephaistos cannot abide chaos. They are like oil and water and they will never truly mix.
While Aphrodite is out dancing with war and inflaming passion, Hephaistos is working with a quieter kind of love. His love is in the labor and he respects those who create, maintain and sustain. He’s got a major thing for Athena, the ultimate geek-girl, which is sadly unrequited. They work together, their temples and cults intertwined, but they are only friends. Hephaistos has a rather lonely or comic representation in some versions of the myths, yet his love abides with his oft-forgotten wife: Charis.
Charis, also called Aglaea, is the youngest of the Graces. Daughter of the fabeled physician Asclepius, she gave Hephaistos four daughters: Eucleia, Eupheme, Euthenia and Philophrosyne. Charis embodies all that is splendid, stately, magnificent and shining. She is present in the well-polished armor of a knight, the sunset over an ocean, the bright eyes of an infant and the bright revelation and nobility of ritual. She is present in the moments that take your breath away.
Aphrodite is seduction. She is heaving breasts, crowded bars, one-night stands and the celebration of the body. Her fires burn hot and bright and flush the body with rapture but for those of us who can’t keep her pace we are left cold too quick.
Charis is a bit different. She opens our eyes to flashes of splendor. Someone says something that opens their heart to us for a moment and Charis whispers “this is love”. We see the steady rhythm of someones life and she whispers “this is love”. We see someone’s unheralded kindness and she whispers “this is love”. We sit with someone contentedly and in full acceptance of each other and Charis whispers “this is love”.
Charis the love that burns slow and lasts long. She is the ember giving birth to flame. She is the love that creates, maintains and sustains. Her daughters embody good reputation, welcome, acclaim and prosperity. She is the quietness of the evening when you and your beloved sit in contented silence. She is the love that is patient and secure in it’s own strength.
We all need both kinds of love. Aphrodite’s flash and daring, her grand gestures and terrible wrath live in each of us, and so does the quiet observant splendor of Charis. We all tend to lean one way or the other though. I have friends who go from grand love affair to grand love affair and revel in the drama. I love to see their journey and hear their stories, but as for me, I prefer Charis.
The grand gestures are nice. They are exciting. They are a story. Yet it’s the straightened collars, leaves pulled from hair, the being there, the being open, the hand slipped into hand that sustains love and keeps the fire burning soft and low. The hands working alongside your own can mean more than all the chocolates, exciting lingerie and expensive jewelry in the world. On this day of grand gestures, it’s good to remember love isn’t always shouted from the mountaintops. Sometimes it’s in the cup of coffee handed to you by someone whose love is steady and true.
I can’t get enough of this song lately and since it fits…