In today’s second “ On the Square ” article, Peter J. Leithart points out that what poets have always seen in love (“It’s a burning thing”) can be appreciated by theologians with equal attention—a lesson available to us since the Fall of our first parents.

Most offenses against love, Leithart goes on, owe to “defenses against intimacy”—intimacy that brings with it fear of losing one’s self to the existential other, whether God or man.

This has been true since Eden, but the natural post-Fall instinct to recoil from intimacy is reinforced by a culture that in its most basic assumptions and habits is a massive, systematic defense against intimacy, and this is, paradoxically, most obvious in what it tells us about will and desire. The world tells me that my choices are free only if they are entirely and completely mine. If any other person influences my decision, it is no longer free, no longer valid. Other people are obstacles to my freedom, threats to my will. The flame only consumes.