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Eing 1 Katelin Eing Dr.

Summers UC 310H, Humanities 22 February 2014 Symposium In the context of modern society, the soul mate has been the topic of countless Valentines Day cards, the plot of endless entertainment mediums, and a great advertising scheme for consumer-based romanticism. While it has recently been highly publicized and commercialized, this romantic concept is not a new one. It can be traced back to Platos

Symposium in a speech on love given by the comic poet, Aristophanes. He offers a story
concerning the origin of a soul mate. In said myth, human beings were once spherical creatures with four arms and four legs, one head with two faces, and two sets of genitals. These humans were powerful and arrogant, and therefore threatened the natural order, so the gods retaliated by splitting them in half and scattering the two halves in different directions. Since then, humans are forever fated to search for the other half, and are overcome by eros, or wholeness, when that half is found. This connection is so strong and so unexplainable, that these souls never want to be separated (192c), thus the notion of an eternal soul mate. Through a romantic filter, this story serves as nothing less than a reinstatement of the existence of true love through that one special soul mate; however, inevitable discord and the longing for wholeness complicates this idealized notion of love. A romanticized extrapolation to present time tends to take Aristophanes speech at face value by stressing the connection of wholeness and completeness. Humankind has been split, but love draws our original nature back together [by trying] to reintegrate us and heal the split in

Eing 2 our nature (191d). When one split soul finds its other half, it is impossible to describe the affection, warmth and love they feel for each other (192c). The myth appears to satisfy the modern view of searching for a soul mate. It is the idea that everyone has one true love, or someone who understands, completes, and connects on a deep level. This connection creates a harmony, and results in an eternal fusion of two souls to one (192e). At its basic core, this idea of found harmony in perfect connection with another soul appears to mold to the very essence of Symposium. Aristophanes would essentially be retelling the speech of Eryximachus, slightly shifting his focal point of general harmony from the universe to a soul-bounded couple (187a) to characterize his own speech. Pausanias speech would also be reinstated, in the idea that life-long relationships provide true happiness (180b). In the textual context of Symposium, Aristophanes speech is disruptive from the start. Due to a case of the hiccups, his speech is moved back; his new spot lands him in the middle of the lineup of speeches. This placement insinuates a specific purpose and importance to his speech, and the purpose he is trying to portray is now able to gain a special attention, as well as a subtle contrast between the previous speeches. Whereas the preceding speeches present love as gods and goddesses, Aristophanes projects his thought in the form of a myth. Aristophanes story was not meant to be lost amongst the other speeches; it is defined and different by its own merit. The idea of the two halves forever searching leads to a separate analysis of the attack on harmony this love suggests, the longing for wholeness, and another developed notion of soul mate that may not fit the mold of modern-day society. Eryximachus speech preceding Aristophanes stressed harmony; however, Aristophanes is not presenting his myth to convey a similar message. The idea of love created by these halved creatures scrambling around to find each other is not one of concord and peace. The ideality of

Eing 3 the myth is finding the true half, but how realistic is that? This perfect story of finding the one connecting soul comes with a disclaimer: the best thing is to get as close to this ideal as possible by finding one who matches the hearts delight (193c). The reality of the search makes humanity vulnerable. If the myth holds true, and this modernized soul mate notion is iron clad, what happens to those left out of the reunification? What about those who opt out of relationships and marriages, or those who find happiness from multiple relationships? Are they essentially cheating their other half out of this eros? Aristophanes gives love a lot of credit. It is strong enough to draw back our original nature (191d), so it is not too unreasonable to find certain flexibility in what love can or cannot do. A level of negativity will always exist with the concept of love, specifically if one is expected to hunt it down. Furthermore, there will be a certain anxiety coupled with the desire to become whole once more; yet, could this newfound wholeness really fulfill ones previous existence of serving as half of one complete whole? Frustration cannot possibly be omitted once the other half has been found. Humankind can never achieve a wholeness as once was. To understand wholeness in terms of Aristophanes contribution to Symposium, the concept of eros is never explicitly stated in his speech, but it is referenced indirectly throughout. Eros is the ultimate goal, and an essential characteristic of the modernized soul mate concept; however, this can also be seen in a negative context in a way that completely rebuffs the tantalizing temptation of true love. Eros is a feeling of completeness, but it can only be fulfilled through someone else. Humanity must refer to this desire and pursuit of wholeness of love to desensitize the idea that happiness remains separate from the personal soul (193a). To rely on another to satisfy an innate desire to be complete is not without risks. Whether the myth is a full-

Eing 4 fledged legend or a figment of Platos imagination, the fact remains that there is always a risk and a promise of becoming permanently separate from a soul mate. The risk exists in the mundane characteristics of human love and life. No matter the connection or the feeling of wholeness, life situations can easily plague the happiest of unions. Death is the ultimate separation. A spiritual love of this magnitude may serve as a connection of two selves with eternity, but what happens to the surviving half? Interestingly enough, Aristophanes explicitly maps this situation by overstepping the limitations of one true love by proclaiming if one of a pair died while the other half was left alive, the survivor went in search of another survivor to embrace (191b). Every situation is just that, a situational occurrence that cannot possibly be bounded by the limitations of whatever true love is perceived to be. It is possible to lose a soul mate through one means or another; however, it is also true that soul mates can never be united in the connection of what once was. Humans are inherently separate; the limitations of the human body cannot possibly complete the wholeness through union of soul mates. The human body is incredibly symbolic throughout Aristophanes myth, as well as the concept of love as a whole. Love is consummated through physicality of the bodies, though the wholeness expressed through physical existence is what divides soul mates in to two separate people. This fulfillment and unification of physical love is temporary, not a permanent connection. They cannot possible fulfill the fusion of a single person to share a single life and die a single person (192e), because they are in all literal sense two separate beings. The longing for wholeness is a lost cause. Humanity will forever be kept apart. With the aforementioned arguments in mind, it is especially important to note that Aristophanes myth adheres to a brokenness of humanity. Humans were once connected enough to become a threat to the gods, and were cut down to behave with moderation (190c). Before the

Eing 5 split of humans, there is no mention of Love or of wholeness. In this time before Love, humankind sought a type of control that could have placed them in a god-like position, and that become the most legitimate concern of these spherical beings. Strangely enough, Eros is not even mentioned at a time when humans were actually connected in a way to satisfy this wholeness. In this myth and its resulting interpretation, love may very well be this undeniable connection between two severed halves; however, it is also a reminder of what has been lost. It is an indication of how far humanity has fallen from the original state, and the consolation prize for this decline is an essence of what once was. In this sense, while humans celebrate the idea of love and eternal union, they are tricked in to simultaneously giving up power and the deepest connection possible. Aristophanes begins his speech with a comedic myth, though it ends in a subtle tragicomedy. He draws on the human experience as a whole to relate it to a variation of the modern day soul mate and relates it to the idea of separation and reunification. While a modern day soul mate may attract or be attracted through similar qualities or extended contact, Aristophanes idea of wholeness comes from an attraction to the person him or herself. It is the idea of love at first sight, which may be lost in a modernized world, where a certain person is right because of the resemblance to ones other half. This story of unbounded love becomes a reminder of loss, and an unfettering anxiety about becoming whole. The disconnection of the individual and the impossibility of the eros so descriptively given by Plato challenges the idea of a soul mate. It cannot be a simple yes it exists or no it does not; the concept of one true love in both modern society and mythical Greece is an unanswered question.

Eing 6 Works Cited Plato. Symposium. New York: Oxford University Publishing Inc, 1994. Print.