Prompt: Be inspired by a philosopher or a philosophy
“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.” Plato
Love comes in many forms and has been debated for many more centuries. People say it’s about finding a soul mate, the other half, the better half, but love is more complex than that. It is a connection. Not just neurological or biological, not just emotional or intellectual. There is something there. Something more that cannot be placed. That is why it has been debated so.
Lectures have been taught. Books written. Theories and philosophies developed to explain what love is. But the idea of marriage and love together is a fairly recent development. Now, by recent I do not mean in the last few years or even in the last few decades, but by recent I mean in the last few centuries. Marriage has always been seen as economic or political unions, or both. Love has never been a factor. I mean, it is entirely possible to fall in love with one’s spouse after marriage and there is the odd chance that you do end up marrying someone you love while fulfilling the socio-economic purpose of marriage, but that is not the original intent. But is this to say that before the union of two people in holy matrimony that people do not fall in love? No, this is not what I am saying.
One of the oldest theories of love has been put forth by Plato in his beautiful composed Symposium. Symposium in Greek means a drinking party. Symposium is about a bunch of philosophers getting together to drink and discuss their theories of love. Some are hilarious, but most are tragic. It is strange to think about love as something that can be scientifically broken down and analysed or as something that can be debated so intensely. Phaedrus puts forth the theory of Love deified. That he has existed from time immemorial. He is eternal and that love should never be viewed as shameful. He speaks primarily of pederasty, something that would have been very common during the time of the Ancient Greeks. Phaedrus is followed by Pausanias who defines Love in two ways. She too is deified and manifests herself as the Heavenly Aphrodite and the Common Aphrodite. He reasons that in this way earthly love takes on two forms. One is heavenly and the other common. Again, typical to the Greek model of knowledge, the idea is the most beautiful and revered and the fleshly, the least. Common love is vulgar, fleshly and in a way sinful. It is the love of the young. Heavenly love is the love of the matured. They find pleasure, again in pederasty, but also in knowledge. It isn’t just about pederasty to the Ancient Greeks. It was about seeking higher knowledge. The idea of beauty, the idea of love, of truth was and is the highest rung on the Platonic ladder. However, the theory that has stuck to me most is the one put forth by Aristophanes. It is beautiful in a comical yet tragic way.
Aristophanes starts with the story of human origin. We were ball like creatures that had two heads, four arms, four legs. Now, this may conjure up an amusing image, as I assure you it did for me when I read this, but at the same time, it’s slightly terrifying to imagine such a creature running (or rolling) about on the surface of Earth. Now, Aristophanes continues, these human beings had immense strength and power that became viewed as a threat to the power of Zeus, but he had no way of controlling them. Zeus could not wipe out the entire human race because they were the only ones who made offerings, sacrifices to the Gods. Zeus thought long and hard until he came to a solution. His solution was to slice the human in half. Remove that which had made them powerful. Soon Zeus took pity on the poor humans who wretched ran around looking for their matching half. He restructured them to what we know today about human anatomy. Aristophanes describes a very special feeling that is evoked when the matching halves meet. This is what we call love.
However, this story is not the most beautiful way Plato has described love. The most beautiful way is the epigram that introduces this piece. This touches me because music is very important to me. An unfinished song is one of the most irksome things in my life. I can’t seem to describe the feelings I feel when I read that quote and all I keep saying is how beautiful it is, which is completely useless as a descriptor at this point. But Plato is not wrong. I find myself the poet when I fall in love. I write hundreds of sappy words on a page, sometimes I keep them to myself, sometimes I post them online to share my happiness, but one thing is always certain love brings out my inner poet. Think of all the pining lovers and their sonnets. That’s me. But sometimes words won’t come. In those times I try to connect my feeling to a song so that when I hear it, sing it and remember it, I will feel, smell and taste the memories of that love. Love evokes the greatest feelings within us all. Just as it evokes feelings of extreme happiness, love can evoke feelings of deadly hate. It sounds odd to think that love inspires hate, but think about the one person you love most. Are there times you don’t get along? Times you just can’t stand them? It’s not that you truly hate them and wish harm to them, in fact it’s the opposite. The hatred is not for them, but for the thing wishing to harm them and if only they’d listen to you…they wouldn’t get hurt. Or so we think. They are the first ones we think of when we wake up in the morning and the last one in our thoughts as we drift off at night. They keep us up at night. Every night.
But for me love has always been unrequited. I’ll be the mistress writing that sonnet to my gentleman on a pedestal. Until one day when I won’t. That will be the day I find the one who completes my song. The one who makes my heart soar and the one who wins me with a sonnet.