Oh! Your other half… your soulmate… your better half… have you found her?
The idea that somewhere in the world there is a person who complements you like no other is part of one of the strangest and most charming explanations ever invented for why we fall in love.
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It sprang from the lips of the playwright Aristophanes, an Athenian who was born just below the Acropolis, around 450 BC.
In the mid-420s, he began to stage his great comedies, which were very political or fantastical, with talking animals and visits to the underworld or heaven.
But her vision of love gave her during a party a day in the year 416 BC
He was with some other very famous Athenians, including the great philosopher Socrates, and his student Plato wrote what happened in a wonderful dialogue called “The Banquet” or “The Symposium.”
“The Banquet” or “The Symposium” is a famous Greek text that examines the nature of love: what it is, where it comes from and what it means to be in love.
It takes the form of a dramatic dialogue at a dinner party in a private home and begins with the guests agreeing that it is best not to drink too much.
They then decide that each of 7 of them will give a speech in praise of love.
“The Banquet” is considered one of the masterpieces of Western philosophy and introduced the idea of platonic love.
Talking about love
The guests at the symposium sought to find what is laudable in love.
Socrates, for example, pointed out that learning to love is a step towards discovering a higher beauty and truth, such as those offered by philosophy.
Aristophanes was meant to speak third, but he had a fit of hiccups, so a physician named Eryximachus spoke on the medical nature of love, while Aristophanes regained his poise.
And when he did, instead of giving an intellectual speech, invented a myth.
“Aristophanes explains our sense of lack, our sense of loneliness until we find our other half through a new version of the origins of the human race,” says Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King’s College London, in the BBC series Radio 4 “History of ideas”.
“First, they need to know human nature and the changes it has undergone, since our old nature was not the same as now,” Aristophanes declared, explaining that…
“Primitive man was round, his back and sides formed a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, a head with two faces, looking in opposite directions.”
Given their shape, they could walk upright, as we do now, but, Hall says, when they wanted to go faster, “they bounced like balls, they could do mountebanks, they traveled constantly and they were happy.”
“Some of them were all women, some were all men, and some were half women and half men.”
“They were also extraordinary in strength and vigour,” Aristophanes recounted, “and they had immense pride, to the point that they conspired against the gods.”
“That’s a standard type of Greek myth,” Hall explains, “there’s a species that challenge the gods and is defeated.”
When this made-up species does it, Zeus realized that he has to do something to weaken them and make them less brash.
After much thought, he ordered Apollo to cut them in half and divide them forever, so that each human would be left with two legs, two arms, one head, and would be constantly trying to literally find their other half.
“It’s a very, very beautiful story, and Aristophanes adds details to illustrate how painful that separation was,” says the classicist.
As Apollo adjusted the humans upright and turned their heads so they could see their other half in front of them, they hugged each other desperately, trying to knit themselves together again, failing to do so.
“So feeling sorry for himself, Zeus invented another resource and moved his genital organs to the front (…) so that if a man met a woman in the embrace, they would engender and the human species would continue to exist, but if a man met a male , there would be, at least, satisfaction from their contact, they would rest, return to their jobs and worry about the other things in life,” Aristophanes said.
The playwright even explains why we have a navel: according to his story, after making the cut, Apollo gathered all the loose skin and fixed it with a seam in the middle of the belly.
“For so long, then, is the love for one another innate in men and restorer of the ancient nature, which tries to make one of two and heal human nature,” declared Aristophanes.
For professional matchmaker Mary Balfour, the creation of Aristophanes “is an idea very modern In a way, because her story incorporates all aspects of today’s sexuality.”
“Divide humans into three different types. Men who love men, women who love women, and women and men who love each other, and that couldn’t be more 21st century.”
However, he sees problematic aspects.
“You should not be looking for your other half to complete you but to be self-sufficient, and you should not enter a relationship until you are a complete and happy person because it is happy people who make happy relationships,” says the relationship specialist.
In addition, the fact that there is only one true love, a soul mate that “may be on the other side of the world, blocks many people from finding a partner.
“Perhaps on the way to work they passed several suitable people, they just didn’t have the time to get to know each other and feel good in their company, which is the basis for a future relationship.”
In short, we should not expect to find the ideal person, but seek a ideal person.
This way we will have more chance to find our better half.